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When Apple came out with a smaller iPad last year, the original version suddenly seemed heavy and bulky. The iPad Mini fit more easily in pockets and bags, and it felt more comfortable in my hands. It was also cheaper than the full-size version.
This Friday's release of the new iPad Air, along with a price increase for a new Mini model, narrows those distinctions.
At just 1 pound, the Air is 28 per cent lighter than last fall's full-size model and just a quarter pound heavier than the new Mini coming out in a few weeks. The size of the screen is the same as last year, at 9.7 inches diagonally, but Apple managed to shave the iPad's frame so that the tablet is narrower by nearly three-quarters of an inch when held vertically. Overall volume is reduced by 24 percent. The starting price remains at $499.
Apple says it has been working on this engineering feat on the side for years, even as it released bulkier models. To make the Air 20 per cent thinner, Apple shrunk just about every layer: the front glass, the touch sensor, the display, the battery and the aluminum back. Apple says it kept the device durable without unnecessary materials.
It's not until you hold the old and the new side by side that you feel and appreciate the difference.
In the week I've had with the Air, I've managed to stuff it partially into the pocket of my autumn jacket, whereas the old one wouldn't fit at all. I carried it in a backpack on a five-mile run home from work and forgot it was even there after less than a mile. I curled up with it in bed to watch this week's episode of "Revenge" instead of getting up for work.
Besides making the Air smaller and lighter, Apple packed it with more power:
- The Air shares the A7 processing chip found in the new iPhone 5S. Apple says it's twice as fast as last fall's model. The Air also comes with a companion M7 processor, which improves battery