Not enough noise is being made over the changes to Apple’s second generation iPad Air. The gold-standard in tablets has undergone an extreme internal makeover, and yet too few are batting an eye-lid.
Whatever noise that is being made is largely over the tablet’s inclusion of Touch ID. “The Air 2 is the first iPad to have a finger scanner”, they say. Though true, that’s not the most significant upgrade.
The biggest change can be surmised in a single measurement: 1mm.
Apple has shaved the second gen iPad down by one millimetre, and before you prematurely judge the statistic as negligible, consider it represents the iPad Air is more than 19 per cent thinner than its predecessor.
A thinner, lighter iPad means it can wing-man you on more occasions. The question “should I bring my iPad” will be asked less and less as you instinctively pack it in your bag. The opportunity to take a tablet out with you more often without it intruding is a feature of note in itself.
There’s little point in making a tablet mobile if it lacks hearty computing guts. No doubt this paradox stumped Apple’s engineers before they answered with a more powerful processor.
Little is known about the granular details of the A8X processor. It runs on 64-bit architecture and, if you take Apple’s word for it, is 40 per cent faster. Good Gear Guide is reserving comment on the iPad Air 2’s performance, but what we’ve seen thus far inspires confidence.
The fastidious guys at iFixit dared to strip an iPad Air 2 down to its individual components. Two findings startled. The first was that the second-gen slate comes with more RAM at 2GB, while the second was that the battery has dropped in capacity by 15 per cent.
Apple claims fervently that the iPad Air 2’s smaller battery will still power the tablet for 10 hours with mixed usage. People often value cars with small, economical engines. Many car brands tout it as advantageous. The fact Apple’s iPad has a bigger engine, a smaller tank and can still achieve the same mileage is a perk indeed.
The Air 2 is without doubt Apple’s best tablet yet, but that offers no guarantee that it is the best. Sony’s Xperia Z2 Tablet is as thin and boasts waterproof credentials. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S gives the iPad Air 2 a run on screen quality. Samsung’s tablet benefits from a display that is crisper in detail, richer in colours and is exceedingly bright.
Apple’s remains competitive in spite of having the same display technology as the original iPad Air. Rather, the company has bonded the display to the glass, eliminating the gap between the two in the process, so that content appears to float on the screen.
Another touch involves the use of full lamination in an effort to rid screen reflections. Apple reckons the iPad Air 2 handles pesky reflections better than any other tablet on the market. Testing this feature under the office’s fluorescent bulbs and against the Samsung Galaxy Tab S reveals the Air 2 comes out on top.
(GGG will offer a scientific verdict on the display capabilities in our full review.)
Wrapping up the improvements made to the iPad Air 2 are two new cameras. The rear boasts 8 megapixels, and comes with features including slow-motion recording and timelapse videos, while Apple claims the front 1.2 megapixel camera takes in 80 per cent more light for better quality photos.
The original Air was a stellar tablet, even by today’s standards. The second generation offers a replete feature-set, adds a few tweaks and packs it into a body that’s easier to take with you. This is Apple’s most refined tablet yet, though among today’s stiff competition, we’re not yet convinced it is the best.
GGG will reveal if the iPad Air 2 is the best tablet in our full review. Check back next week to find out.