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iPad Air: Performance and Apps

evan kypreos

By Evan Kypreos



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iPad Air Performance – The 64-bit A7 strikes again

When Apple announced the performance increase the A7 processor gave the iPhone 5S we were a little sceptical. It didn’t take long, though, to find out how special the dual-core CPU/quad-core GPU SoC (System on Chip) is. It also goes to show, once again, that clock speeds and the number of cores aren’t the be-all and end-all of real world performance.

The iPad Air shares the same processor with Apple’s flagship phone, albeit with a slight bump in clock speed. While the 5S runs at 1.3GHz the Air runs at 1.39GHz. It can achieve this because of the increased space and improved heat dissipation of the Air compared to the much smaller iPhone 5S.

Indeed, before we go into the detail about performance it’s worth noting that the iPad Air manages to keep its cool with consummate ease. Even when running intensive 3D games and apps for hours it barely breaks a sweat and, therefore, neither do your hands.

In practice, the iPad Air is blisteringly fast. Apps open instantly and games like Infinity Blade 3 look sumptuous and run smoothly. The benefits of having a SoC means that the GPU can be used to tackle compute tasks, which makes video editing and compute intensive apps, like AutoCAD, show no hint of slowdown.

SEE ALSO: iPad mini 2 Retina vs iPad Air

iPad Air 5

The iPad Air can run complex AutoCAD wireframes smoothly

This is born out with our benchmarking tests. The iPad Air performs 59% faster than the iPad 4 in the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited CPU and GPU test and 91% faster in Geekbench 3 tests. The Peacekeeper browser test, which assesses web browsing performance, shows that the Air trounces its predecessor by being more than twice as fast. It's also faster than the stonking Snapdragon 800 processor on the likes of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Google Nexus 5. We're talking matter of degrees here, but the difference is there all the same.

Head to our iPad Air benchmarks page for more detailed comparisons

There has been a lot of talk surrounding Apple’s move to a 64-bit processor. If you want to know more about the implications read our A7 guide here. Suffice it to say the biggest wins become apparent when the software is also 64-bit, so it will take a little time for the full benefits to appear on the iPad Air. Apple has helped by re-engineering some of its key iOS apps to take advantage of 64-bit computing. This includes the iWorks and iLife suite of apps we’ll cover a little later, but it's probably more significant for games and 'pro' applications like AutoCAD, the latter being the kind of apps that 99% of iPad owners don't deal with.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 news and rumours round-up

Infinity Blade 3 on the iPad Air

One reason the A7 was made 64-bit was so that the iTouch fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S could work smoothly. Sadly, iTouch is omitted from the iPad Air. It would have been a great addition, but it’s less of an issue on a tablet, which doesn’t require unlocking as often as a phone and where inputting passwords is less fiddly thanks to the larger keyboard. This doesn't totally excuse the omission, of course, but judging by the iPhone 5S delays (reportedly caused by iTouch) it's probably just as well Apple didn't include it.

Aside from the A7 there’s another, much smaller processor called the M7. This has one job only, to manage the iPad’s motion data. It improves battery efficiency by being much more low powered and is particularly effective for the 4G models. For example, if the iPad Air isn’t receiving 4G signal in a specific location it will stop looking. When the iPad is on the move again the M7 will notice and tell it to start searching for signal again. Being out of signal is a significant drain on battery life and this is a neat way of solving it without just throwing a bigger battery, and therefore more weight and bulk, at the problem.

iPad Air Apps and iOS 7

There’s one thing that should always be remembered when discussing the 9.7-inch iPad – the App Store. There are more than 475,000 iPad optimised apps on there, some free, some paid for, but all designed for a screen bigger than that of a phone.

Android on 7-inch tablets like Nexus 7 2 isn’t quite the warty experience it is on bigger ones, but there is a stark contrast between using an iPad optimised app and using upscaled Android apps on a 10-inch tablet. The iPad provides a slicker and more optimised experience. The Windows Store, meanwhile, is still a little threadbare and lacking some top apps.

