WiFi

The iPad Air moves to a 2-stream dual-band 802.11n solution, a sort of compromise between where the iPad was with its previous single-stream implementation and some of the newer devices shipping with 802.11ac. Moving to two spatial streams obviously helps improve performance tremendously. Peak performance on 5GHz 802.11n, assuming an equally capable AP, went as high as 180Mbps in my tests. I was able to average 168Mbps during our standard UDP WiFi test on 5GHz.

iPerf WiFi Performance - 5GHz 802.11n

Cellular

Apple continues to use Qualcomm’s MDM9615 modem in the iPad Air, the big difference this round is there’s only a single SKU (A1475) for the cellular model covering a total of 34 countries across the Americas and EMEA. The LTE iPad Air supports a total of 14 LTE bands (1,2,3,4,5,7,8,13,17,18,19,20,25 and 26). In his usual awesome fashion, Brian speculated that the increased number of supported LTE bands was partially a function of moving to Qualcomm’s WTR1605L transceiver.

iPad Cellular Speeds
Property iPhone 3G/3GS/iPad 1 3G iPhone 4 / iPad 2 (GSM/UMTS) iPhone 4 / iPad 2 (CDMA) iPad 3 iPad 4/iPad Mini iPad Air/iPad Mini w/Retina
Baseband Infineon X-Gold 608 Infineon X-Gold 618 Qualcomm MDM6600 Qualcomm MDM9600 Qualcomm MDM9615 w/RTR8600 Qualcomm MDM9615
w/WTR1605L
Max 3GPP Release Feature Release 5 Release 6 Release 7 Release 9 Release 9 Release 9
HSDPA Category Cat.8 - 7.2 Mbps Cat.8 - 7.2 Mbps N/A Cat. 24 - 42 Mbps Cat. 24 - 42 Mbps Cat. 24 - 42 Mbps
HSUPA Category None - 384 Kbps WCDMA only Cat.6 - 5.76 Mbps N/A Cat.6 - 5.76 Mbps Cat.6 - 5.76 Mbps Cat.6 - 5.76 Mbps
EVDO N/A N/A 1x/EVDO Rev.A 1x/EVDO Rev.A 1x/EVDO Rev.A 1x/EVDO Rev.A
LTE N/A N/A N/A 100/50 UE Cat. 3 100/50 UE Cat. 3 100/50 UE Cat. 3

From a spec and performance standpoint, the LTE modem in the iPad Air is no different than what was in the 4th generation iPad. Consistent cellular connectivity options remains one of the staples of the iPad lineup. Although WiFi tablets still tend to be the more popular, it’s hard to argue with the productivity benefit to having LTE on a tablet. Being able to just reach for the iPad Air and know it’ll have connectivity regardless of where I am, without having to search for and log in to a WiFi network, is tremendously convenient.

Just as before, there’s no contract commitment necessary to buy an LTE iPad Air. You can manage your account directly on the device itself. Furthermore, at least in the US, the LTE iPad Air isn’t locked to any one network operator. You specify what provider you’d like to go with at the time of purchase, but afterwards you’re able to swap in any other activated nano SIM from a supported network operator. You could feasibly start out with a Sprint iPad Air and later switch to a Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T SIM and continue using the device. The flexibility offered by a single SKU with support for a ton of bands is pretty awesome.

 

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  • Ashok_90 - Thursday, December 5, 2013 - link

    I recently ordered an iPad Air Cellular from SPRINT. I didn't really care about the carrier while ordering because I'm taking the device to India and will be using a local SIM there. All I wanted to know is...

    Do I need to activate with Sprint first and get it unlocked to be used outside the US, or I can simply remove the Sprint SIM (without even activating) and replace with my local nano-SIM?

    Please advise...
    Reply
  • casualphoenix - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Hope you're doing well today. My name is Nate Humphries and I'm the Tech/Science editor at CultureMass.com.

    I've been reading through your iPhone 5S and iPad Air articles in preparation for an article about the A7 chip, and it's been an extremely informative read. I wanted to ask if I could use your benchmark charts in my article if I provide proper citation back to your article. I think they would be very helpful for our readers.

    Let me know how that sounds, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Thanks,

    Nate Humphries
    Tech/Science Editor | CultureMass
    nate.humphries@culturemass.com
    Reply
  • Tom620 - Saturday, February 1, 2014 - link

    Very in-depth and high quality review. Reply
  • asleepy - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    Sound vibrates through the screen even at low volume levels to such an extent that people's fingertips are going numb and they're returning the Air 2s for refunds... yet no mention of that??? Welcome to Apple Corporation, Anandtech. And goodbye. Reply

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