iPad Air reviews are in…

iPad Air Home screen

Apple’s iPad Air is scheduled to land on store shelves in the United States and a few dozen countries worldwide this coming Friday, November 1, and online shoppers should be able to order theirs with in-store pickup option starting at 3am Eastern, midnight Pacific.

As we inch closer to the big day, a number of big media outlets and respected bloggers have now published their reviews which mostly focus on the device’s thinner and lighter appearance, the new design and the powerful innards, though some mention the free iLife/iWork apps and the supreme app ecosystem.

We’ve compiled the best review quotes for your reading pleasure, so you could make an informed purchasing decision…

WSJ/ATD’s Walt Mossberg thinks “the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down”. It doesn’t get any better than this:

The battery performance of the iPad Air simply blew me away. In my tough tablet battery test, where I disable automatic screen dimming and other power-saving features, and combine video playback from the device’s memory with leaving Wi-Fi on and email working at normal settings, the iPad has almost always met its claims and beat competitors by a wide margin.

But this new iPad Air just kept going, clocking a battery life of 12 hours and 13 minutes, which exceeded Apple’s claim by more than 20%. The company says its A7 chip, combined with the fact it controls its own operating system, gives the new iPad the ability to tailor under-the-hood processes so unneeded drains on the battery can be minimized.

NYT’s Damon Darlin isn’t sure making the iPad Air lighter “will be enough to persuade people who have never felt the need to buy one to race to the Apple store”, though he bets many do.

If you’ve never had a tablet, though, the answer is different. A tablet, especially this iPad, is a delight to use and will bring you more hours of enjoyment than any other electronic device I know of.

He also wrote that “a way to record dreams on an iPad would be supercool”.

The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple knew the iPad Air “was going to be different” from the minute he picked it up at Apple’s media event:

It’s very hard to describe how good the iPad Air feels in your hand without actually picking one up. It’s kind of like the first time you saw a Retina display for the first time—shock.

Apple is giving away the OS and now it is giving away all of the apps people need to do work and have fun. Everything you need is free. It’s not just that the apps are free that’s impressive—it’s that they are really good apps.

Fox News’s Clayton Morris

At 1 pound, the new iPad Air is impressively light, barely heavier than the iPad mini. My toddler can waddle around the house with it a lot more easily, and I can now use it in bed without worrying that it will smack me in the forehead if I doze off while reading Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.” Which has been known to happen with the previous generation iPad.

Cnet’s Tim Stevens

The iPad Air is worth getting excited about. Though it brings no new functionality to the table, and we can’t help being disappointed about the lack of Touch ID, the performance increase and solid battery life show that progress is still being made on the inside. It’s the new exterior design, however, that really impresses. The iPad Air is thinner than any tablet this size deserves to be, and lighter, too. The old iPad always felt surprisingly hefty. This one, compellingly lithe.

Engadget’s Brad Molen

Surprise: the iPad Air is the best iPad we’ve reviewed. In addition, though, it’s also the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever tested. Not every manufacturer can produce a thin and light device without also making it feel cheap or flimsy, but Apple nailed it. Factor in a sizable boost in performance and battery life, and the Air is even more compelling. The last two iPads served up relatively few improvements, but the Air provides people with more of a reason to upgrade or even buy a tablet for the first time.

USA Today’s Ed Baig

In sticking close to the status quo, the iPad Air won’t have the seismic impact of the original iPad. But the thin design only enhances what is already the best and most successful tablet on the market.

T3 has a nice iPad Air unboxing vid.

And some effective closeups of design details.

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington says that with the iPad Air, Apple’s Apple made bit tablets beautiful all over again (and I concur):

When Apple introduced the iPad mini, I feel in love and felt that I’d never be swayed back to the other side. The iPad Air makes the argument anew that there’s still room for big tablets in people’s lives, and it might just help usher in an era of computing where households own more than one kind of iPad, and PCs are harder and harder to find.

On the Smart Case:

The Smart Case makes the iPad Air feel quite a bit more bulky, in my opinion, and is fairly difficult to get off once its on. On the other hand, it’s definitely more protective than the Smart Case, and it’s still relatively svelte. Apple has also nailed its leather case designs in terms of putting out a product that feels very high quality, and that’s what they’ve done here, too.

Former NYT columnist David Pogue wrote that making the iPad smaller, lighter, and faster without sacrificing battery life or beauty “is a tremendous achievement” in itself.

You’ll find the Air a fantastic leap into the future if you’re upgrading from an original iPad, or if you’ve never owned a tablet before.

So that’s the iPad Air for you: No longer alone in the marketplace, no longer the only right choice, no breakthrough new features. But it’s smaller, lighter, and faster than ever, with a much bigger catalog of apps—and much better ones—than the competition. If you want a big tablet, this is the one that will make you happiest.