So the App Store is still the best in the business, but what about Apple’s new iOS 7?

iOS 7 is Apple's biggest redesign of its mobile operating system since it first launched. It has had a mixed reception with detractors claiming it looks too childish and still lacks some of the best Android features. Whether or not you like the flatter, more colourful design, is a matter of taste. We think it’s a refreshing take and retains the instant accessibility that has made iOS so successful in the first place. The addition of an easy-access control centre that lets you have quick access to some core settings and the updated notification bar are welcome.

SEE ALSO: iOS 7 tips and tricks

iOS 7 Control Centre provides quick access to key settings, but you can't customise it

However, iOS 7 still lags well behind Android and Windows when it comes to customisation. Aside from the lack of widgets there is still no option to create user profiles – something both Android 4.3 and Windows do very well. If you want to protect your tablet so that your kids can use it without accessing inappropriate content or accidentally deleting your emails or apps you’ll need to look at other operating systems.

Where Apple gains some brownie points is with the reworked 64-bit iWork and iLife suite of apps. They now come absolutely free for anyone buying an iPad Air. iWork is Apple’s version of Office and comes with Pages - for documents, Numbers - for spread sheets and Keynote – for presentations.

Plenty of improvements have been made but perhaps the most interesting is that Apple has created a unified file format that means it’s easier than ever to work on documents across platforms. Following the footsteps of Google Docs you can now even share files with anyone, regardless of platform. It’s a great addition and means that Apple users can now collaborate easily with PC users.

Where iWork handles productivity, iLife covers creativity. iPhoto, as the name suggests, lets you tweak and manage your photos, as well as order print versions in bundled photo albums – a 20cm x 20cm book with 25 pages costs around £20. Because it’s been re-engineered in 64-bit it’s very fast, opening an album with hundreds of images is instant and means you don’t have to wait ages for the images to show up. iMovie lets you manage your videos while Garageband gets your creative juices flowing by making music in minutes.

Both iWork and iLife apps are made for the touch interface and really are easy to use, although not quite as powerful as their Microsoft Office counterparts.


October 23, 2013, 12:00 am

So for the third year running it's another new device that does the same old things. Boring

Prem Desai

October 23, 2013, 6:28 am

I think the only think left for Apple to do now is to start taking things away from the spec and calling it a whole new device.

Maybe the next ipad will be the same as this one but without the screen - ipad shuffle !!


October 23, 2013, 7:16 am

Maybe we should slap on a Apple logo onto all the 4K TVs to make all the Apple fanboys blindly upgrade all their 1080 TVs to help bring 4K to the masses ! And yeah, another new (revised ?) device that does the same things as the old one. Boring.


October 23, 2013, 8:08 am

It's a bit thinner. Is that is?


October 23, 2013, 8:36 am

No, it's a lot lighter and a lot faster too. Which makes it quite appealing as an upgrade from an older model, such as the iPad 2 or 3. Much the same with any product update really.

Tim Sutton

October 23, 2013, 9:17 am

It's all very meh.

And my word, even for Apple the Mini is ridiculously over priced.

I'm just confused about the iPad naming structure now. Wasn't there an iPad 2 already? That's going to lead to a lot of eBay shenanigans.

I know that I'm not Apples market, in that I'm not American and I'm technologically literate, but there's a slowly increasing feel of stagnation and staleness hanging around Apple.


October 23, 2013, 10:50 am

I think you will find that most of the people in the UK that are in Apple's market are not American. And that the UK market is quite substantial. Your point about being an American to be in Apple's market would appear to not hold much merit and as such seems fairly offensive.

Tim Sutton

October 23, 2013, 11:36 am

Apple's largest market by FAR is the US, (http://www.washingtonpost.c... ) and they target their advertising and products almost exclusively at lifestyle and fashion rather than technology.

If you're not American, and you have a broad knowledge of the technological landscape, chances are you don't buy Apple.

If you're offended by simple figures then I really can't help you.


October 23, 2013, 12:38 pm

The chart you have linked to shows *worldwide* market share for mobile phones. I don't see how it corroborates your argument.

Perhaps a chart showing Apple's tablet market share in the US and that in the UK, would be more relevant?

Tim Sutton

October 23, 2013, 1:01 pm

Its a chart showing how Apple are a minority player in every market except the US.

It tells you where they focus both their products and their image, which tells you that people in England like myself are not their primary target market, which is the point you've been missing since my first post.

