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Second take: The iPad Air sets a new benchmark for performance and style

Michael deAgonia | Nov. 21, 2013
It's faster, lighter and thinner than any of its predecessors

As with previous full-size iPads, the Air is built around the display. And what a display it is. With a resolution of 2048-x-1536 pixels, the high-resolution Retina screen packs 264 pixels per inch. (That's about a million more pixels than a traditional 1080p HDTV.) It's not as dense as the iPhone or the iPad mini Retina, but it's more than detailed enough to qualify as high resolution. The dense pixel layout makes individual dots of light difficult to discern with the human eye; the results are on-screen fonts that appear as smooth as those in a high-quality, backlit magazine — and photos, as well as HD movies, that look fantastic.

The only drawback with such a high-quality display is that apps and content that weren't originally meant to be seen in high resolution look pixelated and blurry. Thankfully, most developers have updated their apps to take advantage of the Retina display, which debuted on the iPad 3 in early 2012, and Web content continues to evolve for higher resolutions.

The iPad has matured in virtually every way possible since its debut in 2010. The iPad Air (shown here sitting on top of a first-generation iPad) is faster, slimmer, lighter and it has a high-resolution screen and two cameras — neither of which the first iPad had.

Same screen size, smaller tablet
Despite the same-sized display, the iPad Air is noticeably smaller than its predecessor. Measuring 6.6 x 9.4 x .29 in., the new model boasts an enclosure that has 24% less overall volume than before. (It's also 28% lighter and 20% thinner.) The iPad Air with LTE weighs slightly more, at 1.05 lb., but that difference is negligible.

In slimming down the Air, Apple engineers narrowed the bezel around the screen — it's most obvious when the iPad is held in portrait mode. The thicker borders of the previous generation made it easy to hold the tablet without triggering the multitouch sensors in the display; fortunately, Apple managed to tweak the iPad's software so that inadvertent screen touches are rare.

As in previous years, the iPad Air comes in any color you want — as long as it's white or black. The white version — Apple calls it Silver — features a white bezel bordering the display, with shiny silver chamfered accents and a less shiny silver rear casing. The Space Gray model features black borders and darker aluminum accents. Both look sharp; both feel great in the hand.

Each model comes with one of four storage options. As before, storage doubles with each $100 increment, starting at $499 for the 16GB model and rising to $799 for the top-end 128GB model. If you require cellular connectivity, there's a Sprint/AT&T/Verizon/T-Mobile compatible model at each storage level for $129 more. (Note that the LTE models also come equipped with GPS, for more precise location awareness than the Wi-Fi-only models.)

 

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