Monday, 20 April 2015

Review: Updated: iPad Air 2

Review: Updated: iPad Air 2

Introduction and design

Update: Apple has offered up iOS 8.3 for the iPad Air 2, bringing with it performance improvements, new emojis and faster performance of things like the Control Center and Wi-Fi signal connection. We're currently putting the new software through our battery of tests, and will update the review imminently with the results!

It was hard to see how Apple could improve on the first iPad Air - arguably the finest tablet ever produced.

And then it went and did so with the iPad Air 2. You can talk all you like about what counts as "too thin" but there's no denying that this new tablet is a feat of engineering that again pushes the limits of what makes a premium slate. Plus, unlike the iPhone 6 Plus it doesn't bend either!

Not only that, but the relentless desire to make the thing thinner has resulted in a better screen too, as the layers that make up the backlight, touchscreen digitizer and LCD screen are so close that Apple now claims there is zero air in between them.

The result? A less reflective display that looks brighter and more colorful. And it really is.

There's the question of where the iPad Air 2 sits in the market, as it's US$499 (£399, AU$619) for the basic version, and you can pay up to US$829 (£659, AU$1,019) for the fully specced, Wi-Fi + 4G model.

iPad Air 2 review

But while that cost is high, it's no more than is being charged by Samsung or Sony for their comparable tablets.

Of course on contract it's ridiculously expensive, but then again I think most people will still want to buy the iPad Air 2 as a sofa-dwelling device, so the 4G option isn't going to be the real reason you buy this tablet.

I'll get onto the design in a moment - but it's worth noting that the design alone is a good reason to pick up the new iPad Air 2. It's super light, amazingly slim and will delight over and over again for the first fortnight of ownership, before you slip back to the standard tech nonchalance that creeps over us all eventually.

Did the iPad Air need to get thinner and more powerful? Not really - I'm already struggling to find must-have reasons for the improved A8X chip beyond a much faster interface and the promise of better apps and games to come - but once you actually handle the new iPad Air 2, you'll be sold.

Design

At 6.1mm thick, the Apple iPad Air 2 is easily one of the slimmest tablets on the market. It's not actually the thinnest, but we're at the point now where fractions of a millimetre really don't matter.

Thinness for its own sake can be an error - there is a point of diminishing returns where only marginal improvements can be achieved, at the cost of structural integrity, battery life and overall performance - but Apple hasn't reached that point yet.

iPad Air 2 review

The iPad Air 2 feels like a very solid tablet that can be held easily for hours without it getting uncomfortable. The iPad Air was hardly a big tablet, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S matches the iPad Air 2 in weight, if not thickness.

Where the Apple device wins though is the overall packaging. Samsung's option is good, but clearly an assemblage of distinct parts. The plastic back, the larger-bezelled screen and the rim are all competing parts, where the iPad Air 2 is a complete package, smooth and easy to hold in one hand.

I was almost loath to put it in a case - it needs to be protected if you're going to be running it around town, as that back and chamfered edges will scuff up eventually - but if you're going to be a sofa-warrior with your new tablet, the Smart Cover will do just fine and won't obscure the impressive design.

iPad Air 2 review

The sad thing here is the loss of the silencing switch, which has departed due to size restrictions. Apple would argue that this is because the new Control Center makes the option available throughout the OS with just a flick of the hand, but in truth I'm really going to miss being able to silence the tablet without even looking.

iPad Air 2 review

The power button remains at the top and the volume keys have shuffled a little upwards now free of the silence key, but otherwise the only real design changes are the speaker grill at the bottom of the tablet (now a single row of holes, rather than the two before) and the Touch ID on the home key.

You'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Air without a spotter's guide, but the iPad Air 2 has a deeper black bezel which helps enhance the picture - plus it now comes in gold to join space gray and silver.

iPad Air 2 review

The camera stays where it has been, both front and back, with the new 8MP iSight snapper not jutting out as it does on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The fact no tablet camera needs to be that high res, nor should people be taking pics with a tablet anyway, is something to discuss in another article.

