First iPad Air 2 Reviews: ‘Ridiculously Fast’, ‘Vibrant Display’, Thinner Profile Comes at the Cost of Battery Life

Following Apple's October 16 event that saw the debut of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3, Apple provided multiple publications with review units. The embargo has now lifted on review posts, so we've gathered some of the relevant excerpts from each site in order to highlight general release reactions to the new tablet.

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Apple's iPad Air 2 is an entire millimeter thinner than the original iPad Air, and Apple has billed it as the thinnest tablet in the world. It offers a new A8X processor, Touch ID fingerprint support, an anti-reflective screen coating, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and an improved 8-megapixel rear camera.

Walt Mossberg, Re/code:
So when Apple brought out new iPads last week, and I had a chance to test them over the past four days, you might think I'd be pretty excited about them -- but I'm not. They are, in most respects, the best iPads ever made. But for average users, they represent only a modest evolutionary improvement over last year's models, not the kind of big change that the first iPad Air or the Retina display iPad mini did last year. [...]

The Air 2 didn't allow me to hold or carry the tablet longer and more comfortably than the Air. Its weight of 0.96 pounds isn't discernibly lighter than the Air's weight of one pound. And its thickness of 0.24 inches is a barely noticeable reduction from the Air's 0.29 inches.
Nilay Patel, The Verge:
The Air 2 has a vibrant, sharp display that looks almost painted on. Apple says the new antireflective coating on the Air 2 reduces glare by 56 percent, but I didn't really notice it making a huge difference; you definitely can't use it in bright sunlight. [...]

Inside the iPad Air 2 lies Apple's new A8X chip, which is a variant of the A8 found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus with additional graphics capabilities. It's ridiculously fast -- noticeably faster to load web pages and launch apps than my iPad Air, and it has so much graphics headroom that I'm eager to see how game developers take advantage of it.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch:
The 6.1 mm chassis just makes all the difference when it comes to the Air feeling like something that you could comfortably hold for long periods of time, and even for all-day computing, should you need it (and it's easy to imagine an event coordinator, for instance, needing exactly that).

Our review unit came in Apple's gold finish, and let me just say that on the iPad, that means there's a lot of gold going on. Apple's take on this particular metal color is better than most, but this definitely isn't my favourite finish. The Air 2 in either space grey or silver still looks fantastic however, and the gold is definitely going to stand out in a crowd, especially if you're also using the iPad as a camera.
Brad Molen, Engadget:
A thinner profile comes at the expense of battery size. The new Air's is 5.1Whr smaller than the old one, but Apple still promises that you'll get the same 10-hour battery life because the A8X is more power-efficient. Real-life use shows that the original Air still rules the roost; after a day of heavy use, I typically went to bed with around 20 percent left in the tank. If you're only using it moderately -- say, for casual content creation or consumption -- you should get a little over two days. In our video test, in which an HD movie plays through the life of the battery, the Air 2 squeezed out 11 hours and 15 minutes, significantly lower than last year's Air and about an hour short of the Samsung Tab S. [...]

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The Air 2 also doesn't have a mute switch, which I didn't think would be a huge loss until I actually found myself trying to use it and becoming frustrated more frequently than I expected. Your new options are to press and hold the volume down button or go into the Control Center and press the mute key; if you used the switch to lock screen orientation, you'll need to do that in the Control Center as well. A microphone now sits where the mute switch once was; there's another one right next to the camera.
Joanna Stern, The Wall Street Journal:
That anti-reflective screen also makes a great, though admittedly ginormous, viewfinder for snapping nature shots with the revamped 8-megapixel camera. It takes much crisper shots than before, and in many cases, ones as good as those I can take with my iPhone 6. But I won't bring my iPad to some mountain peak, as some Apple promo shots suggest.

Besides, when I set the iPad Air 2 down for a second on a bench, it slid off and hit concrete, shattering the screen. Sure, I'm to blame, but if Apple wants me to climb every mountain armed with nothing but an iPad, ruggedness should be as important as anti-reflectivity.
Harry McCracken, Fast Company:
The weirdest fact about the iPad Air 2 is that Apple isn't publicizing (or even acknowledging) one of its best new features. The tablet now has 2GB of RAM, up from the rather cramped 1GB allotment in the original iPad Air. (Some competitors, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, have even more.)

