London - If two words describe Apple's latest iPad, they are “fast” and “light”.
The new A7 processor is certainly very speedy - it's the same found in the latest iPhone 5s, and has plenty of power. Apple says it offers twice the processing capacity of the chip on last year's model; web pages build instantly, apps spring open and emails delete faster than you can say “Oh, I didn't mean to do that”.
It also has a second processor which deals with motion. Among other things, the M7 co-processor tells the iPad when it's not being used. So if it's completely stationary for a while, it doesn't continually chase a mobile or wi-fi signal, thus saving battery power. Think of it as the iPad Air taking a little rest when you don't need it.
It's called the Air for good reason - it's much thinner from front to back, has a narrower frame round the display and it weighs less than previous models. Much less - 478g, or just over one pound, compared to last year's 662g.
Last year's iPad, then, was hefty. Though it wasn't a wrist-breaker, the heavy battery and thicker profile meant that some users plumped for the smaller iPad mini, which is also upgraded this month.
But the Air feels so much lighter and manageable, many users won't feel the need to downsize to the mini's 7.9-inch display. Certainly, the 9.7-inch screen here is more immersive for movie playback, more fun for games and more comfortable for text editing. And all of it is more enjoyable now the hardware is light enough to hold for longer periods.
The Air comes at a critical time for the company: financial results announced late on Monday showed that iPad sales in the last three months were not much more than the same period last year, though this may have been customers holding back to see what the new product had to offer.
Looks aren't everything, we know, but the redesigned iPad is much more attractive than last year's model. It takes styling tips from the mini, with its boxier sides and rear casing colour-matched to the front.
Battery life remains consistent at around 10 hours, though this model seems to recharge more quickly than its predecessors.
The camera is similar to before - five megapixels on the rear snapper, an improved 1.2 megapixel model on the front. A slab of glass and aluminium is not an ergonomically useful camera, though this at least is lighter.
Apple's skill with the iPad remains the same: to devise an operating system that's intuitive for all users and to make appealing hardware that works as a capable, versatile blank canvas. The tablet works equally well for games, ebooks, productivity apps and movie playback. Since there are now over a million apps, with 475 000 designed specifically for iPad, there's plenty to choose from.
Is this the best iPad yet? By far. Is it the best tablet available? Yes, though by a shorter distance. There are rivals with higher-resolution displays but none quite matches Apple for the combination of its processing power, stunning hardware design and the variety of high-quality apps. - The Independent