While we got our probing hands all over Apple's new lighter, thinner, more TouchID-ier iPad Air 2 tablet for a good half an hour at the Berlin launch event last week, our review sample appears, rather unfortunately, to still be in the post. Or maybe Gerald's hiding it.
So on embargo-down day, what's a good, responsible tech blog to do? Well, we turned to those tech critics with early access and asked: "Hey, is this new Apple iPad Air 2 still good after literally several days of use?" And, lo unto us, here's what those critics said…
Apple has improved on perfection with the iPad Air 2, making something that anyone using a tablet from 2012 or earlier should be thinking very strongly about upgrading to. The combination of power, better screen, improved design and upgraded OS make this a very compelling device – and that's before getting into the fact the app ecosystem is so much stronger than on Android.
It's even better now iOS 8 is capable of scaling apps so seamlessly – the days of low-res iPhone apps are gone. It's another hammer blow to the Google tablet market, although we're confident that's going to catch up in quality soon.
But it's no good just saying that a tablet has good design, power or specifications, it's about how it's packaged together and for the right price. Apple has drawn on all its strengths to make a tablet that seems to have no flaws, and it will be the best in the market throughout the next year. The only problem the brand will have is how to make it better in 12 months' time... we're glad that's not a problem we have to solve.
For many casual owners of an iPad Air, there's no single feature that would persuade us it's worth running out and replacing it immediately. Apple has kept that model on sale for a reason: it's still better than pretty much any other tablet out there.
But what the iPad Air 2 offers is more potential to run the latest and greatest apps as they are developed, a significantly better camera experience, an even slicker design and gold colour option, stronger security options with the TouchID fingerprint sensor and an improved display.
It would definitely be enough for us to warrant upgrading from the iPad 4 and older, as the Air really is a game-changer of a tablet line. But some soul searching will be needed to determine if there's enough value in security, photography and processing power to warrant the spend from a year-old generation to the new one.
The bottom line is this: the iPad Air was as close to perfect as we thought a tablet could be for 90 per cent of users. The iPad Air 2 raises that to at least 95 per cent.
The iPad Air 2 is the best tablet anyone has ever created, from the amazing level of engineering to get this thing so thin and yet feel so premium to the A8X chip, which has given the tablet more grunt than anything else out there, we just love playing with it.
The battery life is more than acceptable, the camera upgraded for those that feel the need to use the snapper on a larger device, and the screen upgrades genuinely make viewing web pages or videos on the go a joy. The price is even comparable to the rest of the market, meaning that, while expensive, it's right in line with the same thing from Samsung or Sony.
The only gripe we have really is that the 16GB model isn't double the capacity like we've seen at the middle level (with the 64GB option now coming in at the 32GB price point of last year), so we'd advise you pay a little more so you can squish all your apps on there with comfort.
The iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly Apple’s best tablet to date. Its Touch ID fingerprint scanner works well, it’s thin, light and powerful, and lasts a long time on a single charge. But it no longer stands head and shoulders above the competition.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S set a new bar for screen quality, which the iPad doesn’t quite reach. Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet is lighter and waterproof, but is thicker and doesn’t last as long. Original iPad Air users might want to skip this generation, while those looking for something a bit fresher have equally good options.
Android aficionados point out that iOS 8 is infinitely less customisable than Google’s system, but that’s not the point: most users want an iPad, and those that don’t want something cheaper, such as the excellent Tesco Hudl range. One could argue that the iPad Air 2 only exists to capture some of the Christmas spending spree.
There’s much more in this incremental improvement to recommend it, too. The new A8X processor makes everything some 40 per cent faster and makes editing video on the fly – impossible not so long ago – easy today. Improvements to the camera are significant, upgrades to battery life are slight but noticeable. Everything’s getting a bit better, and the apps of the future will take advantage of it to great effect.
Should owners of an existing iPad Air rush out to upgrade? No. Should owners of a slightly older model use this as an excuse, or the inspiration for their optimistic Christmas list? Yes.
It goes without saying that this is Apple’s best iPad yet. It’s deeply appealing thanks to its exceptional lightness, thinness and unsurprisingly gorgeous looks. But its standout is the processor, which is so clever and powerful that the real benefits of the Air will only become apparent in the coming months as more demanding apps are devised, and programs like Apple Pay come into their own.
For the last 12 months, despite the opposition’s best attempts, Apple had the best tablet, the one that was out in front, the iPad Air. Now, with the Air 2, you can barely see Apple’s rivals in the rear-view mirror.
Spiegel Online, Germany
If the first iPad Air was a complete reinvention of the iPad, the Air 2 is more of a facelift. The Touch ID sensor enhances comfort, the newly designed screen raises image quality, while the A8X processor has such great power reserves that the device will not hit its limits for the foreseeable future. The update is a success, but would have been even better if Apple had filled the Air 2 with a larger battery, instead of trying to make it even thinner.
