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Apple iPad Air 2 (A1567 / 128 GB / LTE) Tablet Review

Daniel Schmidt (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 11/04/2014

Ironed and strengthened. Even slimmer and faster but just as sophisticated, enduring and elegant as its predecessor. The iPad Air 2 is surrounded by many superlatives and is really the fastest iPad so far. But there are also some smaller drawbacks, and iOS 8.1 is still not working perfectly.

For the original German review, see here.

The Apple iPad Air 2 does not really differ from its predecessor in terms of design, it is only slightly thinner. However, there are big changes inside the case: The communication modules are faster, and the processor and the graphics solution also show significant performance advantages. Apple's iOS 8.1 fixes some problems of the previous version, but there are still issues, and some apps still do not run as intended. The display is as it was, only the viewing angle stability has improved even further.

Apple has made small changes to the pricing. The 32 GB version has been completely discarded. The current iPad starts at 489 Euros (~$612; Wi-Fi only, 16 GB) and is more expensive. The storage extensions to 64 GB and 128 GB cost 100 Euros (~$125) each, and the optional LTE modem is available for an additional charge of 120 Euros (~$150). This means the top version (LTE, 128 GB) costs 809 Euros (~$1012), and this is also our review configuration.

The fiercest competitors at the moment are the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (LTE, starting at 499 Euros; ~$625), Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet (LTE, starting at 579 Euros; ~$725), the Microsoft Surface 2 (WiFi, starting at 309 Euros; ~$387), Nokia Lumia 2520 (LTE, starting at 325 Euros; ~$407) and the Google Nexus 9.

Case

The iPad Air 2 convinces with its coherent design and great haptics.
The iPad Air 2 convinces with its coherent design and great haptics.
The Nano SIM slot is not flush with the rest of the case.
The Nano SIM slot is not flush with the rest of the case.

Apple continues with its current product design, which means the iPad Air 2 is very similar to its predecessor and the dimensions are basically identical. Only the thickness is reduced from 7.5 to 6.1 millimeters (~0.3 to ~0.24 inches)  and the manufacturer was able to save some grams in weight. The aluminum body feels really good in the hands. As well as the colors gray and white, the iPad is now also available in gold.

However, the thin construction does not come without compromises. While the pressure resistance was perfect in the case of the iPad Air, the review unit suffers from picture distortions on the display even under medium pressure. The frame is not as sturdy either, and you can also see distortions under heavy pressure. The torsion resistance is good, only a lot of force will result in movements, but there are no creaking sounds. However, these drawbacks will hardly be noticeable during everyday use.

The battery of the iPad Air 2 cannot be replaced, and you will not find a slot for storage extensions, either. The Nano SIM slot can be opened with the provided tool, or a paper clip. It is not flush with the aluminum body of the tablet, but sits in a small depression. The edges around the panel are rather sharp. By the way, the panel is supposed to be equipped with a scratch-proof and grease-resistant coating. Fingerprints are still visible very easily, but you can remove them with a good wipe. 

Our colleagues from iFixit gave the iPad Air 2 a bad score for repairability (2 out of 10). The massive use of glue in particular is criticized, since it does not only complicate the repair, but it also increases the probability of further damages.

The iPad Air 2 got a bad score for the repairability.
The iPad Air 2 got a bad score for the repairability. (Source: http://www.ifixit.com)
It uses a lot of glue.
It uses a lot of glue. (Source: http://www.ifixit.com)

Connectivity

Nothing has really changed in terms of the connectivity. The Lightning port is still the only data interface, and can also be used as a digital video output via optional adaptors. Apple still does not offer the possibility to expand the storage via microSD cards, and the streaming standards like DLNA or Miracast are not available either. The Californians only use their own solution, AirPlay.

We are rather surprised that the manufacturer has abandoned the configurable toggle. You could use it to either mute the tablet, or deactivate the automatic screen rotation. We will miss it.

Top: Stereo jack, LTE module, power button
Top: Stereo jack, LTE module, power button
No ports at the left side.
No ports at the left side.
Bottom: Speaker, Lightning port, speaker
Bottom: Speaker, Lightning port, speaker
Right side: Microphone, volume rocker, Nano SIM
Right side: Microphone, volume rocker, Nano SIM

Software

The Apple iPad Air 2 uses Apple's own operating system iOS 8.1, which was also the latest version at the time of this review. Some problems of the earlier versions have been fixed, but there are some new issues now. Many users report of continuing problems with the WLAN connectivity and connection dropouts. Some apps also seem to have launch and stability issues when they are connected with iCloud, and users of iCloud Drive seem to have more problems. 

