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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.

Like the new iPhones, the iPad is also equipped with a new M8 coprocessor, which tracks gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, compass and barometer data without taxing the main processor.

In my tests, apps launched faster, webpages displayed faster and apps like Action Movie FX rendered videos faster than on last year's iPad Air. At this point, we're talking a savings of seconds for most operations, but the performance improvements are, indeed, there. Primate Labs, for example, benchmarked it against other Apple products and the iPad Air 2 came out on top.

The iPad Air 2 supports Bluetooth 4.0 LE and dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, including support for HT80 with MIMO, which delivers better bandwidth for faster uploads and downloads over wireless.

Improved cameras
Apple has also updated the iPad's cameras. The iSight camera at the rear of the tablet now uses an 8-megapixel sensor, capable of shooting 3264 x 2448 photos and 1080p video. It's also capable of time-lapse photography, 10-photos-per-second burst-mode, 120fps slow motion, and a panorama mode capable of taking photos up to 43MP. The camera app offers a built-in timer and on-the-fly exposure control.

The front-facing FaceTime camera is also improved, with an ’/2.2 aperture that, according to Apple, lets in 81% more light than before. The 1.2-megapixel camera also shoots video at 720p, while dual microphones working in concert with noise-reduction technology to help capture sound, automatically switching focus based on whether you're using the front or rear camera.

Despite the updates and changes to the iPad Air 2, battery life is remarkably similar. Apple estimates you'll be able to get nine to ten hours of use out of it, but I've found Apple's estimates to be, if anything, pessimistic. In my on-and-off daily use -- the way most people use an iPad -- I found it could go two or three days before needing a charge.

Bottom line
When the iPad was first released in 2010, I described it as a leap ahead for computing -- a tool that simplified interaction in a way that I thought would make computing accessible to even more people. And when I looked at last year's iPad Air, I said the only thing that stopped me from calling the Air the ultimate personal computer was the lack of Touch ID support.

Well, this year's iPad Air has the TouchID sensor, the fastest mobile architecture on any platform to date, an improved camera subsystem, more memory and storage, and comes in a thinner, lighter enclosure. With the media and content in the App and iTunes Store, free educational content from iTunes University, regular feature-improving software updates from Apple, and the simplicity and security inherent to the Apple ecosystem, the iPad Air 2 is an absolute no-brainer for anyone looking for a tablet.

The iPad Air 2 is, without hyperbole, the best tablet on the market.


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