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Wow! Just WOW!

By Himanshu Juneja
February 09, 2015 15:22 IST
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With the iPad Air 2, Apple has surprised again, says Himanshu Juneja

Apple iPad Air 2

Apple has had a habit of redefining the standards with its product launches. Be it flagship products, or their revisions, the company has consistently raised the bar. When it recently launched the iPad Air 2, not many expected Apple to bring in changes apart from the usual bumping up of processing speed or few design tweaks here and there. Apple chose to surprise yet again.

With an astonishingly slim and faster device, iPad Air 2 combines the goodness of a display which has again set industry standards. The latest iPad also sees 8 Megapixel camera and highest amount of RAM coming together.

Spec sheet apart, let us take a closer look at how the newest tablet from Apple performs in various departments.

Built

Apple iPad Air 2

How thin Apple has made the iPad Air 2! That's the first thing to strike any obverser. With just about 6mm thick (6.1mm to be precise) thickness, and weighing 437 gms, this new offering by Apple is bound to grab eyeballs. To put things in perspective, the iPad Air 2 is about 1.4mm slimmer and
32gms lighter than the much acclaimed iPad Air.

A good reason for the reduced thickness on the iPad Air 2 can be due to the fused layers of protective screen, touch sensor and the actual LCD (More about this in the display section).

The thin profile definitely makes handling much easier and boosts the iPad Air 2's prospects as being better equipped for consumption of digital data.

Apple also decided to carry forward the designing mostly from the previous iPad Air. The height and width of the iPad Air 2 is just same as it was in the earlier version. The unibody Aluminium construction oozes quality and class when held. The edges are chamfered, which assist handling to a certain degree.

The power/lock switch is located on the top, and so is the 3.5mm headset jack. The right side of the iPad Air 2 carries the volume buttons, and bottom edge carries the two stereo speakers and the lightening port.

The speaker this time round is a single row of holes but they deliver good sound and are decently loud. However, these could have been better placed, as it is pretty easy to muffle the sound while resting the tablet vertically.

Apple sure did miss out on a trick here. Maybe the alteration has been kept aside for the possible iPad Air 3.

Interestingly, Apple decided to remove the mute/screen rotation lock key with this version. Not something which the users will miss too much as the desired function can of course be achieved via menu settings.

Display

Apple iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 sports a 9.7-inch display, with a resolution of 1536x2048. This means that the Retina Display here comes with a pixel density of ~264ppi. This resolution has been around since the days of iPad 3. While this might sound dated, Apple does have a very neat trick with the
latest iPad in the market.

The latest panel from Apple witnesses a revolution of sorts. With the touch sensor, the LCD panel, and the cover glass being fused together to form a single layer, the result in quality and experience is astounding. The colours were bright and natural. Owing to the new technology of layers fused together, the display looked actually alive.

Users will be forgiven if they kept believing that they were actually touching the pixels on the screen. The anti glare coating provided by Apple also seems to have a hand in the better experience. The screen performs brilliantly while being under direct sunlight justifying the claims of 56 per cent reduction in screen glare.

The experience, be it while browsing text based content, or while watching the HD video files was superlative. Apple surely has again laid a solid claim at possessing the best display in the market with the latest iPad Air.

Processor

Apple iPad Air 2

Being powered by a new 64 bit based A8X processor is not the only thing this tablet is boasting about. Much like the latest iPhones, adding to the muscle is the M8 co-processor.

The tablet is equipped with 2GB of RAM as well. Designed specifically for the tablet, the A8X is a triple core processor which is clocked at 1.5Ghz.
The M8 co-processor works alongside the main processor by handling the data coming in from the motion sensors. The sensors like the gyroscope, compass, all new barometer and the accelerometer bring in data without bothering the main processor, leading to a better management and ultimately better battery life.

This means that apps like Endomondo etc can be used with accurate data measurement and without worrying about battery taking a massive hit.

Pairing the iPad for the first time with 2GB worth of RAM has contributed immensely to the smooth execution of the tasks on the tablet. Apps opened and closed with aplomb. Transition effects went about neatly as well. The HD games with high frame rate were stutter-free.

The iPad Air 2 performs astonishingly fast and easily looks equipped to handle good deal of software in the coming future. In fact, it won't be an error to claim that the latest iPad owners may well find themselves using the device as a replacement for their regular laptops.

iOS

Apple iPad Air 2

Apple has done well to remove the blemishes from the previous version of iOS and supplied a new iteration for the iPad Air 2. iOS 8.1 pairs nicely with the innards of the latest iPad and the outcome offers a delightful user experience.

