Hands on with the new 64-bit A7, Retina display iPad mini and iPad Air

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Apple demonstrated its lineup of new iPads yesterday, introducing two new models, a Retina Display iPad mini and thin new iPad Air, with significant upgrades that were not expected.

64-bit tablets

The new iPad mini and iPad Air share a series of features with Apple's "forward thinking" iPhone 5s, most notably its 64-bit A7 Application Processor.

While an expected move for the full sized iPad Air (which has been renamed to call attention to its lighter weight and thinner profile), it's an unexpected leap for the new iPad mini, which is now more than 4 times as computationally powerful as its predecessor. The chip isn't just more powerful however; it's also very efficient, providing the GPU muscle to power a Retina Display resolution without the power demands of the A5X or A6X.



While some critics scoffed at the idea of a 64-bit chip in a mobile device when Apple first unveiled it, there's already a series of third party applications taking significant advantage of its new processing power, particularly in advanced audio and video processing.

Apple is also taking full advantage of the A7's 64-bit design in its own Pages, Numbers and Keynote, as well as iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand, all of which were revamped for the A7 as well as iOS 7. To promote the new iPads as both productive and creative, Apple is now offering all of those apps for free with the purchase of a new iPad.



Both new iPads also incorporate the M7 motion coprocessor, which is also already being used to power several apps and is put to use by the system to adjust power consumption in response to how it is being used.

Including the A7 & M7 on both of its new iPads will greatly increase the installed base of 64-bit capable iOS devices, increasing the demand and thus stoking the supply for even more advanced software designed to take special advantage of the chips. It will also help to drive down Apple's productions costs of the advanced components through economies of scale.

No other smartphone and tablet maker uses the same chip across all of its high end offerings, and of course no other manufacturer comes even close to selling so many units of the same models in either category.

Familiar form factor

Apple said it had been working for years to deliver the technology required to produce the new iPad Air, which looks nearly identical to the existing iPad mini, albeit scaled up in screen size. Both the new iPad Air and mini with Retina Display pack in the much higher resolution display panel while adding only a fraction of millimeter (0.3mm) in thickness.



The new Air is 1.3 mm thinner than iPad 2 and weights about a third pound (over 130 g) less. "When you hold it, it will be a dramatically different experience from the previous iPad," Apple's marketing chief Philip Schiller said on stage as he introduced the new model.



The new design of iPad Air means there's now little to differentiate it from the iPad mini apart from screen size and price. iPad mini remains lighter (three quarters of a pound vs 1 pound, or 331g vs 469g) and is of course shorter and narrower (7.9 x 5.3 inches vs 9.4 x 6.6 inches, or 200x135mm vs 240x170mm), but held in the hand, both models feel remarkably similar.



They also now look so similar it's hard to immediately tell from a photograph if you're looking at the Air or the mini without some external frame of reference.

The new iPad Air also now reflects the same chamfered styling of the iPad mini and iPhone 5s, although unlike the phone, the iPads have a rounded back. They are also actually a hair thinner than the sleek iPhone 5s. One conspicuously missing element from the 5s is Touch ID, which along with the 5s' fancier camera and True Tone flash, appears to have been left off as a way to deliver a more affordable product.

Mobile, not precious

The new iPads are simply insanely thin and absurdly light for also being the world's most powerful mobile tablets. At the same time, Apple emphasized that its new iPads aren't just designed to look pretty. In a video, Apple depicted the Air being dropped by a test robot and bouncing off the floor undamaged.

"There's a simplicity to it," Apple's head designer Jony Ive said over the video (above), which portrayed iPads being used in school, pulled out of a backpack in the woods and being thumped upon by a drummer. "But there's nothing precious about it. This integrity, this durability inspires confidence in a product that's meant to be taken places, handled, and really used."

Still, there is some preciousness about the new iPads, and for that Apple is selling $39 magnetically attached covers in bright colors and a new $69 to $79 leather case-covers in more subdued tones, designed to wrap around the back of the device. The leather cases are similar to the snugly fitting ones offered for the 5s, but also incorporate a book-like screen cover.









The Smart Case/cover adds some minimal bulk to the bare device, while the simpler covers hit middle ground.

