The first reviews of for the $499 Apple iPad Air are in, and they're overwhelmingly positive. Critics love the thin and light one-pound design that redefines how "big tablets" should feel in your hand. There's also a faster A7 processor under the hood, and most saw at least 10 hours of battery life. As you might imagine, reviewers struggled to find things to complain about. But after sifting through early evaluations, there are a few cons for Apple's new flagship.
No Touch ID
After Apple launched the iPhone 5s with its Touch ID fingerprint sensor, many critics and analysts expected the new home button to become a norm for future Apple products. As Apple proved when it launched the iPad Air and second-gen iPad Mini, however, that may not be the case. While a fingerprint scanner in the home button is certainly more handy on your phone than your tablet (think about how many times you unlock your iPhone compared to your iPad each day), its absence was enough for some reviewers to count it as a con.
“The Touch ID fingerprint scanner, introduced on the iPhone 5s, is sadly absent here, meaning you’ll still have to type in a passcode with every unlock and a password with every purchase,” writes CNET features writer and former Engadget Editor-in-Chief Tim Stevens. Engadget’s Brad Molen also acknowledged the Air’s lack of a fingerprint sensor as a negative in his review.
Cameras Don't Wow
While an iPad (or any tablet for that matter) isn’t ideal for taking photos, some have criticized Apple for neglecting the iSight camera its line of iPads. Apple hasn’t significantly improved the quality of the iPad’s main camera, with the third, fourth and now fifth-gen iPads all sporting a 5-MP main shooter. In its review, Mashable points out that although Apple touts its mobile photo and video tools, it hasn’t done much to improve its image-capturing hardware.
“Though many of Apple’s tools focus on photo and video, Apple has not exactly advanced the state of the art in digital imagers. The iPad Air features Apple’s previous generation 5-MP iSight camera. This means no panorama photo or slo-mo video options. Given just how light the new iPad Air is, a more advanced camera would have been welcome.
A Bit Pricey
Premium pricing has become a staple of Apple products, but today’s rival tablet makers are releasing compelling options at a cheaper cost. Apple’s iPad Air starts at $499 for 16GB, which is more expensive than Microsoft’s $449 Surface 2 and Amazon’s $379 Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. While the app ecosystem may be more limited on those devices, they come with impressive hardware and cater to specific audiences. With its integrated kickstand and compatibility with Microsoft’s Type Covers, the Surface 2 is aimed at productivity, while the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 comes with a sharper 2560 x 1600 display.
“However, the market continues to shift, offering more and increasingly sophisticated alternatives at far cheaper prices,” CNET's Stevens also wrote.
Running on Apple’s A7 processor, the iPad Air’s processing prowess is certainly noticeable during everyday use according to reviewers. But as Stevens points out, that may come through in more ways than one.
“In case you’re wondering, yes, the iPad Air does get quite warm when doing this sort of number crunching. The back of the tablet still feels slightly cooler at full tilt than its finger-toasting predecessor, but there’s still plenty of heat coming off the back, reinforcement that your slinky, new tablet is, indeed, working hard.”
No Display Innovation
While Apple’s Retina display was revolutionary when it debuted on the third-generation iPad-- the Cupertino-Calif.-based company is no longer the top contender in terms of screen resolution. That’s not to discredit the iPad’s stunning visuals, but some reviewers were hoping Apple would up the ante in terms of its tablet’s display.
“Though the iPad's display a big deal a year and a half ago, it's not top dog anymore -- not now that other devices like the Nexus 10 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition offer 2,560 x 1,600 panels with higher pixel density,” Brad Molen of Engadget wrote. “Heck, as soon as the Retina iPad mini launches, the Air won't even be the sharpest tablet in Apple's lineup, let alone anywhere else.”
Based on early iPad Air reviews, Apple has undoubtedly improved upon an already successful tablet with a lighter, one-hand friendly design and speedier performance. Most are calling it the best tablet available. But it's certainly not without a few flaws. We look forward to bringing you our full review of the iPad Air soon to see if Apple is still the king of tablets.