A new feature of version 8.1, is Apple Pay. However, Apple's payment service is currently only available in the United States and does not work without problems. There are occasionally some issues with rejected credit cards, but the biggest problem is often the complicated integration of the payment process into the corresponding apps. There is no date for the rest of the world, so the component is still deactivated in other countries. The required NFC module is also integrated into the iPad Air 2. However, there are no antennas, so Apple Pay can only be used for online shopping.

Communication & GPS 

The WLAN module of the iPad Air 2 supports the IEEE-802.11 standards a/b/g/n/ac and works with 2.4 as well as 5 GHz networks. It manages transfer rates of up to 866 Mbps, which is pretty fast. However, the range could be better, but it is still decent. While we were able to measure ping times between three and nine milliseconds in direct proximity to our router (Fritz!Box 6360, 2.4 GHz), the results increased significantly with a distance of 20 meters (~66 ft). The average result in this scenario was 15 ms. However, we also had some timeouts at this point, and the signal quality fluctuated between average and weak.

Mobile connections to the Internet can now be established via HSPA+ and LTE Cat. 4 (up to 150 Mbps downstream). A positive aspect is the wide coverage of frequencies. Unfortunately, you do not get the faster LTE Cat. 6 standard, which could be twice as fast.

Short distance connections are possible via Bluetooth 4.0. Unfortunately, Apple does not integrate the newer standard 4.1, which would have been particularly nice in combination with the LTE module. The component has no problem to stream contents. However, you can clearly hear signal noise when the tablet is connected to an external speaker, even if there is no sound.

GPS Checker: Indoors
GPS Checker: Indoors
GPS Checker: Outdoors
GPS Checker: Outdoors

The iPad Air 2 can locate your current position via GPS and GLONASS, and it is pretty quick  even indoors. There is basically no delay outdoors.

We checked the accuracy of the GPS module in a comparison with the bicycle computer Garmin Edge 500. Our review unit manages an excellent result. Even the complex sections or difficult signal reception conditions such as  the forest, are no problems and the location was always precise and reliable. The tablet is even more accurate than our GPS specialist.

Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500
Apple iPad Air 2
Apple iPad Air 2
Apple iPad Air 2
Apple iPad Air 2
Apple iPad Air 2
Apple iPad Air 2
Webcam picture
Webcam picture

Cameras

The front camera of the Apple iPad Air 2 has not changed compared to its predecessor, it is still a 1.2 megapixels sensor (1280x960 pixels). The pictures are not really sharp, but the webcam is primarily designed for Apple's own FaceTime. The camera works well for these video calls and captures a lot of light (aperture f/2.2).

The main camera at the back has received a small upgrade and now has three additional megapixels. The resolution is now similar to the iSight versions in the iPhone with almost 8 megapixels (3264x2448 pixels, 4:3). However, unlike the version of the current iPhone, the camera can only record slow-motion videos with 120 fps. A new feature is the burst-shots (sequence mode).

The picture quality is actually pretty good in the daylight. Only the colors could be more vivid and the pictures could be slightly brighter in general. However, the camera of the iPad Air 2 reaches its limits with very detailed objects, so the contours start to blur. The quality quickly decreases under bad lighting conditions, where the edges are frayed and blurry. Still, the colors are accurate. The exposure time is increased as well, so moving objects can be blurry.

The familiar Panorama mode is also available. You need a very steady hand, but even then the results are not always great. The pictures have visible transitions at some points, and the edges are shifted.

The tablet can record videos in 1080p (1920x1080 pixels, 16:9, 25 fps). The quality is decent, but decreases under bad lighting conditions. However, the effect is not as strong as with pictures. Sound is recorded in stereo, and the quality is good.

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the zoom step. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
Panorama with the iPad Air 2 (40 MP)
Panorama with the iPad Air 2 (40 MP)

Accessories

There are no surprises when we look at what is supplied with the iPad Air 2: as well as a data cable (Lightning to USB), a tool for the SIM slot, two Apple stickers and the quick-start guide, the manufacturer includes a modular power adaptor. The latter has a nominal output of 10.71 Watts (5.1 Volts, 2.1 Amps) and is therefore less powerful than the module of the predecessor (12 Watts).

Apple offers several optional accessories in its store. Among others, you can buy the familiar 12-Watt PSU for 19 Euros (~$24).

Warranty

Apple offers a warranty of 12 months for the iPad Air 2, which includes a 90-day phone support.

The warranty extension Apple Care+ (99 Euros; ~$124) extends the warranty period to 24 months, and has to be purchased within 90 days of the device purchase. It also covers two accidental damages. However, Apple charges a service fee of 49 Euros (~$61) for every repair.

