Apple iPad Air 2 first-look review

Apple has updated its full-size Apple iPad Air, and its replacement is known as the iPad Air 2. The new model keeps the same essential form – the same height and width, screen size and resolution – but includes some changes that raise it above the original iPad Air that was launched in October of last year.

And it has some things taken away. Like around 1.4 mm of thickness. The new iPad is now specified as 6.1 mm thick, against 7.5 mm for last year's iPad Air.

Replacing the Apple A7 processor is this year’s new chip, the Apple A8 that features in the iPhone 6. Only this time it’s in X-suffix form since its been souped-up for its tablet debut.

How does the A8X processor differ from the standard A8 in the latest iPhones? That remains to be found out. But Apple claims this processor is 40 percent faster, while graphics are 2.5 times better than available from the Apple A7 chip in the first iPad Air.

Also bringing Apple’s pace-setting tablet up to date is a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, first introduced with the iPhone 5s last year. The Touch ID button feels just like that on recent iPhones. You dab your dab on its little sensor, and the iPad comes to life.

Apple iPad Air 2 Touch ID

We had a few minutes to try the iPad Air 2. That first impression was very good – as a regular iPad Air user we could feel straight away that this is lighter again. Not much – we’re talking about a reduction of around 33 g – and yet this makes the iPad even airier than its even been before.

According to Apple’s specs, which unlike Korean competitors don’t take liberties here, the standard iPad Air 2 weighs 437 g while adding a 3G/4G modem results in 444 g.

Some weights-and-measures spec changes can be seen as more useful for marketing purposes. Who cares if a phone is 8 or 7 or 6 mm thick? But in reducing the weight of a book-like computing slate you’ll hold in your hand for long periods of time, any weight loss is a bigger deal.

Besides removing just over an old-school ounce from the iPad, Apple’s also swiped the screen-lock switch. This is the handy little toggle situated just above the volume keys in the top right corner, a button that’s been there since the Mk 1 original iPad of 2010.

If you want to ensure your view doesn’t swing 90 degrees when you’re lying down to read, you’ll need to use the software button found in the Control Centre (or Center for the American brand).

Wireless performance should be much improved, thanks to a move not only to 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but a decent implementation that uses two internal aerials to provide a 2x2 MIMO configuration. That should yield improved range beside just faster throughput.

Cameras front and back have been uprated, and the main iSight camera on the back can take panorama shots up to 43 megapixel in size. You can also dabble with slow-mo effects and time-lapse photography. The front FaceTime camera benefits from a new sensor said to give brighter results in low light.

As well as the black and white finish options of Space Grey and Silver, you can now get the iPad Air 2 in a gold finish, just like the iPhone.

Apple iPad Air 2 in Gold finish

In other respects the iPad Air 2 seems to handle like an iPad Air. We’ll update this brief hands-on comment with a full review in due course – the Apple iPad Air 2 is scheduled to go on order from 17th October, although actual availability date is at present less sure.

OUR VERDICT

We will update this first-look with a full review and a verdict when we've tested this model.