Apple iPad Air 2 review - now with iOS 9

Our Rating 
Buy it now for 
Price when reviewed 
399
inc VAT (16GB, Wi-Fi only model)

Thinner, lighter and a lot more powerful, the iPad Air 2 is the best 'big' tablet

Specifications

Processor: Tri-core 1.5GHz Apple A8X, Screen size: 9.7in, Screen resolution: 2,048x1,536, Rear camera: 8 megapixels, Storage: 16/64/128GB, Wireless data: 4G (optional), Size: 240x169.5x6.1mm, Weight: 437g, Operating system: iOS 8.1

Two years on and the 9.7in iPad Air 2 is still one of the best tablets around. With its slim line profile, powerful innards and stunning design, it's exactly what every big screen tablet should be. However, with another Apple launch event fast approaching - most likely for the iPhone 7 - we may well see Apple put the iPad Air 2 out to pasture soon in favour of a newer, faster iPad Air 3

This puts potential Air 2 buyers in a bit of a tricky situation. If Apple continues selling the iPad Air 2 alongside its potential successor, the price may well fall, making it a good budget option if you don't want to shell out for the new one. However, Apple might also take it off sale completely, leaving consumers with just one choice of tablet rather than two. This also isn't good news for current buyers, as new iPad Air prices (much like Apple's iPhones) don't usually change much, so it's likely the new iPad Air will cost exactly the same as the Air 2 does now, making any immediate purchases bad value.

As a result, I'd recommend holding off buying a new tablet until Apple shows its hand at the beginning of September, as we'll have a better idea then about whether the iPad Air 2 is still a good buy. If the Air 2 does end up being the budget iPad option, though, then tablet owners are in for a treat, as it continues to be brilliantly quick and the launch of iOS 9 has introduced new multitasking features to give it a new lease of life. While my iOS 9 review has all of the details about the new OS, I've updated this review to reflect the new features you now get on the tablet.

Build quality and size

When I reviewed the iPad Air, I said that it was pretty much a one-handed device and close in usability to the smaller iPad Mini 2 or iPad Mini 3. As the iPad Air 2 is even smaller, it's definitely a one-handed tablet. Impressively, Apple has managed to shave 1.4mm off the previous model’s thickness. At just 6.1mm thin, the iPad Air 2 is even 0.8mm thinner than the impressively slim iPhone 6. While the new iPad still has the same footprint as the original Air (240x169.5mm), just being so much slimmer makes the new model more comfortable to hold.


iPad Air 2 vs iPad Air thickness

Weight, too, has been shed, with the iPad Air 2 slimming to a svelte 437g, down from 469g. While 32g less might not sound like a lot, combined with the thinner case, it makes the new iPad so much easier to hold. With the weight being equally distributed, this is a tablet that you can happily carry around everywhere with you and hold for long periods of time one-handed.

Build quality hasn’t suffered in the slightest, with the precision-cut aluminium case just as stunning and as gorgeous as its always been. It also gives the iPad Air 2 the look and feel of a premium tablet, which plastic models just don’t have.

To match the iPhone line-up, this year sees the introduction of the gold model, alongside silver and space grey; only the newer iPhone 6S has an extra colour: rose gold. It’ll depend on your personal preference as to which model you want, although it’s fair to say that each one has its charms, and the colouring is done subtly and tastefully across the range. Apple's obviously fans of the colour range, as it's made the same options available with the new MacBook.


iPad Air 2 gold rear

A few minor case changes have been made. Gone is the switch on the side, which could be assigned to rotation lock or mute, depending on your preference. Instead, both of these options are available from Control Centre, which you can slide up from the bottom of any screen.

Arguably, the most convenient use of the switch was for mute, but this is more useful on an iPhone where you’ll get more calls and texts, not to mention that you’ll be more likely to have the device on you. With an iPad, I found that I used the mute option relatively rarely, so having a software control isn’t a bad thing.


iPad Air 2 volume buttons

Apple has also slightly redesigned the volume buttons, housing them in a recess, rather than having each button poke through its own hole. There’s no difference in the feel, although the new design is a little more attractive and neater than the old.

Read more