Does the iPad Air 2's design warrant the high price tag? Yes, more than any other tablet on the market. It brings a premium build, quality finish, great looks and while it doesn't need to be this thin, the structure doesn't seem to have had an effect on the actual performance of the tablet, and does add something in the palm.

Key features

Before the launch of the Apple iPad Air 2, I'd have been hard pressed to predict Apple's improvements.

I wondered if Apple might have shaved some weight off, added some bits to the camera, shoved an upgraded processor in there (or at least matched that of the iPhone 6) - but that seemed like a very middling upgrade.

But somehow, the combination of the above, plus the improved screen and Touch ID, has created a very complete package. Not one that I'd ever recommend to those that have the iPad Air, but definitely a brilliant jump for anyone coming from the iPad 3 or earlier.

Pencil lasers

Apple showed off its improvements to an already-impressive tablet by lasering through the pencil it used to demonstrate the thickness of the iPad Air. While the width is obviously a design element, it's worth reiterating here as it's a really key feature of this tablet.

iPad Air 2 review

The 437g weight is more important than the thickness, in fairness. The width of the thing is largely unnoticeable in the hand, especially when we're talking millimetres, and is more of a marketing tool.

But the lower weight, combined with the smooth, ceramic-style back, makes the new Apple iPad Air 2 feel like a really premium product.

On top of that, it's closer than ever to perfect when it comes to being a laptop replacement when teamed with a Bluetooth. The reduced weight and thickness enhance the tablet's elegance and portability, and that pushes the iPad Air 2 further into consideration.

Touch ID and Apple Pay

On the iPhone, Touch ID is a brilliant addition. It's a way to add a passcode without really noticing it's happened, and (when widely implemented) will allow you to pay for things on the go without your credit card around.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and is really great addition to the mobile ecosystem.

iPad Air 2 review

I'm not as bothered about it on the iPad Air 2, mostly because I don't feel the need to secure my tablet as much as my phone. I take it out of the house less, I pull it out of the bag less, and generally don't worry about security on it as much.

It's still a great feature - I was confused when Apple didn't include it on the original iPad Air - but given the fact that the iPad is an unwieldy substitute for a credit card, it's not vital here.

It's a nice-to-have feature, rather than a crucial one. Apple is making a big deal about the fact you can secure apps with it as well, but this is only useful if you want to secure certain apps (which, admittedly, some people will want to do - it's more convenient to only have the key things locked down).

It would be nice to have the Mail app use Touch ID, and then I could get rid of it on the lock screen. I'm already considering turning it off, as it's more cumbersome to press given the dimensions here, and the fact the tablet mostly stays at home.

A8X chip

The A8X chip is screamingly fast, according to Apple, and nothing I've been able to do on the new iPad has suggested otherwise.

It's hard to know how to really push a tablet with this kind of power, as the likes of Real Racing or Sky Gamblers have always looked rather good on the larger screen.

iPad Air 2 review

And even though this is second (and a bit) generation 64-bit architecture from Apple, which does have some efficiency upgrades, we're still light years away from that being a useful addition, when really all it does right now is make apps a bit bigger and take up more room internally.

The big change here appears to be to the battery life - it's no coincidence that the graphical capabilities of the Air 2 are 2.5x that of the Air, and that means stuff can be run more efficiently.

There's also the ability to use the touchscreen more effectively - the response time of the touch is much increased here, and browsing with the iPad Air 2 is a pleasurable experience.

That's not directly linked to the chipset at the heart, but it does help.

All new screen

The new screen technology on the iPad Air 2 is one of my favorite changes here. The improvement in thinness is negligible, the camera superfluous, but the screen of a tablet is something that always needs refining. I love it when brands show ambition, whether they do it by increasing the resolution, the contrast ratio or the brightness.

iPad Air 2 review

The iPad Air screen was pretty neat in itself, with resolution of 1,536 x 2,048. The Air 2 has kept that sharpness, but because the internal layers of the screen are laminated together, there is less air between the components (in fact, Apple says there's no air whatsoever) which leads to deeper blacks and more vibrant colors. Pictures really come alive when viewed on the iPad Air 2, markedly so compared to its predecessor.

