It's the iPad that's so light, they needed a whole new name. At first glance, there's not a heck of a lot new about the Air (though the more discerning amongst you may well notice the new dual-mics at top). There's a brushed metal backing (which is awfully shiny under these bright lights), a power switch and volume buttons on one side and that lighting port and speaker grilles on the bottom. And while the new tablet is, in fact, around 20 percent slimmer than its predecessor, it's not immediately apparent until you put the iPad up against its older sibling. What is apparent, however, is the weight. As its name implies, this guy is light -- impressively so at one pound (down from 1.4).
And while Apple's done an impressive job slimming the tablet down and taking off nearly half a pound, it doesn't feel cheap; it is an Apple product, after all. Naturally, iOS 7 looks great on that Retina display -- but if you've used the previous-gen iPad, you knew that already, right? What's really notable here, however, is just how zippy things are, thanks to the inclusion of an A7 chip, the same one introduced on the iPhone 5s. You really notice that speed when launching apps like iMovie, which boots up in an an instant. With a chip like this, you should be getting around the new free version of iLife pretty swiftly.
The iPad Air starts shipping November 1st for $499. Is it worth the upgrade? We can't decisively say until we actually review the thing, of course, though it certainly looks compelling. It's slimmer, it's lighter and Apple managed the feat without sacrificing speed or power -- in fact, it's improved on both counts. If you're in the market for a new tablet and don't mind dropping $500, the iPad is once again going to make a compelling proposition this holiday. Check out our video of the iPad Air below.
Brad Molen contributed to this hands-on.