iPad Air and Retina iPad mini: Our Complete Overview

Phil Schiller took the stage today at Apple's media event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to officially unveil the iPad mini with Retina Display -- the long-rumored successor to last year's iPad mini -- and the iPad Air, Apple's new full-size iPad that replaces the old 4th generation iPad.

iPad Air

The iPad Air is an iPad mini-inspired redesign of the old iPad that, according to Apple, has been "years in the making". With a smaller bezel that is 43% thinner than the previous generation's one and a new design that makes the Air 20% thinner (7.5 mm thin), Apple has managed to cut the weight of the 9.7-inch iPad from 1.4 pounds to just 1.0 pound (469 grams for the WiFi version, 478 grams for the WiFi + Cellular version).

In the new iPad Air, Apple is using the A7 processor that the company introduced last month in the iPhone 5s. The A7 is a desktop-class CPU that, with a 64-bit architecture, allows the iPad Air to be twice as fast than the previous generation iPad and up to 8 times faster than the original iPad. In terms of GPU performance, the iPad Air is a whopping 72 times faster than the original iPad released in 2010. Just like the iPhone 5s, the iPad Air packs an M7 motion co-processor, which lets the device tracks accurate motion data in the background and make it available to apps and system features.

iPad created an entirely new mobile computing experience, and the new iPad Air is another big leap ahead. It is so thin, light and powerful, once you hold one in your hand you will understand what a tremendous advancement this is.

For the first time, Apple is using the faster WiFi MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) technology that relies on multiple antennas to guarantee faster WiFi transfers. As usual, you will find support for Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz), and Bluetooth 4.0 in the iPad Air's wireless system; for the cellular radios, the WiFi + Cellular model comes with expanded LTE coverage, and, as Apple adds, doing so "while continuing to deliver comprehensive support for other fast cellular technology around the world (DC-HSDPA, HSPA+), all in a single model".

For the camera, the iPad Air sports a 5 MP iSight on the back, a FaceTime HD camera on the front, and it can record 1080p videos. The iPad Air has also a dual-microphone system for improved audio quality.

The iPad Air retains the old iPad's 10 hours of battery life, and it comes in two colors: Silver & White and Space Gray.

Accessories

Apple has created new Smart Covers and Smart Cases for the iPad Air.

The Smart Cover is modeled after last year's iPad mini one (it's been reduced to three panels instead of four) and it comes in six colors: Black, Yellow, Pink, Blue, Green, and (Product) RED. It's made of polyurethane and it costs $39.

The Smart Case protects the front and back of the iPad Air and it comes in six colors: Black, Yellow, Beige, Brown, Blue, and (Product) RED. It's made of aniline-dyed leather and it costs $79.

Storage, Price, and Release Date

The iPad Air comes in four storage capacities and separate WiFi and WiFi + Cellular versions:

WiFi

  • 16GB - $499
  • 32GB - $599
  • 64GB - $699
  • 128GB - $799

WiFi + Cellular

  • 16GB - $629
  • 32GB - $729
  • 64GB - $829
  • 128GB - $929

The iPad Air will launch on November 1 in 42 countries, making it the biggest iPad rollout to date.

  • US
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • China (Wi-Fi models only)
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macao (Wi-Fi models only)
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK

For users who want a cheaper full-size iPad, Apple will keep the iPad 2 around at $399 for the 16 GB WiFi version ($529 for WiFi + Cellular).

iPad mini with Retina Display

The new iPad mini sports a 2048 x 1536 Retina display that, at 326 pixel per inch (ppi) has a higher pixel density than the 9.7-inch iPad Air (which has the same 2048 x 1536 Retina display, but at 264 ppi) and the same one of the iPhone 5/5c/5s. The Retina display, first brought to the iPad in 2012 with the third-generation iPad, has been touted as a fantastic addition for users who want print-quality definition from the books and photos on their iPad, generally enabling a much improved viewing experience thanks to the higher resolution.

