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iPad Air 2 review

evan kypreos

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Summary

Our Score:

10

Pros

  • Screen doesn't reflect much
  • Great performance
  • Ultra-slim design
  • Improved camera

Cons

  • Battery life a little lower
  • 16GB version storage too low

Best Deals for Apple iPad Air 2

  • amazon
  • ebay

Key Features

  • 9.7-inch low reflectivity Retina screen
  • A8X tri-core 1.5GHz processor and quad-core GPU
  • 8-megapixel rear camera
  • Touch ID
  • iOS 8.1
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £399.00

Update 21/03/2016: 9.7in iPad Pro revealed

Since our original review of the iPad Air 2, Apple has launched a 9.7in iPad Pro and dropped the price of the iPad Air 2 by £50. Below are some things that are worth considering before you splash out on an iPad Air 2. Click here for the iPad Pro reviews.

Related: iPhone 7

The first thing to consider is that the iPad Air 2 is still £150 cheaper than the 9.7in iPad Pro, so if your budget doesn't stretch to the £499 Apple is asking, then you can stop reading this and skip to the review below. If money is burning a hole in your pocket and you're tempted, read on...

The iPad Pro runs Apple's latest A9X processor. In the 12.9-inch iPad Pro it provided stonking processing performance and we can't expect much less from it in 9.7in form factor. Equally good will be the upgraded screen that supports Apple's genuinely Impressive Pencil. It has a maximum brightness of 500nits and also supports the wide DCI P3 colour gamut, for richer and more vibrant colours.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new display is that it supports Apple's own True Tone technology. True Tone will see the screen change colour temperature based on what light source it's under. This means under soft, warm lighting, whites will look equally warm, while under artificial lights you'll get a purer white. The net effect of this is that you'll get accurate colours no matter your lighting conditions, which will be very handy for those working in colour-sensitive professions.

As if this wasn't enough, the new iPad Pro has a massively upgraded camera that equals the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and SE – quite when you'll have the opportunity to take a decent shot with your massive tablet remains to be seen, but it's a nice-to-have, we suppose.

It'll also work with the Smart Keyboard that was launched along with the original iPad Pro. There are four incredibly loud speakers, too, which is a marked improvement over the iPad Air 2.

What is the iPad Air 2?

If you're short of time and need to get off then all you need to heed is this, the iPad Air 2 is the best tablet we've ever reviewed. Apple has done it again and improved on the already excellent iPad Air (that's remains on sale for a lower price) from 2013.

It is brilliant but don't expect it to do anything new or anything different. The iPad Air 2 is still a tablet, not a tablet/laptop hybrid, and so it won't quite serve as your fix for both productivity and entertainment like, say, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. On the other hand it's a lot cheaper, and the Apple app store has a superb array of quality apps that let you do pretty much anything you want. Pair the iPad Air 2 with one of the better third party keyboards and it becomes a swiss-army knife of tablets.

The iPad Air 2 is a stunning tablet when it comes to design. Even thinner an lighter than its predecessor, Apple has managed to pack blistering performance and 10-hour battery life in a tiny package. The screen has been improved too, in ways that make it a joy to use.

The headline feature on the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 is Touch ID – a feature that lets you unlock the tablet using your fingerprint. It’s about a lot more than that, though. Touch ID on the iPad Air 2 is all about Apple Pay and making it easy for you to purchase securely online at the touch of a button. Apple Pay is only available in the UK and US only at the moment, however.

The other thing to consider right now is that a new iPad is on the horizon. A new version is expected to launch in October, as is a larger iPad Pro model.

Watch the iPad Air 2 video review:

Related: iPad Air 3

iPad Air 2: Design

The first iPad Air looks fantastic – the sleek aluminium design a departure from its chunkier predecessors. It’s a tablet that's easy to handle, but that also has a refined air (no pun intended) of quality.

No reason to change what's working, so Apple has kept a similar design for the iPad Air 2 – only it's even better.

The iPad Air 2 is ludicrously thin at just 6.1mm, and light, too, at 437g. That’s a whole 1.4mm slimmer and 32g lighter than last year’s tablet. It’s not an unhealthy skinny, like some Sony tablet. The iPad Air 2 is rock solid – the aluminium back feels strong and has a slight grain that makes it easy to grip.

SEE ALSO: Best Tablet Round-up

iPad Air 2 11There has been one casualty in Apple’s pursuit of a supermodel figure. The iPad Air 2 is the first iPad without a mute/rotation-lock switch. It’s a sacrifice we’re not fussed about much. You can still easily mute the Air 2 by pressing the volume down button for a second, and lock the screen rotation via the settings menu.

Other than that, the controls are similar to previous models. You get the volume buttons on the right edge and the power button at the top – easy enough to access and use.

