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The iPad stands on its own as a platform, it’s very branding synonymous with “tablet” – a Xerox or Kleenex of the consumer electronics world. Apple’s latest iteration is the iPad Air 2 (from $499 for 16GB, a revised and slightly-more-slender version of last year’s major revamp; and the world’s new thinnest tablet.

When Apple launched the original iPad, it faced virtually no competition. Now, fierce rivalry abounds from the likes of Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon – does Apple’s latest aluminium and glass creation live up to expectations?

Introducing the iPad Air 2

On the surface, the iPad Air 2 is a minor upgrade that adds a few features not found on last year’s model and the yearly refresh in terms of under-the-hood hardware. The tablet was arguably engineered to be released for maximum consumer impact, dropping a few months before the Christmas rush – but that doesn’t necessarily mean Apple rushed this update out of the door.

Peer a little deeper and you’ll see that Apple has in fact been quite busy refining the original iPad Air, with an even lower profile and processor upgrade to bring Apple’s tablet range up to the same high standards set by the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus iPhone 6 Plus Review and Giveaway iPhone 6 Plus Review and Giveaway The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is Apple's latest and perhaps strangest addition to its range of tablets and smartphones. Read More earlier this year. Though Apple’s release cycles seem to be getting shorter, this is in-line with previous upgrades which traditionally skip one processor iteration (this time the A8).

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In the box you’ll find an iPad, a lightning cable and USB wall charger, along with the usual quick start guide. You won’t need anything else – when you turn on the unit you’ll be guided through the setup process.

If you own a relatively recent iOS device you’ll see little more than performance increases from the iPad Air 2, and in fact that are virtually no new features introduced on this tablet that we haven’t seen the iPhone flaunt already.

Comparatively Speaking

The original iPad made its debut in 2010, and nothing really came close to emulating the 9″ touchscreen web browsing experience. Apple didn’t so much as invent the tablet computer as refine it, creating a neat consumer-friendly package that exuded the same allure Apple liberally applied to the iPod and iPhone.

Fast forward to 2014, and everyone makes a tablet, but Apple’s ecosystem sets them apart from the rest. Not only is it quite difficult to leave (but not impossible), it’s also incredibly easy to submit to Cupertino’s will and have all your devices play nicely together.

If you have an iPhone or a Mac, choosing an iPad means you won’t have a hard time adjusting to new software or transferring the boring stuff like contacts and reminders. iCloud stores your files, Photos ensures that new pictures are downloaded to your devices, Continuity allows you to pick up where you left off.

Those of you without a compelling, Apple-branded reason to continue the collection may be swayed by the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (from $499) which is arguably the iPad’s closest equivalent tablet running the Android operating system. In a similar vein Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX also runs Android, but targets a lower price range starting at $379.

Microsoft is another competitor, with its Surface 2 Windows RT-enabled tablet starting at a mere $299 for the 32GB model – though it’s not a real laptop replacement. If you’re looking for one of them, the Surface Pro 3 (from $799) is far closer in terms of price, though Microsoft seems hell-bent on pitting the Surface Pro 3 against the MacBook Air (in advertising, at least).

The Thinnest iPad Ever (Again)

One of the most noticeable changes (and honestly, it might only be noticeable because I happen to own last year’s revision) is the new model’s reduced thickness. The iPad Air 2 is 18% thinner than last years model, coming in at 6.1mm at 437g, compared to the previous model’s 7.5mm at 478g. It’s probably worth pointing out here that fluctuations in weight occur based on the colour of iPad you choose (yes really).

Not only has Apple made the chassis smaller, it has also reduced the distance between your fingertip and the screen’s surface. Unlike the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the iPad’s camera sits flush with the unit rather than protruding from the back.

The chassis is virtually identical in design to the past model, with a beautifully thin bezel and svelte rounded corners. That means it’s made from the same soft aluminium that will bend, scratch and generally show wear much quicker than your old (stainless steel) iPhone 4 or 4S would. You’ll definitely want an all-over case if you’re looking at the iPad for outdoor or travel use.

In an interesting move, Apple has chosen to omit the mute toggle on the side of the device, opting for elongated iPhone 6-styled volume controls instead. The mute button is now found in Control Centre, accessed by swiping up from the bottom edge of the iPad. Mute functionality means you can do things like watch YouTube videos or enjoy game audio without being disturbed by incoming notification sounds, and the omission of a hardware button is genuinely frustrating if you’re used to it.

