Apple iPad Air 2 Review - Still A Great Tablet For You

If you're short of time and need to get off then all you need to heed is this, the iPad Air 2 is the best tablet we've ever reviewed. Apple has done it again and improved on the already excellent iPad Air (that's remains on sale for a lower price) from 2013.

It is brilliant but don't expect it to do anything new or anything different. The iPad Air 2 is still a tablet, not a tablet/laptop hybrid, and so it won't quite serve as your fix for both productivity and entertainment like, say, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. On the other hand it's a lot cheaper, and the Apple app store has a superb array of quality apps that let you do pretty much anything you want. Pair the iPad Air 2 with one of the better third party keyboards and it becomes a swiss-army knife of tablets.

The iPad Air 2 is a stunning tablet when it comes to design. Even thinner an lighter than its predecessor, Apple has managed to pack blistering performance and 10-hour battery life in a tiny package. The screen has been improved too, in ways that make it a joy to use.

The headline feature on the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 is Touch ID – a feature that lets you unlock the tablet using your fingerprint. It’s about a lot more than that, though. Touch ID on the iPad Air 2 is all about Apple Pay and making it easy for you to purchase securely online at the touch of a button. Apple Pay is only available in the UK and US only at the moment, however.

The other thing to consider right now is that a new iPad is on the horizon. A new version is expected to launch in October, as is a larger iPad Pro model.

PROS

Screen doesn't reflect much

Great performance

Ultra-slim design

Improved camera

CONS

Battery life a little lower

16GB version storage too low

KEY FEATURES

9.7-inch low reflectivity Retina screen

A8X tri-core 1.5GHz processor and quad-core GPU

8-megapixel rear camera

Touch ID

iOS 8.1

Manufacturer: Apple

Review Price: £399.00

Since our original review of the iPad Air 2, Apple has launched a iPad Pro 9.7 inch and dropped the price of the iPad Air 2 by £50. Below are some things that are worth considering before you splash out on an iPad Air 2.

The first thing to consider is that the iPad Air 2 is still £150 cheaper than the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, so if your budget doesn't stretch to the £499 Apple is asking, then you can stop reading this and skip to the review below. If money is burning a hole in your pocket and you're tempted, read on...

The iPad Pro runs Apple's latest A9X processor. In the 12.9-inch iPad Pro it provided stonking processing performance and we can't expect much less from it in 9.7in form factor. Equally good will be the upgraded screen that supports Apple's genuinely Impressive Pencil. It has a maximum brightness of 500nits and also supports the wide DCI P3 colour gamut, for richer and more vibrant colours.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new display is that it supports Apple's own True Tone technology. True Tone will see the screen change colour temperature based on what light source it's under. This means under soft, warm lighting, whites will look equally warm, while under artificial lights you'll get a purer white. The net effect of this is that you'll get accurate colours no matter your lighting conditions, which will be very handy for those working in colour-sensitive professions.

As if this wasn't enough, the new iPad Pro has a massively upgraded camera that equals the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and Apple Iphone SE– quite when you'll have the opportunity to take a decent shot with your massive tablet remains to be seen, but it's a nice-to-have, we suppose.

It'll also work with the Smart Keyboard that was launched along with the original iPad Pro. There are four incredibly loud speakers, too, which is a marked improvement over the iPad Air 2.

IPAD AIR 2: DESIGN

The first iPad Air looks fantastic – the sleek aluminium design a departure from its chunkier predecessors. It’s a tablet that's easy to handle, but that also has a refined air (no pun intended) of quality.

No reason to change what's working, so Apple has kept a similar design for the iPad Air 2 – only it's even better.

The iPad Air 2 is ludicrously thin at just 6.1mm, and light, too, at 437g. That’s a whole 1.4mm slimmer and 32g lighter than last year’s tablet. It’s not an unhealthy skinny, like some Sony tablet. The iPad Air 2 is rock solid – the aluminium back feels strong and has a slight grain that makes it easy to grip.

Apple iPad Air 2 review

Apple iPad Air 2 review

iPad Air 2 11There has been one casualty in Apple’s pursuit of a supermodel figure. The iPad Air 2 is the first iPad without a mute/rotation-lock switch. It’s a sacrifice we’re not fussed about much. You can still easily mute the Air 2 by pressing the volume down button for a second, and lock the screen rotation via the settings menu.

Other than that, the controls are similar to previous models. You get the volume buttons on the right edge and the power button at the top – easy enough to access and use.

