The iPad Air is a fantastic device for content consumption, playing games and running a host of different apps from the App Store. It has swift performance and the display is a treat. The battery life and touch response is good too. The sound output from the tablet is good. However, it doesn’t have stereo separation when watching movies and it does not support the second-gen Apple Pencil.
Tablets have been a fantastic device for content consumption. However, with the increase in power available thanks to significant improvement in mobile chipsets, they are gradually creeping into laptop territory. We have seen devices like the Surface Pro, Surface Go, Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and more try and give users a PC like experience on a tablet device. Apple delved into the laptop like experience with the launch of the iPad Pro. Uptill the launch of iOS 13, the iPad wasn't exactly a great option for those looking for a laptop-like experience. Not like the other devices, we mentioned above were anything to write home about when it came to giving users a pure laptop computing experience either.
Fast forward to WWDC 2019 and Apple has showcased iOS 13 which brings the iPad Pro closer to a PC like experience. But what about the iPad Air? The iPad Air has been for those looking for a great content consumption device. However, this time around, it has Apple’s flagship chip, supports the first gen Apple Pencil and Apple keyboard. It is almost like the first gen iPad Pro without the quad speaker setup. So who is this device for? What utility does it serve? Is it the right iPad for you? Let's find out.
In the box, you get the tablet along with a lightning cable and a power adaptor. Sadly, you don't get the Apple pencil or the Smart Cover in the box. You have to purchase them separately.
Display: 10.5-inch True Tone display with 2224 x 1668 pixels resolution
Platform: Apple A12 Bionic
Built-in storage: 64GB/256GB
Expandable storage: NA
SIM support: YES
3.5mm jack: YES
OS: iOS 12
Rear Camera: 8MP
Front Camera: 7MP
The primary design philosophy of the iPad hasn't changed much since the launch of the original iPad Air. It has become slimmer with slightly more rounded edges for better grip around the corners but apart from that, the fundamental design has remained the same. We get touch ID on the iPad Air and Apple’s Face ID is reserved for the iPad Pro.
The front of the device is clean with only the home button cum Touch ID and the front camera. We got the Silver iPad Air for review but is available in Space Grey and Gold as well. At the back, you have the apple logo in the centre and the camera without a flash in the top left corner. At the top you have the headphone jack, on the right, the volume rocker and the bottom houses the lightning port along with two speakers. On the left, we have the connector for the Apple Keyboard and the smart cover. The body of the iPad Air is solid aluminium and the build quality is top notch. This tablet can survive more than a few drops although we don't recommend you do so.
The last tablet that we reviewed was the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and that has a glass back making it look premium but also making it fragile.
As far as the design of the tablet is concerned it is ergonomic and easy to hold for long hours. The touchscreen of the iPad is still the best surface to type on when compared to other tablets, and if like me you are comfortable typing on an iPad, you don't really need to invest in a keyboard. The only downside is the smart cover. It fits snug on the iPad and protects the display but still only has only one angle on which the iPad Air can rest. The “jugad” we use to prop up the display slightly is stick our phone between the cover and the iPad to change the angle. That is the only drawback in the design of an otherwise great product
The display on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is fantastic. The resolution makes the content look crisp, it supports Dolby Vision and if you are someone who is going to binge your favourite TV shows on this device, you are in for a treat. Needless to say that Apple has a large library of movies that you can rent/purchase with many of them supporting Dolby Vision for a rich visual experience. The vibrancy in the colours is definitely something to take note of. Be it the lively colourful town in Young Sheldon to the gritty look of the world in Wonder Woman or any of the Netflix Originals like The Umbrella Academy, Daredevil, Polar and more, the colour and visual fidelity of the content is unmatched. If a Dolby Vision enabled true tone display was reserved for the Pro’s only, I’d be disappointed, but seeing content on this display is a treat. We recorded a maximum of 550 lux on our brightness meter.
We used the display under direct sunlight and it works quite well. Although, under the harsh heat of the Delhi sun, we don't recommend using it for watching movies. When it comes to everyday tasks like reading emails, reading a book, playing games or browsing the Internet, the display worked without any complaints. It is reflective at times, but nothing that can't be taken care off by moving it around a bit.
