comscore Apple iPad Air 2 review roundup: Is it the best iPad ever?
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Apple iPad Air 2 review roundup: Is it the best iPad ever?

Apple launched the new iPad Air 2 last week, which is the sequel to last year’s iPad Air. At 6.1mm, it is the thinnest iPad ever and Apple says it is better than its predecessor in every way. In add

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Apple launched the new iPad Air 2 last week, which is the sequel to last year’s iPad Air. At 6.1mm, it is the thinnest iPad ever and Apple says it is better than its predecessor in every way. In addition to being the first iPad to boast a TouchID sensor, the iPad Air 2 also features faster processor, more RAM, faster connectivity and improved cameras among others. The first reviews of the new iPad have surfaced online, and here’s our roundup of the best reviews. Also Read - iPhone 13 launch date and more details tipped as part of new leaks

First let’s take a look at the specifications of the iPad Air 2. The tablet features dimensions of 240×169.5×6.1mm, and weighs 437 grams. It flaunts a 9.7-inch (2048×1536 pixels) display at a pixel density of 264ppi and anti-reflective coating. It is powered by an A8X processor paired with 2GB of RAM, and features 8-megapixel iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera, connectivity options like Wi-Fi 802.11ac and support for up to up to 20 LTE bands, and TouchID sensor. On the software front, it runs on iOS 8.1 Also Read - iPhone 12 Mini reaches end of production already, say rumours

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As mentioned above, the iPad Air 2 is the thinnest tablet ever and from the numerous photos we have seen so far, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Not surprisingly, when the reviewers got their hands on the iPads, they were left impressed.

The Verge’s Nilay Patel sums it up quite well, saying,

Pick up an iPad Air 2 and you’ll immediately understand why Apple pursues that thinness with such single-minded zeal. It’s so, so thin: 18 percent thinner than the older Air, and even slightly lighter. It’s hard to believe that there’s a computer back there, let alone a computer as powerful than the laptop computers of just a few years ago. If there is anything magical about this new iPad it is this, this feeling of impossibility. The Air 2 makes the original iPad look and feel archaic, like a horrible monster from a long-forgotten past.

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington too continues in the same vein.

The new iPad Air is a great device to hold, however, as was its predecessor. Holding them together really reveals just how much of a difference the additional size and weight savings make, however – even holding it while also holding an iPad mini reveals significantly less tangible heft, despite the smaller tablet being lighter. The 6.1 mm chassis just makes all the difference when it comes to the Air feeling like something that you could comfortably hold for long periods of time, and even for all-day computing, should you need it (and it’s easy to imagine an event coordinator, for instance, needing exactly that).

The thinner design however has one flaw, which is the absence of a mute/screen orientation lock screen. Engadget’s Brad Molen thinks it is something you will eventually miss.

The Air 2 also doesn’t have a mute switch, which I didn’t think would be a huge loss until I actually found myself trying to use it and becoming frustrated more frequently than I expected. Your new options are to press and hold the volume down button or go into the Control Center and press the mute key; if you used the switch to lock screen orientation, you’ll need to do that in the Control Center as well.

Display

The 9.7-inch display on the iPad Air 2 boasts a resolution of 2048×1536 pixels display at a density of 264ppi. While the resolution and size of the display remain the same, the talking point is the anti-reflective coating on the display. Apple claims this coating make the display up to 56 percent less reflective.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern says,

The new Air’s display addresses one of my biggest complaints about previous iPads: You can finally see the screen outdoors. A thinner display with an anti-reflective layer means unless the sun is really beating down, there’s no need to pitch a towel tent over the screen while sitting by the pool. (Unfortunately, the new iPad Mini 3 doesn’t have the improved screen.)

In my outdoor test, the Air 2 beat last year’s Air, Samsung’s Tab S and Amazon’s previous Fire HDX, displaying a more even balance under both sunlight and shade. Outdoors, it only loses to a bona fide e-reader like the Kindle Paperwhite. But you’ll still have to crank the brightness all the way up to see the screen in the sun, which will run down the battery faster.

