Deftly evading the conundrum of how to brand its core tablet after four previous models— the last two of which were largely similar— Apple’s iPad Air arrives with a new name, but more importantly, a refreshed design. Truth be told, the iPad Air looks a whole lot like a super-sized iPad Mini, but the sublime sensation of holding it in your hands suggests a much more calculated design philosophy. The iPad Air aims to deliver the same full-sized tablet experience with much less extraneous material and weight between you and the content—and it does so spectacularly. Shedding 28 percent of the weight and one-fifth the thickness of the previous model while curtailing the excessive bezel around the display, the device feels positively svelte without losing its sturdy, premium build, and it’s significantly more portable as a result. It was enough to make us start carrying the tablet around with us from room to room more regularly, whereas we’d come to rely on our iPhones while the old iPad became a bit stationary. Notably, the iPad Air just feels more comfortable in use. It’s easier to pick up and hold onto, especially during long reading or gaming sessions, while the decrease in bezel size makes typing dramatically easier in portrait orientation when holding the tablet with both hands. Like the MacBook it borrows branding from, the iPad Air is much lighter and travels easier than the previous models—and it doesn’t lose a single step in usability or performance.
In fact, Apple’s tablet is more powerful than ever, thanks to the addition of the 64-bit A7 processor that recently debuted in the iPhone 5s, along with its M7 motion coprocessor. Flipping around iOS 7 and apps is speedy and largely seamless, while previously sluggish tasks—like loading up the App Store top charts— now run smoothly. Only a tiny number of apps have actively taken advantage of the processing power thus far, such as GarageBand allowing more instrumental tracks and Infinity Blade III looking even more stunning on the device, but it’s an advancement that’s sure to reveal itself as developers work their magic in the coming months. The iPad Air is also faster over Wi-Fi, thanks to MIMO tech that allows multiple in/out connections, and despite the slimmer stature and heftier processor, the tablet still delivers a stellar 10 hours of battery life. Really, the only disappointment is that Apple hasn’t tweaked the storage tiers—16GB in the base model simply isn’t enough for a modern tablet in an age of bulging app, game, and media sizes. But even if you aim for a higher capacity, the price is still right for the amazingly portable and powerful iPad Air. Every bit of the experience signals refinement without compromise, and it makes the iPad feel fresh and fantastic again. The bottom line.The iPad Air is Apple’s best tablet to date by a wide and meaningful margin.—Andrew Hayward

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