Doubling the RAM means that the iPad can keep more apps and browser tabs in memory without having to reload anything. That results in a speed boost which which is very apparent as you hop between apps and load new web pages.
Lance Ulanoff, Mashable
To get an anecdotal sense of the performance, I installed a pair of console-level games: Asphalt 8 Airborne and Modern Combat 5: Blackout. Each of these games is notable for rich imagery and physics including smoke, water, rain, and reflections. The games looked and worked great on the original iPad Air and worked just as well — if not better — on the iPad Air 2.

iPadAirGeekbenchScore
However, Apple isn’t just blowing smoke when it says the A8X is more powerful. I ran Geekbench 3 on both Airs and found that that Apple’s A8X has 3 cores (the A7 had 2) and that the multicore score for the iPad Air 2 is nearly double that of the original Air. The singlecore score for the iPad Air 2 is only slightly better than that of the iPad Air.
Other Reviews:

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian
David Pogue, Yahoo Tech
Chris Davies, Slashgear
Matt Warman, The Telegraph

The iPad Air 2 is currently available for pre-order from Apple's online store, with prices starting at $499. Apple has not yet revealed when the new tablets will be available in stores, but the first pre-orders will be arriving to customers this week.


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Roundup: iPad Air 2 reviews are positive, while iPad mini 3 reviews sing the praises of last generation

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Reviews of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 have gone live across the web tonight and, as you may have expected, reviewers and pundits love Apple’s newest tablets. As usual, we’ve rounded up links to the reviews along with some choice quotes. You can find them all below the break:

iPad Air 2

The Verge

Pick up an iPad Air 2 and you’ll immediately understand why Apple pursues that thinness with such single-minded zeal. It’s so, so thin: 18 percent thinner than the older Air, and even slightly lighter. It’s hard to believe that there’s a computer back there, let alone a computer as powerful than the laptop computers of just a few years ago. If there is anything magical about this new iPad it is this, this feeling of impossibility. The Air 2 makes the original iPad look and feel archaic, like a horrible monster from a long-forgotten past.

Re/code

The latest iPad also was able to handle the new “continuity” features in Apple’s just-hatched operating systems. It made and received phone calls relayed by my iPhone 6 when they were on the same Wi-Fi network. And it was able to use Handoff, the feature that lets you complete certain actions, like viewing a Web page or writing an email started on a Mac, and vice versa. It also was able to receive and return standard SMS messages from my Android phone.

The problem was this: I couldn’t tell the difference between the Air and Air 2 while doing these things. The new model didn’t seem faster or smoother while running all my apps, perhaps because — like most people — I don’t use my iPad for the most demanding video-editing apps or high-end games. It registered pretty much the same network speeds as my Air.

The Air 2 didn’t allow me to hold or carry the tablet longer and more comfortably than the Air. Its weight of 0.96 pounds isn’t discernibly lighter than the Air’s weight of one pound. And its thickness of 0.24 inches is a barely noticeable reduction from the Air’s 0.29 inches.

WSJ

In my outdoor test, the Air 2 beat last year’s Air, Samsung’s Tab S and Amazon’s previous Fire HDX, displaying a more even balance under both sunlight and shade. Outdoors, it only loses to a bona fide e-reader like the Kindle Paperwhite. But you’ll still have to crank the brightness all the way up to see the screen in the sun, which will run down the battery faster.

That anti-reflective screen also makes a great, though admittedly ginormous, viewfinder for snapping nature shots with the revamped 8-megapixel camera. It takes much crisper shots than before, and in many cases, ones as good as those I can take with my iPhone 6. But I won’t bring my iPad to some mountain peak, as some Apple promo shots suggest. My phone’s camera is the fastest one for me to grab. And it has a flash for low-light situations and took clearer photos of a speedy pig I met in a New York City park. (Relax, it was on a leash.)

TechCrunch

My review iPad Air 2 has done extremely well as a photography assistant, with Photoshop and Lightroom Mobile handling plenty of heavy lifting. iMovie, likewise, provides a great experience thanks to the beefed up internals on the tablet. But what’s most exciting are the experiences that have yet to be launched, including the mobile version of Pixelmatr, which was demoed on stage at the iPad launch event. We’ve yet to see just how much additional processing power developers can wring out of the A8X, but even the first early attempts have shown a lot of promise.