Input Devices & Handling

The inputs on the Apple iPad Air 2 are through the 9.7-inch captive touchscreen. It reacts very precisely, and inputs are executed quickly. However, we noticed that it was very tricky to choose adjacent items while we played Anno, the last bit of precision is still missing. The gliding capabilities are good, but you can feel the slight roughness on the glass surface if you move your fingers slowly.

The on-screen keyboard offers the expected quality. However, considering the large display surface, we would have liked to see an additional row for numbers or special characters. The QuickType keyboard, which is already familiar from the current iPhones, is now available in the iPad as well, and adds word predictions for the current and the next word in a row above the standard keys. Since the introduction of iOS 8, it is also possible to add third-party keyboard layouts.

The physical buttons have a firm travel and a precise pressure point. The home button of the iPad now includes Touch ID, which is very reliable.

Portrait mode
Portrait mode
Landscape mode
Landscape mode

Display

The display of the iPad Air is still very good.
The display of the iPad Air is still very good.

If you only look at the specifications, then the display of the iPad Air 2 does not really differ from its predecessor. The display size is still 9.7 inches with a resolution of 2048x1536 pixels, which results in a screen ratio of 4:3, and a pixel density of 264 ppi. This means Apple does not offer a technological highlight, but it is still at a very good level. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (10.5-inch, 2560x1600 pixels, 288 ppi) has a slightly higher pixel density, but is also slightly larger.

The display is now completely laminated, and the new technology leads to some different measurement results compared to the first iPad Air (up to 473 cd/m², 90%). The luminosity is slightly lower with a maximum value of 447 cd/m², but the brightness distribution has been improved, and is now at 92%. The brightest device in this comparison is still the Lumia 2520 (up to 753 cd/m², 82%), while the Tab S 10.5 falls behind with just 314 cd/m². However, this value does not tell the whole story since the Tab S can reach up to 500 cd/m² with its brightness sensor. The latter does not affect the results of the iPad Air 2.

413
cd/m²
422
cd/m²
438
cd/m²
412
cd/m²
423
cd/m²
446
cd/m²
425
cd/m²
413
cd/m²
447
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 447 cd/m² Average: 426.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 92 %
Center on Battery: 423 cd/m²
Contrast: 693:1 (Black: 0.61 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 2.86 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 2.37 | - Ø
88% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 2.43
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Nokia Lumia 2520
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 32 GB eMMC Flash
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Adreno 330, 801 APQ8074AB, 32 GB eMMC Flash
Screen
24%
2%
-31%
-3%
Brightness427442
4%
291
-32%
699
64%
437
2%
Brightness Distribution9290
-2%
87
-5%
82
-11%
89
-3%
Black Level *0.610.41
33%
0.77
-26%
0.59
3%
Contrast6931154
67%
978
41%
781
13%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *2.862.82
1%
2.37
17%
5.12
-79%
3.55
-24%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *2.371.45
39%
2.03
14%
6.46
-173%
2.58
-9%
Gamma *2.432.472.452.42.78
CCT6941 94%6768 96%6521 100%6101 107%6342 102%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)88100
14%

* ... smaller is better

Compared to its predecessor, the new iPad Air unfortunately has a higher black value of 0.61 cd/m², which results in a contrast of 693:1. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (0.0 cd/m², ∞:1) is in a league of its own thanks to the OLED panel, but all the other rivals manage higher contrast ratios as well.

The color accuracy of the iPad Air 2 is very good. According to our colleagues from DisplayMate, the panel also covers the full sRGB color space. No color exceeds a DeltaE value of 4 in the grayscale and a DeltaE value of 5 in the ColorChecker. There is only a barely visible blue cast with a completely white display. The review sample is only beaten by the Tab S 10.5 in these disciplines; it is slightly more precise, and can just display more colors thanks to the larger color space coverage.

Color Management (target color space sRGB)
Color Management (target color space sRGB)
Saturation Sweeps (target color space sRGB)
Saturation Sweeps (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale (target color space sRGB)
Grayscale (target color space sRGB)
ColorChecker (target color space sRGB)
ColorChecker (target color space sRGB)
ColorChecker (target color space Adobe RGB)
ColorChecker (target color space Adobe RGB)

Despite the lower contrast ratio, the Apple iPad Air 2 leaves a good impression outdoors. This is probably a result of the less reflecting display surface. Still, it will not be easy to use the tablet under direct sunlight. Bright environments on the other hand should not be a big problem for the tablet. The ambient light sensor is also very reliable and quickly adjusts the illumination according to the current environment.

