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Hands on with iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3: Small changes to the world's top tablets

Susie Ochs | Oct. 20, 2014
What's rectangular, gold, and 18 percent thinner than a No. 2 pencil? The iPad Air 2, which Apple unveiled Thursday. Sporting subtle refinements like a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and a beefed-up iSight camera, Apple's second iPad Air isn't a dramatic leap past the first iPad Air. But that's not a surprise. When you make the most popular tablet, there's really no reason to reinvent the wheel every year.

I spent a couple minutes playing with the improved 8-megapixel iSight camera in the iPad Air 2 — not enough to really analyze the image quality, but I did get to see the new Slo-Mo video mode (which shoots in 720p at 120 frames per second), as well as the new Burst mode. Those features are exclusive to the iPad Air 2. The iPad mini 3 has the same camera as the last version, and it can shoot time-lapse videos but not Burst or Slo-Mo. We'll do a better camera comparison when we get to review the new iPads.

The new anti-reflective coating on the iPad Air 2's display didn't make a noticeable difference in the demo area. Sure, in some of my side-by-side photos of the two new iPads, the iPad mini 3 does seem to throw off more reflections than the Air 2, but that's another thing we'll have to examine more closely in a controlled environment. Using the iPad Air 2 outdoors in bright sunlight will be a good indicator.

All in all, the iPad Air 2's faster A8X chip, thinner body, and improved camera specs make it the "Pro" of the iPad lineup, which swelled today to five models. The new iPad mini 3 offers a great form-factor, but probably won't entice many owners of the iPad mini 2. Maybe next year, Apple will give its iPads a bolder physical redesign, but my money is on continued incremental upgrades like we got today — after all, it's not what the iPad looks like, it's what you can do with all those hundreds of thousands of iPad apps.

 

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