AnandTech’s Anand Lal Shimpi

Sans case, the iPad Air is light enough that I can comfortably hold it above me (with two hands) for a while without my wrists getting tired. I still prefer propping the iPad up against something but I think 1 pound may be the crossover point for me personally. With a Smart Cover attached the Air is still passable, it’s only with the Smart Case that I feel like the combination gets a bit too heavy to hold without resting against something for extended use.

He also made this really nice image.

iPad Air iPhone 5 (AnandTech 001)

More on how it feels in your hand:

In fact it’s the first tablet of this size to really feel right. The first iPad looked great but needed improvement on so many vectors. The second gave us a size and weight reduction but lost some of the luxury feel in the process. We know the story of numbers 3 and 4 which amounted to a set of tradeoffs in order to accommodate a Retina Display, but with the iPad Air Apple hits a balance of features, design and ergonomics that I don’t think we’ve ever seen in the iPad.

And this on the iPad Air’s A7 chip:

At a high level we’re still talking about two 64-bit Apple Cyclone cores with 128KB L1s per core, a shared 1MB L2 cache and a 3MB L3 cache that services the entire SoC. Apple increased CPU frequency from 1.3GHz to 1.4GHz in the iPad Air, a mild increase but in line with what we’ve seen from previous iPad designs. That’s the first impact on performance – a 7.69% increase in CPU frequency.

The second impact on performance is something I only noticed while digging around under the hood of the A7. It seems like the implementation in the iPad Air can, for whatever reason, hold more instructions in flight (over 20% more) than the A7 in the iPhone 5s. It’s unclear to me whether the A7 in the iPad is configured any differently via firmware/microcode or if perhaps we’re looking at a slightly different revision of the core, but the delta was repeatable in my testing.

AP’s Anick Jesdanun

In the week I’ve had with the Air, I’ve managed to stuff it partially into the pocket of my autumn jacket, whereas the old one wouldn’t fit at all. I carried it in a backpack on a five-mile run home from work and forgot it was even there after less than a mile. I curled up with it in bed to watch this week’s episode of “Revenge” instead of getting up for work.

On price:

You do pay more for an iPad than most of its rivals, but you get better app selection, ease of use and, with the new Air, an elegant design.

Bloomberg’s Rich Jaroslovsky “grew impatient” trying to exhaust the iPad Air’s battery in his tests. In his experience, Apple’s 10-hour rated runtime is, “if anything, conservative”:

Not that long ago, the iPad so dominated the tablet market that it would have been unthinkable to buy something else. With the rise of quality tablets from Google, Amazon and others, it’s no longer the only choice. But it’s still the best choice.

Techpinions’s Ben Bajarin

With the iPad Air, Apple has created the world’s thinest and lightest full size tablet. By adding their 64-bit A7 processor, they have made it extremely powerful as well. After using the iPad Air for the past week I’m convinced that the iPad Air is the perfect personal computer for the masses.

He writes having the world’s first 64-bit tablet will help the iPad Air stand the test of time:

There was a time not too long ago when PC purchasing advisors recommended to consumers to buy as much processor as they could afford. These were the days when megahertz was going to gigahertz. While I don’t recommend consumers buy products solely based on specs, I think the same advice applies to the iPad Air. The A7 helps future proof the iPad Air helping to extend its life and the performance of the tablet well into the future.

Pocket Lint’s Stuart Miles

Apple has created an experience that far outweighs specs on a spec sheet and that will be hard for the competition to match. That in itself makes it the best tablet on the market in terms of performance, apps, and desirability, until the iPad mini with Retina display comes along, and then the fight over which iPad to get really starts.

Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff

Yes, it’s true, the iPad Air is essentially a larger iPad Mini Retina. For some, that’s a disappointment. For me, the new iPad Air is close to everything a consumer tablet should be: Light, fast, fun, beautiful and a little bit like the future.

Slashgear’s Vincent Nguyen

For some, the more compact iPad mini with Retina display will be the more portable iOS tablet of preference. For others, the wider range of Android tablets, often more affordable will hold greater appeal. Yet, for its combination of connectivity, longevity, power, app selection, and relentlessly pared-back design, the iPad Air ticks the boxes that make it the tablet for the everyman.

The iPad Air starts out at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model. Prices go up to $599 for the 32GB model, $699 for the 64GB model and $799 for the 128GB model. The Wi-Fi + Cellular variant is a $130 cheaper and start at $629 for the 16GB model, going up to $729 for the 32GB model, $829 for the 64GB model and $929 for the 128GB model.

Cody has a nice overview of new iPads pricing and availability.

iDB will of course publishing a detailed iPad Air review in the coming days, as soon as we get our hands on the unit. Our own Jeff has made the decision to buy one (learn about his reasoning), I’m sure Sebastien is getting one and yours truly will be definitely picking up a 128GB cellular unit.

So, who’s getting an iPad Air?