10 things you didn’t know about iPad Air 2
If you're looking for a gaming powerhouse, an office workhorse or simply a companion on the couch, does the latest Apple tablet fit the bill?
Apple now has more tablets in its line-up than ever before – and making the right choice can be tricky and expensive. So here’s our guide to what the top-of-the-range iPad Air 2 has compared to its many stablemates.
YOU can never be too rich, too thin … or have too much memory. The Air 2 breaks new ground for the iPad by including a whopping 2GB of RAM. That’s double the amount in the original Air – and eight times that of the first iPad in 2010. Not even the flagship iPhone 6 can match it for spec.
Don’t confuse RAM with storage memory – that 2GB simply enables many more applications to run at once before they become really slow when you switch from one to the other. It also makes the Air 2’s performance much more smooth and helps lift its speed much closer to that of a laptop.
MANY iPhone users will already be familiar with pressing a fingerprint on the Home button to unlock the screen. But now that the Air 2 (and the new iPad Mini 3) sports Touch ID, developers have started to take advantage of the extra security option and enabled unlocking their apps with a finger tap.
Apple already permits iTunes purchases with Touch ID but the third-party list now extends to mighty useful apps such as 1Password, Dropbox, Evernote and Amazon.
Makes me wonder what would happen if some enterprising thief knocked you unconscious and used your thumb to rifle through your stuff, though.
FOR reasons known only to itself, Apple has dispensed with the useful mute/orientation button on the side of the Air 2. With one simple movement on older machines you could silence a squawking iPad or stop the screen rotating itself like crazy.
Now on the Air 2 you need to take a small trip into the Control Centre menus at the bottom of the screen to achieve the same result. It’s hardly a major task but somehow it feels more inefficient. Weirdly, the iPad Mini 3 still has the mute button.
THE first iPad didn’t even have a camera but people have embraced tablet photography even though they look like eejits holding them like giant viewfinders. Fast-forward to this latest generation and Apple has upgraded the camera at the back of Air 2 but curiously left it short of the power of the iPhone 6.
For a start, there’s still no flash (on any model) but the eight-megapixel (up from all the other iPads’ 5MP) camera can’t capture the same subtleties as the new iPhone. Still, it produces noticeably better quality than previous iPads and can record in burst mode as well as slow-mo video.
16GB isn’t enough
As many iPhone owners found out to their cost recently, opting for the least amount of storage memory can trip you up when it comes to software updates. The first tier of storage for all the current iPads start at 16GB, which sounds a lot. But once you factor in the iOS software itself, a few big apps, plenty of photos and some tunes, you’ll quickly find 16GB isn’t enough.
Unfortunately, that means you’d have to be crazy to go for the cheapest iPads in any model. Stepping up to the next rung of storage – 64GB – costs €100 more in the Air 2 or Mini 3. Ouch.
Three billion is better
THE main brain inside the Air 2 goes by the sexy moniker of A8X, a chip with three billion transistors compared to 2bn inside the first Air. Never mind its nomenclature, what you need to know is that it’s blazingly fast, perhaps even too fast. The Air 2 feels like greased lightning but then so did the Air 1.
In time, presumably, ultra-power-hungry apps will come along to make the Air 2 alone capable of jawdropping things. For now, be assured that demanding tasks such as video and photo-editing are a pleasure on the Air 2 and that you’re future-proofing yourself for years to come.
ONE other benefit of the A8X appears to be greater power efficiency, meaning the Air 2 requires less juice. Predictably, Apple decided that it could therefore make the battery smaller while theoretically maintaining the same run time of about 10 hours.
That was the idea anyway but my experience doesn’t quite tally. The Air 2 consistently delivered shorter battery life – not by much, maybe an 30 minutes to hour less, but enough to be noticeable.
Air’s barely there
LOOKING back to iPad 1, it was actually a bit of a porker. At about 700g, it was quite heavy to hold for long periods. The Air 2 registers at just 440g, a small saving on the first Air but now approaching Mini territory (about 330g).
The slimness and light weight would be most noticeable for someone moving from an older-generation iPad. But even recent owners will appreciate the physical gains from new technology.
TABLETS and the outdoors, they just don’t mix. Never mind the rain (if you want a waterproof tablet, try the Sony Xperia Z3 range), previous iPads can’t even handle sunshine. But the Air 2 goes some way to coping with strong light, which can render most screens unreadable. Take this iPad outdoors and the anti-glare coating on the screen minimises reflections.
It’s not perfect, you’ll still see your silhouette but not your reflection as was previously the case. No other tablet in the iPad range possesses this anti-glare coating.
NFC, not so fast
ONE of the biggest revelations in the iPhone 6 was the NFC chip that enables users to pay for goods with a wave of the handset in a shop. Apple Pay is US-only so far but will doubtless spread to Europe in 2015.
Oddly enough, most of the tech necessary is present inside the Air 2 and Mini 3 but teardowns reveal it can’t be used. Perhaps Apple has other plans but you won’t be waving your Air 2 at the barista to pay for a latte anytime soon.