The iPad Air 2’s battery performance is on par with that of previous generation devices, which is no small feat given that the volume of the batteries contained within is likely reduced to accommodate the new slimmer profile. 10 hours of mixed use is normal, I found, and Apple has once again delivered a device with an amazing life in standby mode, especially when you’re not using the built-in data connections. As for those, I found that Wi-Fi performed notably faster when used with my 802.11ac AirPort Extreme, while LTE on my local Canadian provider remained high, and likely carrier-limited in terms of what it was able to achieve, given the device’s new extended LTE support.

New York Times

For that matter, do you need a tablet at all? If you’re at all like me, you’re already swimming in computers, from a desktop to a laptop to a smartphone to an e-reader. Where does the iPad fit in that world? And even if you’re not like me and have only a couple of machines, you may still be confused by the choice between an iPad and, say, a light and powerful laptop or a large smartphone.

For all types of device users, then, the iPad presents a quandary. Are Apple’s premium tablets still worth their lofty prices?

After using the iPad Air 2 for the last few days, my answer is: Yes, with reservations. Whether you should take a leap on Apple’s new Air depends entirely on how you use your other devices. If you’re not a big fan of personal computers and you don’t really like having your nose stuck in your phone all day, the iPad Air 2 might be for you. The iPad Air 2 is powerful enough to use as your main or secondary computer, after your phone, especially if you use your tablet as a replacement PC on the go, and if you’re looking to play processor-intensive games or run media-editing software.

Techpinions

With that understanding, it makes sense Apple continues to make the iPad thinner and lighter. To use this “PC in the shape of a tablet” all day while on your feet, it has to be light. It has to be easy to hold and operate for long periods of time. Touch ID is another essential element for the iPad to fulfill its enterprise purpose in this context. These mobile field workers spend much of their time outside the four walls of the corporate office. They are the most likely to have their mobile devices lost or stolen. Security is crucial for these deployments and Touch ID, which works as flawlessly on the iPad Air 2 as on the iPhone from my experience, solves a critical pain point for enterprise deployments that previous iPads did not. Apple also made an improvement to the display essential for field worker deployment. If you go outside to use the iPad as part of your job, eliminating the glare is a valued feature. From my experience, the work Apple put in to make the iPad’s screen less reflective lives up to the promise.

Engadget

In the wake of dire sales, the Air 2 is exactly what Apple needed to keep the lineup fresh. It may not be a brand-new design, per se, but its thin frame helps keep the marquee tablet looking sleek and exciting, and the extra burst of performance ensures that it stays among the most powerful tablets on the market for the next year. It could use a little help with battery life compared to the Air, but it’s still an improvement over the iPad fourth-gen and older. Most importantly, the Air 2 feels like Apple hasn’t given up on the tablet form factor, even if it’s experiencing a dip in sales.

SlashGear

Its surge forward in speed and the convenience of the refined form-factor and Touch ID leaves the iPad Air 2 feeling like the true iPad for power users.

Yahoo!

It must be darned hard coming up with a new tablet model every October. In any case, the list of incremental improvements keep the iPad Air 2 at the front of the state of the art. It’s a glorious, fast, beautiful, tablet, edging ever closer into laptop-replacement territory. And with the impressive iOS 8 and Apple’s universe of online services behind it, this iPad will light up a lot of faces under the 2014 Christmas tree.

iPad mini 3

Engadget

That said, I’m not sure where the mini 3 fits into Apple’s strategy. Since the only hardware improvement to the new slate is Touch ID, the mini lineup is no longer on par with the Airs; it’s now a second-class tablet citizen. I love Touch ID, and I favor the screen size of the mini, but it’s not worth paying an extra $100 for Apple’s fingerprint sensor unless you use a ton of passwords or want to make a lot of online Apple Pay purchases. It’s still a great performer, but I can’t help but wonder if the mini lineup can remain relevant at its price point — especially now that 5.5-inch iPhones are even more portable and still offer a large screen.