The Lightning port for charging and data transfer is at the bottom, flanked by the stereo speaker grilles. It’s not the best location for the speakers, as you can muffle them with your hand while holding holding the iPad Air 2 in landscape mode. We’d prefer front-facing speakers like the ones on the Nexus 9, although in every other respects the iPad is a much better tablet.

Apple iPad Air 2 review

Apple iPad Air 2 review

iPad Air 2 15There’s been a new colour added to the space grey and silver versions and it's gold. It’s not a blinging back-of-an-old-mercedes-tissue-box gold, though. It's a light gold, almost champagne in colour, and the front bezels are white. Our favourite colour remains the space grey, but it's a matter of taste only.

IPAD AIR 2: TOUCH ID

Touch ID is Apple’s fingerprint scanner. It works by securely storing your fingerprint on the device, so you can unlock the iPad Air 2 with a simple touch. It’s super-slick but it’s less useful on the iPad than it is on the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Phones are unlocked a lot more often and are used one-handed, so it’s a neat feature on the iPad Air 2 rather than an essential one.

Apple has now allowed developers to hook into Touch ID so these days you can secure all your data on Evernote, for example, behind the peace of mind of your own, unique, biometrics.

Apple iPad Air 2 review

Apple iPad Air 2 review

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Apple’s key reason behind adding Touch ID it to its latest tablets, though, is Apple Pay. Unlike on the iPhones, which come with NFC, you won’t be able to use an iPad to tap and pay in a physical store. You can use it to buy things online, though.

Add your credit card details to the iPad Air 2 and you'll be able to use Touch ID to make purchasing dead simple. There are some limitations, though. Currently Apple Pay only works via apps, so you won’t be able to make purchases through a browser.

The other problem is that it’s not available in all regions yet, although you can now use it in the UK as well as the US.

IPAD AIR: SCREEN

Some observers have wagged a finger at Apple, citing a lack of recent innovation. Looking at specs alone, it also looks like its devices lag behind Android ones. Specs can be misleading, though – Apple champions user experience. To this end it's made the sort of improvements to the IPS LCD screen that we like to see.

There’s no increase in the 2048 x 1536 resolution. It’s the same Retina pixel density the iPad 3 wowed us with in 2012 and it’s still more than adequate. You’ll have to put the iPad a couple of inches from your face to notice any pixelation. But having the same resolution doesn’t mean that this is the same screen. Apple has made some important changes to it since the iPad 3 to improve colours and contrast ratios, especially this year.

Apple iPad Air 2 review

Apple iPad Air 2 review

A number of panels combine to create the final display. Most screens have small air gaps between each panel, but on the iPad Air 2 these are fused together. Not only does this make the screen thinner, which helps the design of the tablet, but it also helps to reduce reflections. And this is where Apple's really made inroads.

Apple claims a 56% reduction in reflectivity of the iPad Air 2 by bonding the display and adding an antireflective coating to it. It’s an improvement that we didn’t realise we needed until we got it.

Apple iPad Air 2 review

The light above the iPads reflects a lot less on the iPad Air 2 compared to the mini 3

It makes a huge difference. Whether you’re using the iPad Air 2 on a sunny day in the park or just in a room with awkward lighting, the screen manages to keep reflections to a minimum. This helps you enjoy reading content online or watching a movie more than ever before.

The iPad Air 2 trumps its predecessor with its colours, too. They're bright, accurate and vivid, while contrast is greater, too, with deeper blacks and more detail in dark scenes. There’s only one area where the iPad Air wins out, and that’s with the whites. The Air 2 we looked at had a light pinkish tinge. It was faint, though – just a little worse than its predecessor, and only a minor issue.

Apple also claims that the responsiveness of the display has improved, leading to quicker reaction speeds. iPads have never had a problem in this area and we haven’t been able to notice any difference between the iPad Air 2 and the Air before it.

All in all the iPad Air 2’s screen is brilliant, with the bonded display looking almost painted onto the glass. This is a big step up from previous iPads and only the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and its Super AMOLED screen can eclipse it.

IPAD AIR: SPEAKERS

iPad Air 2

Apple iPad Air 2 review

Supporting the iPad Air 2’s credentials as a superb multimedia tablet are its stereo speakers. These pack a punch and are much louder than those on last year’s model. They’re better in other ways, too. Dialogue is richer, voices sound accurate and there’s a mite more bass. Stereo separation remains poor, though, because the speakers are so close together.

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