The iPad Air 2 on a cloudy day.
The iPad Air 2 on a cloudy day.
The viewing angle has to be very steep before the reflections become annoying.
The viewing angle has to be very steep before the reflections become annoying.

The viewing angle stability of an IPS display is usually really good. This is also the case for the iPad Air 2, that uses this technology. There are no color changes, even with extremely flat viewing angles, only the brightness of the panel is reduced when the angle is larger than 30 degrees. The new device shows no sign of the ghost effect in the first iPad Air. This is the big advantage of the completely laminated display since there is no gap between the glass and the actual panel, which could cause this effect.

Viewing angle stability of the Apple iPad Air 2
Viewing angle stability of the Apple iPad Air 2

Performance

The Apple iPad Air 2 has a couple of new features. The integrated Apple A8X processor is the first triple-core processor and this version is also the first tablet from the Californian manufacturer with 2 GB of memory. But the CPU does not only have an extra core and a higher clock of 1.5 GHz compared to the A8 in the iPhones, it also has twice the amount of L2 cache. With three billion transistors, the Apple CPU even exceeds current high-end desktop processors from Intel (up to 2.6 billion). The new GPU is significantly faster too, the Imagination PowerVR GXA6850 is currently one of the fastest components.

The hardware manages great results in the benchmarks. The Multi-Core test of Geekbench 3 achieves  4,530 points for our review unit, which is similar to an Intel Core i5-4200U, and leaves the rest of the rivals behind. The situation changes when we look at the Physics score of the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, where the iPad is in the bottom third within the comparison, and roughly on a level with the MediaTek MT6589. However, the good results are only possible when the device is cold, and the performance of the iPad Air 2 drops significantly after a prolonged period of stress, which is simulated by the Relative benchmark for one hour. All the benchmarks afterwards achieve lower results: The Geekbench Multi-Core score drops to 3,145 points (minus 31%) and the 3DMark Physics score drops to 7,632 points (minus 27%). The CPU is not the only thing affected by the throttling. More details will be covered in the Temperature section. There is no performance reduction when the battery capacity is low.

Geekbench 3 (cool condition)
Geekbench 3 (cool condition)
Geekbench 3 (after stress test)
Geekbench 3 (after stress test)
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (cool condition)
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (cool condition)
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (after stress test)
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (after stress test)

The graphics unit is very fast, but cannot quite compete with the Tegra K1 SoC (32-bit). The Nvidia Shield Tablet manages a 26% higher score in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics test. Like the Nexus 9, the gaming tablet from the GPU specialists uses the Tegra K1 SoC. Basemark X 1.1 (Medium Quality) shows an advantage of 13% for the GXA6850 of the iPad over the K1 Kepler GPU. The advantage disappears in the High Quality test, and the two rivals manage similar results. The two SoCs are also neck and neck when it comes to the performance crown; unfortunately we cannot deliver any results for GFXBench. This test can be completed in the current version (3.0.23), but it does not show a score. We could also notice GPU throttling under continuous load, which results in a performance reduction of around 15% in 3DMark.

