Air we go again
APPLE’S ALL CONQUERING TABLET GETS A REBOOT, BUT CAN CUPERTINO IMPROVE ON PERFECTION?
It’s never easy to beat a world beater – nobody remembers who comes on as a substitute for Messi when he’s scored yet another hat trick, nor can we recall what took over Saturday nights from HeyHey
But that’s just what Apple’s tried to do with the ultra-svelte, hyper-fast iPad Air – and it’s only gone and done it with the cunningly named iPad Air 2.
The obvious boxes have been well and truly ticked: the new iPad is even ultrasvelter and the innards are even hyperfaster, but that’s not all that makes this new tablet a winner. Simply picking it up and feeling its reduced weight and dimensions makes you appreciate its brilliant design. And to make those reductions without compromising on battery life proves that Apple knows what it’s doing when cranking out a high-quality slate.
And after last year’s disappointingly iPhone-a-like A7 chip, Apple’s back to form with the A8X engine at the heart of the iPad Air 2. It’s 40% nippier than last year’s grunt centre, and combined with the new Metal graphics engine in iOS 8, this tablet’s gaming capabilities are really rather exciting.
There’s another key area that Apple’s improved on, and it’s one we didn’t predict. The Retina display usually only gets updated every two or three years, but Apple wants to keep up with the competition (namely the drippingly gorgeous display on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S), so has tinkered hard with its own screen.
The result is zero gap design, which means that not only do your eyeballs actually get closer to the on-screen action, offering brighter and more vivid colours, but the reflections are lowered too, so you won’t spend half the morning commute angrily staring at your own face rather than GameofThrones. The reflections aren’t removed completely, but there’s definitely a reduction from last year’s model, and the picture quality
upgrade is noticeable too.
The iPad Air 2 is still the ultimate tablet for media on the go, with excellent sound reproduction. Even the external speaker, despite being smaller, produces meaty, if slightly tinny, audio.
The display might not present movies perfectly due to its 4:3 screen ratio (most videos come in 16:9), but the wider space makes web browsing and working on the go a far more pleasant experience.
The other big change here is TouchID, which enables your digits to dictate the security on your tablet. It’s a good upgrade, but one we expected to see on last year’s model – Apple still hasn’t explained why the technology that was launched months before with the iPhone 5S didn’t come to 2013’s flagship tablet. But it’s here now, and does precisely what you’d expect it to.
However, it’s not as handy as it is on a mobile. The great thing about TouchID teaming up with the iPhone is that it’s a super-simple way of opening your phone securely without needing to peck out a passcode. Most of us unlock the handset using the home button anyway, so you’re already halfway there.
But with the tablet, remembering to hit the round key is harder – you’re less likely to have a finger anywhere near it, instead preferring to use the protruding power button. There’s obviously the security aspect – light-fingered thieves won’t be able to get in and see your movie/spreadsheet collection – and apps themselves will be able to make use of the TouchID secure feature too, because Apple’s finally opened it up to developers.
Thankfully Apple hasn’t imbued the new iPad Air with NFC, so there will be no instances of the person in front of you in the coffee line lollygagging around trying to use Apple Pay to pay for a latte with a whopping ten-inch tablet.
Apple’s oddly proud of the camera upgrades it’s brought to the iPad Air 2 – it now packs the same 8MP resolution as the iPhone 6. However, it’s not got the same snapping power, with smaller pixels, no clever autofocus and the flash completely MIA. Of course, that’s no bad thing if you’re one of those constantly stuck behind the person taking pictures on a tablet at a football match.
There are still a few issues here: the price is a touch high, starting at $619 (not bad, but last year’s iPad Air is still on sale for less), and while maintaining the ten-hour battery life is a feat of engineering in this slimmer slate, we’d have loved to have seen more.
To be completely blunt, the main
OS iOS 8.1 SCREEN SIZE 9.7-inch
RESOLUTION 1,536x2,048 pixels
SCREEN TYPE IPS LCD CPU Apple A8X chip
RAM 2GB STORAGE 16GB/64GB/128GB BATTERY LIFE Ten hours CAMERA 8MP CONNECTIVITY Wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac,
Bluetooth 4.0, 4G
HEIGHT 240mm WIDTH 169.5mm DEPTH 6.1 mm
SLIMMER OF THE YEAR The super-slim dimensions are awesome – the Air 2 is so light it will bring about a ‘has it been stolen from my bag?’ moment roughly
25 times a day
SUPER GRUNT NUGGET The A8X chip, combined with iOS 8’s Metal, will offer console-quality games with very little lag
from your taps
WORLDS WITHOUT WIRES Apple’s also supercharged the Wi-Fi on board the Air
2, with speeds of up to 866Mbps. Can your router