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Beautifully designed, incredibly thin and fast, but is the iPad Air the best tablet computer for you?,
This review is from: Apple iPad Air MD788LL/A (16GB, Wi-Fi, White with Silver) NEWEST VERSION (Electronics)
The new iPad Air is Apple's latest, slimmest, lightest release of their hand-held computer. Oddly enough, it's so beautifully easy to use (my one year old granddaughter loves playing with it), it's almost doesn't feel like a computer at all.
A word of warning - this review is written for people who've never owned an iPad before - and are wondering what all the fuss is about. If you're thinking of upgrading skip down to the "What's great about the Air" section below, or just buy it - it's amazing.
Just what's all the fuss about?
I used to own a laptop for work, and (very occasionally), it'd sit on my lap on the sofa, and I'd use it for pleasure (eMail, watching films or playing the odd game). Then I bought my first iPad, and the laptop became redundant, a boring "work device". Hard to explain, but the fact the iPad is so small and light, and you navigate around with your finger by pointing and gently swiping the screen makes the whole experience a lot easier - a lot more fun.
Even my most "luddite" of friends have been won over.
It's incredibly simple and easy to use (it only has one main button), and everyone from my one year old granddaughter to my 85 year old dad have taken to without problems. It's size and shape also support using it like a book (literally to read a book or web page), but you can also watch TV and films.
Personally I'm also paranoid about my password getting "hacked", and someone running up a huge Amazon bill or buying stuff with my credit card on eBay. Well one of the benefits of the iPad (and iPhone) is it's "almost impossible" to get a virus - one of the most common ways to get hacked. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use strong passwords, (both Sony and Adobe got hacked), but it's reassuring to leave the Windows world behind.
Finally, I love the way these devices (iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, Apple Mac), increasingly work together. The fact you can start a Pages document on your Mac and edit it on your iPad, or take photos on the iPhone, and in seconds see them on the iPad or Mac and display them on the Apple TV.
Equally, you don't "need" to buy into the Apple dream. I also run a Google Nexus 5 (Android) phone, and a PC. Lots of programs (see below) can be used on the iPhone, iPad, Android and PC.
The thing about the iPad is, "it just works".
How about Apps?
Firstly, an App, is a small "application" (a program) that runs on your iPad, and there's literally thousands available from the "App Store", with the most important ones (web browser, mail, music player, word processor, spreadsheet etc) are pre-installed or free to download.
Many apps cost $1 - or 69p in real money, and loads are free (frequently advertising funded with the option to "add on" stuff - but beware you can run up a huge bill).
Here's my favourites:-
* Mailbox. Incredibly slick mail app (or use the built in Apple App) (Free)
* Photo & iPhoto. Built in apps to take/view/edit photos (Free)
* Skype. Chat to the family for free using a video call (Free)
* BBC iPlayer. Great way to catch up on BBC TV. (Free).
* tv24.co.uk. TV Listings. See what you're missing on TV (Free)
* TVCatchup. Watch real time TV (the Freeview stations anyway). (Free)
* Netflix. For £5 a month watch a huge collection of films online. (Free)
* Evernote. Write and organise notes. Edit them on your Android, iPhone, iPad, PC or Mac (Free)
* DropBox. Access your files, documents and photos on Android, iPhone, iPad, PC or Mac. (Free)
* Tune In Radio. Listen to 1,000s of radio stations world-wide - or listen to Radio 4 like I do (£2.40)
* Spotify. Stream music for £5 a month (or free with ads). Brilliant! (Free)
* eBay. Buy and sell your stuff online. (Free)
* Garage Sale. Fantastic way to produce professional looking sales on eBay. (£2.99)
* Rightmove. Search for your next Flat or House or just gape at daft prices (Free)
* Zite. Online web magazine that learns what you like. Terrific! (Free)
* Movies by Flixter. Read reviews of films on cinema and DVD. (Free)
* Kindle. Read your books from Amazon Kindle bookstore. (Free)
* QuickOffice. Edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents (Free)
* Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Apple's version of MS Office. Edit/save documents in Word, Excel andPowerpoint format. (Free)
* MS Office. £80 a year subscription for 3-4 PCs, Macs or an iPad or "read only" for free. (Free)
Of course you could also use it to read web pages (my wife loves the Daily Mail Online), or playing amazing games like "Football Manager" (£2.99) or "Cut the Rope" (69p). It's a wonderful surprise having come from a PC background to find the most expensive game in the top 100 cost £6.99 and most cost £2.99 or less.
Personally, I tend to use it for Mail, watching TV (BBC iPlayer, Netflix), or shopping using the built in browser - Safari. Having said that, I'm writing this review (using an external keyboard) on Pages - so it can (with a stretch) do "most" of what you can do on a PC or Mac.
Which model should I buy?
I can't comment about Android tablets (apart from the Google Nexus 7 which is well regarded), but in terms of the Apple tablet line-up in order of cost:-
1. Avoid the Apple iPad 2, it's a relatively old model, under-powered and with a lower resolution screen.
2. iPad 3rd or 4th Generation. Not quite as light, fast or thin, but if you're on a budget (and who isn't), a great alternative.