The iPad Air 2 zips through tasks and makes the time spent with the device every bit worthwhile. There was no evidence of stutter or lag as the HD videos as well as games went about smoothly. Apple's metal framework truly unleashes the potential of the latest tablet from the company.

Apple's ecosystem boasts of more than 675,000 apps which means that be it working or playing, users will be thoroughly spoilt for choices. The following are some of the highlights with the iOS on the iPad Air 2:

SwiftKey

Long overdue, this highly popular and preferred keyboard makes an appearance on the iOS. Using the swipes here saves time and as accuracy increases, message typing becomes a breeze.

AirDrop and AirPlay

While AirDrop lets users easily share files with other nearby iOS devices on iOS 7 and above OS, the AirPlay feature allows content to be played on Apple TV from an iPad Air 2.

Family Sharing

This just might be what the doctor ordered for a refreshing change. Allowing six of the family members with unique IDs to browse and download each other's content like iBooks, iTunes and App Store purchases etc, this should create more bonhomie.

Parental Guidance

Taking a cue from the concept of user profiles, parents can now create Apple IDs for their wards and keep a check on activities like accidental purchases.

Continuity

Users with an iPhone and Mac computer on Apple's latest OS X Yosemite can recieve phone calls on iPad Air 2 or even MacBook. For this they need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Another feature here is the Handoff, which allows seamless transition from one device to another and carry on the task started on the first device.

iCloud Drive

Allows users to save data online from the iPad to the cloud drive for easy access from any device.

Camera

While the 1.2 Megapixel front camera is best suited for Face Time chats only, the iPad Air 2 carries a more capable rear camera when compared with the earlier version.

While the iPad Air had a 5 MegaPixel camera, the upgraded version has been provided an 8 Megapixel camera. The camera is impressive right from the word go. The powerful innards of the iPad Air 2 ensure that not only does it take lesser time for image processing, the usual lag while moving and focusing is reduced as well.

Coming to the quality, in good light conditions, the photographs carried pretty much the accurate colour reproduction. The iPad Air 2 brings in results which easily rival that of the iPhone 5.

The photographs carried ample amount of details as well. For the fast moving subject, Apple provided the burst mode.

Overall the camera performance is easily more than satisfactory. But this is strictly for the images clicked in good light condition. For indoor photography, the results were not encouraging as the photographs appeared grainy.

Coming to video capturing ability, the camera is capable of capturing 120 slow motion and time lapse videos as well. The quality is definitely not top of the line, but one can excuse this for a tablet camera. Videos are definitely watchable and can be shared amongst friends or on social media.

The dual microphones mean that captured audio is of pretty good quality.

TouchID

Apple iPad Air 2

This being the first iPad to carry one, the touchID on the iPad Air 2 deserves a special mention.

Not surprisingly, the biometric scanner has been integrated in the home button of the tablet and has been realised with the help of a scratch-resistant sapphire glass.

The TouchID provides an easy and convenient way to either unlock the tablet, or performing online transactions, wherever supported by it. Users get to save up to five distinct impressions of fingers, including the thumb to the tablet's database. The user gets the freedom to save the impressions of other people as well, thus allowing relatives or close friends to operate the tablet without any need of owner being present to authenticate the unlock procedure.

As the TouchID's usage gains more traction, the trend should catch on. Apple clearly included the feature to give it a push, as well as to make the device future proof to some degree.

Battery

While the battery has gone down from iPad Air's 8600mAh to 7340mAh for iPad Air 2, Apple claims that the latter is still capable of pulling in about 10 hours if used normally. Thanks to a better optimised processing scene and prowess of iOS8, Apple has been able to keep the battery drain from ruining the iPad Air 2's thunder.

A moderate usage of the tablet will ensure that the tablet needs a battery charge about once a week. This ought to bring smiles to potential users.

Verdict

New buyers or potential users looking to make a switch to an iPad should seriously consider the new iPad Air 2. Also included in this category would be the existing iPad owners who are still working on a second generation (or lower) version of the iPad.

The upgrade really makes a whole lot of sense. Not only the design, but the hardware has undergone a tremendous change.

However, owners of something like the iPad Air should hang on to their devices and wait for the next iteration of the iPad Air to arrive.

Photograph: Courtesy, Apple

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Himanshu Juneja
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