Despite this, the end result is a tablet computer that feels incredibly thin, light and pleasant to wield. Reading a magazine on the iPad Air 2 feels better in the hand than the publication’s paper counterpart, and the unit is masterfully weighted in that it doesn’t feel clumsy or particularly top-heavy (something the iPhone 6 Plus suffers from).

With iOS 8

Apple’s mobile operating system, simply known as iOS, has entered its eighth iteration What's New In iOS 8? What's New In iOS 8? After last year's big iOS 7 redesign, you'd expect a muted iOS 8 announcement at this year's Worldwide Developer Conference – but you'd be wrong. Read More . It powers both the iPad and iPhone, allowing you to run any iPhone app on an iPad (though the same isn’t necessarily true in reverse). When you fire up your iPad for the first time, iOS is what you’ll see.

Despite causing a bit of slowdown for those using older iOS devices, iOS 8 is a solid and reliable operating system that has seen a number of updates since first introduced last October. As you would expect, the new iPad is beautifully responsive in use – we wouldn’t expect anything less, at this stage.

Love it or hate it, the Apple ecosystem comes with a few useful caveats if you’re the owner of more than one iOS device or a Mac. Using the power of iCloud, photos will automatically show up on all your devices under a new consolidated photo library, regardless of where you took them. Contacts from your iPhone will magically appear on your iPad once you’ve set it up, and if you happen to lose your iPad then you can use your iPhone to track it down again. Furthermore, Continuity features recently introduced in OS X Yosemite What Does Continuity Mean for Yosemite & iOS 8? What Does Continuity Mean for Yosemite & iOS 8? OS X 10.10, better know as Yosemite, is a major Mac update that offers numerous features never seen before in an operating system. One of the most important is Continuity. Read More  make working remotely even easier.

Many apps are universal, which means if you buy the iPhone version you’ll get a version you can run on your iPad too – look for the plus icon in the app description on iTunes (screenshot below). Indeed, if you have an iPhone already the iPad is a compelling purchase if you want a tablet that slots right into the ecosystem you’re currently used to.

Apple’s App Store has the richest selection of tablet apps in the world, with surprisingly high standards of quality across the board. If you’re buying a tablet for its software selection, the iPad is a good choice. This is especially true when it comes to specialised areas, like the creative arts.

Take the bustling iOS music scene for example, which sees big name hardware manufacturers like KORG and Moog release like-for-like software versions of their finest hardware. There are apps like Loopy 8 Great iOS Apps For Guitarists & Bassists 8 Great iOS Apps For Guitarists & Bassists Looking for some iPhone and iPad apps to enhance the time you spend with your four, six or more-stringed friend? Look no further. Read More and Figure ($0.99), which make it incredibly easy for anyone to have a go. And when you want to get really creative, download AudioBus and record straight into a studio-level software in the form of Cubasis for iPad ($50).

This is further bolstered by a range of hardware accessories that simply work with a whole range of existing apps. Guitar and stereo interfaces allow you to connect instruments and microphones, and provided you have ample power and the Camera Connection Kit, most MIDI keyboards will work too. Like to draw? The iPad is the only tablet to have third-party styluses designed specifically for it, like the Adonit Jot Touch we reviewed last month Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint Review & Giveaway Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint Review & Giveaway Read More .

Upgrades, Performance & Other Changes

So what’s really “new” about the new iPad? Here’s a run-down of the major changes.

Hardware

The new A8X chip promises a 40% increase in performance over A7 found in the the original iPad Air. This is probably one of the hardest improvements to quantify, mainly because the old iPad Air is still a highly capable machine. It’s also a boring topic of conversation you shouldn’t get too hung up on – the A8X is plenty fast enough for the most demanding tasks you can throw at your iPad, and will remain so for a couple of years yet.

Video performance has been improved across the board, with “double” the graphics performance of the previous iteration according to Apple. This difference is noticeable through the smoothness of the UI animations, which don’t stutter quite as much as my old model. Transitioning between apps is buttery smooth, as is swiping to reveal Notification Centre or Control Centre. Everything feels more responsive.

This is the first iPad built with Metal in mind – Apple’s new “console-level” graphical technology that promises to take gaming performance to the next level. As you would expect, everything from Modern Combat to SimCity BuildIt is silky smooth. Like the previous model (and in stark contrast to the older, fatter iPads) heat buildup remained perfectly acceptable despite intensive use.