2. iPad mini is a lovely tablet. A 7.9 inch screen and astonishingly light and remarkably thin - it feels like a light-weight book.
3. iPad mini with retina screen. Again 7.9 inch screen, but with the blazingly fast A7 chip, and a "retina" (high definition) screen. Worth the upgrade from the "mini".
4. iPad Air. Much larger screen size (9.7 inches - doesn't sound much but it makes a huge difference). Same fast (A7) chip as the Mini with Retina - the latest and fastest full size iPad available.
If you want a small tablet (eg. to read one handed on the train), I'd go for the iPad Mini Retina or (at a push), the original mini.
In terms of a full size tablet, the Air is the fastest, lightest and thinnest, followed by the 3rd or 4th Generation iPad - and all are available on Amazon. It depends upon your budget.
What are the Optional add-ons?
Well, assuming you've dropped by the Apple Store or John Lewis (which I would HIGHLY recommend), and handled the iPad Mini, and iPad Air then your options are around memory size and cellular option.
Memory: Important! Once bought, you can't add memory (space for apps, films, books etc). However, the basic price goes up so you need to compare prices.
Personally, having owned a 16g and 32g iPad - I can safely recommend the 16g unless you want to store a huge amount of videos and downloads. Only you can decide, and if you need the space, then buy the bigger model. Otherwise, 16g should be fine for most people - especially if you store photos and documents online (eg. Dropbox or Google).
However, if you need the extra space you have the following options:-
* 16g - Great provided you don't want to store lots of photos or video
* 32g - Double the space
* 64g - Massive. You'll store a lot of songs or video
* 128g - Absolutely top end - but with a matching price tag.
Cellular: Allows you to connect to the internet while you're out and about. This will add an additional £100 to the price and means you can slip in a mobile phone SIM card. This means (£7-15 a month on contract), you can access the internet on the move. Alternatively, you can opt for the WIFI option, and use it at home or at at "hot spot" (eg. Starbucks, most rail stations and hotels etc).
Personally I'd buy (and indeed did), the 16Gb iPad Air WIFI, but these are key decisions.
Do I need anything else?
Most people (me included) buy a cover. Apple (and now hundreds of others) make a "smart-cover" which automatically shuts down the iPad when you close it, and switches it on when you open it. There's versions which cover the back, or just the screen. Apple charge from £35 to £65 for their (admittedly) high quality fabric or leather covers, but there's many available from £10. Be aware, you do get what you pay for, but "Swees Ultraslim" (about £10), has excellent reviews on Amazon.
Personally,I think it's a pity to cover the beautiful aluminium industrial design of the iPad with a cover - but if you've spent literally hundreds of pounds, you'll want to protect it from scrapes and bangs.
I also invested in a keyboard (£25-80), as I tend to write a lot of mails and documents (remember it comes with a word processor). I'd recommend the Logitech Ultra Thin iPad Air Case with Keyboard - Space Grey. Be aware, a keyboard is strictly optional unless you want to use your iPad as a proper laptop.
You can also buy a rechargeable wireless bluetooth speaker. It's a fantastic way to boost the sound quality and volume from an tablet, phone or PC. I'd recommend the JBL Flip (from £49), the Bose Soundlink Mini (£169) or the top end Bose Soundlink III (£259). Personally, I listen to music (Spotify or iTunes) or the radio on my wireless speakers every day. It's just brilliant.
Finally, if you have another Apple device (eg. an iPhone, Apple TV or Mac) you'll find these work together beautifully. For example, you can create a reminder on your iPad and it appears on your iPhone. Equally, photos taken on your iPhone appear on your iPad, and you can send music or videos from iPad, iPhone or Mac to an Apple TV.
Some people think this "locks you in" - but it's your choice.
What's great about the Air?
* Lighter (30%) and thinner than the previous version (469g from 650g)
* Even faster A7 chip. Blazingly fast!
* Improved sound (compared to the iPad 4)
* Software including
+ iMovie - edit and publish home made movies
+ Numbers - Fully functional Excel for the iPad
+ Pages - Word processor
+ GarageBand - Play a piano or a drum kit
+ iPhoto - Edit and organise your photos
What's not so great?
* The change in physical size means you'll need a new keyboard or replacement cover if you're upgrading from a previous model
* Pity Apple didn't include the "touch ID" to secure your passwords
It's hard to believe the iPad version 1 was released just four years ago, and there's a huge raft of "me too" tablet computers to choose from, but the Apple iPad Air is still the one to beat. As "Which?" magazine put it - "...the best tablet we've ever tested. Apple packs a beautiful screen and lightning fast processor into a slimmer-than-ever shell, and battery life is very impressive".
Yes, there are cheaper Android based alternatives, but the quality, design and beauty of this tablet just sets it apart. If it were a car it'd be a top of the range Mercedes or a BMW 5i.
Highly Recommended. Buy it.