iPad Air 2 specs review
Well, the iPad Air 2 pre-orders are currently ongoing and Apple is about to start shipping the first units by the end of this week. The slate certainly raised some eyebrows when Cupertinians announced it to be the world's thinnest tablet, yet still carrying a hardware bump that makes it the fastest iPad to date.
So, is the iPad Air 2's hardware upgrade that much better over the original iPad Air? Let's check it out.
There are a couple of small differences between the new slate and its predecessor that can be seen upon first inspecting the device. For one – the volume mute (or rotation lock) toggle switch that used to sit right above the volume buttons is gone – not a terrible thing, as the Control Center that was introduced with iOS 7 already gives the user quick access to the functions of the hardware toggle, making it nigh redundant. The second small change is, of course, the home button at the front of the device. Gone is the slightly concave, round button with a signature square inside, for it has now been replaced by Apple's own Touch ID fingerprint sensor – the very same that was introduced with the iPhone 5s, and many wondered why it didn't make its way to the first iPad Air.
There are no surprises, when in comes to the display of the new iPad Air 2. The screen keeps the same 9.7” display size that the iPads have been toting since the first model, employs the same 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution, and delivers a 264 ppi pixel density, which will all look pretty familiar to anyone who has used iPad 3 or above.
Now, if we delve just a bit deeper than size and pixels, the glass of the screen has seen a change. In order for Apple to make the iPad Air 2 so thin, it had to cut spaces anywhere and everywhere. Thus, the touchscreen production technology was re-done – instead of having separate layers for the LCD, touch sensor, and cover glass, Apple now employs a complex in-cell technology, which binds all 3 layers together to fit them in a thinner piece of glass.
What this should mean to the user is that, due to the less amount of layers standing between the LCD and the outside world, the on-screen image will be even brighter, more vivid, and have better viewing angles. The same tech is assumed to be used in the creation of the iPhone 6 screens and the praise the handsets are getting for their picture quality is pretty explanatory.
Processor and Memory
The iPad Air 2 will be powered by a new A8X chip. Still a 64-bit architecture, of course, the successor of the A7 in the original Air is at least two times faster, according to Apple, yet power-efficient enough to maintain the 10-hour battery life that iPads are known for.
Recently published Geekbench tests of the new tablet show that the A8X is actually a triple-core processor – quite an unusual setup – with each core clocked at 1.5 GHz. As far as speed goes – in the single-core test, the A8X showed only about 25% better performance, compared to the A7. However, in the multi-core test, the new CPU truly shined, scoring 4,477 where the old one only got 2,644 points. Of course, Apple-promised hardware performances are usually possible in very specific scenarios. None the less, even if the Air 2 didn't
Much like the A7 companion CPU - the M7, the A8X also has his little buddy – an M8 co-processor, which takes care of processing motion and location data, gathered from the device's sensors, leaving the big guy free to do any heavy lifting that the user might require him to. The M8 can now not only measure location, movement, steps, and speed, but also elevation.
As far as memory goes – Apple has finally bumped the RAM of its flagship tablet to 2 GB. Many techies were not exactly pleased with Cupertinians' stubbornness to touch the memory of their flagship devices and this upgrade has been a long time coming. Now, iOS has never had trouble running smoothly on iDevices with 1 GB of RAM, however, what the increase should mean to you is that the new tablet will be better capable of maintaining multiple apps and should suspend them on rarer occasions, which, in turn, means faster task-switching, without waiting for the app to "un-freeze" itself.. Also, it is probably safe to assume that Apple upgraded the RAM in order to have the device better prepared for whatever games the developers may throw at it, now that the Metal API is here to allow “console-grade” graphics.
It's hard to imagine anyone ever reaching for their tablet, when they want to take a photo, yet sometimes – it's either an only option, due to lack of another device, or the fastest and easiest one, due to logistics. Apple acknowledged that and gave the iPad Air 2's camera its respective bump. The old 5 MP snapper has been replaced with an 8 MP iSight camera, capable of shooting pictures in a 3264×2448 resolution, with a still rather average aperture of F2.4.
The A8X SoC lends a hand in taking better pictures with an apple-designed image signal processor, which helps better the face detection, reduces noise and grain, and enhances image editing options.
The camera app's features consist of manual exposure control, burst mode, HDR, timer, up to 1080p video with stereo sound, 120 fps slow-motion capture, time lapse, and panoramic modes.
The front-facing snapper's resolution is still kept at the modest 1.2 megapixels, though, Apple bumped the aperture up to F2.2 to help you get seen when video chatting in low lighting conditions.
Following their own style to the T, Cupertinians did not dabble in numbers and diagnostics, therefore – did not reveal any details about the battery. All we know about it at this stage is that it should provide the very same battery life that we are used to expect from an iPad; namely – no less than 10 hours of normal usage.
So, is the iPad Air 2 a good choice for someone, looking at the premium market? We'd say certainly – Apple's line of tablets has always been presented by great performers, and no small part of that is due to the company's iOS - an operating system for Apple's mobile devices, developed with its own hardware in mind. However, software aside, the new A8X has proven itself in the Geekbench arena, outscoring the pretty powerful in its own right Nexus 9, while the (finally) upgraded RAM will keep multitaskers happy.
Is it worth upgrading to the 2, if you have the original iPad Air? Probably not, unless you are a demanding power user. The tablet did receive a couple of respectable upgrades, true, however – nothing in the iPad Air 2's spec sheet is groundbreaking, or impressive to the point for it to require you to throw away the still adequate 12-month old flagship.