Apple iPad Air 2 Review

by Reads (16,590)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 8.5
      • Performance
      • 9.5
      • Features
      • 9
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 9.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Quite slim and light
    • Very good screen
    • Huge selection of third-party apps
    • Long battery life
    • Fingerprint scanner
  • Cons

    • No microSD card slot
    • No USB ports

Quick Take

The iPad Air 2 is a moderately-improved version of last year's iOS flagship tablet, which was already very good.

The latest full-size tablet from Apple is a moderately improved version of last year’s model, which is why it has been dubbed the iPad Air 2. Like its predecessor, this is 9.7-inch device that runs the latest version of iOS, but it is even thinner and lighter and includes Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner.

Update: The Air 2 was replaced as Apple’s flagship device in the fall of 2015 with the debut of the iPad Pro 12.9. The company followed that up in spring of 2016 with the iPad Pro 9.7, at which time the price of the Air 2 with 16GB of storage dropped to $399.

Build and Design

The original iPad Air was already slim, but Apple trimmed off even more with it successor, so that this tablet is just 0.24 inches (6.1 mm) thick, a touch slimmer than its rival Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Apple’s latest weighs in at 0.96 pound, less than an ounce lighter than its predecessor.

The iPad Air 2 certainly feels thin and lightweight – it seems more like a clipboard than a computer.

The downside to the slight decrease in thickness is that some cases designed for the original iPad Air won’t work with this new version. Consumers should check carefully before making a case purchase.

Apple’s head of design Jony Ive believes in very simple shapes, and this tablet reflects this by being as basic a shape as possible. The corners are strongly curved, and so are the edges.

iPad Air 2 in Three Colors

iPad Air 2 in Three Colors

Like its predecessor, the bezels on either side of the screen are relatively thin. There are rivals with thinner ones, but Apples are slim without being too thin.

This model comes in three colors — white, black, or gold.


The iPad line has long offered some of the best screens of any tablet, and the Air 2 holds with this tradition. It has a 2048 x 1536 resolution, which on its 9.7-inch display works out to a fairly high pixel density of 264 ppi.

This is a traditional LCD, and a very nice one — at least the equal of virtually all its competitors, and far better than many lower-priced models. But it doesn’t look as good as the AMOLED in the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, and its size is near the lower threshold of full-size tablets.

Apple made a long-overdue change in this model: it bonded the components of the device’s touchscreen together, removing the slight gap between the touch panel, LCD, and screen cover present in earlier versions. The goal was to reduce or remove internal reflectance and also sharpen the picture. In addition, the company is adding an anti-reflective coating to the display.

Comparing this model to its predecessors, the difference is noticeable; the display on Air 2 is distinctly less reflective. Objects near the screen scan still be made out, but not as clearly as they are on the earlier Apple tablet.

Buttons and Ports

iPad Air 2 with Touch ID

iPad Air 2 with Touch ID

Jony Ive’s love of simplicity is reflected in the number of physical buttons on this iPad. There’s a power button, volume up, volume down, and the Home button… and that’s it.

The home button does double duty as as fingerprint scanner using Apple’s Touch ID system. In our tests, this worked quite well, quickly and easily identify the digit it’s been trained to look for and rejecting all others.

The iPad Air 2 includes a single port for recharging and data synchronization with a PC. Like all recent iDevices, it uses Apple’s proprietary Lightning format, not the standard micro-USB.

Update: It doesn’t include a microSD card slot, but clever third-party accessory developers have found way to allow this tablet to access the contents of removable memory cards. Two examples are the i-FlashDrive and the Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2.


The iPad Air 2 runs Apple’s 64-bit A8X processor, which its maker promises has a CPU that is up to 40% faster than the A7’s. Benchmarks back these claims up.

Its score on Geekbench 3 single core test was 1800 and its multicore test was 4530, while the A7-powered iPad Air has mush lower scores of 1460 and 2650. The 32-bit chip in the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5’s scores were 880 and 2630, but the 64-bit processor in the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 had the best scores at 2780 and 5260.

It real-world terms, the latest full-size iPad is as fast as anyone could wish, easily handling even the most demanding graphics-intensive games or video editors available in the App Store.

iPad Air 2 with iOS 8

iPad Air 2 with iOS 8

All versions of this model have 2 GB of RAM, a significant improvement over the 1GB in earlier versions. The increase means that users will be able to have more apps open in the background without them closing

Apple offers a range of storage capacities, each with a different price. The 16GB version of the iPad Air 2 costs $499, a 64GB version is $599, and a 128GB one is $699.


This tablet debuted running iOS 8, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for tablets and phones.

The best new feature in iOS 8 is dubbed Continuity, a system that allows Apple’s tablets and phones to easily interoperate. For example, it’s now possible to start an email on an iPhone and then hand it off to an iPad, and SMS messages from non Apple phones can be read and responded to in iMessenger on an iPad. In addition, iPad users can answer calls coming into an iPhone, or make outgoing calls. With these new features, those who have an Apple phone may find themselves using it less, as their tablet enables them to perform many of the same tasks more easily.

Despite the hopes of many, and a number of rumors, iOS still does not include split-screen multitasking.

Update: As time has passed, Apple has introduced several operating system upgrades for the iPad Air 2, including iOS 9.1 and later iOS 9.3. Among the major improvements these brought to the device was side-by-side multitasking.


The major new wireless feature in the Air 2 is support for 802.11ac, a faster version of this short-range wireless networking service.

Those who want ubiquitous access to the Internet can option for a version that includes support for 4G LTE, which adds $130 to the cost of the product. This tablet can connect to any carrier that has an LTE network, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Users can switch between carriers simply by switching out SIM cards.


iPad Air 2 Rear View

iPad Air 2 Rear View

Apple updated the camera in the iPad Air 2 so that now has an 8 MP resolution, with 1.2 micron pixels and an f/2.4 aperture. It’s able to take 1080pHD video, as well as slo-mo and time-lapse video. Most users will consider these nice improvements but will keep using their phone for the vast majority of their pictures.

The front-facing camera lets in 80% more light, and its face-detection software has been improved, which makes it an even better way to video conference over FaceTime or Skype.

Battery Life

Despite offering better performance then its predecessor, the A8X processor in the iPad Air 2 uses less power. Apple could have taken advantage of this to make this device have a longer battery life, but instead it chose to keep the battery life the same as the original iPad Air and instead reduce the size of the battery, making the whole device slightly slimmer.

While Apple promises that the device will run for about 10 hours of mixed use on a single charge, our test of real-world usage — surfing the Web on Wi‑Fi, watching video, or listening to music — found that this device is good for a couple of hours more than that. The difference is likely a result of our testers viewing less video than Apple did during its tests, and instead doing more word processing and email.

Price and Availability

The Apple iPad Air 2 is available, as of this uplate, from Apple starting at $399 and Amazon starting at $408.


The name iPad Air 2 indicates that Apple knew it was taking last year’s model and making incremental improvements to it. These enhancements are welcome, but they are not gamechangers.

Apple iPad Air 2

Apple iPad Air 2

That said, the increase in processor speed will help keep this tablet useful for years to come, the addition of the fingerprint scanner is a real timesaver, and any improvement to the display is always a good thing.

This new model, however incremental, will certainly helps Apple stay at the top of the tablet market, as the iPad Air 2 is certainly one of the best designed and most useful devices on the market.


  • Quite slim and light
  • Very good screen
  • Huge selection of third-party apps
  • Long battery life
  • Fingerprint scanner


  • No microSD card slot
  • No USB ports

Bottom Line:

The iPad Air 2 is a moderately-improved version of last year’s iOS flagship tablet, which was already very good.



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