Apple zigs on zag predictions

For the last year, Apple has been offering a thicker, full sized A6X-powered iPad 4 with Retina Display alongside the cheaper 2011 iPad 2 and a much thinner and lighter, scaled down version of iPad 2 named iPad mini; both shared the same screen resolution and A5 Application Processor.

Given the weight and expense associated with the high end iPad 4, it wasn't clear if Apple could bring its sharper display (or the more powerful chip required to power its higher resolution) to the mini without adding too much weight and cost.

Even if it could, it wasn't clear if Apple could source sufficient Retina Display screens to build enough minis to feed the global demand volumes of iPad customers. Such a move might also impact battery, as it did with Google's high resolution Nexus 7 upgrade, which nearly slashed its battery life in half.

Further, given the lower prices and margin associated with the mini, it appeared likely that Apple would instead focus its efforts on making its iPad 4 successor more appealing. Some reports predicted a Touch Cover keyboard or an even larger screen.





In the face of a range of expectations, Apple exceeded on the high end with a new iPad Air and mini that compromise on neither mobility nor power, while also offering a surprise encore performance for both iPad 2 last year's iPad mini, retained to offer more affordable alternatives ranging from $299 for the older 16GB mini to the top of the line 128GB Air at $929.
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 869member
    Very nice. I have an iPad 3 and see no need to upgrade. I am waiting for the 12" iPad Pro.
  • Reply 2 of 70

    I can't afford to purchase either right now, but I'm really looking forward to trying them out in the local Apple Store when I get there next. I've enjoyed the heck out of my 1st generation and 4th generation iPads; my wife has currently inherited the 1st. Since I've been using the Retina version, I sorely miss it whenever I use the original. Having the screen in an even lighter form factor is going to be a big selling point for a lot of people, both new customers and the ones looking to upgrade.

  • Reply 3 of 70

    I missed the 'hands on' part? This seems like a regurgitation of the event. What are your 'hands on' experience with size, comfort, speed? 

  • Reply 4 of 70
    I like the incremental improvements to the iPad - really. I will also be upgrading to the new iPad. But Apple seems to like to tout the thinness and weight of iPads. Ok, they're light already. No one cares anymore. Instead of spending so much time and money on these engineering achievements, they should be focusing on features. Where's the sapphire home button for iPads? When other firms are at 40 megapixel cameras, Apple is still at 5 or 6 megapixel. The cameras don't handle varying light conditions very well, and the interface is lacking. Why do I pay extra for a cover. Can they integrate a bluetooth keypad into a cover? I'd much rather get these types of features than to lose a few mm's and oz's. Just my opinion.
  • Reply 5 of 70
    I have no idea why Apple still makes those terrible covers. They are flimsy, they easily come off, they topple over when you stand vertically, and they don't allow for portrait.
  • Reply 6 of 70
    citycity Posts: 522member

    It appears Apple has settled on names, "Air" and "Mini"  for the versions gong forward, like with "iMac". I hope the refresh comes in the first half of  2014 with Touch I.D.

  • Reply 7 of 70
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

    I have no idea why Apple still makes those terrible covers. They are flimsy, they easily come off, they topple over when you stand vertically, and they don't allow for portrait.


     

    Well, given that none of that is true, I imagine that’s why.

  • Reply 8 of 70
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,654member

    Uhm... DED... Where's the "Hand's on" section??  Waiting...

  • Reply 9 of 70
    Why in the heck would someone buy an iPad 2 for $399 when you can buy a 4th generation iPad off the Apple refurb store (with no flaws and the full warranty) for $379?
  • Reply 10 of 70
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member
    I have no idea why Apple still makes those terrible covers. They are flimsy, they easily come off, they topple over when you stand vertically, and they don't allow for portrait.

    You have no idea how fast the 5s leather ones get nasty. People are returning the lighter iPhone 5s leather cases in droves. Except for the black an brown ones.
  • Reply 11 of 70
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member

    I am surprised there isn't more talk about about these new devices not having Touch ID. That seems like major omission to me.

