With the iPad Air Apple made one of the biggest changes to its line of tablets yet. Not only did the name change but it’s also a lot slimmer and lighter than its predecessors, making an already impossibly good looking device even more premium and even more portable while making the expected performance improvements too.
It’s Apple’s latest and greatest slate, but until recently if you wanted a more budget option you were stuck with the rather dated iPad 2. Now Apple has retired that and brought back the iPad 4 as the budget option instead. It’s only a year older than the iPad Air and it’s quite a bit cheaper. Read on to see how it compares.
The iPad Air is not only the best looking iPad but the best looking tablet full stop. At 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm it has very little wasted space and is incredibly slim. More impressive still at just 478g it’s lighter than ever, hence the name, all wrapped up with the same smooth aluminium back and glass front that we’ve come to expect from iPads.
The iPad 4 is inevitably inferior when it comes to build quality, but that’s not to say it’s bad, far from it in fact. Like the iPad Air it has a stylish and premium aluminium back and while it’s bigger and thicker at 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm it doesn’t feel oversized and is clearly a high quality slate through and through.
The weight of 662g is more noticeable, but realistically you’re going to be using both devices with two hands anyway and held in two hands the weight really isn’t much of an issue.
Both the iPad Air and the iPad 4 have 9.7 inch 1536 x 2048 IPS LCD displays with pixel densities of 264 pixels per inch. Both tablets have crystal clear screens with warm, natural colours and there really is nothing to choose here in terms of display quality. Though if you want to get really picky the iPad Air uses less power for its screen, which not only helps battery life but also ensures the slate doesn’t get as hot as the iPad 4.
The Apple iPad Air has a 1.3 GHz dual-core Apple A7 64-bit processor and 1GB of RAM while the iPad 4 has a 1.4 GHz dual-core Apple A6X 32-bit processor and 1GB of RAM. Both slates are fast and powerful. They boot up and shut down in a matter of seconds and everything from web browsing to videos to gaming is smooth on both of them.
That said while the difference might not be very noticeable much of the time the iPad Air is substantially more powerful than its predecessor, thanks to a newer, more powerful processor and its 64-bit architecture. At the moment none of it seems overly necessary but it could give the iPad Air more staying power down the line.
Nothing has changed on the camera front. Both the iPad Air and the iPad 4 have 5 megapixel snappers on the back and 1.2 megapixel cameras on the front, while both can shoot 1080p video at 30fps. In both cases the camera performance is reasonable though it won’t be replacing your smartphone camera, let alone your compact and there are very few shooting options.
That’s fine though, because the thought of using a ten inch slate for photography is baffling, but regardless the two tablets have equally competent cameras.
The iPad Air has an 8820 mAh battery capable of up to around 10 hours of media while the iPad 4 has a larger 11560 mAh battery which despite being bigger actually doesn’t provide quite as good life, conking out after around 9 hours of heavy use. Still, even 9 hours is very good.
The iPad Air comes with a choice of 16, 32, 64 or 128GB of storage while the iPad 4 in its newly resurrected form is only available with 16GB of storage and in typical Apple fashion neither slate has a microSD card slot.
The two slates have the same set of connectivity options, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 on board along with ‘Wi-Fi + Cellular’ versions which also support 3G and 4G LTE.
The iPad Air is quite clearly a better slate than the iPad 4, that was never in any doubt. The interesting thing though is that in real terms the differences aren’t that pronounced. It’s slimmer and lighter but that doesn’t particularly change the way you use it and the iPad 4 is already a great looking device.
It’s also more powerful but for the time being that extra power isn’t put to much use. Perhaps the biggest difference is how much storage each slate has, with the iPad Air giving you up to 128GB to play with, while the iPad 4 is limited to just 16GB, but if 16 is all you want then it makes no difference, while the screen, camera and connectivity options are the same on both and the iPad Air’s battery life is only slightly better.
The iPad Air starts at £399 while the iPad 4 is just £319, so that’s an £80 price difference for something which isn’t enormously better. Neither slate is overpriced and both are remarkable devices, but the iPad 4 is a far more tempting alternative than the iPad 2 ever was. Ultimately if all you want is a 16GB model then the iPad 4 might be the smarter buy, but 16GB is incredibly limited so if you have the funds a 32GB or above version of the iPad Air probably makes the most sense.
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