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Roundup of iPad Air reviews: Another winner for Apple

The iPad Air goes on sale tomorrow, and naturally enough, reviews of Apple’s latest full-size tablet are popping up across the net. As the thinner, lighter, and faster successor to the massively acclaimed iPad 4, the reviews for the iPad Air are exactly what you’d expect – universally positive.

iPad Air’s new design

Across the board, reviews praise the iPad Air’s weight loss and overall change in design. After four generations of the same inch-thick bezel around the entire screen, the iPad Air now has a thinner bezel down two sides, just like an iPad mini (and indeed, almost every review points out that the Air looks and feels like a larger iPad mini).

Thanks to the weight loss and reduced bezel width, many reviewers say that the Air is easier to hold in front of your face while you lay on your back (in bed), or with one hand. Despite the decreased bezel width, reviews report that iOS does a good job of thumb rejection.

iPad Air’s performance and battery life

With the new 64-bit A7 SoC inside, reviews say that the iPad Air is faster than its predecessor (powered by the A6X), though not massively so. Apps load slightly faster, and booting/shutdown is also marginally quicker. As always, there will be very few apps or games that are noticeably faster or prettier on the iPad Air.

Apple promised 10 hours of battery life for the iPad Air, but many reviewers report that they got much more than that, with mixed workloads including photo editing, video streaming over LTE, and so on. Some reviewers report improved standby battery life, too. This is impressive, given that the iPad Air’s battery is considerably smaller (32 Watt-hours) than the fourth-gen iPad (42 Watt-hours).

The general sentiment is that the iPad Air easily has enough battery life to last you the whole day, even if you’re performing computationally strenuous tasks. All of this is impressive, but in-line with Apple’s continued refinements to iOS and the introduction of the new A7 SoC.

iPad Air Retina Display

Unsurprisingly, the 9.7in IPS 2048 x 1536 Retina Display in the iPad Air still scores highly. Apple says that it reduced the thickness of the front glass, touch sensor, and the display panel itself – all of which may affect image quality – but every review seems to say that the iPad Air and fourth-gen iPad have identical screens.

While the pixels-per-inch (ppi) of the iPad Air’s display (264 ppi) is now quite far behind the Nexus 10 (300 ppi) or Kindle Fire HDX (323 ppi), reviewers can find nothing wrong with the iPad Air’s display. There’s more to life than resolution, after all – calibration, viewing angles, and reflectance are all just as important, if not more so.

iPad Air cases

With the iPad Air, Apple also introduced a rejigged Smart Case and Smart Cover (see above for a picture of the old iPad’s Smart Cover next to the new iPad Air’s Smart Case). Due to the narrower dimensions of the iPad Air, the standing angle provided by the covers is slightly more reclined. The leather-backed Smart Case has been very positively received, though it does negate a lot of the iPad Air’s weight loss.

iPad Air: Are there any cons?

The iPad Air is a thinner, lighter, easier-to-hold, and faster version of its predecessor. The app ecosystem, of course, remains top notch. From that perspective, reviewers find it very hard to fault the iPad Air.

Taking a more holistic view of the entire tablet market, though, some reviews point out that the iPad Air is now uncomfortably close to the iPad Mini with Retina Display. The new iPad Mini with Retina Display has the same A7 SoC, the same svelteness and design, while being both lighter and cheaper than the iPad Air. If you’re in the market for a 10in tablet, though, the reviews definitely suggest that the iPad Air is as good as it gets.

Of course, we’ll have our own verdict on the iPad Air very shortly – stay tuned for our full review. In the meantime, you might want to check out our first impressions of the iPad Air, or indeed our look at the why the iPad Air is Apple's "Reality Distortion Field" operating at full power.

Image Credit: Anandtech