Ctrl+Alt+Del: A 12.9-inch iPad Air spells danger for boring Windows laptops

OPINION: I’ve longed for Windows laptops with more interesting designs since I started reviewing tech products five years ago. Most attempts have floundered and now a larger iPad Air is set to extend Apple’s design lead.

In many cases, Windows laptops represent function over form. Picture a Windows laptop in your head and there’s little chance most will deviate from that template to a great extent. Devices like those from the LG Gram and the Asus Zenbook range go some way to presenting exciting thin and light options but they can’t match an iPad for just how luxurious yet stunningly thin they are. And, now, a 12.9-inch iPad Air is rumoured (via industry analyst Ross Young [9to5Mac]), making the gloriously portable machine even more functional. Windows laptops need to get less boring.

Windows laptops can’t keep up with iPad design

There’s no getting away from the fact that iPads have some limits when it comes to being fully-fledged laptop replacements but, as straightforward productivity or entry-level creative machines, they are remarkably intriguing options, especially when paired with one of Apple’s (admittedly expensive) keyboard accessories. And, for many, the reduced capabilities will be worth the price of admission when it comes to getting the industry-leading luxury portable design.

Let’s compare, the current iPad Air measures in at 461g for the 11-inch model and jumps up to around 800g when you add the Magic Keyboard Folio. The device is a trim 6.1mm thick, with an additional 10mm added with the aforementioned case. On the Windows side, laptops like the LG Gram 17 and Asus Zenbook 14 OLED are heavily touted for their innovation when it comes to being thin and light. The Gram 17 comes in at 17.8mm and 1.35kg while the Zenbook 14 OLED is measured at 14.9mm and 1.29kg.

Trusted Reviews website on the iPad Air 2022
iPad Air (2022) – Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Comparisons on weight are a mixed bag depending on the keyboard add-on you go with then but the iPad Air wins comfortably in just how stunningly thin it is. Again, the caveat that those rival machines provide more horsepower and larger displays is necessary but, if design is your priority, they aren’t in the iPad’s league. If I pivot to a fairer comparison, the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 with the Slim Keyboard measures 1.16kg and 14.2mm (880g and 9.3mm on its own). A comfortable win for the iPad Air in the lightweight department.

Windows does have a ray of light in the form of the Arm-based Snapdragon laptops expected to launch this year. A redesigned Surface Laptop 6 could be at the forefront of seeing a new-look Windows machine that can get on the iPad Airs level in terms of cutting-edge design. An unverified leak of the next Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 sporting a Snapdragon X Elite chip looks promising too should it be confirmed as a legitimate release down the line (via WalkingCat).

A larger iPad Air will bring style and improved usability

Everything I’ve said so far makes the argument for the current iPad Air as an impressive piece of cutting-edge design that could replace your laptop but… what if it gets better? As an owner of an 11-inch iPad Pro, it certainly has its limits in terms of the canvas it provides for more serious productivity and creative tasking. But, Apple looks set to answer my concerns, without requiring customers to shell out for a more expensive 12.9-inch iPad Pro, by bringing the larger size to the cheaper iPad Air range.

The front of Apple iPad Pro M2The front of Apple iPad Pro M2
iPad Pro M2 (12.9-inch) – Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

iPad Air devices aren’t taking on budget laptops, costing upwards of £1,000/$1,000 when you factor in boosting your model from the measly 64GB storage starting point to 256GB and adding a keyboard case for a couple of hundred quid.

Not only would a 12.9-inch iPad Air be more expensive but it’d firmly be in the territory of the MacBook Air. That’s compounded by the second half of this particular 12.9-inch model rumour which points towards the new size getting the same Mini LED display as higher-end iPad Pros, adding a further dose of luxury to this slim machine but likely bringing an even higher price.

However, as with comparing the iPad Air to Windows laptops, even the MacBook can’t offer the versatility and remarkably thin design that the iPad range can. And, a Mini LED display is something else that Apple’s entry-level laptop doesn’t provide.

The 12.9-inch display boost will be a game-changer for enhancing the multitasking you can do on the mid-range iPad models while also enabling greater usability for apps that benefit from various windows within them, such as editing software. Those who value high-end design and extreme portability in their laptop purchases should be seriously considering a 12.9-inch iPad Air for their next machine.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of PCs, laptops, handhelds, peripherals and more. Get it straight into your email inbox every Saturday by signing up for the newsletter.

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