As we approach the holidays, Apple has launched a new iPad as expected. As one might expect from the name, the iPad Air 2 is more of an evolution of the original iPad Air than a clean-sheet design. This doesn’t mean that there’s little to talk about though, as Apple has gone a long way to improve every aspect of the iPad Air with this iteration. However, with this generation Apple seems to be under fire as Google attempts to push into the premium tablet space with the Nexus 9.

Without question though, the iPad line defines what an ARM-based tablet is. The iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly a part of this lineage with its focus on a large touch-screen display. This level of design minimalism is responsible for at least part of the original reaction to the tablet as a “large phone”. However, by virtue of its sheer size there are new possibilities opened up in terms of content consumption and even content creation. In the basic definition of a tablet, the iPad Air 2 definitely fits. There’s a new SoC, more RAM, a better display lens, new cameras, and an even thinner design, but all of these things don’t change the fact that this is a 9.7” display that can only be interacted with through a touchscreen. In the interest of saving space and time, I’ve included a spec sheet below to cover all bases.

  Apple iPad Air 2
SoC 3x 1.5 GHz CPU A8X
Display 9.7" 2048x1536 IPS LCD
Network WiFi only or 2G / 3G / 4G LTE SKU
Dimensions 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 mm, 437g WiFi, 444g LTE
Camera 8MP Rear Facing with F/2.4 aperture, 1.3MP FFC
Battery 7340 mAh (27.62 Whr)
OS iOS 8.x
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS

As with any other mobile device, one of the most immediate impressions one can form is that of design. This may be one of the most important areas as well, because every mobile device is constantly held or otherwise handled. These devices tend to be deeply personal as well, which means that there’s a great deal more emphasis on industrial design than a desktop tower that gets shoved into a dark corner for five years at a time.

To this end, the iPad Air 2 does quite well. The design is definitely separate from the iPhone 6 line, as the metal chamfer remains, but the form continues to be quite pleasing. On the front face of the tablet, we see a single 1.2MP camera, the display, and the home button which has TouchID built in. The glass is flat, which makes it seem noticeably different from the iPhone 6 line in that regard as it meets the chamfered edge of the back cover rather than making a seamless curve. The radius of the curve is also noticeably different as a result, simply curving in towards the center of the device rather than curving out of the device. If anything, this does make the iPad Air 2 feel a bit thicker in the fingers but the device overall is still incredibly thin.

Speaking of the back cover, there’s really almost nothing to speak of on the back cover. There’s the 8MP camera and a microphone hole, but not much else other than the large plastic RF window on the top edge of the tablet. The curve of the sides does make it seem like there’s a great deal more on the back cover though. Other than the RF window, there’s a power button and 3.5mm jack on the top of the tablet. Next to the power button are the volume buttons, but curiously no mute/lock rotation switch for this generation. I suspect that the reasons for this deletion are primarily due to user confusion, although my experiences are purely anecdotal in this regard. Finally, along the bottom of the device we see the Lightning port and two speaker grilles.

Overall, the design of the iPad Air 2 is impressive. The thin feel is really quite impressive when compared against other devices, but the weight no longer feels quite as incredible as the original iPad Air when compared to the iPad 4.

Outside of the physical design, Apple has also included a selection of two cases which include the smart cover and case, which are mostly unchanged from the previous generation except to fit the iPad Air 2. I don’t have much to complain about here although the smart case has a bit more flex on the sides than I’d like. The smart cover does have enough strength in the magnets to hold the tablet by the cover, although I wouldn't recommend doing this.

Apple’s A8X SoC: Bigger and Badder
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  • tralalalalalala40 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Oh the strained logic of a sterdroid user. One employee of a news site goes and works somewhere else, everyone left behind still works for that employee. lol
  • applelover2885 - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    I consider myself an apple fan girl for life. I bought my MacBook Pro in 09 and no issues. My finacee has a HP desktop that does. I fear the blue screen of death soon. I want to convert him to the apple side. He has the newest macbook pro 2012 I want him to get an iphone he has a Motorola phone. Most Android and Window's are not as flexible as the Apple. Yes, IOS has issues like other platforms. However, Apple's products are designed to last longer than it's competitors. I had bad taste of both Windows & Android now. I owned a Samsung Galaxy S and Windows Nokia Lumia the problem is their software & battery life. Yes, apple's products are expensive but in the long run it is worth every penny spent on a beautiful product that is going to last. I am off to buy an Ipad Air 2 something I have been waiting on for a while. I'll do a combo pack and give it to myself as a birthday present. I'm a tech junkie and a student. Did you know you can use Window's office mobile on all devices? You no longer need those giant desktop thing's. I don't need a USB to find mystuff when I have airdrop and icloud if you need extra storage use that as your backup for files. I also use Google Drive to do my school work. Good luck with all your apple needs.
  • Ilias78 - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    Lol women... go back to your kitchen.
  • Commodus - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to call out this sexism -- criticize the issues, not the gender, please.
  • zodiacsoulmate - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

  • maximumGPU - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    "giant desktop things" are not used just for office you know..
  • asleepy - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    Sound vibrates through the screen even at low volume levels to such an extent that people's fingertips are going numb and they're returning the Air 2s for refunds... yet no mention of that??? Welcome to Apple Corporation, Anandtech. And goodbye.
  • Commodus - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    Maybe because it's not as much of an issue as you think it is? If you'd believed the Antennagate sky-is-falling types, Apple was going to have to recall the iPhone 4 and face disastrous financial results... turned out that the problem, while real, was seriously overblown.

    I've felt it, and it's slightly weird, but I don't think I'd call it a dealbreaker.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    People's fingernails are literally getting stuck in the gap of the note 4 and people are having to amputate fingers. It's horrible. Goodbye corporate Samsung!!#@$
  • carloshehe - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    I got the iPad Air 2 yesterday. I can do more with it I could ever do with a Nexus. I have an Android phone but I wouldn't take a Nexus tablet if you have it to me for free.

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