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
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  • tralalalalalala40 - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    If you want to tinker and fix something that keeps breaking (some people like to do that, that's why there is a used car market), then android is for you. This is changing every day and the two are converging as google makes android (the one you use) more and more closed source to leave aosp behind :)
  • IUU - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    "If you want to tinker and fix something that keeps breaking.."
    So, are you that disappointed with your ipad?
    And what will you do with a device that never breaks but can't do anything with it;even this little thing, that is, proper communication between the user and the machine is out of the question with the ipad. I remember trying to be patient when testing an ipad for a whole week(god I have such a big patience) and trying to avoid the spontaneous urge to bang my head on the wall every five minutes or so.
    So, I didn't reply reasonably to you because you made a ridiculous comment, but it is true that I still try to forget the traumatic experience I had with the ipad. The only good thing about buying one is that raises the value of your Apple stocks.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    iOS 8 on the newest devices is amazing. With full Microsoft support and further enterprise support, the device is becoming more and more of a productivity device. If you have an iPad 3 or below, I feel your pain.
  • Galidou - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    I don't know what kind of traumatic experience you can have with an iPad... unless you'Re a very big tech newbie. I'm with everyone here that I don't want to fix anything that's broken. I had to constantly work around bugs and problems on my Asus Transformer TF201. I bought an iPad 4 about 2 years ago, never plugged it in a computer and does everything I need from a tablet plus the screen, camera, OS responsiveness, stability and so on beats any android devices I've owned.

    My girlfriend has 2 ipod touch that still work wonders, she bought an android phone, and as good as it is and she likes it, there's a virus on it and as soon as it uses the home network, my upload goes crazy. Now I have to buy an antivirus or restore the thing. Never it has happened on her iPods touch.

    I've had one problem with an iPod touch it was under warranty, made a request to have it repaired, received a bos in which the iPod did fit like a glove didn'T cost me a penny back and forth one week later I had a brand new iPod touch. Not much to say, best experience I've had to deal with any piece of technology I've owned.
  • akdj - Thursday, November 27, 2014 - link

    My two year old son uses an iPad. I'm sorry u weren't able to figure it out
  • NEDM64 - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    Boys trying to look like men.

    If you want to get deep, you won't be arguing about iOS or android, both are toys for kids, you would be instead arguing for tektronix vs Agilent for your next oscilloscope.
  • extide - Monday, November 10, 2014 - link

    Screw Tektronics, they haven't been innovating in the last 10 years or so. All of their scopes are SO SLOW!! It's either Agilent or LeCroy :) Also Rigol is a great choice for lower budgets.
  • blackcrayon - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    "almost all technical people prefer Android."
    citation needed.
    There are tons of technical people who prefer iOS, hell, look how many iOS app developers there are. The other side of the coin is, the vast majority of customers of any computing device are not technical anyway.
  • Jumangi - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    How many iOS developers there are has nothing to do with them "liking it more". They go there because of the money.
  • akdj - Monday, November 10, 2014 - link

    Makes sense
    People buy, come back and buy again ...and continue to use one of their hundreds of thousands of tablet optimized iOS apps
    Ever look at the dismal 'app selection' in the Play Store for your tablet?
    Maybe I should say 'lack of selection'
    Sad, but yeah...I'd consider pilots, surgeons, Boeing and 95% of the Fortune 500 'customers of any computing device aren't technical anyway.'
    Try one. I enjoy both. But Android for very specific needs. iOS covers literally EVERY base

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