This week's column by Ctein
Part 1: What I Like
My last iPad upgrade was a year and a half ago. At that time, I said I was pretty well hooked on keeping up with the most current model. Well, then what took me so long to upgrade?
It was a combination of Apple messing around with their introduction schedule combined with reliable rumors of what was to come.
There've been two interim releases since the Spring 2012 iPad, which souped up the processor and increased the maximum storage from 64 GB to 128 GB. The former didn't much matter to me. The latter did. It's a law of the universe that nature abhors an empty hard drive. I'd filled my 64 GB iPad to the brim. What held me back were the leaks about the next major upgrade. Namely, smaller, lighter, and lower power.
As I wrote in my review of the iPad3, those three things bugged me about that then-newest model. The Retina display was fine; the side effects of the power-hungry screen weren't. It hit my pain threshold on size, weight, battery life, and charging time, which is why I gave it only a qualified recommendation. Want all the details? Read what I wrote in my reviews back then:
The obvious visible change in the iPad Air is that it's two centimeters narrower than the previous model. The screen's the same size; the bezel shrank. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it makes the device a lot more hand-holdable, and it will fit into pockets and pouches in bags that the older model wouldn't.
The more important invisible change is that it weighs one-third less! That's a huge difference when you're holding the iPad in one hand—one pound is so much easier to heft than 1.5 pounds!
Where did the weight go? Out of the battery. It has 25% less capacity than before, because the second-generation Retina display uses a lot less power than the first. Even with the smaller battery, worst-case runtime is improved. At maximum brightness (and power drain) with all I/O powered up, my old iPad would run down in five hours. The iPad Air runs an hour longer.
Even better, the slimmer battery combined with a 12-watt (instead of 10-watt) charger markedly reduces the charging time for the new iPad. My old iPad took six hours; the new one takes under four and a half. The iPad Air will charge, albeit slowly, while I'm using it when it's plugged in. My old model couldn't do that; it sucked more power while running than the charger could provide.
This may not seem earthshaking, but it makes a substantial difference in usability for me. I'm usually using my iPad under brightly-lit conditions, which means I'm running the screen near maximum brightness. An extra hour makes it far more likely I'll get through the day on a single charge. If I don't, an hour pick-me-up on the charger gets me 80 more minutes of runtime instead of 50. That's nowhere as great as the original iPad, but it's a big improvement.
The second generation screen looks about as good as the first. I see some sample-to-sample variation, so your mileage may differ a bit, but on average it will be as bright as the first generation and the color rendition will be as good. Maybe even better; the samples I've looked at all look a bit warmer, which means they're closer to the D65 standard. It's a quibble, really. All Retina screens look great. The viewing angle seems slightly less, but not a lot and not enough disturb me; I mention it for the sake of completeness.
Yeah, it runs faster, too. Plants vs. Zombies 2 launches in 11 seconds on the new iPad; it took 19 on my old one. But I never had reason to complain before. I'm told that the graphics processor is really improved, but I won't be able to check that out until I get some serious photo processing apps. That's on the schedule; it was one of the reasons for getting the maximum storage model. I can say it's still not powerful enough to run full-res movies under VLC without skips, although it'll handle about twice the resolution it would before.
The new smart cover attaches much more firmly than the previous generation. Combined with the lighter weight of the iPad, I have no worries that if I pick the iPad up by the cover, which I am prone to forgetfully do, the iPad will detach itself from the cover and head groundward.
And that's what I like about my spankin' new iPad Air. Next week, I'll tell you what I don't like.
©2013 by Ctein, all rights reserved
Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)