The New iPad Air vs. The Old New iPad

In step with new announcements for Macs and a fresh version of the iPad mini, Apple has refreshed its core line of 9.7-inch iPads. The newest iteration of the tablet that started it all boasts some big changes, and even a new name—one that doesn't drive us bonkers this time. Meet the iPad Air, Apple's fifth generation full-size iPad.

Tech Specs: iPad Air vs. Fourth Generation iPad

New features are in bold.

iPad Air (fifth generation):

  • 9.7-inch Retina display
  • 7.5mm thick
  • Weight: 1 lb (Wi-Fi), 1.05 lbs. (Wi-Fi + LTE)
  • A7 chip (64-bit architecture)
  • M7 motion co-processor
  • Retina display (2048 x 1536 resolution, 264ppi)
  • Front-facing FaceTime HD camera (1.2 megapixel photos; 720p HD video)
  • Back-facing iSight camera (5 megapixels, f /2.4 aperture)
  • 1080p HD video recording with 3x video zoom
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO
  • Support for expanded range of 14 LTE bands
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Pricing (Wi-Fi): 16GB for $499, 32GB for $599, 64GB for $699, 128GB for $799
  • Pricing (Wi-Fi + LTE): 16GB for $629, 32Gb for $729, 64GB for $829, 128GB for $929

Late-2012 iPad (fourth generation):

  • 9.7-inch "retina" display
  • 9.4mm thick
  • Weight: 1.44 lbs (Wi-Fi), 1.46 lbs. (Wi-Fi + LTE)
  • 1 GHz dual-core A6X processor
  • Retina display (2048 x 1536 resolution, 264ppi)
  • Front-facing FaceTime HD camera (1.2 megapixel photos; 720p HD video)
  • Back-facing iSight camera (5 megapixels, f /2.4 aperture)
  • 1080p HD video recording with 3x video zoom
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • 10-hour battery life

What's Actually New in The iPad Air

As the technical specifications suggest, what's new here is mainly skin deep—rather, aluminum deep. Apple's main focus with the iPad Air is exactly what its naming hints: it's really, really light. The new flagship Apple tablet has rightfully earned its place (and moniker) next to Apple's featherweight MacBook Air line. Cutting the iPad Air down by 0.44 pounds is no small feat, though otherwise the tablet is mostly identical to its predecessor.

Aside from its weight loss program, the iPad Air's biggest change is the powerful A7 processor humming under its hood. The chip, also found in the new iPad mini and the iPhone 5S, is blazing fast and packs a motion co-processor known as the M7, which paves the way for apps to employ richer motion tracking data in new ways.

The iPad Air will also see a connectivity boost thanks to its support for a wider range of LTE bands. Beyond that, most of the specs remain the same as the last generation iPad, down to the iSight camera and very respectable 10 hour battery life.

Making Sense Of The iPad Family

The iPad Air's naming clears up a few things, but we'll clarify further, because hey, it's confusing. Gone is the old new iPad. No really—Apple discontinued its last generation iPad, notoriously (and confusingly) dubbed the "new iPad". Instead of keeping the last (fourth) generation iPad in production, Apple will continue to sell the non-retina iPad 2 in addition to the iPad Air.

It's a strange choice on the face of it, but an iPad without Apple's high resolution retina display is certainly cheaper to make. Now the fifth generation iPad Air will reign supreme and the iPad 2 will make a surprising return to relevance as the budget-minded full-size iPad of choice—if you can't get your hands on a cheap third or fourth generation iPad, that is.