Ten years ago today, Apple unveiled a tablet that it called the “biggest step yet in realizing the vision that is iPad.” It was called the iPad Air and became the first tablet to receive a five-star rating on TechRadar.
What was so special about the first generation Air? Wasn’t it just an iPad on a crash diet? Sort of, but it has also dramatically slimmed down the bezels and price tag of the iPad, making it a truly modern tablet.
In October 2013, we called it “as close to tablet perfection as you can get” and the model that “finally got the tablet right.” The iPad itself was only three years old at the time and there was real competition from Android tablets like the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
But the iPad Air cemented Apple’s hold on tablets, and aside from a two-year hiatus between 2017 and 2019, the Air hasn’t really looked back. Now in its fifth generation, the iPad Air (2022) remains one of the best mid-range tablets out there and there are now rumors of a 12.9-inch iPad Air.
While that sounds like a promising new twist for the series, should you still consider the original Air model on its tenth anniversary? After all, you can pick one up for just one $80 at Walmart (and for around £80 in the UK), which is tempting if you just need a Netflix workhorse for travelling.
The short answer is: no, the first generation iPad Air is no longer a good option. But that has more to do with software than hardware – and that doesn’t mean there aren’t real iPad bargains out there.
Sky to the throne
Considering it’s now ten years old, the original iPad Air is impressively modern in terms of hardware. It served its original buyers well for a number of years – and even after the arrival of the iPad Air 3 in 2019, we still recommended it as a good affordable option.
This was partly because the first-generation Air was the first iPad with 64-bit processing, thanks to Apple’s A7 chip. It handled several versions of iOS quite well (this was pre-iPadOS, remember) and delivered impressive battery performance that met Apple’s claimed ten hours.
While it didn’t have the best large-screen tablet display of its generation – slightly less than rivals like the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S – the Retina screen was still excellent, despite the limited viewing angles and annoying reflection. that was the norm at the time.
In fact, the iPad Air was such an all-rounder that it essentially took over from the standard iPad, which was then cast into the wilderness until 2017. But despite those impressive specifications and dimensions – with a weight of 453 grams and a thickness of 7.5 mm, it is not. not comparable to the current Air – the original Air has been used up in terms of software.
Apple stopped supporting the first-generation iPad Air in 2019, leaving it stuck on iOS 12 and unable to update to iPadOS 13. In the following years, most app developers stopped supporting apps running on that older software – Netflix, for example, now requires iPadOS15 – meaning the tablet is now severely limited in terms of apps and security.
So if you’re looking for a great value iPad, which one should you consider?
Holding the iPad Air # AppleEvent pic.twitter.com/aNzWqQRlwQOctober 22, 2013
The best alternatives
While the current iPad Air (2022) is still one of the best tablets out there and a good mid-range choice, it is quite pricey (from $599 / £569 / AU$929). The Air is now essentially a more affordable version of Apple’s iPad Pros, meaning you’ll have to look elsewhere for a real bargain.
Throw in a few tasty pre-Black Friday deals we’ve seen recently. One is the 9th generation 10.2-inch iPad, which you can buy from Amazon for just $249 (the lowest price we’ve seen it for) or £319 from Amazon UK.
Looking for a smaller, travel-friendly tablet? You can now also have one iPad mini 6 for just $469 at Amazon (or alone £527 on Amazon UK). The iPad mini 6 is certainly worth expanding beyond the mini 5, although you can buy refurbished versions of the latter for that. only $269 from Walmart or £339 from Apple UK.
The further good news is that you can now buy all of these iPads with confidence, knowing that new models – including an iPad (2023), iPad mini (2023) and iPad Air 6 – will now almost certainly not arrive until 2024. Despite recent rumors that those iPads could arrive this year, Apple updated the Apple Pencil this week.
So while it’s a great day to celebrate the original iPad Air, ten years after its debut, it’s also time to cross it off your shopping list. It’s just too old to think about now, but luckily it’s also a good time of year to pick up one of its affordable siblings as we head into the Black Friday sales.