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iPad  header logo
 IPAD HARDWARE REVIEW
iPad Air 2
Even lighter than Air
 
 Handset: iPad Air 2 
 Manufacturer: Apple 
 Price: £399 
by Mark Brown
It's hard to believe that Apple could make an iPad that was any thinner or lighter than the dainty iPad Air, while retaining all the same power and functionality. Well it has. Almost.

At 6.1mm thick and with a weight of 437 grams, the iPad Air 2 is indeed a more svelte package than the original Air - it's quite a bit slimmer in the hand, though almost imperceptibly lighter.

Otherwise the gadget looks almost identical, apart from two changes: first, the new Touch ID button that lets you unlock the iPad and buy stuff from iTunes with a fingerprint. It's wonderfully cool, ever-so-slightly gimmicky, and works well.

Unfortunately, the new design kills off the little switch that used to live above the volume buttons and could mute the iPad or lock the screen orientation. You now have to do both through the Control Center, which is unquestionably a pain.

FTL

The screen is the same size and resolution, but it has been improved in two subtle ways.

Part of the slim design means the display is now bonded to the glass, resulting in a gorgeous look where graphics look like glossy stickers on the front of the tablet. And an anti-reflective cover isn't going to turn your iPad into a Kindle, but it's easier to read text while under direct sunlight.

Oh, and while it has that same plasticky feel as the iPad Air, it's less bouncy here and feels nicer when tapped with your finger nail (a bonus for some women and, I guess, guitarists).

The iPad Air was no slouch in terms of performance, but the Air 2's A8X chip is faster still with benchmark results that put it ahead of pretty much every other device on the market and brings it closer to actual laptops (albeit, from a few years ago).

It's going to take a little while for apps to take advantage of the extra brunt, but I've already seen games load faster on the Air 2.

Plus, it has an extra gigabyte of RAM, doubling the memory, which makes a massive difference for multitasking, switching tabs in Safari, and navigating those fancy image-rich websites that everyone has and we're totally not jealous.

The battery is smaller, though Apple says the A8X processor is doing clever, energy-efficient things to match the old 10 hours. While we haven't had the device long enough to test the battery in any meaningful way, it does feel a little less capable this time around.

Camera iPad Air 2 / iPad Air

The camera is a small step up from the iPad Air's camera, with a tiny increase in sharpness and colour. It can also do slow-mo (at just half the frame rate of the iPhone 6), burst shots, and time lapse.

Ultimately, it can create quite beautiful shots that are perfect for amateur snappers, but you're probably going to want to use a phone or a, you know, camera if you're serious about this stuff.

Sound is not normally something you'd mention in a tablet review, but the change is quite noticeable here. The new speaker is surprisingly bassy, and actually throbs through the iPad, reverberating up through your fingers when you touch the screen in a slightly unsettling way.

It's good for music (but, you'll probably be wearing headphones), but can make spoken word stuff a little muffled.

Screen

Ultimately, the iPad Air 2 is the best iPad yet, with only a few compromises in the lack of a mute switch and a slightly lower battery. It's closer than ever to being the perfect manifestation of Apple's tablet vision.

If you've got a fourth generation iPad or earlier, you will be utterly delighted if you upgrade to the iPad Air 2.

But if you've got an iPad Air? Well, the Air 2 has a number of advantages that you'll enjoy - including the improved camera, Touch ID support, and the extra processing grunt - but as the iPad Air is still capable and will be compatible with almost all apps for some time, it's not a necessary upgrade.
 

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 24 October 2014
This thin, light, and monstrously powerful tablet is Apple's best iPad yet, and comes with very few compromises
  IPAD AIR 2
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 [READERS' RATING] N/A 
Specs SizeHeight: 240 mm (9.4 inches) Width: 169.5 mm (6.6 inches) Depth: 6.1 mm (0.24 inches)
Weight437 g
Battery27.3-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
CPUA8X chip with 64-bit architecture
Memory2GB
Screen9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
SoundStereo speakers
Controls/buttonsHome button (with Touch ID), lock button, volume buttons
Input/OutputMulti-touch screen, lightning port for peripherals, three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer
NetworkingWi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz); HT80 with MIMO Bluetooth 4.0 technology.
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