The other benefit of that compressed screen is that it reduces reflectivity - combine that with the anti-reflection coating, and watching films with a light behind you isn't impossible.

iPad Air 2 review

Credit: Republished with permission from DisplayMate Technologies

Laboratory testing at DisplayMate Technologies compared the iPad Air 2 with its predecessor, as well as the iPad Mini 3 to explore the difference. As you can see from the graph above, the average screen reflection on the iPad Air 2 is down to 2.5 per cent compared to the 6.5 per cent recorded by the iPad Air.

Similarly, the iPad Air 2 more than doubled the score of its predecessor when it comes to contrast rating for high ambient light.

iPad Air 2 review

Credit: Republished with permission from DisplayMate Technologies

Apple would like you to believe that you can watch anything without difficulty, but that's not the case. However, the reflections are much diminished, and it's a satisfying step forward on the screen front.

New camera

I'll return to this in more depth later in the review, but it is one of the key features. Apple has bundled an 8MP iSight camera on the rear of the new iPad Air, and thanks to the A8X chip, the tablet can now also take slow motion video, like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The new resolution does produce nicer pictures, and the ability to time lapse or see bigger panoramas is a plus, but I'm still not bothered by the additional technology stuck on the back of the tablet.

However, if you're one of those people that finds it acceptable to use a tablet as a camera in public, this is the best and most feature-rich option from Apple. Doesn't mean you should use it, though.

Interface and performance

The interface on the iPad Air 2 is something that will be familiar to anyone who's used an Apple product in the past. It's the first device (along with the iPad mini 3) to run iOS 8.1 right out of the box, and as such you'd expect it to be stable and easy to use.

Early testing showed crashes were kept to a minimum, something that sadly couldn't be said for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which don't play nicely with Google Chrome or the inbuilt Mail app.

Since launch Apple has applied some minor updates its iOS platform to improve stability (and engage Apple Pay) and the iPad Air 2 now sports the leaner, meaner iOS 8.1.2.

The larger 9.7-inch screen of the iPad Air 2 is great for navigating around the grid of icons, but not so much if you're looking to use this device one-handed.

iPad Air 2 review

Although if you are, you've probably not understood basic ergonomics. And possibly physics, as this is a two handed device and as such the lower weight makes it easy to tap and swipe around.

I won't run through the impressive tweaks that run through iOS 8, as they're ably covered in my colleague Matt Swider's iOS 8 review, but suffice to say that everything is much slicker on the iPad. Got an iMessage? The notification from the top of the screen lets you answer it without having to exit the app.

Want to switch the Air 2 on silent? (This one is important as the hardware switch allowing you to do just that has disappeared) Then it's a quick trip into the Control Center, found at the bottom of any screen on the tablet - although it can be something of a nightmare trying to pull it up when swiping skywards from the home button.

But anyway - you can look at the rest of that yourselves in the dedicated review - and iOS 8 works superbly on the iPad Air 2. What I want to talk about is the improved touchscreen responsiveness: it's brilliant.

Clearly a response to Google's constant refinement to its Android software (which began with Project Butter in Jelly Bean and really made a difference to touching the front glass of Android devices) the iPad Air 2 features a much more responsive touch panel which makes it much simpler to register swipes through.

It's one of those things that you don't really notice until it comes, as I never really thought the Air lagged previously. But the slick Samsung Galaxy Tab S showed that it could be so much better on a tablet, and Apple has stepped up here with the Air 2.

iPad Air 2 review

And talking of stepping up - it's done something magical to that A8X chipset at the heart of the tablet. It's nearly 40% faster than the competition, including the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and all the other top smartphones. In the GeekBench 3 tests, the iPad Air 2 averaged 4,500, compared to around 2,800 for any big handset you can think of.

