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iPad Air 2 review: A great tablet gets better

Michael deAgonia | Nov. 5, 2014
Apple's newest tablet is thinner, lighter, faster and now includes the Touch ID sensor.

When given options, I've always used the lightest device available. For example, in my experience with previous iPads, I usually chose the iPad 2 over the iPad 3 with Retina display, mostly due to size and weight. After long reading or gaming sessions, I felt less wrist strain with the lighter iPad 2, even though the iPad 3 has the better display. However, once the iPad Air was released, I happily updated. In the same way, the new iPad Air 2 retains the features that made last year's iPad Air great and adds more features while being thinner and lighter.

The iPad Air 2 is still based on the chamfered-edged aluminum unibody enclosure, measuring 9.4-in. high and 6.6-in. wide, the same as its predecessor; however, at 0.24 in., it's slightly thinner. Even so, the iPad's frame is still rigid and obviously solidly built. One thing I noticed, though: If you hold the tablet and exert force on the edges, the iPad Air 2 is more perceptible to LCD screen distortions at lower stress points than previous models.

As well as being thinner, the new iPads are lighter, weighing .96 lb. for the Wi-Fi model and .98 lb. for the Air with cellular/ GPS capabilities.

The 9.7-in. display has a resolution of 2048 x 1536; that's 3.1 million pixels at 264 pixels per inch. Despite having the same resolution as last year's model, the display has been completely redesigned. It combines the touch sensor, LCD and cover glass into one layer, eliminating some of the spacing found in previous generations that helped cause reflections. The iPad Air 2 also features a custom-designed antireflective coating, further reducing glare and reflections by up to 56%, according to Apple.

In real-world testing, I did notice improvements -- reflections weren't as detailed or bright when I compared it side-by-side to last year's iPad Air -- but this still isn't a device you would want to use in direct sunlight. (The new iPhones handle sunlight better than the iPads do.)

Like the iPhones, the iPad Air 2 comes in three familiar colors: Space Gray with black display borders, Silver with white display borders and a new Gold/White option. On the right edge, the mute/rotation lock switch has been removed, leaving just the volume up and down. The sleep/wake button is still on the upper right, at the top of the tablet.

Increased performance
The iPad Air 2 marks the second generation of iPads to carry a custom Apple-designed 64-bit chipset, this time called the A8X. The A8X features 3 billion transistors, resulting in up to 40% faster processor performance compared to the A7 in last year's iPad Air, and two-and-a-half times the graphics performance.

 

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