But the best hardware decision Apple made this time round was to include double the amount of RAM this time round. The previous model only came with 1GB of memory, and as a result tabs seemed to fall out of memory too quickly when switching between webpages and multitasking beyond two or three apps is a chore. Performance is noticeably better in the new model, and as a result I’m hoping Apple pushes the boat out even further by going for 4GB of RAM in the next upgrade.

Battery

The iPad has always had a suitably impressive battery life, and the iPad Air 2 keeps this tradition alive. Despite having slimmed down the chassis, battery life is unchanged from the previous model. That means the boffins in Cupertino are somehow squeezing more juice out of smaller cells, though improvements in component efficiency (Wi-Fi chips, 4G radios and the like) play their part too.

Despite this impressive achievement, I was left wondering whether the original iPad Air was thin enough for most people and just what sort of battery life the iPad could have had using a slightly larger housing with a bigger battery.

Cameras

The words “best iPad camera yet” probably don’t mean a lot to you, especially if you lament the sight of someone taking a picture using their tablet. That’s a fair point, but it’s also true that the best camera is the one you have on you – and in the iPad’s case, it’s had a complete overhaul.

The tablet packs in a brand new 8 megapixel rear-facing iSight camera, which captures images at 3664×2448 resolution and takes advantage of the image signal processor found on the new A8X chip (technology also found in Apple’s latest round of smartphones). Better hardware means the inclusion of burst mode, absent on the past model. There’s even 120fps slow-motion video at 1080p, though 240fps as seen on the iPhone 6 would have been nice.

From a videography standpoint, the new iPad’s improved image quality and added processing power makes it a compelling and connected run-and-gun mobile recording or streaming rig, particularly with a few aftermarket accessories like a tripod mount and condenser microphone.

Also of note is the front-facing camera, which has been updated with a higher aperture of f/2.2. This allows more light in, resulting in a cleaner image – whether you’re just taking a selfie or are making a video call.

Screen

In order to achieve impressively-thin form factor with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple had to redesign the way their IPS panels 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy A Cheap IPS Monitor 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy A Cheap IPS Monitor Computer monitor technology has long had a champion, and it’s called In-Plane Switching, or IPS. This display panel technology has often been praised because it is capable of fixing many issues found in cheaper TN... Read More are manufactured. They have applied the same technology here, and as a result it provides the same contrast ratio boosts seen in the iPhone 6 display technology.

But in all honesty, and after studying many of my own and other people’s photos on both screens, there isn’t a huge visible difference between the two panels. Sure, the iPad Air 2 wins on constrast ratio in a few instances, but this isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade your tablet.

By making the screen thinner, however, Apple has managed to reduce the space between your fingertip and the panel, providing a more immersive and hands-on experience. It’s subtle, but it does make a noticeable difference. It’s simply nicer to tap an awkward link on a webpage than it is on the older model, though again it’s not really a raison d’upgrade.

Connectivity

Wireless standards are constantly evolving, and this upgrade sees even more connectivity options for the cellular models. The model we’re reviewing here only has Wi-Fi, so we can’t really comment on the 150Mbps speeds Apple is promising on supported LTE networks.

Nor can we really speculate about the Apple SIM, a preinstalled SIM card that allows you to change service carrier at the drop of a hat. The technology certainly looks exciting and promises a mobile tablet experience that’s free of lock-in contracts and painful roaming charges.

One thing of note: despite the new iPad Air 2 including support for Apple Pay, there is no NFC chip on-board. That means you can only use Apple Pay in supported stores (like Apple retail stores) rather than on point of sale terminals, as you can with the iPhone 6.

Should You Upgrade?

The original iPad Air offered the older iPad owner some compelling reasons to upgrade. Obvious hardware improvements aside, a smaller bezel and lightweight design offered tangible benefits – but this time the benefits aren’t so clear cut.

If your current iPad predates the iPad Air and you’re looking for an upgrade, this is a great choice. It’s everything the iPad Air should have been the first time round and it really does feel like Apple “fixed” many of the shortcomings – noticeably the lack of RAM and fingerprint scanner. Don’t feel put off by the seemingly minor upgrade, if your iPad is feeling a little crusty, you can do much worse than an iPad Air 2.

If you currently own an iPad Air, one might question your priorities if you already feel the need to upgrade your year-old tablet merely because Apple has release another one. Even if you are upgrade-obsessed, there doesn’t feel like a big enough leap this time round to justify the expenditure of a brand new iPad.