Apple promised big upgrades, but this is so huge that I have to wonder if there's some kind of optimization here - although the faster speed under the finger and smooth graphics (Zen Garden, for instance, runs much more smoothly on the Air 2 than the iPhone 6 Plus) show the improvements are evident in normal use too.

Battery

Apple decided to go for design over battery life with the iPad Air 2, and while this is a bugbear of mine when it comes smartphones I don't mind it here, it's less of a hindrance in a tablet.

The battery life of 10 hours of web browsing or watching video has been ported over to the new iPad Air from the original, but given that had a thicker chassis it's really impressive that the power has been preserved, which is largely down to that improved A8X chip chugging along at the heart of things.

iPad Air 2 review

The screen is still as hungry as ever before, as the battery test was pretty power-sucking compared to its rivals. The iPad mini 2 only took down 16% in the looped video test last year (a Full HD 90 minute video from 100% at full brightness), where the iPad Air 2 went down by 21%.

It's not a terrible result though - while you'll lose about 20% watching streamed video at full brightness over 80 minutes' use, the general power consumption when out and about is bordering on negligible.

I've left the tablet in a bag for a quite a few hours and come back to only find 2% gone, so Apple's really worked on making sure apps don't chew down power without you looking.

iPad Air 2 review

It's a slightly different scenario when it comes to gaming, as the longer sessions really take it out of the power pack, especially with the higher-power titles.

It's not terrible, but I wouldn't feel comfortable taking the iPad Air 2 on a long haul flight if I was thinking of playing Real Racing 3 for three hours. Mostly because I would have played too much of one game, but also because my battery would be in danger of running out.

iPad Air 2 review

While I've yet to find out the official numbers of how big the battery is in the iPad Air 2, for most people the battery on the new tablet, even if browsing the web or using the tablet as a laptop replacement, is pretty good indeed.

I don't think battery life is that much of a worry for most tablet users given than you'll have to be pretty forgetful to not plug it into power once in a while before it runs completely dry.

Camera

iPad Air 2 review

I wish I could somehow type the long sigh I emit whenever I begin to talk about the camera on any tablet - and Apple's only gone and made the camera better here, which makes things worse for people like me trying to hold off the barbarians.

Like the selfie phenomenon, the idea of bringing a tablet as main camera to important events suddenly seems to be acceptable. I've seen people taking pictures of a bride walking down the aisle with an iPad mini, and missed a big goal at a football match because someone thought it the right time to try and take a picture of themselves on a tablet

The problem is, companies like Apple are extolling the virtues of using the large screen as a more ample viewfinder.

No. Use a phone screen if you must, or even get a proper camera. But don't use a tablet. While you'll get acceptable shots with the iPad Air 2, and the resolution gives a clearer picture, it's still not a great experience - and you break a basic law of civilization in the process.

But if you must use the camera, at least Apple has imbued the iPad Air 2 with some of the higher-power tricks. Slow motion video is included this time around (although only to 120 frames per second (fps), not the super smooth 240 fps that comes with both the new iPhones).

iPad Air 2 review

There's time lapse mode, burst mode (front and back cameras) and a larger panorama mode making it easy to take wider pictures of over 40MP using the tablet screen.

I don't mind the idea of using this for time lapse, as the larger screen and longer battery are actually pretty handy for setting up a shot - but why you'd have a tablet at a beautiful landscape which might require a panorama is beyond me. Group shots, maybe.

The other win here is the built in editing suite in the Photos app - it's good on the iPhone, but with the larger screen it's great for touching up photos.

The new iCloud shared photo stream is also a really handy way of sharing photos between an iPhone and an iPad - simply have both devices logged into the same iCloud account, favorite something on one and it will instantly appear on the other.

