(Reuters) - Apple Inc has not reinvented the wheel with the iPad Air, but the thinner device, priced higher than many of its competitors, is a major improvement on a successful product, the reviewers wrote on Tuesday.
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg called the iPad Air the best tablet he has ever reviewed.
"That isn't just because of its slimmer, lighter design, but because Apple boasts 475,000 apps optimized for tablet use - far more than any other tablet platform," Mossberg wrote. (http://link.reuters.com/wyk34v)
Mossberg said the new iPad weighs just 1 pound, down from 1.4 pounds for the previous top-of-the-line model, the iPad 4, which is being discontinued.
He also credited the iPad Air's battery performance, saying the new iPad clocked a battery life of 12 hours and 13 minutes, which exceeded Apple's claim.
The new full-sized iPad goes on sale from Friday and will be priced starting $499.
Damon Darlin of the New York Times said the gadget is a delight to use, with two antennas to pull in Wi-Fi signals faster than the previous versions did. (http://link.reuters.com/xyk34v)
Reviewer David Pogue, who recently left the New York Times to start a new consumer-tech website at Yahoo, said the iPad Air is "a fantastic leap into the future if you're upgrading from an original iPad, or if you've never owned a tablet before."
Pogue said the iPad Air is powered by the A7 64-bit chip, which, according to Apple, means smoother animation in 3D games. (http://link.reuters.com/zyk34v)
"As a nice bonus, all of Apple's excellent tablet apps - iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers, Keynote - are free with a new iPad. Since they're usually $5 or $10 each, that's a sweet bundle," Pogue said, before adding "that's what's new in the iPad Air."
However, all three reviewers highlighted that the iPad Air is pricier than many of its competitors.
"Do you need to plunk down $500 or more for an Air if you already have an earlier version of the iPad?," Darlin asked, calling the improvements on the new device "incremental, not revolutionary."
Amazon.com Inc's 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX costs $379, Microsoft's Surface 2 starts from $449, while Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-inch tablet has a suggested retail price of $400.
Pogue said that given the price, an iPad probably does not need replacing every year or even every other year.
Mossberg concluded: "Bottom line: If you can afford it, the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down."
(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane)