As we approach the holidays, Apple has launched a new iPad as expected. As one might expect from the name, the iPad Air 2 is more of an evolution of the original iPad Air than a clean-sheet design. This doesn’t mean that there’s little to talk about though, as Apple has gone a long way to improve every aspect of the iPad Air with this iteration. However, with this generation Apple seems to be under fire as Google attempts to push into the premium tablet space with the Nexus 9.

Without question though, the iPad line defines what an ARM-based tablet is. The iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly a part of this lineage with its focus on a large touch-screen display. This level of design minimalism is responsible for at least part of the original reaction to the tablet as a “large phone”. However, by virtue of its sheer size there are new possibilities opened up in terms of content consumption and even content creation. In the basic definition of a tablet, the iPad Air 2 definitely fits. There’s a new SoC, more RAM, a better display lens, new cameras, and an even thinner design, but all of these things don’t change the fact that this is a 9.7” display that can only be interacted with through a touchscreen. In the interest of saving space and time, I’ve included a spec sheet below to cover all bases.

  Apple iPad Air 2
SoC 3x 1.5 GHz CPU A8X
Display 9.7" 2048x1536 IPS LCD
Network WiFi only or 2G / 3G / 4G LTE SKU
Dimensions 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 mm, 437g WiFi, 444g LTE
Camera 8MP Rear Facing with F/2.4 aperture, 1.3MP FFC
Battery 7340 mAh (27.62 Whr)
OS iOS 8.x
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS

As with any other mobile device, one of the most immediate impressions one can form is that of design. This may be one of the most important areas as well, because every mobile device is constantly held or otherwise handled. These devices tend to be deeply personal as well, which means that there’s a great deal more emphasis on industrial design than a desktop tower that gets shoved into a dark corner for five years at a time.

To this end, the iPad Air 2 does quite well. The design is definitely separate from the iPhone 6 line, as the metal chamfer remains, but the form continues to be quite pleasing. On the front face of the tablet, we see a single 1.2MP camera, the display, and the home button which has TouchID built in. The glass is flat, which makes it seem noticeably different from the iPhone 6 line in that regard as it meets the chamfered edge of the back cover rather than making a seamless curve. The radius of the curve is also noticeably different as a result, simply curving in towards the center of the device rather than curving out of the device. If anything, this does make the iPad Air 2 feel a bit thicker in the fingers but the device overall is still incredibly thin.

Speaking of the back cover, there’s really almost nothing to speak of on the back cover. There’s the 8MP camera and a microphone hole, but not much else other than the large plastic RF window on the top edge of the tablet. The curve of the sides does make it seem like there’s a great deal more on the back cover though. Other than the RF window, there’s a power button and 3.5mm jack on the top of the tablet. Next to the power button are the volume buttons, but curiously no mute/lock rotation switch for this generation. I suspect that the reasons for this deletion are primarily due to user confusion, although my experiences are purely anecdotal in this regard. Finally, along the bottom of the device we see the Lightning port and two speaker grilles.

Overall, the design of the iPad Air 2 is impressive. The thin feel is really quite impressive when compared against other devices, but the weight no longer feels quite as incredible as the original iPad Air when compared to the iPad 4.

Outside of the physical design, Apple has also included a selection of two cases which include the smart cover and case, which are mostly unchanged from the previous generation except to fit the iPad Air 2. I don’t have much to complain about here although the smart case has a bit more flex on the sides than I’d like. The smart cover does have enough strength in the magnets to hold the tablet by the cover, although I wouldn't recommend doing this.

Apple’s A8X SoC: Bigger and Badder
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • deontologist - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    About time this review went up.
  • odedia - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    Will you review the iMac 5k? I'm waiting for the review before purchasing. Mainly ssd&gpu performance.
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    The Retina iMac review will be next week. However it's the base model, so you're looking at a 1TB Fusion drive setup rather than a pure SSD, and the GPU is basically just Radeon HD 7870.
  • odedia - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    That's too bad... I would expect the majority of those buying this aching to at least bump up the Cpu and more importantly -the GPU.
  • ws3 - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    Bumping up the GPU is only "more important" for people who play high-end games. For most iMac users it is unnecessary. For example, if I were to buy the 5k iMac I would use it mainly for programming, and not for programming high-end games, so the GPU upgrade wouldn't be necessary for me.
  • deontologist - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    “Enhanced Cyclone” is still at the top of its class for both IPC and overall single-threaded performance" ... the Apple bias is strong. I like how you guys cite Geekbench scores while failing to note that the Nexus 9 with its Tegra K1 running **32 bit** Geekbench still outscores the A8X. Granted, the K1 is running at 2.3 GHz, so its IPC might be a bit lower than the A8X's 1.5 GHz, but overall single-threaded goes to the K1 no sweat. When 64-bit GB is ready I expect the K1 to blow the A8X out of the water.
  • tipoo - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    They waited on newer firmware before making conclusions on the Nexus 9. If anything you should be thankful for that, so relax.
  • steven75 - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    Speaking of bias... The Geekbench score I saw were not at all clearly for the K1.
  • blackcrayon - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    The single core performance of both seems to be similar, so perhaps they're both at the top of their class. The Apple whining is strong (with you).
  • techconc - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure exactly what your issue is. The statement about the A8X having the highest IPC is a fact. This is not in dispute. You even acknowledge the clock speed difference in your post. How exactly do you interpret this as a bias?

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now