The iPad Air 2 turns three years old this year. Is it still worth buying? How does it stack up to other tablets today?
If you’re in the market for a tablet by Apple, you probably have 3 terrific and difficult choices to make. First, the newest and fastest of them all: the 9.7 and 12.9-inch iPad Pros. Second, Apple’s previous flagship tablet: the iPad Air 2. Third, the Air’s smaller and younger brother: the iPad Mini 4. The iPad Mini 2 will not make it into this list simply because it is too old and too slow to stack up to all the other competitors whilst also lacking some crucial features (e.g. Touch ID home button).
The iPad Air 2
The Air 2. I’m going to start us off with the Air 2 because it was the reigning Apple flagship tablet for two years, from 2014-2016. At the time of its launch the Air 2 was superior in both the design and performance departments. Even today, it is quite handsome to look at – both thin and elegantly crafted (although mine has suffered quite a bit of wear and tear). It is only 6.1 mm thick and weighs just under a pound at 437g. It does all this whilst packing in the A8X (a triple-core 1.5 Ghz ARM processor), 2GB of DDR3L RAM, a 1536×2048 Retina display, and an absolutely massive 7340 mAh battery. It is very speedy, even in iOS 10.2, and the 264 ppi screen is crisp even when you’re consuming media on it close to your eyes, such as in bed. If you want the full specs please visit: http://www.gsmarena.com/apple_ipad_air_2-6742.php
High-res: even at such a close range the pixels are hard to make out
Playback and gaming are still liquid, although the 2GB of RAM and the now 3-year-old A8X have become limiting factors when multitasking (by this I mean more than 10 apps open at once). All of its features still work properly – the Touch ID Home button, the volume rockers, the speakers, etc. I mainly use it to watch YouTube videos and surf the web, which it does very well. It can easily handle 1440p playback, and using Safari is never a problem. The battery, in my use case, lasts around 3-4 days.
I may have chipped a corner…
But what about the others? iPads are best used as a media consumption device – to read eBooks, listen to music, watch movies, surf the web, message friends, and video chat with family. With the new release of the iPad Pros, Apple is shifting the purpose of the iPad to more of a laptop replacement – which it is not. It may be great for artists and does offer some competition to Wacom drawing tablets, but the lack of an OS with a file system and the inability to run many full-blown desktop programs still drags it down and keeps it behind.
That being said, it is time to determine which one is the best for you. Following is a chart that we will use to compare the four contenders: the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, the iPad Air 2, and the iPad Mini 4.
|Specs/Device:||iPad Pro 12.9||iPad Pro 9.7||iPad Air 2||iPad Mini 4|
|Processor + RAM||A9X, 4GB RAM||A9X, 2GB RAM||A8X, 2GB RAM||A8, 2GB RAM|
|Display||2048 x 2732||1536 x 2048||1536 x 2048||1536 x 2048|
|Battery Size||10307 mAh||7306 mAh||7340 mAh||5124 mAh|
|Special Features:||Apple Pencil support, stereo speakers, Touch ID Home button||Apple Pencil support, stereo speakers, Touch ID Home button||Touch ID Home button||Touch ID Home button|
|Price (base 32GB model @www.apple.com as of 2/5/17)||$799||$599||$399||$399|
Immediately off-the-line, there is one product that stands out from the others: the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Why? Compared to the iPad Air 2, the only things it offers are the Apple Pencil support, the stereo speakers, and a newer processor. Yet all this comes at a $200 price premium. Sure, the A9X is faster than the A8X by 76%, but these results are only in synthetic benchmarks, which do not reflect real-world app performance. As I said above, 2GB of RAM is becoming a limiting factor, and the iPad Pro 9.7-inch still utilizes the same quantity, which will be a hindering factor when it comes to heavy workloads. Not to mention, it possesses almost identical battery capacity and the same resolution screen. If you really want the newest features in the same chassis as an iPad Air 2, then sure – go buy the iPad Pro 9.7-inch. But on a basis of bang-for-buck, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch has already failed.
3 contestants still stand above the water. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro actually stands miles above; it truly is the best iPad experience one can get in early 2017. A faster processor with (finally) ample amounts of RAM, a ginormous screen and an equally ginormous battery, along with all the newest bells and whistles. However, the pricing is still on the high end – $800! At that point you can purchase a Dell Inspiron 7579, a budget gaming laptop. I would personally wait and look for discounts of around $50 or, if you’re lucky, $100. But beware – unless you really are a “pro” tablet user, then there is no need for you to purchase this device. It can result in some serious buyer’s remorse.
And then there were 2. The iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 4. The A8X is surprisingly only 7% faster than the A8, which perhaps justifies the identical pricing. The iPad Air 2’s battery is also 43% larger than the Mini 4’s. The larger screen on the Air further contributes towards a more enjoyable media device. All of which means unless you’re someone who needs portability or a ridiculously high pixel density screen, the Air 2 is the clear winner. It is still the bang-for-buck king in the world of Apple tablets.
My scratched, worn, and (a little bit) dirty Air 2. She has reliably served me for 2 years and is still going strong.