The overall camera prowess of the iPad Air 2 isn't that bad, but it's nothing special. In side by side comparisons with the iPad Air, the photos have very little difference bar sharpness, and the low light capabilities are nothing to write home about, and certainly not in the iPhone 6's league.

iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

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Media

The iPad Air 2 is a great device for consuming media on - although there is an interesting talking point here.

I think it's great that Apple is now offering a 128GB option for all its iOS devices now - but why are the increments 16GB, 64GB and 128GB?

I like that Apple has doubled the middle storage option, bringing the 64GB model in at the same price as last year's 32GB - so why does the 16GB still exist? Make that 32GB, Apple, and solve this problem.

I make this point as it's a real issue: if you're downloading all the free apps from Apple, like Pages and iMovie, you'll have eaten up a good portion of the inbuilt space already. And thanks to the move to a 64-bit architecture from Apple last year, the iPad Air 2 games and apps take up even more space for not that much extra in terms of performance.

iPad Air 2 review

So if you're going for the 16GB option, you'll need to watch how many movies you store, how high the quality of your Spotify music library is, and make sure you don't save too many home movies on there either.

Of course, there's every chance you won't do a lot of this with your new iPad - apart from music and the odd movie, most people won't be taking photos (fingers crossed) meaning you'll be able to pick and choose your apps.

But if you're not using the iPad Air 2 for movies or TV shows, then you're really missing out. It's a great device for a marathon movie session thanks to being light with a less reflective screen and improved color and contrast ratios.

iPad Air 2 review

It's actually even visible in daylight (just) and while it's not in the same league as the Sony Xperia Z3 when it comes to visibility, the iPad Air 2 is one of the best tablet screens on the market - bested possibly only by the Galaxy Tab S, which has brilliant color reproduction and black levels.

iPad Air 2 review

The single speaker is impressively powerful too - I wouldn't have thought with the thickness shaved, the mono speaker would be any good, but it's rich, strong and really pumps out the bass on the new iPad.

It's really good for showing off movies or video clips to friends, although if it were front facing then it would be a much better experience.

And through the headphones, the experience follows Apple's established prowess in music, with rich and punchy sound coming through even lower end cans.

Gaming on the iPad Air 2 is something to behold. Its rich, immersive screen is perfect for either the point-and-prod gaming on the go (it's no surprise to see popular TV game show app companions as high sellers on the App Store) or a speedier car game.

iPad Air 2 review

Both of these are easy to play, the choice is fairly vast and while the selection isn't particularly strong (there surely have to be more game titles coming soon that take advantage of the sheer number of sensors, GPU performance and Metal, which allows a stronger and slicker game play performance on the iPad) it will only get better - plus there are plenty of kids' games to pass off to your children if you're brave enough with your new tablet.

The essentials

Sure it's a fancy tablet when you're using all those clever apps, but how does the iPad Air 2 handle the basics?

Handoff

The best thing about the iPad Air 2 is that it not only does the basics really well, it now allows more functionality thanks to the Handoff features from iOS 8.

Admittedly, this is a limited feature that's only enabled for those who have an iPhone running the latest software, but many will. If both are linked into the same iCloud account, even if your phone isn't in arm's reach you can still make and receive calls on the tablet.

iPad Air 2 review

You can either use the inbuilt speaker and microphone, or pair it with a headset. Whichever you choose, it's a nice way to de-clutter the desk if you're one to keep things neat. The other party is able to hear you fine over the speakerphone, so in essence Handoff turns your tablet into a smartphone when you need it.

You can even make calls from your contacts list too - it's not the best as Apple's contacts app is still, well, poor thanks to confusing social integration and a very uninspiring design (this is an area where Android phones really excel) but it works.

The only thing that stops the iPad Air 2 from being a brilliant smartphone replacement is the fact it can't send or receive text messages. It can do iMessage happily, and a Mac running Yosemite can handle those missives, but annoyingly, the iPad won't get any SMS.

That aside I was really, really impressed by the functionality. It's not new and it's not vital, but it works without needing any input from the user. That's the best way things should be.