Coming to the audio, unlike its Pro siblings that get a quad set of speakers, the 10.5-inch iPad Air gets 2 speakers, both firing in the same direction. I can understand the quad speaker setup being reserved for the Pro, but the speaker setup could have been on either side of the display to give a stereo experience. I watch a lot of video content on the iPad and I miss the left to right channel shift especially during movies. Nonetheless, the speakers are loud, clear and perform well even for watching movies. Dialogues are crisp, and even when there is a lot happening on the screen like a background score, explosions and conversations, all are easily and well discernable making the device good for content consumption. The speakers do a good job for FaceTime calls and music as well.
Overall, the speakers are great for content consumption. They are loud enough that you don't have to huddle with your friends close to it to enjoy a trailer and clear at high volumes as well. The only qualm is the lack of channel separation which for me is a bummer
When it comes to everyday performance, like checking mail, browsing the Internet, watching videos, etc. the tablet performed impressively without any stutters. It even works very well when you use apps in split screen. iOS is designed for the iPad and will also be upgradeable to the upcoming iPadOS 13. From the ability to use apps in split screen, to watching a movie on Netflix and yet navigating the rest of the device to simply multitasking. If you are a Mac user, then there a lot of convenient ways of moving your content from one device to the next like AirDrop. With iPad OS 13, you will be able to use your iPad as a second display without the need for a third party app which is great.
There is nothing I could do on the iPad to make it stutter, lag or freeze. Running any game, literally any game off the App store on the device and you won't see a loading screen for too long nor will you face any lags or stutters. From PUBG to Dead Trigger and more, every game we played on the device just worked.
If you are looking for a portable device to play games, watch movies, get some work done, have access to thousands and thousands of apps, read ebooks on, read comics on, the iPad can do it all. As of writing this review and running the device on iOS 12, we don't think the device is a replacement to your PC, yet. But that may change with iPadOS 13 and we will tell you how it works when we get our hands on the new OS. I still prefer the flexibility that Mac OS or Windows brings with it for a desktop work environment and that experience can’t be replicated on the iPad yet. The iPad is a great device for what it can do. It just isn’t a PC yet.
On paper, the 10.5-inch iPad Air has an 8134mAh battery. Playback from streaming services with brightness set to max and headphones plugged in saw a drop of 6 to 8 per cent in one hour based on the streaming service. Local playback saw a 5 to 7 per cent drop per hour. Drop the brightness a little (trust me, you won’t use it on full brightness all the time) and you have a device that can playback content for almost 15 hours which is impressive. The battery life will vary based on usage and some productivity scenarios may see it drain faster. Gaming also drained the battery faster with drops of nearly 15 per cent in an hour.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE IPAD AIR 10.5?
Let's rephrase that question, which iPad is right for you? For starters, if this is your first iPad and you want a taste of the Apple ecosystem, there are cheaper options to choose from. You have the 9.7-inch iPad which starts at Rs 28,000 powered by the A10 fusion chip, 32GB storage at the base variant and as the name suggests has a 9.7-inch display which honestly, is still a good display. If you are looking to use the first gen Apple Pencil, want the newer processor to future proof the device, and have specific high-end apps that you want to run smoothly, then you can choose between the new iPad Mini and the 10.5-inch iPad Air. Your buying decision honestly depends on the screen size you are comfortable with. Personally, I really like the compact form factor of the Mini, but when I’m watching videos in the morning, or need to enjoy a great TV show or a game on a larger display, then yes, I prefer the 10.5-inch iPad Air and that's the one you should consider. The near 8-inch iPad Mini (7.9 to be precise) is ideal for those that want a device with a display slightly larger than their smartphone.
If you are a Pro user with the desire to connect your flash drive and camera directly to the iPad and need a near PC like experience, then you may want to consider the iPad Pro family. We haven't reviewed the new Pros, but if the performance of the current 10.5-inch iPad is anything to go by, we think the Pros will bring with them an extra punch.
The only downside to the new iPad Air is that it does not support the second-gen Apple Pencil and the lack of stereo speaker setup. If you are looking for a device to consume content on the go, get some productivity work done and have access to thousands of apps, then the iPad is definitely worth a consideration. Unlike a smartphone, this is one gadget that will last you for nearly 6 to 7 years before warranting an upgrade.
Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.
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