If you’re reading this blog, then you already know how much I enjoy making music on portable devices. So it’s no surprise that I am one of those who was very interested in the iPad Air that was just released. Prior to it’s announcement, I had been giving serious thought to possibly downsizing to an iPad Retina when they were announced.
I liked my iPad4, but there’s no denying it was kind of heavy after awhile, and the shallow bezel on the back always made it hard to hold on too. However with the new smaller Air being announced at the same time as the Retina Mini, I knew that my biggest complaints had been addressed and I could keep the larger screen after all.
Not only was it thinner and lighter, but much more powerful as well. I’m normally not one to use CPU-intensive plug-ins to the point of bringing my computer to it’s knees, but some of the iOS audio apps coming out were already at the limits of what the iPad4 would handle. More CPU power is still a very good reason to upgrade each year if music making is one of your main activities on the iPad. Sell your old one asap and it only costs about $200 a year to stay on the newest hardware. Well worth it for me.
Luckily getting a new Air on release day was pretty simple, considering there was no pre-order this time. Pay online, pick up at store, and skip the (longer) line for those people who just walked up without buying first on the online Apple Store. 10 minutes later I was home and restoring my data to the new iPad. In the past I always was fine with 16GB Apple devices, not that big of a deal to sync wirelessly at home if I needed something else. But I figured for how much I use my iPad for music making, why not pay the small additional charge and double my storage to make my life easier. So far having 32GB has definitely felt like a luxury compared to before!
Physically the new Air is a much different feeling iPad compared to the 3 or version 4 that came before it. Where as those felt like solid pieces of glass and aluminum, the Air feels like there’s a sort of emptiness that goes along with the decreased weight. The screen flexes slightly more like plastic than glass, and there’s a hollowness to the sound of your fingers typing on it not present on the last generation iPad.
Bass (cough) from the speakers can be felt through the whole body when you play music or watch videos, reminding me almost of the vibration functions of say an Xbox controller. On the plus side, the Air has stereo speakers finally, which is a welcome improvement. Though since most people will likely be holding the iPad in landscape mode while watching a movie for instance, the sound still only comes from one side. Oh well.
All this is not to say that iPad Air feels cheap, or flimsy, it doesn’t at all. It just no longer has the solid weighty feel of the previous versions. It’s not so much the weight difference you feel when holding it, it’s the lack of mass overall. Part of being lighter I guess, and not at all something that I would change at the expense of more weight anyway. The new Air really is much easier to hold overall.
At first I didn’t think there was a huge jump in performance in day to day app use, or with the new WiFi antennas. However, the more time I spend using the Air, the more I do recognize just how much faster it is overall. Pages load quicker, my sound banks for Alchemy downloaded and installed faster, and apps launch and perform app-switching faster and smoother too.
Of course the real thing most people want to know, is how is it for music apps?
I’ve spent much of the last two days working on writing some new tracks using the QuNexus and iPad Air, and I can say it’s definitely a noticeable improvement in how easy it is to get my ideas recorded. Using Auria and Audiobus to record various synth apps like DM-1, Alchemy, Nave, Sunrizer, etc was a much smoother experience than it’s ever been.
Auria has always gotten a bit laggy when you added a lot of tracks or events to a project, and now things are extremely fluid for almost all the time I was using it. At one point last night after using a bunch of audio apps throughout the day and not clearing the iPad’s memory, Auria started to navigate a little bit slower. Nowhere near as slow as it had been at the best of times on the iPad4 though, the new graphics power really is making things better here. After clearing the RAM, and relaunching Auria, everything was once again smooth as could be.
Switching between apps running in Audiobus was another area where I really noticed the added horsepower. App changes were almost instant, and I didn’t have any issues with freezing or other mishaps. In fact, it was probably the easiest and most trouble-free iOS sessions I’ve ever had. Can’t argue with that!
So yes, I can definitely recommend upgrading if you’re considering it and are a fan of iOS music making. The differences even from an iPad4 were pretty noticeable, and the new form factor really is a lot better I feel. It does feel strangely hollow in the middle for me, but the large decrease in weight is definitely worth it.
Anyone want to buy a 16GB iPad4? 🙂