Air we go again


Australian T3 - - RATED -

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


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

han­dle it?

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