     

    -kpluck

  • Reply 12 of 70
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member
    tyler82 wrote: »
    Very nice. I have an iPad 3 and see no need to upgrade. I am waiting for the 12" iPad Pro.

    Don't you mean the iPad maxi?

    BTW- why isn't the iPad mini w retina display called the mIni Air or Air mini?
  • Reply 13 of 70
    pokerbear wrote: »
    Ok, they're light already. No one cares anymore.

    I care.

    I stopped using the iPad 3 in favor of the Mini because the 3 was just too heavy for prolonged reading when only holding it with one hand. Now it seems I'll be able to have the best of both worlds, with the bigger screen and the lightness.

    What I don't care about is them putting a higher resolution camera in the iPad. Indeed I'd be in favor of then removing the rear camera to stop assholes at sporting events holding an iPad up in the air, blocking everyone else's view.
  • Reply 14 of 70
    dugbugdugbug Posts: 283member

    I found it odd they kept the ipad 2, which also retains the old 30-pin connector.  But I guess they kept the 4S too.

     

    One thing I was really hoping for and surprised to see absent is touchid.  I'm tired of having to copy and paste complex password to buy apps and music, but otherwise the ipad air is looking good.  I hope the next revision will have touchid.

  • Reply 15 of 70
    stompystompy Posts: 336member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pokerbear View Post



    Ok, they're light already. No one cares anymore. Instead of spending so much time and money on these engineering achievements, they should be focusing on features.... When other firms are at 40 megapixel cameras, Apple is still at 5 or 6 megapixel. 

    If you intend to use the retina display to read books, the new iPads are still 66 - 132% heavier than a Kindle paperwhite. I welcome any and all weight reductions.

     

    I've passed the threshold of needing more megapixels. I'm not saying Apple should stop improving the sensors, just that shoving in more megapixels won't accomplish that.

     

    <edit>PaulMJohnson gets it. My thoughts exactly.

  • Reply 16 of 70
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    pazuzu wrote: »
    You have no idea how fast the 5s leather ones get nasty. People are returning the lighter iPhone 5s leather cases in droves. Except for the black an brown ones.
    Returning in droves? And you know this how?
  • Reply 17 of 70
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    pokerbear wrote: »
    I like the incremental improvements to the iPad - really. I will also be upgrading to the new iPad. But Apple seems to like to tout the thinness and weight of iPads. Ok, they're light already. No one cares anymore. Instead of spending so much time and money on these engineering achievements, they should be focusing on features. Where's the sapphire home button for iPads? When other firms are at 40 megapixel cameras, Apple is still at 5 or 6 megapixel. The cameras don't handle varying light conditions very well, and the interface is lacking. Why do I pay extra for a cover. Can they integrate a bluetooth keypad into a cover? I'd much rather get these types of features than to lose a few mm's and oz's. Just my opinion.
    Curious which firm has a 40MP camera in a tablet? Also, we wouldn't have touch id were it not for engineering achievements. I'll take Apple's engineering anyday over other companies littering up the spec sheet just to impress techies.
  • Reply 18 of 70
    cash907cash907 Posts: 893member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pazuzu View Post





    You have no idea how fast the 5s leather ones get nasty. People are returning the lighter iPhone 5s leather cases in droves. Except for the black an brown ones.

     

    My black case is holding up nicely, aside from some light fraying up in the top right corner. The other colors are absolutely ugly as sin. As I've said in other posts, I don't know who is deciding on the new color palette, but they need to go back to whatever hell these washed out pastel vomit colors came from. I have the original dark blue leather smart cover on my 3, and it looks simple and classy in the office. Aside from the tan, which is waaaay too light anyway, black is the only suitable color for the adult world.

  • Reply 19 of 70
    I am done with iPads its Dell venue 11 pro for me cheaper than iPad here and a full PC.
  • Reply 20 of 70
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pazuzu View Post





    You have no idea how fast the 5s leather ones get nasty. People are returning the lighter iPhone 5s leather cases in droves. Except for the black an brown ones.

    Really?  I'm not doubting the "get nasty" part, just the "returning" part.  If you buy something and get it dirty aren't you pretty much SOL?

Sign In or Register to comment.