The Verge

So it’s not so much that I’m disappointed in the iPad mini 3, it’s more that I’m disappointed with the state of the small tablet in general — there’s simply no top-tier device if you want the smaller size. This iPad mini might be the best option, but “best option” for 7-inch tablets turns out to be faint praise.

TechCrunch

If you want the latest and the greatest, however, and all the options that Touch ID does and will eventually bring, and you’re okay with spending a bit more for the privilege, the iPad mini 3 is still the best small slate available, even without significant engineering investment from Apple this year – but you have to really value the ‘small’ aspect of that to make it worth it. The iPad Air 2 is the best all around tablet, however, and a much better choice for those looking to be at the technological forefront of this market.


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Google updates Hangouts for iOS with support for larger displays

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Google has released an update to the Hangouts app for iOS that contains support for the larger displays on the latest iPhones. There don’t seem to be any other changes in this version. You can grab the messaging and video calling application for free on the iTunes App Store.


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Apple launches new service allowing local businesses to get listed on Apple Maps, solicits indoor mapping partners

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Apple has launched a new web service called Maps Connect that allows small business owners to manage their listings on Apple Maps along with a tool for setting up indoor positioning in select areas. Companies can enter their own listings and verify via a phone call or email address.

The iBeacon-powered indoor mapping tool allows businesses to setup interior views of their businesses on Apple Maps to help guide users through their venues. This tool is currently limited only to locations that meet specific criteria, such as Wi-Fi throughout the building and at least 1 million visitors per year.

Updates to both services will reportedly take about a week to show up on Maps, according to Search Engine Land. A listing on Apple Maps means Siri will be able to find your business, so this tool could prove very powerful for small businesses that currently don’t have any presence on Apple’s mapping service.

The full terms for the indoor mapping service are below:

Read Me Before Signing Up

Thank you for your interest in Apple’s new indoor positioning technology. We
have received an overwhelming response on this service and we are prioritizing
our efforts to focus on venues with the following attributes:

  • Accessible to the general public
  • Annual visitors in excess of 1 million per year
  • Availability of complete, accurate, and scaled reference maps
  • Enabled with Wi-Fi throughout
  • Associated app is authorized by venue owner

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First iPad Air 2 deliveries begin in Australia

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The iPad Air 2 only recently started shipping with delivery dates of October 22nd and 23rd, and it appears the first devices have been delivered to Australian owners over the past few hours, as several 9to5Mac readers have tipped us. At least one device in the wild was tested on Geekbench recently, revealing some interesting undisclosed facts about Apple’s A8X processor.

iPad Air 2 buyers in the United States and other launch countries should expect to start seeing deliveries tomorrow. If you haven’t already ordered yours, you can get it on Apple.com today.

Thanks, tipsters!

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iPhone 6 Plus and Nexus 6 compared: is Google’s bigger display really that much of an advantage?

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TechCrunch

TechCrunch went hands-on with Google’s newest smartphone, the Nexus 6, and took some time to compare it to the iPhone 6 Plus. In the photo above, you’ll see that the two phones share near identical dimensions, though the Nexus still manages to pack a larger 6.22-inch display space into the same body.

The Nexus is actually a bit bigger than it looks in the photo, though the perspective makes it a little hard to tell. When compared spec-for-spec, the Nexus comes in at 6mm taller, 5mm wider, and 3mm thicker than the iPhone. It’s not a huge difference, but the Nexus display is still noticeably bigger than the iPhone 5.5-inch screen. How?

The big difference here lies in the space just below the display. On the Nexus there’s a thin bezel and nothing more thanks to Android’s software home, back, and menu buttons. This allows the screen to stretch all the way to the bottom of the case. The iPhone, however, has to house the home button below the display. This is Google’s advantage.

But there’s another side to this: notice is that the home screen dock on both phones ends up about the same distance from the bottom of the handset. Both hardware and software buttons take up similar amounts of room, but the hardware button can serve double duty by functioning as a fingerprint sensor. This is Apple’s advantage.

Both phones have a similar amount of space dedicated to the same function, but one cleverly incorporates an additional feature (Touch ID) into the hardware while the other uses the space to juice the display size specification. Whether consumers will prefer one over the other will be up to them, but I’m not convinced Google’s “bigger” display is really that much of an advantage at this point.


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