I'm not replying anymore because you either are being wilfully dense or you're genuinely not that smart.

Either way, good job being the typical Apple fan.


October 23, 2013, 1:37 pm

You are referring to this chart?


Or are you just extrapolating from the first sentence of that article which says "For all of its success in the United States, the iPhone accounts for only a small fraction of worldwide mobile phone sales", without any quantification whatsoever?

And please could you avoid the temptation to make insults.

Mark Longley

October 23, 2013, 4:00 pm

Hey guys, shouldn't you be recommending everyone to go and get "a 'proper' laptop"??


October 23, 2013, 4:15 pm

Well, most yearly product upgrades are pretty incremental -- so who cares if it's a bit 'meh', or w/e.

One thing I object to is that the tag line of this article is something about 'changing the game'(??). The other is the amount of regurgitated marketing guff.


October 23, 2013, 4:17 pm

For the record I'm an Android user who thinks Apple products are grossly overpriced. However on the basis that competition forces technological improvement I have always wanted them to deliver, particularly on their reputation for inovation (I also want WinPhone to succeed as well)..
From this point of view, the new products are really disappointing. The improvements are nice, of course and clearly represent an improvement over previous models - but to me, both the new iPad and Mini are just what the previous versions should have been.
However, I don't think the issue is Apple - I think it's a problem all of the smartphone/tablet manufacturers are facing. Whilst we criticise them for a lack of genuine inovation, there is another question in response - what would you add to your tablet/phone that it can't currently do?
I use my phone (Galaxy S3 with extended battery since you ask) as an email client, MP3 player, sat-nav, camera, exercise monitor, web browser, for casual gaming and occasionally for watching TV/Netflix (and as a phone, of course). It matches or exceeeds my expectations for all of them and lasts more than a full day with my typical usage. Great!. I have a tablet at home too, but it's only really used for Netflix at home.
My point is thatI can't think of anything else that I want my phone to do. Sure there is room for iterative improvements such as a better low-light camera, improved battery etc, but I can't think of a new function that would persuade me to spend big money on a new phone.
It's not just me either - I work in an office full of Apple fanboi's, yet only one or two have an iPhone 5, with the majority happy with their 4/4S, despite the fact that many of them are out of contract and could get the new model if they wanted to.
It seems the manufacturers are largely banking on connected watches to be their saviour, but I reckon the market for these will be relatively niche when compared against the success of smartphones & tablets.
So whilst I tend to agree with those whingeing about a lack of inovation, I can't think of anything I want them to create (iterative improvements aside). So what new function would you add to your phone or tablet if you could?


October 23, 2013, 8:34 pm

It's exactly the same as every other manufacturer. People only complain because Apple is expensive, but other manufacturers are getting more and more expensive. Personally, I think this is great improvement over the old iPad.

Nate Ebner

October 24, 2013, 1:31 pm

Well put. I think Apple's reputation of being constantly innovating (which is unfairly bestowed on them by their fanboys, and overly criticised by their detractors) is over done, but then most generational upgrades, offer small levels of improvement. And being thinner, and lighter, while more powerful, and with apparently equal battery life, sounds quite impressive. But probably not enough to tempt me over an equal option with a different badge, and without a 40% mark up.


October 24, 2013, 3:16 pm

wow. Really game changing moves that...
My iPad 2 will meet my needs for quite a while it seems.


October 25, 2013, 10:58 am

Interesting. I think it is reasonable to expect an Ipad Pro range in the near future.

Considering their progression with moving productivity applications to iOS, which does not quite make sense at the moment, we could be seeing a major shift; the beginning of porting and merging of iOS and Mac OS X to ARM v8.

Performance of the A7 CPU is already good enough for most ordinary users. I expect the Ipad Pro range to exclusively use the expected A7x CPU, this might even be quad core. We might finally be seeing an SD Card slot, and rumours about a keyboard or monitor dock could hold some truth.

I am expecting the performance of the A7x to be similar to Intel Baytrail, which is expected to appear in entry level laptops, so now the customer can choose which platform they want to use... the consumer could finally be king, and competition be restored.

