iPad Air 2 Review

iPad Air 2 Review

So, you think I’m late to the game with this iPad Air 2 review? Well, reviewing an iPad in the space of a week is like reviewing a book half way through. You’re not getting the whole story.

Back in early October, as predicted by this site, Apple announced the newest additions to the iPad family; the iPad Air 2 and the Mini 3. But not all is what it seemed with these two new devices. While both had Touch ID and improved WiFi, only one came packing a new generation A8x processor. The Mini 3, it seems is not the bargain the Mini 2 was.

With that I elected to trade out my first gen Mini for the new iPad Air 2. This was a fairly painless process, given that since taking an iPhone 6 Plus to be my daily pocket computer, the Mini had become a little surplus to requirements.

The choice for the iPad Air 2 came down to two major points, it’s proclaimed speed and it’s increase in screen size over what I had. [Side note: Had Apple released a larger screen version, I would have bout it for reasons that will become clear below.]

With those two outlined factors, we shall dissect them separately.

Speed

Or to more aptly put it, ‘Speeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed’!

Yes, the iPad iPad Air 2 is not just fast in comparison to the Mini it replaces and the Air that came before it. It’s as fast, if not faster than some MacBooks and PC desktops. Here’s a list in no particular order that I’ve done with the iPad Air 2 for the simple reason ‘because it can’:

  • Play one of the biggest PS2 games ever (GTA: San Andreas) with zero loading times
  • Edit 14MP images in Pixelmator with zero slow down
  • Make a HD video using 3 taps in Replay
  • Edit HD video in iMovie with no ‘loading’ circle
  • Fill pages of notes and sketches
  • Play lots of videos
  • Flyover city tours with near instant loading of the 3D landscape

All of this and the iPad Air 2’s battery has lasted for about as long as every other iPad I’ve had. That is to say, between 4 and 7 days of regular use. The iPad Air 2 features an up-rated version of the A8 processor found in the current iPhones. The A8X also has a tri-core graphic set up, giving it extra prowess in gaming and anything designed and built to use Apple’s new Metal graphics system which is a replacement for OpenGL.

You may note that in that list, most of them are using apps designed for the iPad and for iOS. The software is where the iPad consistently beats every other tablet. No one, not even the Windows environment has curated applications designed to get the best out of the device they are on. Historically, giving such a small device a lot of power would be seen as an exercise in futility, given that there wasn’t a lot to do on them. Now, with the ability to edit images and video seamlessly, having the power to do this with HD and High Res content it suddenly becomes less of a waste. The device can do more as we all started asking more of them.

That’s where the iPad beats everything else and where the iPad Air 2 really starts to excel. For instance, my long suffering Mac Pro died on me two weeks ago. There was a lot of swearing, but it had been coming. In the past, this would have left me fretting and somewhat screwed. This time how ever, the iPad Air 2 stepped up and seemed to say ‘try me, bro’.

So, I downloaded some high resolution images from my Box account and opened them in Pixelmator, edited, created an article header, exported and uploaded. Not once was there a stop or a stutter, the iPad Air 2 was just as capable as a traditional computer. (see the McLaren review to see how the images came out)

Size

9.7 inches. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but after spending over over a year with 7.9 inches, it’s a revelation. Add in to the mix the facts it’s a bonded glass, low reflection, retina panel, it’s amazing. The overall size of the iPad Air 2 isn’t that different from the first Air. The big difference is the thinness. The iPad Air 2 is 6.1mm thin. As Apple showed, that’s more than twice as thin as the first iPad.

Use of the Mini was easy given that it was so thin and light. The iPad Air 2 is as thin, but slightly heavier. That weight though, like the 6 Plus is distributed well and masks the mass some what. You can’t however, type in portrait with two hands as easily as you can with the Mini. This isn’t a huge problem, given that you’re not likely to be thumb-typing on an iPad for extended periods, it’s far easier to flip to landscape for that.

There’s an app that’s become a big part of my work flow over the last few years and with the iPad Air 2, this has increased even more. Paper by FiftyThree is a drawing app that’s smooth, responsive and, despite a couple of feature holes is one of my most used iPad apps. Teamed with the iPad Air 2 and a Pencil by FiftyThree, Paper feels even more useful. This is proven by the fact that the number of sketch books I have in it has doubled since get the iPad Air 2.

Conclusions

Back in 2010, people struggled to think what the iPad was for. A product for a non-existent market. An expensive toy. To an extent, they were right but in the space of 4 short years, it’s gone from toy to platform. In my life, the iPad has replaced the need for a dedicated laptop. There’s still lots I can’t do on it, but for the vast majority of ‘computing tasks’, the iPad can fulfil them.

There’s a few things that haven’t been mentioned in this review:

  • The new camera – yeah, it will do the job, just don’t be the guy taking pictures with it in public
  • The battery life – everything you’ve come to expect and judge other tablets by
  • Most iPad Air accessories work with it
  • Touch ID is so welcome I cooked it dinner and let it sleep in my bed

What else is there to say, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. With that there’s an interesting point. iPads are becoming like personal computers in the sense that people buy them and keep them, rather than upgrade every year. Given the shear capability of the iPad Air 2, I can’t see anything massive that would get me to upgrade next year. Well, there is one thing.

The size. If next year brings the expected 12+ inch iPad Plus, then that my be enough to get me to move on up.




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