Tue, 22 Oct 2013 iPad Air vs iPad 4 comparison review: Is it worth upgrading to iPad Air?
It's faster and slimmer, but is it worth upgrading from your iPad 4 to Apple's new iPad Air?
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: iPad Air is thinner and, Apple claims, up to twice as fast (although we'd like to test this out properly); it's the same price as the iPad 4
- Cons: iPad Air may not change day-to-day experience enough to justify upgrading from iPad 4 (earlier generations of iPad are a different matter)
- Min specs: 1.39 GHz Apple A7 processor (ARMv8-A, dual-core); PowerVR G6430 graphics; 9.7in (2048 x 1536-pixel) LED-backlit Multi-Touch IPS display, 264ppi; iOS 7; 16/32/64/128 GB flash storage; dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO; Bluetooth 4.0; optional 4G LTE modem and Nano-SIM card slot, with A-GPS; 1.2 Mp FaceTime HD front camera, 720p video; 5 Mp f2.4 iSight rear camera, 1080p video; dual microphones; stereo speakers; Lightning dock connector; three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass; 32.4 Wh fixed lithium-polymer battery; USB power adaptor; 240 x 170 x 7.5 mm; 478 g
- Price: Wi-Fi: £399 (16GB), £479 (32GB), £559 (64GB) and £639 (128GB). Cellular: £499 (16GB), £579 (32GB), £659 (64GB) and £739 (128GB)
- Star rating:
On 20 October, Apple unveiled iPad Air, the new iPad that we all thought was going to be called iPad 5. It's a handsome device, but is it really a significant step forwards from the iPad 4? And is it worth upgrading if you've got an iPad 4 already?
iPad Air vs iPad 4: Price
The first thing to mention is price. The iPad Air - as we suspected it might - slots neatly into the gap vacated by the iPad 4, replacing it entirely. Once the iPad Air launches (it will be available online and in store from 1 November) you won't be able to buy the iPad 4 any more. And you really wouldn't want to, because the iPad Air is the same price.
Yep: despite the upgrades we'll deal with in a moment, the iPad Air costs exactly the same as the iPad 4. For Wi-Fi models: £399 (16GB), £479 (32GB), £559 (64GB) and £639 (128GB). And for cellular: £499 (16GB), £579 (32GB), £659 (64GB) and £739 (128GB).
(The only alternative full-size iPad to the iPad Air will be the iPad 2, which is starting to show its age a little.)
...and the iPad 4
iPad Air vs iPad 4: Dimensions
Okay, so the iPad Air doesn't cost a penny more than the iPad 4, but what actual benefits does it provide? For one thing, it's thinner and lighter - significantly so. The iPad Air is thinner than the previous iPad, at 7.5mm compared to 9.4mm on the iPad 4, and it's quite a bit lighter: the bulk decrease from 652g to 469g (for the non-3G version). That's a weight loss of about 28 percent.
iPad Air: thin
iPad 4: not quite as thin
We'd guess that this will be noticeable in medium to long-term use; as svelte and portable as the iPad 4 is, it can tire the arm when used one-handed. We must have got lazy from all that iPad mini use.
iPad Air vs iPad 4: Processor
Despite being a lightweight in literal terms, the iPad Air is packing some heavy firepower inside. It features the A7 processor also used by the hard-hitting iPhone 5s, along with the M7 'motion coprocessor', which gives a big boost to graphical welly.
Apple claims the iPad Air is twice the speed of the iPad Air - both in general processing and graphics - and while we'd like to give those numbers the once-over in a comprehensive lab test, the Air has clearly got some muscle under the hood. Whether you'll see a difference on today's apps is another matter.
iPad Air vs iPad 4: Camera
Last of all, Apple mentioned in passing that the front-facing camera on the iPad Air has seen a little tweak to make it better in low light. We've not got any more details than that, so until we can test this feature out, we'll have to discount it. But this could be a nice upgrade.
iPad Air vs iPad 4: Verdict
We'll update this comparison review once we've had a proper wrestle with the iPad Air, but we're not yet convinced that it makes a strong case for upgrading from the iPad 4.
The iPad Air is a noticeable improvement in essentially two ways: it's slimmer, and it's faster. The former is appealing (the iPad 4 can tire the arm when used for long periods of time, particularly for reading) but the latter won't make much difference for most users, since the iPad 4 is already more than powerful enough to deal with current apps.
Where the iPad Air's A7 processor and M7 graphical booster will come into their own is for future-proofing: apps are only going to get more advanced and demanding, and whatever the equivalent of Infinity Blade 3 is in two years' time may well be too much for the iPad 4.
Infinity Blade 3 is fine for the iPad 4, but how will it handle Infinity Blade 5? (Or whatever the equivalent is)
If you're on the iPad 3 or earlier, the iPad Air is a highly appealing buy, and a bit of a bargain, we'd say. But paying the same price all over again a year (or less) after shelling out for the iPad 4 may be less clear-cut, unless you're flush with cash.
Do you find your arm aching after using your iPad 4? If you find this annoying, the iPad Air is the answer to your prayers. But for us - and, we'd guess, for most users - arm ache is only an occasional annoyance, and not really worth spending upwards of 400 quid all over again.
For more details about the new iPads, watch our video of an Apple exec demonstrating the iPad Air to us at the Apple Event on 22 October (sorry about the annoying laughter in the background, crowded/busy room!)
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