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Apple landed a heavy one-two punch combination on its rivals in the burgeoning Christmas tablet market tonight, with the unveiling of new, significantly upgraded full-size and mini iPads.

The new full-size tablet has been re-christened the iPad air and was touted at the press event as the "biggest leap forward ever for the full-size iPad".

ipad air

As its name suggests, it's 20% slimmer at 7.5mm thick and has slimmed down from 1.4lb to 1lb while retaining its 9.7-inch super-high-density Retina Display, thanks in part to a smaller bezel around the screen.

According to Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller this makes it by some distance the "lightest full-size tablet in the world" and offers a "dramatically different experience when you hold it".

Under the bonnet, the improvements are similarly far-reaching. For the first time, the iPad air debuts the same 64-bit A7 processor as the iPhone 5S, as well as the smartphone's M7 auxiliary processor. These combine for a tablet that's purportedly eight times faster than the original iPad.

The M7 takes some of the strain off the A7 and, in the case of the more portable iPhone 5S at least, serves a secondary purpose of offering more accurate motion-tracking for improved sports and so-called 'quantified self' apps.

Apple has also improved connectivity, browsing and download speeds, with the incorporation of multiple-in, multiple-out (MiMo) technology that's capable of delivering double the data transfer speeds over Wi-FI.

And in another echo of the iPhone 5S, the range of strains of 4G LTE it supports has been boosted, which is nice for jet-setting iFans at least.

The iPad mini 2 is Apple's new, lower-cost, more compact tablet. The biggest change here is the incorporation of a Retina Display with the same pixel density as its big brother, a feature Schiller claimed was the most requested addition among Apple apostles.

The mini 2's spec sheet also boasts the A7 and M7 processors, MiMo tech and support for more standards of 4G LTE.

Both tablets are equipped with the iPhone 5S's enhanced iSight five-megapixel rear-facing camera, an HD-video capable front-facing snapper for FaceTime video calls, offer up to ten hours battery life and will come in silver-white, space-grey and black colour options.

Apple is pricing the entry-level 16GB iPad air at $499 and is making it available in select territories, including the UK and the vast Chinese market, during the first week of November. If you want the 4G-enabled edition, though, you're looking at $629.

The iPad mini 2 is dropping "later in November" and is $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and $529 for the 4G-augmented variant.

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