An absolute killer: Australia’s first iPad Air review

Apple’s iPad is the current market leader in the tablet space. It’s certainly the device that competitors are gunning for, and, with the recent onslaught of very pointed Windows Surface Pro 2 advertising, as well as recent launches from Samsung, Nokia and others, the pressure is on. So has Apple’s new iPad Air given Apple some breathing space? With tablet in hand, we endeavoured to find out.

The first and most obvious difference between this 5th generation iPad and its predecessors is a new case design.

Aesthetically, the Air has adopted the design language of the current iPad Mini and iPhone 5S, with an aluminium body that gains chamfered edging, and its lower curves are more squared off than the sweeping lines of the 4th and 3rd generation models.

In short, the Air looks stylish and feels expensive. Aesthetics aside, this is a smaller, lighter and thinner iPad.

It’s 7.5mm thin, weighs just under 500 grams and the vertical bezels are 43 percent narrower than those of the previous model. The net result is a device that’s simply a joy to hold.

It’s so much lighter and thinner that, at times, it feels like you’re holding an iPad Mini. Still, despite its svelte dimensions, the metallic case feels durable and solid.

The only downside of the Air’s form factor is that existing cases and keyboards and other accessories probably won’t fit the new dimensions, so you’ll need to buy new Air-specific versions.

That being said, new cases from Belkin, STM and others are already appearing on the market.

iPad Air friendly cases and keyboards from Apple and others are just hitting the market.

While the new case and dimensions are a genuine benefit, best of all, the 9.7 inch display size has not changed, so you get a smaller and lighter device, with no compromises on screen real-estate.

That said, it still has the same surface area, and the IPS multi-touch screen is actually thinner than before, employing similar flattening techniques as the new iMac screens.

Otherwise, it offers the same pin-sharp 2048 x 1536 Retina-grade resolution as the 3rd and 4th generation models. In use, colours are vibrant, with great levels of detail and contrast, and viewing angles are excellent.

A flatter display means a flatter tablet - the Air versus the 3rd gen iPad

The iPad Air is powered by Apple’s latest A7 processor, which is based on a 1.4GHz dual core architecture and, like the iPhone 5S, the inclusion of the M7 motion co-processor.

While the A7 provides the horsepower for intensive content creation apps and highly detailed gaming worlds, the M7 co-processor takes on tasks associated with GPS positioning, motion and direction.

Offloading these tasks to the M7 co-processor should improve power efficiency, reducing the demand on the more power-hungry A7 unit. In use, the iPad Air was more than capable of lasting a couple of days between charging, and, under heavy usage, should be able to reach the claimed 10 hour battery life via the integrated 32.4-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery.

In low light, the iPhone 5s camera (right) captures the most detail, compared with the camera on the iPad Air (left).