Messaging

The messaging side of things on the iPad Air 2 is pretty good outside of the text message problem, but then again it always has on the iPad. The large and expansive keyboard allows you to rattle out messages rather quickly in landscape view when placed on the knees, and as such can be more of a laptop replacement than you'd expect.

This is doubly true given last year's move from Apple to bring its office software into the mix for free. Now you can edit documents and spreadsheets from the iPad without needing to pay extra.

iPad Air 2 review

And the Mail app, which does share the same boring view as the contacts app, is still a powerful tool and improved again with iOS 8. You can see important emails on the lockscreen and then choose to archive or mark as read without needing to unlock the phone.

The same thing happens with the notification window at the top of the phone when you're in another app. This kind of integration is really useful, and more than that, it brings a feeling of satisfying unity to using the iPad.

Internet browser

The other thing to note is the internet browsing on the new iPad Air. Thanks to that A8X chip, combined with faster Wi-Fi and improved 4G bands, using the internet wherever you are is really slick, with instant tapping and loading in some cases.

iPad Air 2 review

Apple would prefer you to use Safari for everything, and it's probably the slightly speedier browser here, but Chrome is equally impressive and useful if you've linked everything together on other machines.

The iPad Air 2 is a great device for the things you need to do with a tablet on a day to day basis - and that's before we even get into the fact it's got, by far, the best app ecosystem.

The competition

The good news for you tablet fans out there is that even if you're not a fan of the iPad Air 2, or want to make sure you're getting the best value for money, there are plenty of other decent options.

In fact, the last 12 months have seen arguably the greatest jump in quality from the competition yet - so take a look at these pretenders to the iThrone:

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Galaxy Tab S

Samsung's been making reasonable tablets for a while now. It's been a curious situation actually: while the tablets were always powerful, they were simultaneously cheap-feeling and expensive.

The Tab S is still pricey, but no more than the iPad Air 2, and in some cases actually a little cheaper. However, it's got the same low weight, a comparable thickness (although a tiny bit deeper) and trumps the Apple tablet when it comes to screen quality, with that Super AMOLED screen sharper, brighter and bigger.

However, while it's put together in a rigid and premium way, it lacks the cohesive design language Apple has created in the Air 2. However, the Tab S is the best Android tablet on the market right now, and a worthy competitor to the iPad Air 2.

Nexus 9

Nexus 9

Although it's technically not released yet, and as such shouldn't really be in this section, I'm not going to compare the iPad Air 2 to the Nexus 10 tablet from 2012.

The new Nexus slate is a really great device and warrants a mention here, as it too goes for a 4:3 screen aspect ratio meaning a more expansive display, although not as good for watching movies on.

The rubberized back might not please everyone, but it's every comfortable to hold and light too - plus the metal rim adds to the character of the design.

On top of that it's cheaper than the iPad Air 2, has a comparable UI with the new Android Lollipop 5.0 OS and is generally the tablet of choice if you want naked Android.

It doesn't quite have the impressive feature set of the Air 2, but it is the only one here that can come close to Apple's prowess when it comes to benchmarking. It's a cut above the current smartphone range, and as such is a good consideration for day to day browsing and the like.

  • All you need to know about the Nexus 9

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Sony Xperia Z2 tablet

OK, it's a few months old now, but Sony is definitely the closest to Apple when it comes to making a beautiful tablet. The Z2 Tablet is more angular are industrial than the Apple option, but it's still a quality piece of machinery in its own right.

It feels light (as it should do, being the same weight as Apple's challenger) and has a lot of added extras: it's IP58 water and dust resistant, has NFC for easy connectivity to a range of devices and can control the TV through its infra red blaster.

What else? Well, it's going to be upgraded to the latest version of Android Lollipop in the near future, has a longer battery life (with Stamina Mode to push things further) and also has a really clear and vibrant screen that's as sharp as Apple's.

