Further Thoughts About the iPad Air: Should You Upgrade?

On Friday, when I got my iPad Air, I wrote some first impressions about the device. I’ve now had the Air for a full weekend, which included an overnight trip (to see yet another Shakespeare play), where I brought the Air to have something to read in my hotel. I’ve had time to get to know the iPad Air, and it’s time to share some more thoughts on this new tablet. I’ll also make some suggestions about whether you should upgrade to this new model.

First, the iPad Air is fast; as Jason Snell says at Macworld, it’s the Fastest iOS device ever. (You should follow Jason’s iPad Air diary: I find myself in agreement with most of what he says.) But that speed is not an issue. I’ve never felt that the iPad was slow, and I don’t see a speed bump as a reason to upgrade to a new model. However, if you have an old iPad – say the first or second generation – and you play demanding games, you may find the speed necessary to keep up with the latest apps.

002.pngAs for storage, there’s nothing new about the iPad Air. Apple had been offering a 128 GB iPad since February of this year; the iPad Air doesn’t exceed that amount of storage. Personally, this is the first iPad I’ve gotten with more than the base 16 GB. I don’t use my iPad to store large files; while I’ve taken videos with me on trips, to pass the time traveling on trains and planes, I’ve not had to worry about having enough episodes of Breaking Bad to tide me over. I’ve always been able to download videos either from the iTunes Store, or from my Dropbox folder, when needed, over Wi-Fi.

But what changed my mind this time was the fact that I have a number of apps and enhanced ebooks that take up a lot of space, and I’ve been finding the need, at times, to delete some items to add new ones. For example, Touch Press’s wonderful The Sonnets by William Shakespeare and The Liszt Sonata take up 1.5 GB and 637 MB respectively. And I’ve bought a number of books that are as much as 1 GB each.

General apps are getting bigger too. I don’t put all these apps on my iPad, but as you can see in the screenshot to the left, at several hundred megabytes per app, a 16 GB iPad – which really only has about 13 GB in free space – will quickly get cramped. (And that’s without music; I don’t put much music on my iPad.) Add to that the amount of space taken up by magazines – 100 – 200 MB per issue of The New Yorker, and a couple hundred MB per issue of Macworld – and the space fills up pretty quickly. Also, with the larger display, I’m likely to subscribe to other magazines, so I will need the extra space.

While I was busy this weekend, I did have some down time to read in my hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The iPad Air was very comfortable, lightweight, and with a crisp retina display, making reading much easier than my iPad mini (without a retina display). I’m sold by the larger display size, and, while the pixel density is a bit lower than the iPhone – 264 ppi for the iPad Air, compared to 326 ppi for the iPhone 5s – I don’t notice the difference. (It’s worth noting that the iPad mini retina will be the same pixel density as the iPhone.)

So, after a weekend with the iPad Air, I’m convinced it was a good choice. Should you upgrade? If you have an older iPad – especially a pre-retina display model – I’d say definitely. If you need more storage than your current iPad, then it’s a good time to upgrade and get a lighter device at the same time. And if you’re using a full-sized iPad and your arm aches, then you should definitely switch. If, however, you’re using an iPad mini, and the lack of a retina display doesn’t bother you, then you don’t need to upgrade. Or, if you absolutely want a smaller device, wait for the new iPad mini with retina display.

Bear in mind that iPads have good resale value. If you don’t have a family member or partner to hand yours down to, you’ll find it pretty easy to sell on eBay, Amazon or to a friend or co-worker.