3DMark (2013)
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
10379 Points ∼16%
Apple iPad Air
8520 Points ∼13% -18%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
7226 Points ∼11% -30%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
14333 Points ∼23% +38%
Nokia Lumia 2520
13562 Points ∼21% +31%
Microsoft Surface 2
12692 Points ∼20% +22%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
16678 Points ∼26% +61%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
21086 Points ∼33% +103%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
31542 Points ∼7%
Apple iPad Air
18868 Points ∼4% -40%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
4117 Points ∼1% -87%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
13791 Points ∼3% -56%
Nokia Lumia 2520
18048 Points ∼4% -43%
Microsoft Surface 2
14812 Points ∼3% -53%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
19518 Points ∼4% -38%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
39590 Points ∼9% +26%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
21707 Points ∼12%
Apple iPad Air
14858 Points ∼8% -32%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
4552 Points ∼2% -79%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
13908 Points ∼7% -36%
Nokia Lumia 2520
16812 Points ∼9% -23%
Microsoft Surface 2
14281 Points ∼8% -34%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
18806 Points ∼10% -13%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
33129 Points ∼18% +53%
Basemark X 1.1
High Quality (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
29502 Points ∼67%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
7846 Points ∼18% -73%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
12943 Points ∼29% -56%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
28746 Points ∼65% -3%
Medium Quality (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
41488 Points ∼92%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
4275 Points ∼10% -90%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
17779 Points ∼40% -57%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
25299 Points ∼56% -39%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
36584 Points ∼81% -12%
BaseMark OS II
Graphics (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
4920 Points ∼57%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
399 Points ∼5% -92%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
1032 Points ∼12% -79%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
8065 Points ∼94% +64%
System (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
4104 Points ∼66%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
707 Points ∼11% -83%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
1555 Points ∼25% -62%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
1012 Points ∼16% -75%
Overall (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
1967 Points ∼60%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
523 Points ∼16% -73%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
886 Points ∼27% -55%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
1431 Points ∼44% -27%
PassMark PerformanceTest Mobile V1
CPU Tests (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
73235 Points ∼27%
Apple iPad Air
38536 Points ∼14% -47%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
6717 Points ∼2% -91%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
18213 Points ∼7% -75%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
22985 Points ∼8% -69%
System (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
4979 Points ∼56%
Apple iPad Air
2190 Points ∼25% -56%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
2353 Points ∼27% -53%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
5502 Points ∼62% +11%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
6285 Points ∼71% +26%
Linpack Android / IOS
Multi Thread (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
2428.68 MFLOPS ∼82%
Apple iPad Air
977.31 MFLOPS ∼33% -60%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
242.337 MFLOPS ∼8% -90%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
770.167 MFLOPS ∼26% -68%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
600.237 MFLOPS ∼20% -75%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
726 MFLOPS ∼25% -70%
Single Thread (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
1021.11 MFLOPS ∼100%
Apple iPad Air
557.99 MFLOPS ∼55% -45%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
85.196 MFLOPS ∼8% -92%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
382.801 MFLOPS ∼37% -63%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
347.856 MFLOPS ∼34% -66%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
673 MFLOPS ∼66% -34%
AnTuTu Benchmark v5 - Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
63292 Points ∼79%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
17247 Points ∼21% -73%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
55435 Points ∼69% -12%
Geekbench 3
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air
2687 Points ∼16%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
1075 Points ∼7%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
2712 Points ∼17%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
2327 Points ∼14%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
3495 Points ∼21%
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air
1479 Points ∼32%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
327 Points ∼7%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
920 Points ∼20%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
915 Points ∼20%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
1127 Points ∼24%

Legend

 
Apple iPad Air 2 Apple A8X, PowerVR GXA6850, 128 GB eMMC Flash
 
Apple iPad Air Apple A7, PowerVR G6430, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
LG G Pad 10.1 V700 Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 APQ8026, Qualcomm Adreno 305, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Samsung Exynos 5420 Octa, ARM Mali-T628 MP6, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Nokia Lumia 2520 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Microsoft Surface 2 Nvidia Tegra 4, NVIDIA GeForce Tegra 4, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 APQ8074AB, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W Nvidia Tegra K1, NVIDIA Tegra K1 Kepler GPU, 16 GB iNAND Flash

The browser performance of the Apple iPad Air 2 is great. Subjectively, even complex websites are loaded very quickly and this impression is supported by the benchmarks. None of the comparison devices can keep up with the review unit in any of the tests.

However, we had to run Browsermark 2.1 a couple of times before we were able to determine a result. The benchmark crashed several times in the Safari browser, which then repeated the benchmark.

Peacekeeper - --- (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 8.0 Mobile)
2750 Points ∼44%
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1855 Points ∼30% -33%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
640 Points ∼10% -77%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
851 Points ∼14% -69%
Nokia Lumia 2520
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 32 GB eMMC Flash
542 Points ∼9% -80%
Microsoft Surface 2
GeForce Tegra 4, 4, 32 GB eMMC Flash
791 Points ∼13% -71%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Adreno 330, 801 APQ8074AB, 32 GB eMMC Flash
873 Points ∼14% -68%
Browsermark - 2.1 (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 8.0 Mobile)
3646 points ∼51%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
913 points ∼13% -75%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
820 points ∼11% -78%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 9.0 Mobile)
10512 Points ∼23%
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
5113 Points ∼11% -51%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1810 Points ∼4% -83%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
4588 Points ∼10% -56%
Nokia Lumia 2520
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 32 GB eMMC Flash
2714 Points ∼6% -74%
Microsoft Surface 2
GeForce Tegra 4, 4, 32 GB eMMC Flash
3368 Points ∼7% -68%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Adreno 330, 801 APQ8074AB, 32 GB eMMC Flash
4127 Points ∼9% -61%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash
6777 Points ∼15% -36%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 8.0 Mobile)
291.1 ms * ∼7%
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
385.5 ms * ∼10% -32%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1136.6 ms * ∼28% -290%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
1112.1 ms * ∼28% -282%
Nokia Lumia 2520
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 32 GB eMMC Flash
559.5 ms * ∼14% -92%
Microsoft Surface 2
GeForce Tegra 4, 4, 32 GB eMMC Flash
384.5 ms * ∼10% -32%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Adreno 330, 801 APQ8074AB, 32 GB eMMC Flash
1047 ms * ∼26% -260%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash (Chrome 36)
525 ms * ∼13% -80%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash (Android 4.4)
458 ms * ∼11% -57%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash (Safari 9.0 Mobile)
2396 ms * ∼4%
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
5584.1 ms * ∼9% -133%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
16133.7 ms * ∼27% -573%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
7847.3 ms * ∼13% -228%
Nokia Lumia 2520
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 32 GB eMMC Flash
11212.7 ms * ∼19% -368%
Microsoft Surface 2
GeForce Tegra 4, 4, 32 GB eMMC Flash
10107.1 ms * ∼17% -322%
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Adreno 330, 801 APQ8074AB, 32 GB eMMC Flash
7427.2 ms * ∼12% -210%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash
4286 ms * ∼7% -79%
BaseMark OS II - Web (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash
1263 Points ∼100%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
537 Points ∼43% -57%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
820 Points ∼65% -35%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash
863 Points ∼68% -32%

