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Is the new iPad Air fast and cheap enough to compete?

IT has a super fast processor, is lighter and thinner but is Apple's new iPad Air priced aggressively enough to take on its rivals?

The tablet market is fiercely competitive and with everyone watching their cash, price is a big factor.

Apple is banking on loyalty from those who love its operating system, including the host of free software and apps updates it announced last week.

The new iPad Air starts at just under $600 - almost $60 dearer than the previous model - and almost $200 dearer than Google's Nexus 10 Tablet and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3.

Microsoft's latest Surface 2 tablet starts at $529.

The iPad Air is said to be incredibly responsive while its weight will certainly appeal to travellers.

Anyone who has used the MacBook Air will know it's a heck of a lot more pleasant to carry around than a normal laptop.

The problem Apple has is getting over the price barrier, especially as you see tablets that are as little as $200 - and packed with great features - undercutting it.

Where cheaper tablets can let you down is in the specifications - the cameras may not be as good, the screens are definitely not as good, and the operating system can be markedly slower.

But if you only want to surf the web, watch some YouTube clips, exchange emails, and check your Facebook newsfeed, they can be a great alternative.

For those looking for something a little more edgy, particularly if you are a gamer, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is sleek, slim, lightweight and waterproof.

Great for texting in the bath, it also works as a sophisticated TV remote control and has a virtual version of the PlayStation Dualshock controller. The screen looks good, thanks to input from Sony's TV people.

Battery life isn't outstanding. It has an 8MP camera, but the results are underwhelming.

If you're a film fan, the well-priced Google Nexus 7 is now in its second manifestation and its slick, slim and very fast with a display that's higher-resolution than its rivals.

If you're a bargain hunter, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 might be your machine. Its seven-inch tablet with wide bezel and hi-res display is primarily designed to download Amazon content.

It's good for anyone who finds Android too geeky. The Amazon interface is so highly optimised it's barely recognisable as Android, making it exceptionally simple to use.

Strong stereo speakers give the tablet good sound and the hi-res screen looks great.

For those wanting to actually do some work, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 works like a mini-laptop, especially with the thin, magnetically attached keyboard options that include some gesture controls.

Using on your lap is easier, thanks to a versatile kickstand. The 10.6-inch display is full HD resolution. But is missing many of the apps that make Apple and Android tablets sing.

- With The Independent



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