Bill Hide

October 25, 2013, 11:13 am

You're technologically literate so you don't use a Mac, how patronizing of you. So all us Mac users, by inference, are technologically illiterate, thanks mate.

Terry Byford

October 25, 2013, 11:24 am

AndyB makes some very sane comments. I, too, am an Android user both for my phone, an ageing Galaxy SII, and my two tablets, the 2012 Nexus 7 and an older Asus T101 Transformer.

I believe Apple products are overpriced but then I'm not obliged to buy one. I value my money too much to waste it on the latest "must have" gadget, be it Apple or Android, and which widely is touted as better than I presently have. There has to be a point where technical improvements don't add a commensurate reward in overall functionality, and until I can see a worthwhile improvement over what I currently have, my money stays in my pocket.

I am eyeing the 2013 Nexus 7, though! But the 3G version. Oh, no, I'm on that roundabout again. Will someone please save me from myself?


October 25, 2013, 12:29 pm

Childish and unnecessary comments in general....

I fail to see why people need to express their hate against Apple? I don't think Apple is a "bad" company compared to others - are they really?

It's the same old story - VHS against BetaMax, Unix vs Windows, Mac vs Windows, etc etc

Can't you stay openminded against things that happen on the marketplace?
Does one thing HAVE to be more supreme than other things?

You also state that their products are overpriced - well - companies tend to be glad for making money; is that a bad thing? If they don't they will soon be out of business, and how should that help markets/technologies forward?

I guess you cannot argue against the fact that Apple "invented" the iPad, iPhone etc - or is Samsung or the Android business the ones that were responsible for this?

Kind regards form Sweden,


Tim Sutton

October 25, 2013, 1:37 pm

I'm sure there are many technologically literate people who use Macs, but I'm equally sure they aren't Apples target market.
It's hard not to generalise Apple owners as precious and shallow when so many of them seem to look for reasons to be offended.

Hubert Pereira

October 25, 2013, 3:27 pm

It's absolutely amazing to see how the Druids land up on every Apple review site or blog to spray venom on everything that's coming out of Cupertino. Likewise I do not see flame-skewers between Range Rover fans slam dunking owners of BMW X5 or the Merc G class! They simply go about enjoying their ride on the vehicle of their choice. Likewise GMC, FORD & JEEP fans continue to enjoy every bit of their own respective ride, sticks to their own forums and avoids flaming others, but instead respects each other's choice.

I wonder why people can't get fully immersed on the product that suits their pockets and that gives them the gratification from the product of their choice. Some of the posts definitely shows hues of plain green jealousy, either they cannot afford the recently launched product or they are simply that way (read as hiding behind their screen and spewing venom on everything around). Yes, I am aware of constructive criticism and it's benefit.

I haven't seen so many GNUfella or Linux guys posting crap on the blogosphere, instead they invest all their time making their cocoon of comfort better by the day. Yes, time and again they would poke some fun on the Windows clan, but that I deem fit as pure fun. Try Ubuntu 13.04, it's simply awesome and has come a long way. Also please note that within the Linux environment, gone are the days where everything is FREE, quite a few things need to be bought.

I know the day will never come when this crap between the Druids and the fruityloops will ever stop, and we have the choice to ignore both of them, and go about enjoying the technical reviews for the merit is based on. No review is straight forward and without any bias, however it is for us the readers to make the call or delete the bookmark when an excessive dose of bias is observed.

Not everybody can afford the fruit of the loom, since they do not manufacture models for the wide bandwidth of household income, whereas the competition is a bunch or manufacturers with an assortment of models to fit every budget.

Isn't it amazing that the whole chapter is all about one small town called Cupertino challenging the entire planet of smartphone manufacturers. That's absolutely stunning.

Andy Race

October 25, 2013, 4:09 pm

I own an iPhone 5 personal phone and a Galaxy S4 work phone. Both great phones but I just prefer the iPhone. That's my choice. It doesn't mean I'm a "Fanboy" (which by the way has to be the Worlds most annoying word" and it doesn't mean I'm a sheep. I do agree that Apple is overpriced and has its faults but I'm happy with the phone and that's all that matters. The whole Apple vs Android argument really is truly pathetic.

Bill Hide

October 25, 2013, 4:09 pm


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