* ... smaller is better

The Apple iPad Air 2 is available with 16, 64 and 128 GB flash storage. The smallest version does not really make a lot of sense since you cannot expand the storage. It would have been better for the customer if Apple had abandoned the 16 GB version instead of the 32 GB version. The largest configuration has 113 real GB, and around 109 GB are available for the user after the initial start.

The performance of the storage once again cannot be beaten in the benchmarks, and in some cases achieved excellent results.

PassMark PerformanceTest Mobile V1 - Disk Tests (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash
72371 Points ∼53%
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
22031 Points ∼16% -70%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
15088 Points ∼11% -79%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
24545 Points ∼18% -66%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash
28478 Points ∼21% -61%
BaseMark OS II - Memory (sort by value)
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash
832 Points ∼31%
LG G Pad 10.1 V700
Adreno 305, 400 APQ8026, 16 GB eMMC Flash
493 Points ∼18% -41%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
468 Points ∼18% -44%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash
596 Points ∼22% -28%

Gaming Performance

The fast PowerVR GXA6850 graphics unit is ideally suited for gamers. It provides an enormous amount of performance and supports OpenGL ES 3.0 as well as DirectX 10. Apple also provides its own graphics interface Metal, which should improve the performance. Games from the App Store run smoothly and with maximum details, it does not matter if you play strategy titles like Anno or fast 3D games like Asphalt 8. The good touchscreen completes the gaming experience, and the sensors work without any problems.

Asphalt 8
Asphalt 8
Anno
Anno

Emissions

Temperature

The surface temperatures of the Apple iPad Air 2 reach up to 32 °C (~89.6 °F) when idling, which means the tablet is not even lukewarm. Load results in values of up to 42.8 °C (~109 °F), which was measured at the back in the area of the SoC. The rest of the device reaches up to 36.2 °C (~97 °F). The results of the iPad are therefore not critical at all, but it is still the hottest device within the comparison. The coolest device is still the Surface 2 (up to 35.3 °C; ~95.5 °F).

However, the high temperatures result in a performance reduction of the processor (around 29%) and the graphics unit (around 15%) under continuous load, which we have already mentioned in the Performance section. This scenario is very likely during gaming.

Max. Load
 31 °C36.2 °C31.3 °C 
 30.5 °C30.5 °C30.4 °C 
 30.8 °C29.7 °C30.2 °C 
Maximum: 36.2 °C
Average: 31.2 °C
33.7 °C42.8 °C35.4 °C
32.3 °C28 °C33.4 °C
31 °C32 °C31.9 °C
Maximum: 42.8 °C
Average: 33.4 °C
Power Supply (max.)  47.7 °C | Room Temperature 21.1 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speakers

Powerful sound: the iPad Air 2.
Powerful sound: the iPad Air 2.

The Apple iPad Air 2 has two speakers located either side of the Lightning port. This configuration is similar to the predecessor, and we still think the position is not perfect. You can easily cover one speaker when you use the tablet in landscape mode. The quality of the components is surprising at first; we did not expect such powerful medium tones, and an audible as well as perceptible bass. However, the high tones suffer a bit from this, which is a problem during music playback at higher volumes in particular. The bass is also not very balanced in this case and tends to rattle. However, if you like to watch movies or play games on the tablet, then the speakers will be very effective, especially since the bass provides a haptic feedback that can be felt on the whole aluminum chassis.

The stereo jack works flawlessly, and can produce a very loud sound.

Energy Management

The provided power adaptor is insufficient.
The provided power adaptor is insufficient.