That anti-reflective screen also makes a great, though admittedly ginormous, viewfinder for snapping nature shots with the revamped 8-megapixel camera.

Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff too is equally impressed, saying,

Much of that space-saving came through a new screen. It’s still a 2,048 x 1,536 Retina display, but now it’s what’s known as a fully-laminated screen. Put simply, the layers that make up the touchscreen — LCD, capacitive touch layer and glass — are now one. The other byproduct of the new screen technology is that the images are closer to the surface and, when you’re touching the screen, closer to your fingertips.

By its very nature, a fully-laminated screen cuts down on refractions, which increase when there are gaps between the layers, and, as a result, builds up image contrast. Apple also added a new anti-reflective coating, in addition to the oleophobic coating that effectively cuts down on the visibility of fingerprints.

The result of all these display changes is noticeable. Even though the resolution hasn’t changed, images simply pop on the screen and, in my tests, the new coating did an excellent job. Is it 56% less reflective? That’s hard to say, but it did cut down the impact of an overhead skylight and high-hat light while I was watching a movie on the iPad Air 2.

Performance

While earlier rumors claimed the iPad Air 2 would be powered by the same A8 processor found inside the iPhone 6, Apple had something else under its sleeves. It features a more powerful A8X processor, paired with an M8 coprocessor and RAM, which has been increased from 1GB to 2GB.

CNET’s performance tests revealed,

The iPad Air 2, on pure benchmarks, screams past as the faster iOS device ever, as you’d expect. But what does that mean to the average person, exactly? I loaded a bunch of games and apps on the iPad Air 2, and A8-optimized games like Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 8 and Epic’s Zen Garden demo all loaded up and performed excellently, and performed without any hiccups. But I was also able to switch between apps quickly, and apps didn’t end up “quitting out” as rapidly as they do on older iPads: in other words, apps are cached better.

Serious graphics or photo editors, those who edit or use creative video or music apps, or hardcore iPad gamers who want bleeding-edge graphics, this is your new dream machine. But the average iPad user may not ever reach a point where this performance is needed.

Cameras

The iPad Air 2 also boasts an improved 8-megapixel iSight camera, supplemented by a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera at the front.

CNET  talks about the camera performance, saying it is much better than before.

You might mock iPad photographers and videographers, but they’re out there. The improved rear iSight camera is notably better now than on the iPad Air at 8 megapixels instead of 5, and with features such as slow-mo, time lapse, and better face detection are better to have than not. There’s also improved image signal processing via the A8X processor, similar to what the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus offer. But, this camera doesn’t have the same “focus pixel” autofocus as the new iPhones; this one focuses more like an iPhone 5S. Autofocus works, but it not as accurately or as rapidly as the phone. You’ll probably find yourself tapping-to-focus a lot. There’s still no flash, but we should be thankful for that.

The improved front-facing FaceTime camera is the most useful improvement. It’s still just 1.2 megapixels, but registers better contrast, low-light photography, has a new f2.2 aperture, and generally just allows for clearer FaceTime chats…and yes, selfies. In my house, the iPad is a go-to FaceTime device, and I appreciated the extra clarity.

Patel too continues in the same vein, saying,

The back of the new iPad features a new eight-megapixel camera, an upgrade from the five-megapixel shooter Apple’s used for the past few iPads. It’s a fine enough camera in bright light and just okay in low light, and nowhere close to the exemplary units in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — it’s like a slightly worse iPhone 5 upgraded with iOS 8 tricks like slow-mo and timelapse video modes. It won’t blow any minds, but it’s a huge upgrade for the millions of people happily using the iPad as a camera — the steady wave of inevitable hardware improvement gently cresting over a nation of weirdos holding their giant viewfinders aloft, waiting for a moment worth sharing.