On the hardware side, the Retina iPad mini is an iPad Air in a smaller package. The new iPad mini comes with the same A7 CPU and M7 motion co-processor, iSight camera, FaceTime HD camera, and WiFi improvements of the iPad Air. Essentially, the Retina iPad mini is an iPad Air that's been shrunk down for people who prefer the 7-9-inch screen over the 9.7-inch one.

Likely related to the addition of a Retina display that requires more power, this year's iPad mini is slightly thicker and heavier than the original iPad mini. In terms of weight, the device has gone from 308 and 312 grams (for WiFi and WiFi + Cellular versions, respectively) to 331 and 341 grams.

Accessories

Apple has created new Smart Covers and Smart Cases for the iPad mini with Retina display.

The Smart Cover comes in six colors: Black, Yellow, Pink, Blue, Green, and (Product) RED. It's made of polyurethane and it costs $39.

The Smart Case protects the front and back of the iPad mini and it comes in six colors: Black, Yellow, Beige, Brown, Blue, and (Product) RED. It's made of aniline-dyed leather and it costs $69.

Storage, Price, and Release Date

The iPad mini comes in four storage capacities and separate WiFi and WiFi + Cellular versions:

WiFi

  • 16GB - $399
  • 32GB - $499
  • 64GB - $599
  • 128GB - $699

WiFi + Cellular

  • 16GB - $529
  • 32GB - $629
  • 64GB - $729
  • 128GB - $829

The iPad mini with Retina display will be released "later in November", although Apple hasn't specified the list of initial countries where the device will launch. Last year's non-Retina iPad mini will stay on as well, and its price will be reduced to $299.

Tidbits & Hands On

In this section, we have collected various tidbits, photos, and videos about the iPad mini and iPad Air.

AnandTech has posted their first two first-impression videos of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. They described the difference between the old iPad and the new iPad Air as "shocking" and similar to upgrading from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5.

MG Siegler posted a photo of the iPad Air, calling it "incredibly thin and light". Matthew Panzarino tweeted a photo showing a thickness comparison between the new iPad mini and iPad Air.

Writing at TechCrunch, Panzarino also believes that the new design of the iPad Air will make it a device suitable for one-handed usage:

This new version fixes that by making it much, much lighter. It weighs in at just 1lb, which is .4lbs lighter than the iPad 4. In our hands-on tests this difference in weight was marked, and made for a hugely different experience. Users who may have wanted a lighter tablet, but didn’t want to sacrifice screen real-estate to move to an iPad mini, will probably be pleased.

At Ars Technica, Andrew Cunningham notes how the iPad mini's Retina screen makes iOS 7's icons and thin fonts look "excellent" when compared to last year's non-Retina model. He also mentions that last year's iPad mini accessories (namely, the covers) will be compatible with the iPad mini with Retina display, and that, in spite of sharing the same name, it's possible that the A7 of the iPhone 5s and the one found in the new iPads won't be the exact same chip.

In their hands-on post, The Verge called the Air a "beautiful" device sporting "cleaner bezels, a much thinner profile, and sharper, boxier edges". In the separate article and video for the iPad mini, The Verge also noted, like Ars Technica, that iOS 7 looks "much better" on the Retina display.

SlashGear has published two separate hands-on articles for the iPad mini and iPad Air, both with a good set of photos and a video that does a good job at capturing the size difference between the mini and the Air.

As noted by Shawn Blanc, a nice detail of the iPad Air's product webpage is that it is responsive it says "swipe to continue" on iOS, and "scroll to continue" on a Mac.

Above, you can see the new packaging of the iPad Air.

In their hands-on video, LaptopMag calls the iPad Air a "larger iPad mini" that's much more comfortable for one-handed usage thanks to the new design.

Links

For more coverage, check out our October 22 news hub and follow @macstoriesnet on Twitter.