The Lightning port for charging and data transfer is at the bottom, flanked by the stereo speaker grilles. It’s not the best location for the speakers, as you can muffle them with your hand while holding holding the iPad Air 2 in landscape mode. We’d prefer front-facing speakers like the ones on the Nexus 9, although in every other respects the iPad is a much better tablet.

iPad Air 2 15There’s been a new colour added to the space grey and silver versions and it's gold. It’s not a blinging back-of-an-old-mercedes-tissue-box gold, though. It's a light gold, almost champagne in colour, and the front bezels are white. Our favourite colour remains the space grey, but it's a matter of taste only.

iPad Air 2: Touch ID

Touch ID is Apple’s fingerprint scanner. It works by securely storing your fingerprint on the device, so you can unlock the iPad Air 2 with a simple touch. It’s super-slick but it’s less useful on the iPad than it is on the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Phones are unlocked a lot more often and are used one-handed, so it’s a neat feature on the iPad Air 2 rather than an essential one.

Apple has now allowed developers to hook into Touch ID so these days you can secure all your data on Evernote, for example, behind the peace of mind of your own, unique, biometrics.

iPad Air 2 5

Apple’s key reason behind adding Touch ID it to its latest tablets, though, is Apple Pay. Unlike on the iPhones, which come with NFC, you won’t be able to use an iPad to tap and pay in a physical store. You can use it to buy things online, though.

Add your credit card details to the iPad Air 2 and you'll be able to use Touch ID to make purchasing dead simple. There are some limitations, though. Currently Apple Pay only works via apps, so you won’t be able to make purchases through a browser.

The other problem is that it’s not available in all regions yet, although you can now use it in the UK as well as the US.

Best Deals for Apple iPad Air 2

  • amazon
  • ebay

Rahul Kurup

October 17, 2014, 1:10 pm

The iPad Air has the A7 chip, the same as the iPhone 5s and the iPad Mini with retina display. The only difference is the clock speed. 1.4 GHZ for the Air and 1.3GHz for the other two.

Pg

October 17, 2014, 1:23 pm

'Touch ID will cause delight'? Really? Are people that easily pleased and will spend hours just using the fingerprint scanner?

And 'Apple has taken the right tack by not playing the specs game'? I'm assuming you only mean the screen here as opposed to the specs of the whole tablet.

And how will game look better on this now than the old one? I didn't think games had specific graphical quality settings based on what it is running on but I could be wrong.

I don't think there is much to shout about here - a little thinner, a little faster, a slightly better screen. Nothing unexpected apart from no resolution increase - which could be viewed as a negative or positive - depending on the battery life.

Owen Hamilton

October 18, 2014, 8:21 am

I'm surprised they dropped the 32Gb version but kept the 16Gb version, 16Gb isn't really enough storage in my opinion, 32Gb was just about right.

Prem Desai

October 18, 2014, 8:47 am

Another totally underwhelming product from Apple this year.

I think the iPad is best in class device so this is not a knock on it. I own and regularly (daily) use an iPad 1,iPad 3 and iPad Air. The iPad 1 does feel a bit slower and display resolution lower (if you look for it) but once you're immersed in your app, there's virtually no difference between the 3.

In fact, I prefer to use the iPad 3 to the iPad Air as it feels more robust. The Air feels hollow / fragile when typing on it.

Now we have the Air 2 (generation 6 iPad). I'm sure all the benchmark figures will make it look the absolute must-have gadget on the century, but it terms of user experience, it hasn't moved on at all since the original iPad.

Bugblatter

October 18, 2014, 11:40 am

Also the iPhone version of the chip is stacked, to save space, and the iPad version isn't. That means the iPad version stays a little cooler and therefore thermal throttling occurs less. Still not a big difference though.

Paul

October 18, 2014, 6:56 pm

Just ordered one to replace my iPad3
smells like another Apple victory

Paul

October 18, 2014, 6:57 pm

the touch is brilliant for bypassing password typing

ElectricSheep

October 20, 2014, 6:47 am

But now it comes with '...a new bonded display...' woohoo, even harder to repair then! Although I dislike the OS, I have to agree with Prem, there is so little real life difference between the performance of the last few iPads; they all peddle along nicely.

Troy Dyall

October 20, 2014, 8:46 am

Thinnest tablet on the planet?? good grief!! its not.....

Pg

October 20, 2014, 12:57 pm

Yes, a nice feature, but not something that would make me want to buy one. Not something that I would feel envy about not having.
I guess it all just feels evolutionary, what you would expect, but then it can't always be revolutionary.

JBingham

October 20, 2014, 9:41 pm

just to let you know that the processor in the iPad Air is called the A7, not the A7x - ie the same processor as used in the iPhone 5s.

Paul

October 20, 2014, 10:56 pm

i know I just had some paracetamol and they were like 3 milli

David van der Zande

October 27, 2014, 5:42 pm

You know that almost every tablet uses a bonded display? Even the low budget ones from Samsung.

A. Mir

October 28, 2014, 4:28 am

It's all a part of the plan. They want you to go for the 64 GB model since the difference in price between the 16 and 64 isn't THAT big. But still enough to make lots $$$ @Apple. Pretty clever marketing - but not for the consumer.

