Price: From £399/$499 (16GB, Wi-Fi only)
£499/$629 (16GB, Wi-Fi and cellular)
Learn more: www.apple.com
Available from: store.apple.com
It’s tough to see how the iPad Air can evolve further. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better-looking, Apple’s design gurus shave off more than a millimetre. Lighter? Of course. Faster? You bet. New camera? Tick. New chip? You guessed it. The list goes on and on. As far as updates go, this is not a pointless, incremental one. In fact, this is quite an astonishing update: put simply, the iPad Air 2 is so far ahead of the competition it’s no longer a fair contest.
Firstly, what has stayed the same? The gorgeous 9.7-inch Retina display, boasting 2048 x 1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch and 3.1 million in total, is statistically the same. But Apple has redesigned the layers of said screen, combining the three layers used to make the original iPad Air into one, eliminating the gaps between layers. This means the LCD layer is closer to you, and colours pop more than ever. There’s a new anti-reflective coating too, which reduces glare by 56 per cent and makes it perfect for using outside. Maybe photographers might fancy taking this tablet on field trips with them. More on this later.
So even the parts that are the ‘same’ have been supercharged on the inside and out. A similar theme, as you’re about to discover. Design-wise, iPad Air 2 is 18 per cent thinner (now just 6.1mm thin) and tips the scale at 437g, 32g lighter than before. It’s never been more comfortable to hold a tablet in your hands and you won’t notice it in your bag. Unless you get the new gold and white colour scheme of course. Our gold test model certainly caught the eye but divided opinion in equal measure. Cheap and tacky or luxurious and bold? We like it, but not the plastic white antenna plastered across the top. Until you hold it in your hands it’s hard to fathom how everything fits inside. It’s quite a design feat to slim the iPad even further in such a short space of time. So that must have a knock-on effect on power and performance?
The new A8X chip ensures that it’s not all about the looks. The iPad Air 2 has power in abundance. Built on second-generation 64-bit desktop-standard architecture, it’s 12 times faster than the original iPad and provides, wait for it, 180 times faster graphics performance. With a mind-boggling 3 billion transistors on board and the brand-new M8 motion coprocessor (as used in your iPhone 6), it won’t be long before iPad is challenging personal computers in the gaming stakes. But it’s not just high-end gaming or high-definition movie watching where all this power is showcased. More basic users will love how smoothly everything runs. Apps open instantly and actions are sanctioned before you can blink. Swiping, pinching and scrolling couldn’t feel more natural and wireless networking is twice as fast as before. We’re pleased to say battery life remains at ten hours in normal use. A small miracle in power efficiency in itself.
Touch ID and new features
A welcome addition is Touch ID. It’s been a massive hit as a way of unlocking your iPhone, and it’s no different on an iPad. Other notable improvements include the rear-facing iSight camera, which has been upgraded to eight megapixels from five and now includes an improved sensor, advanced optics and a better image signal processor. It’s so good, in fact, it could make iPad photography fashionable. Time-lapse and Burst Mode are fresh additions to your arsenal.
And what about Apple SIM? Built in to all cellular models, Apple SIM is a major breakthrough for consumers. Now there’s no need to splash out on costly yearly contracts to get use of your iPad when Wi-Fi isn’t an option – you simply pick and choose when you need it. Heading abroad? Get a local network deal for as long as you need it. We can see Apple SIM becoming very useful.
It’s a vicious cycle the desire for the latest tech, and Apple isn’t showing any sympathy, especially if you crave a 128GB model. Mind you, we all know what we’re letting ourselves in for. And quite honestly, we don’t mind. iPad Air 2 is another stunning step forward in personal computing. To think how far we’ve come in four years beggars belief. iPad is going to keep getting better and better, and in the meantime we’re over the moon to be blown away by the iPad Air 2. See you again in six months.
Pros As far as tablets go, this is the pinnacle
Cons Gold colour will divide, plastic antenna is ugly