Apple Reboots Tablet Line, Unveils iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display

It was widely expected that Apple would refresh its iPad tablet family today, and the Cupertino company didn't disappoint. What you might be surprised to find out, however, is that Apple didn't unveil an iPad 5. Not technically, anyway. Because the new 9.7-inch tablet is so much thinner, lighter, and faster than before, Apple decided a new name was in order. So, what we have here is a first generation "iPad Air" tablet, and though thinner, lighter, and re-branded, the new Air still leverages all of the goodness of previous-gen iPads.

iPad Air Parts
iPad Air Thin

That's right, Apple just renamed its iconic tablet, which now sports a 43 percent smaller bezel than the previous version. It's also 20 percent thinner all around, measuring 7.5 mm thick as opposed to the previous gen's 9.4mm. It took a lot of engineering prowess to shrink the iPad's waste line, but Apple managed to do it, delivering a skinny slate that weighs just a single pound, down from 1.4 pounds previously.

Apple A7

On the inside, the iPad Air features Apple's custom A7 processor as found in the iPhone 5S. The A7 chip offers twice the CPU performance as the previous generation iPad and twice the graphics performance. Compared to the original iPad, graphics performance is remarkably 72 times faster.

"iPad created an entirely new mobile computing experience, and the new iPad Air is another big leap ahead. It is so thin, light and powerful, once you hold one in your hand you will understand what a tremendous advancement this is," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "iPad Air with its 9.7-inch Retina display weighs just one pound and packs the incredible performance of iOS 7 running on a 64-bit desktop-class Apple A7 chip, and delivers all-day battery life in the lightest full-sized tablet in the world."

iPad Air

Outside of being thinner, lighter, and faster, the iPad Air lacks any revolutionary new features. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though if you were expecting a fingerprint reader or a snazzy new capability that doesn't yet exist, you won't find it here. What you will find are the same price points. The new iPad Air starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and is available in silver/white and space gray color options.

Apple also unveiled a new iPad mini with Retina display. An upgrade to a Retina-class display had been rumored for a long time now, and Apple came through by upgrading the iPad mini to a 2048x1536 resolution. It too boasts an A7 processor. Both iPads also feature the M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gryroscope, and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.

iPad mini

The new iPad mini starts at $399 (16GB, Wi-Fi). Meanwhile, Apple will continue to sell the original iPad mini, but has dropped the price to $299.