Allan Burrows

October 31, 2014, 9:03 pm

Why look on these reviews just to slag apple off. Each to their own I say just let people buy what they want to buy instead of ramming specs and techs down their throats. Really guys try getting s life.

John Cock

November 9, 2014, 9:54 pm

Guys, please refrain from talking about thing you don't know. I ordered My Ipad Air 2 last week, and, on the specs it clearly states that the CPU is a:
A8X chip with 64-bit architecture M8 motion coprocessor not an A7 like most of you are saying!!! The one thing I did not like about the purchase is the hefty U$ 899.00 fOR THE gold 128k WIFI+CELLULAR VERSION AND, that I paid for something made in china, warehoused in freaking china, and, shipped all the way from china!!! I mean really Apple, do you guys really need to charge so much money for something made, warehoused/stored, and, shipped from China, what's your excuse for charging so much money? You're not employing people in the USA, you're not paying taxes because all of your products are cheaply manufacture in FREAKING CHINA!!!

John Cock

November 9, 2014, 10:43 pm

The I pad Air 2 comes with an A8X chip 64 Bit architecture and, M8 motion co-processor plus 2 Gbs of RAM!!! Furthermore, the WiFi on the new Air Pad 2 puts to shame those of the previous generation: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz); HT80 with MIMO

LordQuad

November 22, 2014, 8:08 pm

Take a look around your house, car, or work place
Damn near all manufacturing has moved to China. NOT just Apple. R&D is done state side and if our government weren't so greedy, perhaps Cupertino would bring the 'money home'
If they did --- 40% right off the top. Of nearly $200b, that's taking nearly 80 Billion dollars from their coffers
Now, if YOU had ...even a couple million dollars that you'd made by producing a 'world wide' product ...sold in many dozens of countries, what would YOUR motivation be to bring your (½) treasure chest to the US?
America needs a tax holiday, perhaps 5-10%? I don't know the Number but guaranteed Tim would sleep better if the money was at Wells, BOA or CITI ...or not? EU and the American bail outs over the past decade don't really solidify confidence in our 'financial situation', do they?
Not sure if you watched the Beijing Olympics. Opening, closing ceremonies, MIND BLOWING! Put a whole new meaning for me as to the line 'Made in China'
Obviously, due to your incredible ignorance...you chose to ignore MOST of the 'things' around you indeed are made in China. From your toothbrush, to your cup of coffee, your phone, computer/tablet/laptop....to probably 60/70% of your vehicle you're so proud of & damn near anything we enjoy that uses rare earth metals and materials.

LordQuad

November 22, 2014, 8:12 pm

Correct
But this is a review of the Air 2! & like the iPhone 6/6+, it uses the A8x, a triple core 64 bit SoC with double the RAM of last years iPhone 5s/original Air. IE, I think you're thinking about last year...

John Cock

November 22, 2014, 8:14 pm

You're an insolent, ignorant blabbering mouth.

LordQuad

November 22, 2014, 8:20 pm

No difference. Check Anand'a review on throttling. Neither the A8 or 8x variant are throttling at ALL. Natural heat dissipation with the metal frame? Better and more efficient design? Not sure but these scream! I'm Not with Bugblatter here...as an owner of the original Air and Air2 I can definitely vouch for the author's enthusiasm
Unless you're using Facebook & checking your email...and you're looking for a real 'tool' ...iPad Air2 is finally what I would consider a possible laptop replacement. The internal speed of the NAND storage, it's weight and efficiency and the unbelievable and immediately noticeable change in 'speed'
From launching an app to designing, creating, or editing there's no competition. Not to mention the apps designed for the iPad.

John Cock

November 22, 2014, 8:29 pm

By the way, my air pad 2 finally made it's way to my front door all the way from China, and, guess what people, I fully charged the tablet, started the setup process and... voila!!! Frozen, nothing it f froze on me! I had to call Apple support and spent almost 3 hours on the phone and on my trusted PC downloading and installing apple software to trouble shoot the tablet. Yesterday Apple sent me a notification to download a software update to "improve stability and performance" go figure!

Bugblatter

November 22, 2014, 11:57 pm

Look at what I replied to; Rahul was talking about the 5S and iPad Air.

Look at the iPad Air review on Anandtech and they do show throttling on the 5S with no throttling on the Air.

Don't think I can post the link but just google for anandtech ipad air throttling. First result.

Kwuarter

December 1, 2014, 2:19 pm

Still 16gb? Still making people pay a huge premium for extra storage? Apple = $$$$$

ajhnson

December 6, 2014, 6:18 am

Save your money. In 6 months Apple will be talking about their next iPad release and you won't feel duped like the rest of us. You'd thought I would have learned my lesson when I purchased the 1st gen iPad years ago and they came out with the iPad 2 months after. Now I purchase the iPad Air 128gig and 5 months later they release an iPad Air 2. The only reason I upgraded in the first place was because my ist gen iPad couldn't use newer apps I wanted. Now the apps market has slowed down and nobody's really making anything new that's worth purchasing so that's not an issue anymore. Besides, I don't have $800 to blow on a new iPad every year.

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