It's still being sold for the same high price as the Air 2, but it's a strong challenger - albeit one that might be upgraded in a few months time when the Z4 Tablet emerges.

iPad Air

IPad air

Of course there's always the option from the previous year to check out - and the Air is staying around at the lower price point.

What you get for your smaller spend is a less vibrant screen, a heavier device and a slower chipset at the heart, without the benefit of Touch ID.

It's quite a lot to lose as Apple has touched up and tinkered with nearly every element to make the Air 2 a real step forward, but for the cash you're still getting a brilliant tablet that's now playing at a more palatable budget level.

It's got all the same iOS 8.1 upgrades too, so while you don't get slow motion video, a lot of other treats will appear. A slightly older but my no means unworthy tablet.

Hands on gallery

iPad Air 2 review

iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

iPad Air 2 review

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iPad Air 2 review

Verdict

Some summaries are easy to write. Last year's iPad Air, for example: a stunning tablet, with an obvious case for winning the first 5 star review I'd given to such a device. It was a sign that the market had evolved to the point of delivering a truly useful tablet.

iPad Air 2 review

But I remember wondering how that could be topped, whether Apple would just give it a tiny push and call it all-new (like it's done with the iPad mini 3, lest we forget).

The challenge is even greater this year, as not only does Apple have to top its own lofty goal, but also beat off the much-improved competition from Samsung, Google/HTC and Sony. So how has the iPad Air 2 fared?

We liked

When I saw this getting unveiled onstage, I was nonplussed. Better screen? A bit thinner? I needed to be convinced. Then I held it, and I really was.

It's not just lighter, it's perceptibly lighter. I'll regret writing this in a year's time, but I think there's no way tablets can get any thinner, without some genius move in engineering. It feels like there should be a danger that this tablet is too fragile, although it hasn't seemed to be in testing.

I really like the improved screen, and there will probably be a few smug faces over in South Korea looking at the fact colors seem more vibrant on the new iPad Air 2, rather than focusing on natural hues.

The battery life is impressive, the power under the hood unprecedented and generally, everything on this tablet really just works.

And in comparison to the competition, it's not even that expensive, although spending up to US$829, (£659, AU$1019) on the Wi-Fi and 4G 128GB version is a little on the pricey side, especially when Macbooks aren't a lot more and general laptops can be had for less.

We disliked

The 16GB option is still too small for Retina HD apps, as they'll munch through your capacity in no time at all.

Add to that the increased space a 64-bit app will take and if you're thinking of nabbing a load of high-power apps (which you should want to, given the new grunt from the A8X chip) then you're going to quickly run into problems with storage.

And as we know, there's no room for expansion on Apple tablets. Given the brand has been "generous" enough to double the 32GB option to 64GB for no extra money, it seems odd it wouldn't do the same for the entry-level model.

The rest of the dislikes are beyond nitpicking: the slow motion video is capped at 120fps (although that is irritating as 240fps on the iPhone 6, a less powerful device, is actually awesome) and you can't get text messages, only iMessages, on the tablet.

If that's all I can find wrong with the Air 2, that has to bode well.

Verdict

Apple has improved on perfection with the iPad Air 2, making something that anyone using a tablet from 2012 or earlier should be thinking very strongly about upgrading to.

The combination of power, better screen, improved design and upgraded OS make this a very, very compelling device - and that's before getting into the fact the app ecosystem is so much stronger than on Android.

It's even better now iOS 8 is capable of scaling apps so seamlessly - the days of low-res iPhone apps are gone. It's another hammer blow to the Google tablet market, although I'm fully confident that's going to catch up in quality soon.

It's no good just saying that a tablet has good design, power or specifications. The ultimate success or failure of any device depends on how it's packaged and whether it comes in at the right price. Apple has drawn on all its strengths to make a tablet that seems to have no flaws, and it will be the best tablet in the market throughout the next year.

The only problem the brand will have is how to make it better in 12 months time. I'm glad that's not a problem I have to solve.

If you're thinking about which tablet to buy, don't. Just pick up the iPad Air 2 and you won't want to make another choice.








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