Metro News, France
This tablet is beautiful. And fine. And light. And powerful. But is it necessary to buy? Such is the dilemma. Apple, which has just closed its fiscal year, exceeded all expectations of financial analysts with the notable exception of its tablet range. Sales fell 13 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to the 2013 arrival of the iPad 2 Air, can she afford to turn the tide? Nothing is less certain.Yes, this tablet is a success. Yes, it's the world's thinnest (6.1 mm) and it gains power through its new chip A8X. The addition of the Touch ID fingerprint reader that replaces passwords is certainly handy. But these do not make the iPad Air 2 a revolution. It remains a very good tablet.
The overall experience of using the iPad Air 2 in 2014 is a case study in missed opportunities and untapped potential. Apple has all but stopped adding tablet-specific features to iOS — the minor two-paned mode for landscape apps on the iPhone 6 Plus is a more significant rethinking of how to manage a larger screen size than anything added to the iPad Air 2 this year.
There's no question that the iPad Air 2 is the best iPad ever made. It's also the best tablet ever made — its incredible hardware and enormous ecosystem of apps offer a commanding advantage over the competition. But it's not Apple's best product; it's not the company's most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.
It's mostly just thinner.
That anti-reflective screen also makes a great, though admittedly ginormous, viewfinder for snapping nature shots with the revamped 8-megapixel camera. It takes much crisper shots than before, and in many cases, ones as good as those I can take with my iPhone 6. But I won't bring my iPad to some mountain peak, as some Apple promo shots suggest. My phone's camera is the fastest one for me to grab.
For commuters and travelers, the good news is the Air 2, despite being 18 per cent thinner than the previous Air, still manages to deliver 10 hours of battery life. I didn't even take the charger out of the box until after I used the tablet for an entire cross-country flight and then a nonstop morning of checking email and writing.
Let's get this out of the way first: Apple's new iPads are the best tablets on the market today. The iPad Air 2, the company's new top-of-the-line device, is substantially faster than its predecessor, which was already more powerful than just about every rival. It sports a terrific minimalist design, almost a millimetre and a half thinner than last year's pretty skinny iPad Air.
The problem was this: I couldn't tell the difference between the Air and Air 2 while doing these things. The new model didn't seem faster or smoother while running all my apps, perhaps because — like most people — I don't use my iPad for the most demanding video-editing apps or high-end games. It registered pretty much the same network speeds as my Air.
The Air 2 didn't allow me to hold or carry the tablet longer and more comfortably than the Air. Its weight of 0.96 pounds isn't discernibly lighter than the Air's weight of one pound. And its thickness of 0.24 inches is a barely noticeable reduction from the Air's 0.29 inches.
So I don't recommend that average iPad Air owners upgrade to the Air 2. But what about the vast majority of iPad owners who own older models? That's a different story.
The Air 2 also doesn't have a mute switch, which I didn't think would be a huge loss until I actually found myself trying to use it and becoming frustrated more frequently than I expected. Your new options are to press and hold the volume down button or go into the Control Centre and press the mute key; if you used the switch to lock screen orientation, you'll need to do that in the Control Centre as well.
The iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly better than any other current iPad, but its advantages might matter less than last year's dramatically-redesigned iPad Air: screen quality, size, and battery life are close enough, effectively, to feel the same. Processor power and camera quality — and Touch ID — are welcome additions, but not needle-movers for the typical iPad user. Year-old iPads have never seemed like better bets.
It is indeed convenient and easy to use Touch ID with apps like Postmates that support it to transact payments, but the bigger benefit here from a general use perspective is just the added convenience of being able to unlock your device with a thumb press. I'm guilty of never having used a passcode on my iPads in the past, simply because unlocking them was too arduous, and because it seemed somehow more acceptable since this was a tablet, not the smartphone I carry around in my pocket constantly. With Touch ID, my data is now somewhat protected, which makes sense since I view and use the same content on both types of devices.
The weirdest fact about the iPad Air 2 is that Apple isn't publicising (or even acknowledging) one of its best new features. The tablet now has 2GB of RAM, up from the rather cramped 1GB allotment in the original iPad Air.
As an informal test, I tried loading FastCompany.com in multiple Safari tabs, stopping only when the browser ran out of RAM and had to reload pages from the Net as I switched tabs. On an iPad Air, I was only able to open five tabs before Safari choked. On the iPad Air 2, I was able to open a dozen of them before the browser felt less than snappy.
In any case, the iPad Air 2 really is extremely thin. That’s the salient feature. Less than a quarter of an inch thick (6.1 millimetres). You will definitely bend this thing if you put it in your back pocket and sit on it. Fortunately, you probably don’t have a pocket big enough.
Apple says WiFi is much faster on the iPad Air 2 — and wow, do you feel it. Apple could do an ad showing this year's iPad loading webpages side by side with last year's iPad, if it didn't make last year's look like such a slug. NYTimes.com, for example, loads in one second on the new iPad; it arrives five seconds later on last year's model (same WiFi network).