Okay, color me surprised. Say goodbye to “new” iPad, say hello to the iPad Air — arguably the most significant update to the iPad since the original launched back in the dark ages of 2010 (2012’s Retina Display notwithstanding).
Much like with the MacBook that shares its name, when Apple say Air they mean it. 2012’s new iPad has been sent to bootcamp, dropping several dress sizes down to a slender 7.5mm waistline, from the previous 9.4mm. Weight has fallen off, from 1.44 lbs to just 1 lb. The formerly chunky bezel takes styling cues from its mini brother, slimming down by 43 percent. For comparisons sake, the iPad Air is just a smidge lighter and a hair thicker than Sony’s similarly-anorexic Xperia Tablet Z — though the latter swaps aluminum for glass and throws waterproofing into the mix.
Inside, the iPhone 5S’s 64-bit A7 chip has found a new home, as has the dedicated M7 chip which handles motion-sensing. Have an original iPad lying around? The Air is eight times faster than i’s great-great-grandfather, and its graphics are 72 times faster. MIMO support brings speedier WiFi and LTE will be supported on cellular models, which should help every aspect of the Air feel significantly faster in the hand.
Addicted to FaceTime? The 5MP iSight camera now shoots 1080p video — though we caution against using the iPad for serious photography or video. It’s not necessarily bad, you’ll just look like a complete douchebag doing it. On the front, the 1.2MP FaceTime camera has larger pixels and a BSI sensor, to help with those low-light selfies, and there are two mikes so call-quality should be stellar.
Battery life is rated at 10 hours, despite the Air having a smaller battery than its bigger brother, which is impressive engineering on Apple’s part. One thing not included in the Air, though, is the iPhone 5S’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Whether it’s to keep it an exclusive for the iPhone, or due to the recent backlash over security concerns that the touch sensor has received, we likely won’t ever know.
Expect the iPad Air to ship on November 1 starting at $499 for 16GB — pricing is identical to the outgoing model for all storage options and cellular models.