iPad Air Is a Smart Buy Even if You're Not Replacing Another Tablet

REVIEW: There's enough new features in Apple's iPad Air to make it worth buying, even if you already own another iPad model.

A few days after getting a new Microsoft Surface tablet delivered to my doorstep, I found myself at the local T-Mobile store buying an iPad Air. Yes, it does look as if I've gone tablet crazy, but the fact is that I use the Surface and the iPad for different things. Thus, when Apple announced the iPad Air, I knew it was probably time to move up.

What I ended up with is a 32GB iPad with the cellular data radios. I bought the Air at the T-Mobile store so that I could get a T-Mobile data account along with the tablet. Now that T-Mobile has eliminated international roaming charges and now gives you the first 200MB of data per month at no cost, there wasn't a good reason to stick with the other carrier I'd been using with my old iPad. What's even better is that the iPad Air has the radios it needs to work outside the U.S., and since I travel to Europe from time to time, this was a real plus.

But before you rush madly into buying an iPad Air, there are some things you should know. Perhaps the first thing you find out is that the Air is significantly different in size and weight when compared with its predecessors. It's about two-thirds the thickness of the previous iPad; it weighs only slightly more than half as much; and it's smaller, although the screen size hasn't changed.

Because it's smaller, your old iPad accessories probably won't work. After I bought the iPad Air, for example, I went downstairs at the mall in Fairfax, Va., to visit the Apple Store and buy Apple Care so when I destroy the first iPad (a common occurrence for me) I can get another one. While I was there, I asked the Apple salesperson whether my old Smart Cover would work on the new iPad. He said he thought it should, so I didn't buy another.

Turns out it won't work. The difference in thickness means the magnetic hinges on the old cover won't attach properly, and the difference in width of about a half inch means the cover would stick out on one side anyway. This is neither pretty nor useful. I ended up going back to the Apple Store the next day to buy the proper cover.

It's nearly certain that if you have a cover for your existing iPad, it's not going to work with an iPad Air, although there's no reason you can't try.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...