IPad Air 2 re­view

A first look at Ap­ple’s lat­est slim­line tablet

iPad&iPhone user - - IPAD&IPHONE -

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.

Touch ID

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.

Dis­play

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).

Pro­ces­sor

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.

Graph­ics

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.

Bat­tery life

De­spite all the speed in­creases Ap­ple claims its bat­tery life is 10 hours – the same as

its pre­de­ces­sor.

Cam­era

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.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

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.

Ca­pac­ity

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.

Price

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.

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