When the iPad mini was first released, I was intrigued. By being both smaller and – crucially – lighter than its older brother, it promised to solve the only criticisms I had of my third generation iPad. But I was worried that, in so doing, it had forgone the one feature that I loved most about the iPad: that incredible Retina display.
So, I did what any self-respecting gadget fan would have done. I bought one to try out and hid this fact from my wife by ‘giving it to her’ as a token of my love. As a first time iPad owner, she loved it. Her MacBook was soon discarded and the iPad became her sole personal computing device. Meanwhile, on the few occasions when she wasn’t using it, I had the opportunity to put it through its paces. It didn’t take long for me to form a clear conclusion. I absolutely loved how light and small it felt. It transformed the experience. At last, here was an iPad you could hold one handed while reading for long periods at a time. It felt like this is what the iPad was supposed to be like all along.
Well almost. You see, much as I loved the form factor, I just couldn’t get past the screen. Once you’ve used and got used to a Retina display, there really is no going back. Worse, anything non-Retina resolution looks just plain awful to your spoilt eyes. And so it was with the iPad mini. Just as my MacBook Pro had ruined my MacBook Air experience for me, so the Retina display iPad had ruled out the iPad mini for me.
What Apple has achieved is pretty damn miraculous
When Apple announced last year that it was upgrading the Mini, not just it terms of processor and storage but also display resolution, I was drooling. At last, I could have it all. At last, they’d made the perfect iPad. Then I started reading about what they’d done to the iPad Air. By all accounts, the difference in weight between the Air and the mini (which increased ever so slightly with the addition of the Retina display) was so small as to be imperceptible. And that got me thinking. It wasn’t the small screen on the mini I was drooling over – because who wants to sacrifice screen real estate – it was the lightness and smaller footprint. Could Apple really have pulled off a double whammy and created the perfect full sized iPad too?
I took a gamble that it had. And on Christmas day, this little gadget geek woke up to a brand new iPad Air, 32 GB, WiFi only sitting under the tree. I’ve been using it ever since and am here to report.
I make no apologies for spending four paragraphs discussing the weight and footprint of various iPad models because these are the two factors that define the appeal of the Air. Yes, Apple has bumped all the specs slightly, and yes there is a slight improvement in performance. But, honestly, if you own the previous generation iPad, you’re unlikely to notice.
The incredible draw of the iPad Air is not so much about performance as about how it feels in your hands. What Apple has achieved is pretty damn miraculous. Here is a full size iPad that feels so close to a mini in use that – and I swear this is true – as I removed it from the packaging for the first time, I had to double check the box thinking that perhaps Santa had brought me a mini by mistake.
The iPad is still at its heart a device for consuming rather than creating media (not that you can’t use it to create as well – I’m writing this post on it) and so how it feels to hold – rather than how it sits on a desk – is all important. That slight reduction in width (achieved by making the bezel thinner) and the significant reduction in weigh combine to make the iPad Air very much worthy of its new name. They transform the experience. It’s the best of the mini combined with the best of the previous generation iPad – and all brought bang up to date with the latest specs. It’s as good as the tablet game gets.
iPad Air: As good as it gets
The Fool was hesitating over an iPad mini vs an iPad. In the iPad Air he found the perfect compromise.
Photos © Apple
Our editor-in-chief, the self-proclaimed "greatest wit, raconteur and bon vivant of our age", borders on delusional. Over the years, the fool has squandered more money on fast cars, Swiss watches and electronic gadgetry of all kinds than he – or Mrs Fool – cares to remember. Come nightfall, he can invariably be found stumbling out of Dukes mumbling “just one more Martini; I could have handled just one mmmmm… [thud!]”
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