Power Consumption

The consumption is significantly increased under load, and even slightly exceeds its predecessor (up to 10.4 Watts) with up to 11.1 Watts. This is the result of the more powerful components. We determined the value with the Relative benchmark. Lumia 2520 (up to 14.5 Watts) and Surface 2 (up to 15.8 Watts) consume even more power; the most frugal device within the comparison is the Xperia Z2 Tablet (up to 7.4 Watts).

The supplied power adaptor is specified with 10 Watts by Apple, but it actually has a nominal output of 10.71 Watts (5.1 Volts, 2.1 Amps) and is therefore insufficient. This is interesting, as the manufacturer used to ship their iPads with 12 Watts PSUs since the fourth generation. We cannot understand Apple's decision to use a weaker power adaptor. By the way, the more powerful power adaptor is still available in the store.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 1.2 / 5.1 / 5.4 Watt
Load midlight 7.9 / 11.1 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 960

Battery Runtime

Because of the slim design of the iPad Air 2, the battery capacity had to be reduced, and is now at 27.62 Wh (3.76 Volts, 7,340 mAh). Still, Apple advertises web browsing runtimes of up to ten hours via WLAN and one hour less via LTE. Our WLAN test simulates the first scenario, and is therefore a great way to verify the statement from the manufacturer. The test runs a script that loads a new website every 40 seconds with an adjusted display brightness of 150 cd/m², and an active WLAN connection. We determine a runtime of ten and a half hours, which even exceeds that of the predecessor.

It is not really surprising that the minimum runtime is shorter when you consider the higher power consumption. All in all, the review unit manages very good results, but the competition is not bad. The charging times are very long with more than five hours,  the weak power adaptor being responsible for this.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
22h 44min
WiFi Surfing
10h 30min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
9h 22min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 32min
Apple iPad Air 2
PowerVR GXA6850, A8X, 128 GB eMMC Flash
Apple iPad Air
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Adreno 330, 801 APQ8074AB, 32 GB eMMC Flash
Nokia Lumia 2520
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 32 GB eMMC Flash
Battery Runtime
7%
1%
18%
2%
Reader / Idle13641425
4%
1094
-20%
1318
-3%
977
-28%
Load212257
21%
333
57%
268
26%
186
-12%
WiFi630553
-12%
600
-5%
590
-6%
803
27%
H.264562644
15%
395
-30%
875
56%
679
21%

Verdict

In Review: Apple iPad Air 2
In Review: Apple iPad Air 2

The Apple iPad Air 2 is still a really good tablet that is pleasing with its even slimmer construction and high-quality materials. Unfortunately, the slim construction also results in some drawbacks since the tablet is more sensitive to pressure compared to its predecessor. The display is still one of the best units you can currently get in a tablet. The black value has unfortunately deteriorated  slightly, but this is complaining on a very high level. However, thanks to the laminated display, the ghost effect is finally a thing of the past. Only the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 can beat the iPad Air in every category in this section.

The situation is different when we look at the performance: The combination of the new A8X processor and the graphics unit PowerVR GXA6850 is very powerful and make it one of the fastest components  currently on the market. Only the Nvidia Tegra K1 SoC can compete, and even sometimes beat the product from the Californians. It will be interesting to see if the Google Nexus 9 tablet will have throttling issues under continuous load as well. This is a bit annoying in the case of the iPad Air 2, since the CPU performance almost drops to the level of the A7 in Geekbench 3. Still, the iPad is very fast, and the performance degradations are currently not noticeable.

This changes when we look at the stability of iOS 8.1. Many problems of the earlier versions are fixed, but the operating system is still not perfect and many apps still require adjustments. This aspect, the throttling and the insufficient power adaptor result in a point deduction. Other issues are the removal of the configurable toggle switch, the signal noise of the Bluetooth connection, and the fact that an expensive high-end product does not support Bluetooth 4.1 or LTE Cat. 6.

Apple certainly delivers a good upgrade, but, in our opinion, there is no reason to change to the new product if you already own the first iPad Air. Users of older iPads on the other hand, are offered very good incentives.

