iPad Air 2 Space GreyIt’s been quite a while since the iPad Air 2 & Mini 3 where unveiled on 16 October last year. We had to wait a little while to get our greedy little hands on one of them and after a couple months we are finally ready to get down to it and hit you with our hands-on review.

With a super slim 6.1 mm body, dazzling design and some sweet new features, the iPad Air 2 could be another silver bullet from a company who has just posted record setting quarterly results. As in the highest quarterly earnings by a company EVER. over 18 BILLION Dollars. Mental. Anyway.

Lets have a chat through our experience with the new awesome features, our take on the design elements, performance improvements, camera updates and more. Hopefully we can help you decide whether this new tablet from Apple is the perfect choice for you. With the pains of January behind you, or if you didn’t get a tablet for Christmas, you might be looking to upgrade your current unit.

The new Air 2 is available in three sizes:

  • 16GB for R6 699.00 (Wi-Fi) or R8 499.00 (Wi-Fi and Cellular);
  • 64Gb for R7 999.00 (Wi-Fi) or R9 999.00 (Wi-Fi and Cellular); and
  • 128Gb for R9 499 (Wi-Fi) or R11 299.00 (Wi-Fi and Cellular).

Design

Measuring a whopping 6.1 mm fat, the iPad Air 2 is by far the thinnest tablet out there (the 6.6 mm Samsung Tab S comes close but can keep trying to shed some layers). The new slimmer size is 18% less than the 7.5 mm thick original Air. Because the Air 2 is so thin and only weighs 437g it is extremely comfortable to hold for hours. If you are upgrading from the original iPad or iPad 2 like I was, you will be stoked to notice that the new Air 2 doesn’t strain your wrists.

But even though it might be paper thin, the iPad Air 2 still feels nice and sturdy in the hand, and unlike iPhone 6, it doesn’t have you constantly stressing about being dropped.

iPad Air 2 slimThe iPad Air 2 and the iPad Air are almost identical in terms of design, but the Air 2 comes with a darker black bezel that enhances the picture and it now comes in space grey, silver and the new gold option. Another major improvement is that the Air 2 now has Touch ID, which the previous iPad Air sorely lacked. But the biggest change in design is that the iPad Air 2 doesn’t have a silencing switch due to size restrictions. You can access this options now through the Control Centre (on the bottom of the screen) or by holding down the volume button. Sometimes a little disappointing because you will miss being able to switch to silent without having to even look at the device. Not a deal breaker by any stretch.

The power button hasn’t moved to the side like iPhone 6 and remains at the top. The volume keys have moved up because there is no silencing switch. Another change is that the speaker grill at the bottom is now a single row of holes instead of two.

The back and front-facing cameras haven’t moved and thankfully the 8MP iSight snapper doesn’t jut out like it does on the iPhone 6.

The iPad Air 2 combines elegant design with a quality light weight, but sturdy build that is everything that you would expect from a premium product.

Display

Thin is in according to Apple. A great side-effect of the iPad Air 2’s thin build is that the screen has improved a lot. The three layers, consisting of the LCD screen, the backlight and the touchscreen digitiser, are so close together that, according to Apple, there is no air between the layers. The final product is a less reflective display with more vibrant colours and deeper blacks, causing pictures to look amazingly realistic and crazy clear. Even though the Air 2 has the same 1 536 x 2 048 resolution as the original Air but, because of the tight layering, the new Air 2 has a surprising better display compared to its predecessor. It is worthy to note that the iPads don’t come with Retina HD (that’s the HD version of retina, they do have normal Retina) display like the iPhone 6 series.

Display

Because of the compressed layers as well as the anti-reflection coating, the iPad Air 2’s screen experiences very little glare and you are able to comfortably view the display even in harsh fluorescent lighting or direct sunlight. Apple claims that:

To create the astonishingly thin silhouette of iPad Air 2, we started by redesigning the Retina display, fusing what had been three layers into one. Not only did this make the display thinner, it made it better, with more vivid colours and greater contrast. Then we added an anti-reflective coating, giving iPad Air 2 the least reflective display of any tablet in the world.

