iPad Air: Quick First Impressions

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iPad Air

I’ve spent 6 days with the iPad Air now, after braving the non-line and getting home with one by around 8:30 AM on launch day. I already have some strong feelings about the iPad Air and some quick first impressions to share.

And here they are, in no particular order:

Living Up to the New Name

The iPad Air does a great job of living up to the ‘Air’ portion of its name. Just as advertised, it’s far lighter and slimmer than the previous iPads. Even knowing how much lighter and slimmer it was going to be following Apple’s unveiling event, it’s still surprising how well they managed this transformation. It really feels like a whole different class of iPad, and I love the slimmer bezels.

Space Gray

I like the Space Gray back of the iPad Air – I think it’s as handsome as the Slate back on the iPad mini.

Great Free Apps

The range of free Apple apps for the iPad is very impressive – the full iWork suite alone is a great productivity package that’s designed beautifully for tablet use and previously cost $30 and was worth every penny. Of course this is not exclusive to the iPad Air but it’s worth a mention as it’s a big bonus for any new iPad and iPhone users.

Free Apple iPad apps

Battery Life Still Stellar

I think I’ve charged the iPad Air once in 6 days. I’m not even certain, mostly because the battery life is still so good that I hardly ever even think about charging it or look at the %age left.

The Display’s Still Gorgeous

Duh, right? Of course the Retina display is still a joy to interact with on the iPad Air, and of course this was The One Big Thing missing on the original iPad mini.

Performance

I’ve been impressed but not wowed by the performance of the iPad Air thus far. It feels very fast in just about everything I do with it, but I’ve also seen some crashes and glitches where I imagine its lightweight RAM spec (just 1GB) may be the culprit. For example, Safari tabs still all seem to want to reload each time I go out of and back into the app. Safari is a little crash prone when I have a lot of apps running in the background.

But …

Despite the great job Apple has done with the iPad Air and the impressive new features, it still feels a bit too big for my personal liking. This is obviously not any sort of criticism of the iPad Air – rather it’s a confirmation that I’ve become a small tablet zealot. I had a feeling this might be the case. That feeling was verified after just a day or two with the iPad Air and has not changed after nearly a week with it.

Even with the new form factor and significantly reduced weight, I don’t find it comfortable to hold the iPad Air with one hand for any length of time. It’s much lighter than the previous iPad, but still quite a bit heavier than the iPad mini.

I also find thumb typing is not working well for me on the iPad Air, not nearly as well as it does on the iPad mini in portrait mode.

So …

In a way, this is a good result for me. I had thought it was going to be a very tough choice for me on whether to keep the iPad Air or the Retina iPad mini or try to juggle funds to keep both. My 6 days with the iPad Air have taken away the need for any deliberating on that. It’s a great new iPad and I’m sure it will serve millions of iPad users very well for years to come, but it’s not for me.

I’ll be returning the iPad Air this weekend and grabbing the Retina iPad mini on launch day. I said when I first reviewed the iPad mini that with the addition of a Retina display it would be a near perfect device – and I hope to verify that in just a few weeks.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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4 thoughts on “iPad Air: Quick First Impressions

  1. Thanks for the great quick review, Patrick. I very much appreciate your opinions, especially regarding iPad Air vs. iPad Mini with Retina Display. I’ve owned every full-size iPad through the iPad 3 (I hate calling it by its official name, “the new iPad”). When the iPad 4 & iPad Mini were released a year ago, I sold my iPad 3 to Gazelle and bought an iPad Mini. I haven’t looked back ever since. I love, love, love the reduced form factor and weight of the iPad Mini. I don’t think I will ever go back to a full-size iPad ever again. With the reduced size/weight of the full-size iPad in the new iPad Air, I have been debating whether to go with the new iPad Mini or iPad Air. Your comments helped reinforce my gut instincts which are telling me to stick with the iPad Mini. Thanks again!

    • Hi Andrew – Thanks for the kind words and very glad to hear you enjoyed my take on this. Sounds like we had very similar gut instincts on this. I’m sure the Retina iPad mini is going to be well worth waiting for.

  2. My thoughts exactly. I just visited your blog to see what you’d recommend I have an ipad 3 and bought the mini for my wife, which she loves. I have been thinking about switching to the new mini, as the ipad is just a little too big and heavy for reading in bed or being truly portable.

    I do have one question: I use a keyboard case on my ipad. Do you use a keyboard with the mini or thumb type?

    • Hi John – I do a bit of both really. I have several keyboard cases that I use at times when writing. For things like taking notes I tend to use the on-screen keyboard more.