This year, unlike the iPhones that went through a plethora of changes in design, the world’s most popular line of tablet computers – iPad Air – only received an incremental facelift.
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The latest iPad now features Apple’s proprietary Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the home button which was introduced with the iPhone 5s. Otherwise, the design language remains almost untouched save for a few changes.
While not much has changed in the overall appearance of the iPad Air 2, it is now just 6.1mm thin; this actually makes it 1.4mm slimmer than its predecessor, and more importantly it also undercuts the thickness of both the iPhone 6 (Review | Pictures) and the iPhone 6 Plus. We’ll let you take a moment for that to sink in. One of the reasons this is possible is that Apple’s engineers have managed to reduce the gap between the protective glass, touch sensor and the actual LCD. This ‘no-gap display’ has been carried over from the iPhones. The internal specifications have gone through an upheaval of sorts; the iPad Air 2 has a more capable primary camera, powerful new A8X processor, and M8 motion co-processor that has the ability to continuously measures data from the newly-added barometer. Moreover, Apple has removed the 32GB storage capacity variant. The iPad Air 2 is now available in a gold colour option. Should you upgrade to the iPad Air 2 if you already own the iPad Air? Is the iPad Air 2 the best tablet in the world?
Will the iPad Air 2 manage to rekindle an interest in Apple’s tablets after recent reports about a slump in sales? Answers to these questions and more follow in our review. The iPad Air 2 is shockingly thin. Its slimness combined with its weight of 437g makes it easy to hold with one hand. The ergonomics hit a really sweet spot and we could feel the difference the moment we switched to an iPad Air 2. While people may argue whether there was any need to slim down the iPad Air in the first place, we aren’t complaining.
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Even a bit. As before, the edges are chamfered, which gives the iPad Air 2 a premium look. The height and width are the same as the previous version. The Home button, which now has Touch ID, is smooth to the touch and the tactile feedback is also pretty good. The front-facing camera lies on top of the display. The lightning port lies at the bottom and flanking it are the stereo speaker grilles. There is only a single row of holes now instead of two, like on the iPad Air. The power button and the 3.5mm audio jack are on top. In an effort to make a super-slim iPad, Apple has gone ahead and removed the mute/orientation lock switch from the right edge. A microphone takes its place instead and of course there are two volume buttons as well.
Bang in the center on the rear lies the Apple logo made of glass. In the top left corner of the rear lies the upgraded camera and another microphone. The iPad Air 2 is a performance beast. With respect to the graphics performance on a mobile device, the GPU inside the iPad Air 2 is the fastest we’ve used till date. Apparently, it is more powerful than the Tegra K1, which actually makes it the fastest GPU inside a mobile device. We’ll let the numbers (and comparisons with other iOS devices) speak for themselves. In our GFXBench test, the iPad Air 2 scored 52.3fps whereas the iPad Air and the iPhone 6 Plus scored 40.9fps. The iPad Air 2 maxed out 3D Mark Ice Storm and Ice Storm Extreme tests and in the more intensive Ice Storm Unlimited test it scored 21,576. In comparison, the iPad Air scored just 14,979. In SunSpider and Mozilla Kraken, the iPad Air 2 scored 286.3 and 4060.5, the lowest we’ve ever seen (lower is better). We are not the first ones to say this, and probably not the last either, but the Apple’s latest iPad is its best yet.
Yes, we know it sounds like a real cliche but the iPad Air 2 is indeed leaner, faster and meaner than all its predecessors and the crowd of Android tablets. Despite our observation that iOS could be little bit more refined to allow features that are suited for the iPad Air 2’s screen, it is still more than adequate for most tasks. Not to forget, the excellent apps ecosystem that iOS provides. From making music using Garageband to creating documents on Pages, the iPad Air 2 can do much more than an Android tablet can.
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Android is still lagging behind in terms of tablet-optimised apps that can pack a punch. For folks who care about a camera on the tablet, it has the best shooter of all tablets. For first time iPad buyers, the iPad Air 2 is the best bet but we’d suggest skipping the 16GB storage variant of the iPad Air 2, since it is quite possible to run out of space soon. If you own an iPad Air, we don’t see a reason for you to pick one up just yet. Although, if you are an owner of anything before the iPad Air, we think that if you upgrade, the performance boost will shock you.