Apple started selling its 5th generation iPad – the “iPad Air” – this past Friday, and I was among the first to walk through the doors of my local Apple store to pick one up. I’ve had an iPad 2 since early 2011 (putting me behind the iPad Air by 3 generations!), so you can imagine I was excited to upgrade. I opted for the cheapest version (since that’s all I needed): the 16GB + Wi-Fi. I chose the “Space Gray” model (because that’s how I roll).
The First Impression
The moment I put my hands on the iPad Air, I realized how great a job Apple did at shaving off the weight. This thing is surprisingly light, coming in at exactly 1 pound! The 3rd and 4th generation iPads weren’t any lighter than my iPad 2 (in fact, they were slightly heavier), so this is a significant change for all iPad owners.
Being only 7.5mm thick, the iPad Air is noticeably thinner than previous models. It is nearly 2mm thinner than the 4th generation iPad.
The screen is still 9.7 inches, but the bezel has been trimmed. The iPad 2/3/4 had a width of 7.3 inches, while the iPad Air has a width of 6.6 inches. Additionally (and hardly noticeably), the height of the iPad Air (9.4 inches) is 1/10 of an inch less than the height of the 2/3/4 generation iPads.
Overall, compared to the iPad 2 I used to lug around, the iPad Air feels much more like the iPad Mini. I have slightly larger than average hands, so I can almost comfortably hold the iPad Air in one hand by gripping it between my thumb and my pinky.
Hands down, the Retina 2,048 x 1,536 resolution screen blows the iPad 2’s 1,024 x 768 resolution screen out of the water. The text is significantly clearer and crisper, which is a big asset to me (When I’m preaching, I need to be able to read my notes as easily & quickly as possible.). It also seems to have a brighter display than the iPad 2, and has a warmer tint to it.
As is to be expected from any 2.5-year-old device, the battery of my iPad 2 doesn’t hold a charge as long as it used to. The battery of the iPad Air can hold a charge for a continual 10 hours of use.
The iPad Air is super fast & zippy, making my old iPad 2 seem like a turtle. I know “super fast & zippy” aren’t exactly quantitative terms of measurement, so I installed an app called Geekbench 3 on the two iPads so you can get a better idea:
Geekbench 3 Performance Comparison
|Single-Core Score||Multi-Core Score|
That might not mean much to you, but it does provide some sort of metric when comparing the two models. Both iPads are running the same version of iOS7 (7.0.3), and I closed all of the apps except Geekbench 3 before running the benchmark.
Device Specification Comparison
|iPad Air||iPad 2|
|Processor:||A7 chip & M7 motion coprocessor||A5 chip|
|Cameras:||5MP Rear iSight & 1.2MP Front FaceTime||.92MP Rear & VGA Front FaceTime|
|Screen Resolution:||2,048 x 1,536 (Retina)||1,024 x 768|
Functionally, the iPad Air doesn’t seem to be a huge improvement over the iPad 3/4, but if you want the newest A7 chip and the lighter weight (1LB!), this is the iPad for you.
The Pulpit Commentary
Since picking it up over the weekend, I’ve spoken six (6) times: 4 times at a weekend youth retreat, and 2 times on Sunday. While that’s a lot in such a short amount of time (I’m exhausted!), it did give me a chance to see the iPad Air in action.
From the audience’s perspective, I’m sure the iPad Air didn’t noticeably improve this young preacher’s preaching (that department is probably a lost cause!). But from my perspective, using the iPad Air was a remarkable upgrade.
- It is noticeably lighter. Since I rarely preach standing stationary behind a pulpit, I have to hold my iPad. A .33 pound difference is noticeable after a 30-45 minute lesson!
- I can transition between apps faster. Thanks to the new A7 processor, the iPad Air is blazingly fast. This is especially important to me, since I don’t have time to wait for apps to load when I’m before an audience.
- The Retina screen is bright and crisp. I can distinguish text slightly faster than I could with my iPad 2. This is valuable for me since I occasionally have to look down at my notes while preaching.
- It has 10 hours of battery life. Actually, I’ve gotten closer to 11 hours out of mine. It also charges faster than the iPad 2.
- It is more comfortable to hold. The iPad 2 had relatively sharp edges, while the edges of the iPad Air are more gently curved.
- It has about the same 2D dimensions as my 6.25” x 9.4” Bible.
- My thumb doesn’t have as much room to hold the edge. The left & right bezel of the iPad 2 provided roughly 1.75 cm of real estate for my thumb. This made it easy to hold by the edge with one hand. The iPad Air, on the other hand, only has 1 cm for my thumb, making it more difficult to hold with one hand without accidentally turning a page of my notes.
- 1GB of RAM. The iPad Air needs to have at least 2GB of RAM in my opinion (Come on, Apple! Keep up with the competition!).
Really, here’s all you need to know:
- It’s surprisingly light! That will be your first thought when you pick one up. I feel like I’m holding an iPad Mini, almost.
- It’s snappy. You will not be annoyed with slow-loading apps and web pages like you certainly must be if you have an iPad 2.
- The battery life is great. 10+ hours of continuous life.
- Be prepared for the 1 cm bezel. It isn’t a big deal, but if you preach while standing/pacing, be prepared to make some adjustments to how you hold your iPad.
That’s all you really need to know. If you’ve been holding out like me (I generally like to upgrade my Apple products every two generations), go get one! You’ll enjoy it!