IPad Air 2 review
A first look at Apple’s latest slimline tablet
The mini 3 (page 9) wasn’t the only new iPad to be announced at Apple’s 16 October event. The company also launched the Air 2. There are two big changes this time round when it comes to the design of the iPad Air. First, there’s a new gold version, just like the iPhone. It’s also 18 percent slimmer than last year’s model – 6.1mm compared to 7.5mm. We do have to wonder whether thinner is necessarily what is best for the iPad, though. In the wake of ‘bendgate’ will people be afraid that thinner means more flimsy? And it’s lighter – 437g compared to the original Air’s 469g.
Of course, the other big addition is the introduction of Touch ID. You’ll be able to use it to unlock your
iPad Air 2, and to open various apps. You’ll also be able to use it to do your online shopping, as long as those stores have Apple Pay implemented.
How has Apple managed to make it thinner? It has fully laminated the screen into one single layer. The previous iPad Air’s display was made from three different layers – cover glass, a touch-sensitive layer and the LCD. This has now been fused together into one single layer, which means that not only can the display be thinner, but that it can also offer vivid colours and better contrast.
Apple explained to us in a briefing that in between each of the three layers in previous iPad models were air gaps, which could cause internal reflectance. These have been eliminated, which removes the internal reflectance and results in “brighter richer colours, better contrast, and deeper blacks”, according to Apple.
The iPad Air 2 also has an anti-reflective coating that Apple says has reduced reflections by a massive 56 percent. The company said that it has provided an anti-reflective coating for the iMac for a couple of years now, but that it had to rethink some
of this technology because “an iPad is a device that is designed to go everywhere with you and it’s a display that’s designed to be touched”. As a result, Apple completely redesigned the coating with nine distinct layers to keep the anti-reflective coating there, but to still keep touch on the screen responsive, which is fundamentally important.
The new Air 2 is the only iPad to have these new features. We’re pleased with the introduction of nonreflective coating. We’ve often been frustrated when watching footage on our iPad (BBC iPlayer, iTunes Movies) only to see our own face staring back at us as soon as the lighting changes. The display retains the same resolution as its predecessor: 2048x1536 pixels at 264 pixels per inch (ppi).
Apple told us that last year’s A7 chip was a departure – normally it makes specific ‘x’ chip for iPad. Because of the scale with 64-bit, Apple was able to use the A7 chips in 2013’s iPads, but this year it’s giving the Air 2 a new chip: the A8X. This offers a 64-bit desktop-class architecture and three billion transistors. Apple says the CPU performance is 12x faster than the original iPad.
Thanks to this chip, the iPad Air 2 is 40 percent faster than the previous generation. This is a great gain in just one year, but even more impressive is the graphics performance. Apple
claims that users will see two-and-a-half times the graphics performance. That’s great news for gamers, but video- and photo-editing apps will also benefit from the enhanced graphics. The iPad Air 2 also gains the M8 motion co-processor.
Another benefit of the A8X is that it uses quad-core graphics. Apple says the graphics are two-and-a-half times faster than those in the original iPad Air.
Apple told us that games developers are working to optimise games for it and we can’t wait to test some games on the device.
Despite all the speed increases Apple claims its battery life is 10 hours – the same as
While some of us might laugh at tourists taking pictures with an iPad, and decry iPad photographers at gigs, Apple told us that “the iPad is an excellent view finder” and we can admit to seeing the appeal (to a certain extent). As a result, Apple has upped the megapixels on the camera to 8Mp. This is the same resolution as the iPhone’s,
but note that it isn’t the same camera as you find in the latest iPhones. The rear-facing snapper has the same 1080p HD video as before. It gains 10 photos per second burst mode, 120fps slow mo, 43Mp panorama, and time-lapse videos. Apple has also improved the FaceTime camera – it’s the same as that found in iPhone 6 and offers 81 percent more light. Perfect for low light use.
The new iPad Air 2 also offers better Wi-Fi connectivity than the last generation, thanks to the inclusion of the latest 802.11ac technology.
As with the mini 3, the Cellular model comes with a removable Apple SIM. It will only work in the latest iPads, though.
As it did with the iPad mini line-up, Apple has dropped the 32GB capacity option from its range of iPad Airs. The company told us that this was a strategy to bring the higher capacities down to a lower price point, making it more affordable in that category. You can, however, still buy a 32GB version
of the original iPad Air.
The price of the iPad Air 2 will start at £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, rising to £499 if you add cellular connectivity. As with the iPhone 6, there is no 32GB option; instead you jump straight to 64GB for £479 (£579 for cellular). The top-of-the-range 128GB model costs £559 (£659 for the cellular version).
This compares pretty favourably with the original launch prices of the iPad Air, which started at £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, and rose to £739 for the 128GB version.
The original iPad Air remains on sale – it’s price has been reduced to £319 for the 16GB or £359 for the 32GB version. In both cases add £100 on to the price for the cellular model pricing.
iPad & iPhone User’s buying advice
There are some interesting additions to the new iPad Air – Touch ID and the A8x chip. If you are thinking of buying your first iPad, then this is a great purchase. However, if you already own an iPad there may not be enough to make it worth an upgrade.