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. 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 (Review | Pictures). 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.
Design and display
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. 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.
9.7-inch display has a resolution of 1536x2048 which translates
to a pixel density of 264ppi. Apple still calls it a Retina display
and it has been using this screen resolution since the iPad 3.
This may sound like a downer for some people but quite frankly the iPad
Air 2's display is still one of the best around. The display has natural colour reproduction, accurate colour saturation and great
viewing angles. It sprung to life each time we woke up the iPad Air 2.
In addition to this, Apple claims there is a custom-designed
anti-reflective coating on the screen and which results in less reflection overall. We found this to be true especially when
placed beside its predecessor in direct sunlight; the iPad Air 2's
screen was generally less reflective and as a result the readability was
much better. Moreover, now that the protective glass, touch sensor and
the actual LCD are very close to each other, it did
actually feel like we were touching the pixels. Apple wasn't being
hyperbolic when it unveiled the iPad Air 2 on October 16.
Specifications and software
The iPad Air 2 has a variant of the A8 processor found on the iPhone 6. Called A8X, it is tweaked to perform better. The A8X has a triple-core processor
clocked at 1.5GHz per core, compared to the dual-core A8. The A8X also
includes a customised version of the PowerVRGX6450 GPU. Reputed tech
publications around the world are calling it the PowerVRGX6850 for the
sake of simplicity. Obviously, the PowerVRGX6850 is more powerful than
the PowerVRGX6450 but we shall confirm by how much in the performance
section. The iPad Air 2 also packs 2GB of RAM inside. Additionally,
Apple has upgraded the motion co-processor. The new M8 coprocessor
claims to continuously measures data from the accelerometer, compass,
gyroscope and the new barometer.
The iPad Air 2 has an
8-megapixel primary camera with auto-focus and f/2.4 aperture.
There is no flash. The front camera is the same 1.2-megapixel FaceTime
HD shooter with a few tweaks for better performance. It is available in
16/64/128GB storage options. With respect to connectivity, the iPad Air 2
can connect to Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac. There is also a 4G LTE variant if you
wish to have connectivity on the go. It can connect to any 4G band in
the world and as a result it should ideally be able to connect to 4G
networks in India as well. Bluetooth v4.0 is also present. The presence
of NFC inside the iPad Air 2 (or not) is a bit of a contentious topic at
the moment, with an iFixit teardown revealing that there is indeed a chip inside
the tablet for NFC. Apple hasn't acknowledged it, at least at the moment.
Will the iPad Air 2 support Apple Pay in the future using this mystery
NFC chip? We'll have to wait patiently to find out.
the iPad Air 2 with iOS 8.1 by default, which adds the cool Continuity
feature. Essentially if you have Continuity switched on, when your
iPhone gets a call or a message, it shows up immediately on your Mac or/and iPad as well. And, you can choose to respond or cancel it from
there. Of course, all this is possible presuming you have an iPhone.
This is how we always imagined devices would communicate with each
other. At least for us, it feels like the future. Touch ID is very easy
to set up and works like a charm.
The Notification Centre now has support
for third-party widgets. It is great for consuming small bytes of
information without actually opening the app. We don't have to remind
our readers how Apple has a great ecosystem of mobile apps, available
through the App Store. Apps like Health, Passbook, Stocks and Weather,
which are present on the iPhone by default, are missing from the iPad.
It might look like we are all praise for iOS but one cannot
deny that Apple is not doing much to use all the screen space that an
iPad provides. There is no multi-window option yet nor can you use more than one app at a time.
It is unusual for
us to feature a tablet's camera as a separate section considering how
much we scoff at people who use one for capturing photographs. However,
after using the improved camera on the iPad Air 2, we can understand the
why people are inclined to do so. Although, let it be made clear we
still that it looks pretty odd, especially in a crowd of people.
good lighting conditions, the details captured by the 8-megapixel
camera are almost as good as what we saw in the sample shots by cameras
inside the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus. The colours were close to accurate
and the sample images had a generally warm tone to them. We didn't
notice any barrel distortion at all. The images didn't lose fidelity
even when zoomed in. The comparatively small f/2.4 aperture is
probably the reason why the iPad Air 2's camera doesn't perform as well
as we expected to in low light. Especially areas where it was darker
than usual, we saw a lot of noise creeping in. Bear in mind that we are
talking about a camera inside a tablet; people don't expect it to be
exceptional in the first place.
(Click for full size)
One of the major advantages of
shooting using an iPad is that it provides the best possible frame for a
shot. Thanks to the powerful processor inside, there is bare
minimum lag on screen when it is being moved - which is quite close to
the experience one can expect from an actual viewfinder.
Apple's Panorama mode (pictured below) does the best job of stitching images together
provided you can hold it firm. The captured 1080p (FHD) video was of
superior quality as well. The iPad Air 2 can also capture 120 fps
slow-motion and Time-lapse videos, which may not be as exciting as the
240fps option available on the iPhones, it is still very pretty to look
(Click for full size)
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.
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).
graphical performance is put to great use by Apple's proprietary Metal
framework which is available to developers who can use it to maximise
the graphics and compute potential of the device. For easier
understanding - we saw more glorious crash effects and lens flare in
Asphalt 8, which has been reworked to optimise the potential of the Metal framework. The same effects are
also present on the iPad Air, but we noticed that it couldn't render it
at the same smooth frame-rate as the iPad Air 2. In short, the iPad Air 2
is probably your best alternative to a dedicated portable gaming
Apple devices have a restricted number of video formats
that are supported by default but we managed to test all our test videos using a
third-party application and it worked. At full volume, the
sound blaring from the speakers causes the iPad Air 2 to reverberate,
which may be because of its extremely thin body. While the sound quality
is decent overall, we noticed a little bit of crackling at maximum
volume. Apple doesn't bundle the EarPods in the box but we tested a
reference pair of headphones and they sounded great.
battery test, we tested a 720p .mp4 (x264) sample video on loop. The
battery inside lasted 11 hours and 36 minutes before it needed to be
charged again. Quite clearly there are other tablets and laptops that
can last equally long, if not longer. However, note that this is still
really good battery backup and if you are someone who uses the tablet
sparingly every day it should last you at least a week before it needs a
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. 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.
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.
Apple iPad Air 2 in pictures