Battery

The battery on the iPad Air 2 has surprisingly not improved much over last year’s iPad Air.

Mossberg notes,

In one key metric, battery life, the Air 2 actually regressed from the original Air. In my tough battery test, it lasted 10 hours and 37 minutes, exceeding Apple’s 10-hour claim. That’s quite good, better than most other tablets. But in 2013, the original iPad Air turned in the best tablet battery life I’ve ever seen on my test: 12 hours and 13 minutes — about 90 minutes longer. And earlier this year, Samsung’s latest similar-sized slate, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, lasted 11 hours and 14 minutes in the same test.

Etherington too says the same,

The iPad Air 2’s battery performance is on par with that of previous generation devices, which is no small feat given that the volume of the batteries contained within is likely reduced to accommodate the new slimmer profile. 10 hours of mixed use is normal, I found, and Apple has once again delivered a device with an amazing life in standby mode, especially when you’re not using the built-in data connections. As for those, I found that Wi-Fi performed notably faster when used with my 802.11ac AirPort Extreme, while LTE on my local Canadian provider remained high, and likely carrier-limited in terms of what it was able to achieve, given the device’s new extended LTE support.

TouchID

The iPad Air 2 is the first tablet to feature the TouchID fingerprint sensor. Unlike the sensor on the iPhone 6 however, the functionality on the iPad is restricted to app purchases, unlocking the device and shopping online.

Ulanoff notes,

The other key difference is the home button. It’s now, like the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus, a Touch ID fingerprint scanner. You can use it to unlock the iPad Air 2 with any of your registered fingers, to complete app and in-app purchases, and with Apple’s new Apple Pay to buy products in retailer apps that support the system. While Touch ID is paired with a secure element inside the tablet’s chip, there is no NFC support, so you won’t be waving your new tablet over a touchless NFC kiosk at your local Target.

I especially enjoy using Touch ID to unlock the iPad Air 2, and if I pick up an older iPad I’m instantly frustrated by its absence. Touch ID to complete App downloads and in-app purchases is also quite convenient.

Verdict

In the end, the reviews of the iPad Air 2 are a mixed bag of sorts. While some say, it is the best iPad till date, others look at it as a missed opportunity and say Apple hasn’t done much.

Patel says,

There’s no question that the iPad Air 2 is the best iPad ever made. It’s also the best tablet ever made — its incredible hardware and enormous ecosystem of apps offer a commanding advantage over the competition. But it’s not Apple’s best product; it’s not the company’s most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

It’s mostly just thinner.

Stern too concludes in the same vein,

The iPad Air 2 pushes forward in all the ways you’d expect Apple’s tablet to. The blend of screen, build and app quality make it the best full-size tablet you can buy.

But it doesn’t move ahead in one area where some of us have been waiting (desperately) for evolution: true multi-tasking, going beyond the one-app-at-a-time functionality. Perhaps that’s the big surprise that Apple will bring when it introduces a 12.9-inch iPad next year.

It would be nice to see the iPad get beyond the lean-back experience that’s been the focus since Steve Jobs first sat down on the couch.

Mossberg concludes,

Overall, the new model reinforces my view that the iPad is the best full-sized tablet, but this latest iteration isn’t much of a leap. The problem was this: I couldn’t tell the difference between the Air and Air 2.

So I don’t recommend that average iPad Air owners upgrade to the Air 2. But what about the vast majority of iPad owners who own older models? That’s a different story.

If you have an iPad 2, 3 or 4, the new Air 2 will make a big difference. Its thinness and lightness will be a dramatic change, and it will be faster and more fluid.

That leaves future-proofing as the main reason to get an iPad Air 2. Its faster processing and graphics capability are likely to make it better than the original Air, as more apps are built that try to bring advanced gaming, or heavy-duty video editing, to the tablet.

If those things don’t matter to you, neither may the iPad Air 2.

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  • Published Date: October 22, 2014 12:02 PM IST



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