iPad Air and iPad Mini: A Musician’s Dream?


iPad AirIf we’re honest, we never expected Apple iPads to become such a phenomenon in the audio and music world, yet here we are looking at an ultra-thin iPad Air and updated iPad Mini which are both sure to go down a storm with musicians.

A year-and-a-half ago we were looking at the fourth generation iPad (which can no longer be called ‘new’) — a significant boost in the line of Apple tablets.

Now, Apple has announced an iPad Air (it’s very thin, just like its notebook namesake, the MacBook Air) which it claims offers twice the performance of the current iPad.

It’s also announced a revamped iPad mini, which we’ll take a look at here.

iPad Air

The first thing that strikes you about the iPad Air is how thin and light it is. Both the wi-fi only and wi-fi/cellular versions are just 0.29 inches (7.5 mm) thin, and 9.4in x 6.6in (240mm x 169.5mm) in dimension. It weighs one pound (469g).

It features the same 9.7-inch retina display with 2048×1536 (264ppi), the glass having fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating.

Inside is a 64-bit A7 chip (up from the A5X of the current iPad) plus an M7 chip which handles the various onboard sensors.

The video capabilities are reasonable, if unspectacular compared to many other tablets and mobile devices, with a 1.2MP 720p HD capable FaceTime camera and a 5MP iSight camera which can record high definition at 1080p.

Apple claims 10 hours of surfing, video watching or music listening, but as well all know performance will vary depending upon the intensity and number of apps being run. Apple keeps the Lightning connector found on the last iPad, and of course iOS 7 comes installed along with a number of apps including a vastly revamped GarageBand.

The big question, as always, is whether it’s worth the upgrade.

The Wi-Fi only version of the iPad Air costs:

16GB $499
32GB $599
64GB $699
128GB $799

while the version with cellular (3G/4G/LTE) costs:

16GB $629
32GB $729
64GB $829
128GB $929

The pricing looks very similar to the current iPad, but here’s the kicker for anyone hoping the “new iPad” will be available at a reduced price — it won’t… not via Apple at least. The iPad Air arrives on 1st November but you now can’t buy the current iPad. The iPad 2 is still available in 16GB only at $399/$529.

So, if you don’t currently own an iPad and want to get one, you have the choice of an iPad 2 (still a highly capable tablet) or the iPad Air. There’s only a $100 difference between the 16GB Wi-Fi versions, so it would make sense to go for the more powerful version.

You need to take a look at your current and expected future audio/music app needs. The iPad 2 will run a decent crop of apps but we have already seen that some of the more intensive software stretches its processor. Can you cope with the possibility that existing and new apps you’ll want to use may only function well on the latest iPad?

If you’re performing live with intensive emulation/sequencing/synth apps, you’d be better off getting the iPad Air.

If you already own a fourth-generation iPad, the need to upgrade may not be as great – not immediately anyway. You can bet it will be less than two years before the next iPad arrives, so it might be worth holding off for one generation. It depends whether you’d rather spend on new hardware or more apps.

iPad mini Retina display

iPad mini with Retina display

If you’re happy with a smaller tablet that has a smaller display, the iPad mini with Retina display (which is how we’re supposed to differentiate between it and the first iPad mini) may be for you.

It’s the same thinness as the iPad Air (perhaps ironically a millimetre thicker than the original iPad mini) and has height and width of 7.87in x 5.3in (200mm x 134.7mm). It weighs 0.75lb (341g).

The Retina display is 7.9-inch and has a 2048×1536 display as per the iPad Air (326ppi), plus that fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating.

It also has the A7 chip, as per the iPad Air.

The Wi-Fi only version of the iPad mini Retina display costs:

16GB $399
32GB $499
64GB $599
128GB $699

while the version with cellular (3G/4G/LTE) costs:

16GB $529
32GB $629
64GB $729
128GB $829

Much of our reasoning for getting the iPad mini is the same as the iPad Air, except you also need to factor into the equation whether you can cope with a smaller display. That really depends on what apps you want to use — the resolution is exactly the same but everything will seem smaller.

Whatever you choose, the iPad mini Retina display will be available sometime in November.

Take a look at the iPad Air.