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In Review: Apple iPad Air 2
In Review: Apple iPad Air 2

Specifications

Apple iPad Air 2
Processor
Apple A8X 1.5 GHz , 64 Bit, Tri-Core, M8 Motion Coprozessor
Graphics adapter
Memory
2048 MB 
Display
9.7 inch 4:3, 2048x1536 pixel, capacitive touchscreen, 10 multi-touch points, Retina-Display, IPS, 264 PPI, Anti-reflection coating, glossy: yes
Storage
128 GB eMMC Flash, 128 GB 
, 113 "real" GB, 109 GB free
Connections
Audio Connections: combined stereo jack, 1 Fingerprint Reader, Sensors: Touch ID, 3-axis gyroscope, Accelerometer and Ambient light sensor, Barometer, Digital compass, Lightning-Port, GPS, Glonass, iBeacon Micro location
Networking
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0, GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz), UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1700, 1900 and 2100 MHz), LTE Cat. 4 (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, 41 (depends on the region)), Body SAR: 0.98 W/kg
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 6.1 x 240 x 169.5 ( = 0.24 x 9.45 x 6.67 in)
Battery
28 Wh Lithium-Ion, 3.76 Volts, 7340 mAh, Battery runtime (according to manufacturer): 10 h
Operating System
Apple iOS 8
Camera
Webcam: 1.2 MP, Main camera: 8 MP (Auto-focus, Burst-shot, 1080p videos)
Additional features
Speakers: two stereo speakers, Keyboard: virtual, Power adaptor, Lightning cable, Quick-start guide, SIM tool, Photo Booth, Numbers, Pages, Keynote, iMovie, Apple Store, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
444 g ( = 15.66 oz / 0.98 pounds), Power Supply: 91 g ( = 3.21 oz / 0.2 pounds)
Price
809 Euro

 

The design did not really change.
The design did not really change.
The iPad Air 2 has one of the best tablet displays on the market.
The iPad Air 2 has one of the best tablet displays on the market.
The webcam catches a lot of light.
The webcam catches a lot of light.
Touch ID is now available for the iPad as well.
Touch ID is now available for the iPad as well.
Back cover made of aluminum
Back cover made of aluminum
The camera was significantly improved.
The camera was significantly improved.
The Nano SIM slot is not flush with the rest of the case.
The Nano SIM slot is not flush with the rest of the case.
The corresponding tool to open the slot is inside the box.
The corresponding tool to open the slot is inside the box.
It is easy to remove the tray with the tool.
It is easy to remove the tray with the tool.
The power adaptor is not powerful enough.
The power adaptor is not powerful enough.
109 GB are available for the user.
109 GB are available for the user.
Basemark OS II
Basemark OS II
Basemark X 1.1 (Medium Quality)
Basemark X 1.1 (Medium Quality)
Basemark X 1.1 (High Quality)
Basemark X 1.1 (High Quality)
3DMark
3DMark
Peacekeeper
Peacekeeper
Google Octane 2.0
Google Octane 2.0
Sunspider 1.0.2
Sunspider 1.0.2
Google Octane V1
Google Octane V1
WebXPRT 2013
WebXPRT 2013
AnTuTu v5
AnTuTu v5
PassMark
PassMark
Mozilla Kraken 1.1
Mozilla Kraken 1.1
Google V8 Version 7
Google V8 Version 7

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Links

Compare Prices

Pro

+Great design
+High-quality materials
+Fast components
+Great display
+Excellent GPS module
+Covers many frequencies
+Good camera in daylight
+Good viewing angle stability
+Decent speakers
+Finally 2 GB memory
 

Cons

-Pressure-sensitive case
-Configurable toggle was removed
-Problems with iOS 8.1
-Throttling of the CPU and GPU
-Only LTE Cat. 4
-No Bluetooth 4.1
-NFC without antennas can only be used in combination with Apple Pay
-Signal noise of the Bluetooth connection when there is no sound
-Power adaptor too weak
-Pricing

Shortcut

What we like

The iPad Air 2 is not only nice to look at, but also really fast. It has a very good GPS module as well.

What we'd like to see

We expect state of the art technologies from a high-end device with a high-end price. But neither Bluetooth 4.1 nor LTE Cat. 6 are available.

What surprises us

We cannot understand why Apple includes a weaker power adaptor when the power consumption is higher.

The competition

The competitors are the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 as well as Galaxy Note 10.1Sony Xperia Z2 TabletMicrosoft Surface 2 and the Nokia Lumia 2520.

Rating

Apple iPad Air 2 - 04/13/2016 v5
Daniel Schmidt

Chassis
86%
Keyboard
78 / 80 → 97%
Pointing Device
89%
Connectivity
33 / 66 → 50%
Weight
84 / 88 → 92%
Battery
95%
Display
89%
Games Performance
49 / 68 → 72%
Application Performance
59 / 76 → 78%
Temperature
91%
Noise
100%
Audio
63 / 91 → 69%
Camera
61 / 85 → 72%
Average
75%
88%
Tablet - Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Apple iPad Air 2 (A1567 / 128 GB / LTE) Tablet Review
Daniel Schmidt, 2014-11- 4 (Update: 2014-11-16)