Like before you can view the iPad in landscape which makes watching movies or editing photos a blast, especially because of the clear and detailed display.

Camera

The camera stays where it has been, both front and back, with the new 8MP iSight snapper not jutting out as it does on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

French Bulldog Puppy, @aokithefrenchie

The iPad Air 2 comes with a 8MP iSight rear-facing camera and a FaceTime HD front-facing camera. Because of the upgrade to the camera as well as the clear picture the iPad Air 2 produces amazing pictures. Thanks to the new A8X chip the new Air 2 can also take slow motion videos at 120 fps in 720p. The camera now also comes with Burst Mode (front and back cameras), time lapse mode and a bigger panaroma mode making it possible to take panaroma shots of over 40MP.

iPad Air 2 cameraAoki The Frenchie camera zoom

Editing photos or videos is a blast on the large screen and the editing options in the Photos app work really well on the iPad Air 2.

Even though this might be Apple’s best iPad camera, there is still no LED flash on either of the cameras which makes taking pictures in bad light difficult.

Aoki The Frenchie, jump,

Performance

The new A8X chip is fantastically fast, which makes the iPad Air 2 40% faster than all other tablets or smartphones on the market, which includes the iPhone 6 according to the GeekBench three tests. Other upgrades include an additional CPU core, double the RAM and greater graphics performance, with Apple claiming that the graphical capabilities of the new Air 2 are 2.5 times than that of the original Air. The new Air 2, like iPhone 6, comes with a M8 motion co-processor, as well as a barometer if you like to take your iPad on runs.

The touch screen has completely improved since the original iPad Air. The responsiveness of the new Air 2 is super fast which makes typing or playing games a seamless and smooth experience.

Because it comes with iOS 8.1 already installed, the software runs smoothly and stable on the new Air 2. It just feels like the experience is so much slicker, everything runs efficiently and since the first time it was unsheathed I haven’t had a single crash, need to reboot or any other issue.

Battery

Apple claims that you will be able browse, play games, watch videos, check your mail, etc for 10 hours on a single charge, which means the iPad Air 2 battery was not compromised by the slimmer design and improved performance. Great news for people who love to use their iPads when travelling. And for you who only buys a tablet for your free hand, you are golden.

Another great thing about the Air 2 is that you can leave it for a long time and only notice a minor decline in battery power, which means apps don’t drain your power without you using it. This is great for a tablet, as some people use tablets only at certain times of the day.

Handoff

This new feature allows you to start a message or email on one device and continue where you left off on another device. After some tinkering with my mid 2012 MacBook (some have issues with this feature just working like it does on MacBooks with Retina display), I can report that it “works” as advertised. AirDrop works like a charm though and that’s nice.

As always, you are able to use iMessage, but now you can even make calls on your iPad Air 2 from your contacts list.

This feature allows your Air 2 to become an almost perfect smartphone replacement. The only thing that holds it back is the fact that you can’t send or receive any SMS on your tablet. iMessage works just fine, but it would be cool to be able to receive text messages on your tablet when you are using it as a replacement phone.

Messaging

Messaging has always been a joy on any iPad and it still is for the Air 2. Once you are in landscape view and you place it on a stand or knees you basically have a laptop replacement. Typing is easy and fast.

The mail app is still easy to use and powerful and has been improved immensely by iOS 8. Now you are given a preview of emails on the lockscreen and you can archive/mark as read emails without having to unlock it. You are also given a preview of any notification at the top of your screen when you are in another app and you can choose to dismiss them or go into the app to read them.

iPad Air 2Messaging

Verdict

This little thing is great. Design – Good, Display – Goood, Performance – GOOOOD. The iPad Air 2 is the perfect tablet, merging an elegant and reliable design formula with near perfect performance. You won’t find a thinner tablet out there, and with the reasonable battery life, it is perfect for a business man, student or anyone else looking for a tablet for whatever reason.