Yes, a fingerprint scanner is nice, and boy do I wish my iPad Air’s cameras were better (not that I use them very often), but these aren’t gamechangers. The iPad Air is only a year old, it doesn’t struggle to render web pages and can run multiple resource-intensive apps at a time with no problems.

This isn’t to say the iPad Air 2 isn’t a compelling tablet, it is; but last year’s model shouldn’t be written off yet.

Buy it, particularly if you don’t have or are looking to upgrade your old iPad. iPad Air users should wait this one out.
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iPad Air 2 Giveaway

The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Hamza imran
    April 1, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I am a huge fan of Apple iPads and I want this so badly I would be very great full to your guys if I win Thai giveaway #loveYoupeople

  2. Ann Messinger
    February 15, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Wonderful review, so love this site!

  3. Ankur Dubey
    February 14, 2015 at 5:26 am

    i badly need this one , pray for me friends :)

  4. Astrid Fuentes
    February 12, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    I hope win this

    • Susan Moore
      February 14, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Would love to win.

  5. Lisa Simoes
    February 11, 2015 at 2:58 am

    i want one! . Cant wait to see how light it is...

  6. Anonymous
    February 11, 2015 at 12:18 am

    On the surface, the iPad Air 2 is a minor upgrade that adds a few features not found on last year’s model ........really wish to win dis awesome ipad :)

  7. Anonymous
    February 11, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Wish to win:)

  8. Anonymous
    February 11, 2015 at 12:13 am

    how do people make it through life without apple ipad <3

  9. Anonymous
    February 10, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    apple is best <3

  10. mehromalik
    February 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    I love your giveaway so many winners wow
    I want to win :)

  11. Daniel Eluvathingal
    February 9, 2015 at 1:07 am

    This will be my first Apple Device if i won.

  12. Zee Carter
    February 9, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Great review!

  13. Lisa Simoes
    February 8, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    This would be absolutely awesome to win!!!

  14. miguel
    February 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I need this bigtime...

  15. Sanju Vs Peemi
    February 8, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    plzzz make me the winner cuz i have never used one

  16. mary ballerin
    February 8, 2015 at 8:07 am

    I wanna win an iPad Air 2, Apple rocks its products

  17. Andrew Rider
    February 8, 2015 at 3:51 am

    I'd like to own one

  18. Mihaela
    February 7, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    I had an Ipad mini but my brother broke it....Wish I could win...once in a lifetime

  19. Mihaela
    February 7, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    I really wanna win so I can do all my homework on it...and read books. I had one but my little brother broke it.

  20. Leo
    February 7, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I'd like to win :)

  21. Panos
    February 7, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    good luck!!!

  22. MJ
    February 7, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    iPads rule!

  23. Ajinkya
    February 7, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Wow i'd like to win :D

  24. Saadman Ahmed
    February 7, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I would like win this thank you very much dear...

  25. Charalampia Boula
    February 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Looks great, I'd like to win it!

  26. Nunung harini
    February 7, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Love it lovelly giveaway

  27. Tanya Kelly
    February 7, 2015 at 3:38 am

    Would love for my 17 year old spins bifida teen great prize

  28. Sheila Germann
    February 7, 2015 at 3:06 am

    This would be awesome to win...have always wanted one but never could afford

  29. Michelle Hay-Chapman
    February 7, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Wow neveR knew there was so much more to these guys

  30. darrell thomas
    February 7, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Never had a chance to win any thing not even a penny sweet good luck everyone

  31. MJ
    February 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    would love...love...love a new ipad!

  32. Stephen K
    February 6, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    As an iPhone 5S owner, I would love one of these - particularly now that MS Office on IOS is available.

  33. Jennifer
    February 6, 2015 at 5:58 am

    Pick me please! it sounds like I need an upgrade

  34. Joe
    February 5, 2015 at 5:25 am

    iWould iLike to iWin an iPad

  35. Carol Fuller
    February 4, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    would love to win this, awesome prize, but how to enter? Just comment?

  36. MJ
    February 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    YAY ipad giveaway!

  37. Lorena Grande
    February 4, 2015 at 5:30 am

    Am having butterflies at the thought of winning this new ipad air 2. It's amazing the new and improved ways Apple keeps reinventing things to help even the technologically challenged person like me. A friend gave me an ipod for Xmas 2 years ago as he didn't want me to get behind in technology. I felt so proud that I knew what everyone was doing on their iphones, on the train. The apps all looked the same as on my ipod! :) Love to win this! Did I say love? :)

  38. MJ
    February 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    love...love...love my iPad, so dependable

  39. Khotso
    February 3, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Would love the ultimate experince that the modern techknology has to offer...may I please..please win the tablet!!!

