Apple Announces Thinner and Lighter iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display

The new full-sized iPad weighs just one pound. The revamped Mini gets a price bump.

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Apple’s giving a new name and a new look to its fifth-generation iPad, dubbed the iPad Air, and has stuffed a Retina display into its latest iPad Mini.

The iPad Air is 20 percent thinner than the fourth-generation iPad, at just under 0.3 inches thick, and it has a 43 percent narrower bezel when held in portrait mode. The iPad Air is also much lighter, weighing just 1 pound, compared to 1.4 pounds for the previous 9.7-inch iPad.

Inside, Apple’s using the same A7 chip that appears inside the iPhone 5s, along with the same M7 motion co-processor. Other specs include a 5-megapixel iSight camera with 1080p video capture, a Facetime HD front-facing camera and dual microphones. Those are similar internals to the fourth-generation iPad; the Air is really all about the thinner, lighter design and the faster processor.

Pricing for the iPad Air is unchanged from previous full-sized IPads. It’ll cost $499 for the 16 GB model with Wi-Fi, and $629 with 4G LTE, and as always, 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB of storage will be available in $100 increments. The iPad Air goes on sale November 1.

Apple also announced a new iPad Mini with a Retina display. It includes the same 2048-by-1536 display resolution as its larger sibling, but crammed into a 7.9-inch screen. The processor also gets a big upgrade to Apple’s A7 chip, compared to the A5 processor inside the current Mini. On the downside, the iPad Mini with Retina display is about 0.05 pounds heavier than the non-Retina version, weighing 0.73 pounds with Wi-Fi and 0.75 pounds with 4G LTE. All other tech specs are unchanged from last year’s model, including up to 10 hours of battery life while browsing the web.

Unfortunately, the high-resolution display comes at a price: It’s $70 more expensive, at $399 for the 16 GB model and $529 for one with 4G LTE. The iPad Mini with Retina display ships in November, but Apple didn’t give a specific release date.

Apple will continue to sell the 16 GB iPad 2 at the same $399 price tag as before. So if you want a Retina display in a full-sized iPad, you’ll have to get the high-end model. The original iPad Mini is sticking around as well, but with a price drop to $299 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi model.

Apple spent much of its press event focusing on software and services. Most notably, Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) and iLife suite (iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand) will be free with the purchase of any new iOS device or Mac. Apple is clearly pushing the idea that iPads can be productivity and creativity devices, despite what rival Microsoft has implied.

Along that line, rumors leading up to the event suggested that Apple would launch a keyboard cover for the iPad as an answer to Microsoft’s Surface tablets. However, the only new covers from Apple were revamps of the existing Smart Cover, priced at $39 for polyurethane and $69 to $79 for leather, depending on iPad size. Rumors that Apple would add its Touch ID fingerprint sensor to one or both of its new iPads also didn’t pan out.