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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  • sprockkets - Saturday, November 8, 2014 - link

    "Most Android users have no idea.

    ITunes hasn't been required in years."

    Except every ios device has to contact apple to work initially, and either itunes or itunes on the web does this. It's a stupid requirement that apple will never ever let go of.
  • carloshehe - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    You don't have to connect any apple device to iTunes. At all. Ever. You take it out of the box, you turn it on, it asks you a few simple questions and you're on the homescreen.

    What you're talking about is recovery mode. That's the only time I've seen that.
  • NEDM64 - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    Google Play Services is what?

    Google's version of "iTunes on the web"...

    Really? That "iTunes on the interwebs" is the most retarded thing I haver have read here... But two pages from this, and anyone can see the real problem of this user...

    And "iTunes on the interwebs" is welcome, makes a stolen iPhone or iPad worthless, wich if cool, unless you plan to stole one.
  • akdj - Monday, November 10, 2014 - link

    As does Samsung (& Google/AT&T/Verizon/Sprint/Carrier)
    As does HTC (& Google/AT&T/Verizon/Sprint/Carrier)
    As does LG (& Google/AT&T/Verizon/Sprint/Carrier)
    As does {insert OEM here} (& Google/AT&T/Verizon/Sprint/Carrier)
    ....and this DOES include the 'Nexus' lineup. While 'stock Android', it's built by and distributed the largest 'data miners' AND exploiters on the Internet, today. Google. Period
    At least with Apple, sure, you definitely 'register' with them ONCE ...From then on, your communication with them is limited by your choices in settings. If title doing nothing wrong, I don't see a reason to help with 'traffic' or a developer improve his app, etc
    If I'm doing something wrong, I suppose I would shit those options off. No need to 'phone home' as EVERY Android device does, including my Note3 I enjoy so much
    At least Apple's a one shot, you choose deal
    In the world of Android, it's a gamble unless you're using Nexus. Then you're 'only' sharing with Google. Everyone else you're dealing with the OEM and the carrier's bloat ...and constant background, unavoidable and incessantly running 'processes'
    Anyway, yeah...TL/DR
    What did you mean with your quotes?
    A) you don't need iTunes EVEN in the beginning to activate your phone. Use a gmail account as your iPhone check in acct
    B)‘Most Android users have no idea'
    This I disagree with. If argue most ARE aware of this lack of necessity for some time now. Bad thing is you don't ..yet you quoted something you clearly don't understsnd, didn't realize and failed to respond with a 'back up' to your complaint(s)
    It's neither a 'stupid requirement'
    And Apple only held on to it so it could sync your phone in an expeditious manner! Wireless, broadbamd and 'clouds' have t been here forever.
    That said, iTunes eats KIES alive. It's definitely the first thing replaced on my Note updates. Music and media management. Unfortunately, one still has to deal with it for OTA updates
    I'll take the iOS 'update' approach (to both apps and full on OS upgrades all day in comparison)
    As akways, ymmv
  • robinthakur - Monday, November 10, 2014 - link

    Except every Google device has to contact Google to work initially, and all the time thereafter, feeding them yopur usage metrics to make them money. It's a stupid requirement that Google will never ever let go of.

    There we go, fixed that right up.
  • extide - Monday, November 10, 2014 - link

    Actually you can use an Android device without ever even having a google account. Obviously things like gmail and the play store wont work, but the option is there if you really wanted.
  • akdj - Thursday, November 27, 2014 - link

    No different than Android devices using your Gmail information for 'initial contact'
    There's NO NEED to use iTunes. iTunes on the web. iTunes on your iPhone! There's hundreds of programs to play your media from
    And the 'need' to contact Apple, use iTunes or any of the other BS you've been told a couple dozen times now hasn't been the case since 5.0, right?
    This is 8.1. So over three years have passed
  • carloshehe - Sunday, November 9, 2014 - link

    In all fairness you do need iTunes still. How will you put all your music in an iPad? Maybe you'll say there are other programs out there you can use, but the fact is you still have to sync it and use some sort of program to put your music.

    You have 3,000 songs in your computer. You get an iPad. How are you going to put all that music in your iPad?

    With Android you can just plug it in and drag and drop your music like the tablet is an external drive.

    That being said, Android sucks because it has no tablet apps.

    Android tablets are for the very basics. Documents, email, videos. But for anything else, you need an iPad.
  • akdj - Monday, November 10, 2014 - link

    Sync via home sharing (playlists)
    Dropbox GDrive OneDrive
    iTunes match up to 25,000 songs with ya, everywhere you go ...just $20/year
    There's Sooo many options to list, no need to 'sync' your media any longer with your computer physically connected. If you're on you're gime network, feel free to send me a line and I'll walk you through.
    All3,00 songs;)
  • akdj - Thursday, November 27, 2014 - link

    I'm blown away by the ignorance here
    Wow. You'd think half these comments are being made by someone who's never used an iPhone, an iPad. iOS period. Much less a Mac or iTunes ITSELF, no, you do NOT need to 'plug in' to get yiur music. If you've got a hundred thousand, yes. Because a TB or two won't fit. Then, it's as easy as plug in to .mac or PC, sync managment and check the boxes to sync (playlists, artists, all...whatever).
    A signficantly better media managment system in aggregate than ANY other in the world
    I use Plex. I use Traktor, I edit audio in Audition, video in premier...but like anything else, organization is key. And iTunes has it nailed.
    Kies. Sucks ...,and it's the other AIO organizer forced upon you by the biggest (by a HUGE margin) OEM making Android phones. Samsung.
    As well, since you know so little about iOS, I assume the same is true with iTunes. It's come a VERY long way since you had to 'connect' your iPhone

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