Market Overview

iPad Air: Hands-On with the Best iPad Yet

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) latest tablet is lighter, thinner and faster -- and retails for the same price as last year's model.

Starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and $629 for the same unit with cellular service, the iPad Air is easily the most irresistible full-size tablet released in 2013.

Consumers will initially notice that it is, as Apple claims, a much smaller device. It does not feel as compact as an iPad Mini or as portable as an iPod Touch, but that won't stop consumers from wanting to take it everywhere they go.

Apple was smart to narrow the bezel (the border that surrounds any electronic device with a screen), which had remained bulky since the first iPad was released. It is now almost possible to simultaneously grip both sides of the tablet with one hand. Users with larger hands should be able to grip both sides with relative ease.

After the form factor novelty wears off, users will be delighted by the A7 chip, which provides an important power boost. This will be immediately evident to anyone who loads a few sites with Safari.

iOS 7 makes it easy to scroll back and forth between loaded pages, by swiping from the left or right side of the screen. This feature is somewhat stiff on the first-generation iPad Mini (which is still in stores and is being promoted alongside the iPad Air). On the iPad Air, pages swiped in and out at a near-instant pace. It rivaled the speed of Windows 8, which has a similar feature built into the Internet Explorer app.

Related: iPad Air Launch Draws Modest Crowd At Apple Store

Users will be particularly pleased by how quickly they can exit an app and how fast most of them re-load. While graphic-intensive games took longer (and will still need to be re-loaded after clicking the home button), lighter apps (Safari, simple games, the built-in camera app, etc.) loaded very quickly.

Five hundred dollars is a lot to spend on a tablet, so the iPad Air is not for everyone. It is not a necessary upgrade for those who purchased the third- or fourth-generation model. But in a world where seven-inch tablets are taking over, Apple has finally released a device to remind consumers why they should buy a larger iPad instead.

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.

Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at louis(at)benzingapro(dot)com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ

Posted-In: A7 Apple iOS 7 iPad iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4 iPad Air iPad Mini SafariNews Retail Sales Global Tech Best of Benzinga

 

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