  40. Khotso
    February 3, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Would love to win the tablet!!!

  41. sarashakeera
    February 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    I'd give this to my mom. She needs a tablet in her life

  42. Sharan
    February 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Would love to win this!

  43. cynthia
    February 2, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    amazing of give away.. i hope fully but i dont know what iam the lucky???

  44. chris arnott
    February 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    why does google+ not work on your entry form? No links come up on any.

  45. priyajit guha
    February 2, 2015 at 7:14 am

    thanx for the great review...planning to buy one but would be great if I win!!!!!

  46. Sharon Harmon
    February 2, 2015 at 4:06 am

    This incredible tech toy is amazing!! I can only imagine what it does! Thank you bunches for the contest :)

  47. MJ
    February 2, 2015 at 3:58 am

    My iPad is fabulous...it is so user friendly!

  48. linda bainbridge
    February 1, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    Please Please Pick me...Would love to own one!!!!

  49. Christos Tsikrikoydis-tsikrikas
    February 1, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    love it!

  50. Donna A
    February 1, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Sweet.......good luck everyone!

  51. Haidee Chua
    February 1, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    So nice...love it! :-)

  52. christina moore
    February 1, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    My daughter would be so happy if I won this for her

  53. fairuz hidayati ginting
    February 1, 2015 at 6:43 am

    I want it..please..

  54. Aaron
    February 1, 2015 at 6:22 am

    Definitely would be nice to win this. Thanks for the opportunity!

  55. Edmond
    February 1, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Wow . Pick me, pick me! Your next winner!!! Show me the money!!! It would be a dream come true and means more to me than anyone else to win. Starving artist here desperately needs the ipad to work and eat again. Winner, winnner. Chicken dinner. A life changing experience. Top of my bucket list. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. Dear Santa: I’ve been nice. My X-Mas wish this year is to win this contest.

  56. Joe Kim
    February 1, 2015 at 1:54 am

    iPad Air 2 64GB Gold WiFi Please. I Currently own a Mini 1st gen and it is slow as

  57. Marvena
    February 1, 2015 at 12:00 am

    Would love to win one

  58. Yuri
    January 31, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    My iPad rules cause it's reliable. And it has good style

  59. charlotte baker
    January 31, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    love it! thanks for the chance!

  60. mamed
    January 31, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    That would be great to be THE WINNER.

  61. Aj DeYoung
    January 31, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    I love my Ipad Air and would love a Ipad Mini too

  62. Charlie ODowd
    January 31, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    This is a wonderful, state-of-the art iPad. Summarzing: it is a well-balanced, slim, attractive, ipad that has very good memory and capacity to upgrade. It also has a built-in camera. I am one to always be behind in the technology toolkit. This would make me the envy of everyone I show it off to.

  63. Gary
    January 31, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    How do you enter the giveaway?

  64. Mary Kulp
    January 31, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I enjoyed learning about this new iPad. I would love a gold 128GB WIFI IPAD AIR 2. My son has one and doesn't need a laptop now. So, PLEASE SEND ONE

  65. Sharon
    January 31, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Don't have one, would LOVE to win one!!

  66. Maria Cristina Henson
    January 31, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Excellent... Liked & Shared

  67. Joann
    January 31, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    would loud this upgrade , never owned the iPad but have other iMac products

  68. Doc
    January 31, 2015 at 5:30 am

    "...a platform, it’s very branding..." *Its* - "it's" always means "it is" or "it has."
    I'm surprised and aghast how many bloggers - professional writers!!! - get this wrong. *sigh*

  69. Shafiq
    January 31, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Thanks for the review

  70. BRENDA
    January 31, 2015 at 1:10 am

    IT SOUNDS AMAZING WOULD i LOVE IT??? YEAH! and i'm also really impressed with the presentation - not sure but it appears to be very user friendly.

  71. Mitchell Plaud
    January 30, 2015 at 3:34 am

    Great review! Thanks for the chance, MUO always has the sweetest giveaways!

  72. alex kim
    January 30, 2015 at 2:17 am

    Good Review.. Thanks!!

  73. baldo
    January 29, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    liked and shared

  74. jan13
    January 29, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Excellent!

  75. likefunbutnot
    January 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Gross

  76. bob
    January 29, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Unless you are 10 years old iPad was not the first tablet.

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