Six Months On The iPad Air 2 – The ‘Book Mystique

Tempus fugit. It’s hard to believe I’ve already logged nearly half a year’s use on my new Gold 64GB iPad Air 2. My second iPad was purchased to take over from my trusty iPad 2, which has been handed off to my wife and is still in fine fettle.

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The leap from the A5 powered, 512 MB of RAM, 1064 x 768 resolution iPad 2 to the A8X powered, 2 GB of RAM, 2048 x 1536 resolution Air 2 is a fairly broad one on paper, but I’ve been surprised by how consistently similar using this new machine is to the one it replaced. Yes, it’s significantly faster, especially opening apps, and the 4x greater RAM capacity also helps a lot, but my tightest bottleneck inhibiting Internet performance is not my hardware but due rather to being on a relatively slow satellite service here in the outer boonies where I live. I’m sure I would be getting a much more dramatic performance increase if I was on a faster network. My city-dwelling daughter enjoys almost instantaneous response on her A7, 1 GB RAM iPad mini 2.

As for the Retina display, it’s nice, although again for the sort of stuff I mostly do on the iPad (ie: reading and crunching text, it’s likewise not that big a difference, and during the transition period when I was using both machines back-to-back, I really wasn’t that conscious of the screen resolution difference. Users who do a lot of video watching or image editing will of course notice a bigger distinction going Retina. The fully laminated panel is brighter, and has better color rendition, and the anti-glare coating is an obvious advantage, but by and large, I had been quite satisfied with the iPad 2’s display.

The lower weight, thinner profile, and slightly smaller footprint of the Air 2 compared to the iPad 2 are not major factors for me, since I don’t do a whole lot of time using the tablet in handheld mode. It mostly gets used on my lap on an Ipevo Padpillow or other hands-free stand.

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I do very much appreciate the much better 8 megapixel resolution camera in the Air 2 compared with the poky 2 megapixel unit in the older machine. Perhaps because I cut my photographic teeth on twin-lens reflex cameras large groundglass focusing screens back in the ’70s, I’m quite comfortable and convenient using the iPad to snap pictures without the bother of downloading them from my digital camera to a computer. I’m puzzled by the intensity of hostility some folks have to iPad photography. Happily, Apple continues upgrading iPad camera capability, although the Air 2 still lags slightly behind the iPhone 6 camera spec.

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Touch ID? Meh. It’s convenient, but I never found typing in a four-character unlock code a great hardship, and Apple Pay is not fully enabled on the iPad (or available yet in Canada, although it’s reportedly coming).

What don’t I like? I’m not iOS 8’s biggest fan, and even after several incremental bugfix updates it’s still not as smooth and refined as either iOS 7 and iOS 6 were. I also have a long list of productivity enhancing features that the iOS doesn’t support, but will not rehash them here, since I bought this machine with full knowledge that pretty much none of them were addressed in iOS 8. I also didn’t appreciate being dragooned into buying a 64 GB memory upgrade as the first available increment above the ridiculous basic 16 GB config., when 32 GB would have been more than ample for my needs.

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However, my biggest complaint about the iPad Air 2 is probably its battery life. While the Air 2’s battery runtime between charges is relatively good compared to Android and Windows 10-inch tablets, it doesn’t match the charge life of my old iPad 2 even after that particular machine has logged a recharge every 48 hours on average for nearly four years. The Air 2 isn’t awful in this aspect, but I would happily trade some form factor thinness for longer runtime that a bigger internal space for battery material would allow.

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As an aside, with rumors suggesting that the fourth iteration of the mini iPad will be along October-ish, and set to be the world’s slimmest tablet, I’m concerned as to what sort of runtime an even thinner, smaller machine will have.

These are relatively minor niggles, though, and in general the iPad Air 2 is a pretty impressive piece of kit. The materials and build quality are superb as usual with Apple hardware. I also like the look of the Gold enclosure I ordered with this iPad, and I’m pleased that I’m not getting tired of it. If the iPad Air 2 proves as durable and dependable as the iPad 2 has, I’ll be quite satisfied with it as a value.

It’s still a long way from being a laptop replacement, though, and my computer time remains roughly divided 50-50 between iPad and MacBook. I’m eager to see how much the also rumored 12-inch iPad Pro will close that gap.Photo Courtesy Apple

In summary, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the iPad Air 2 to anyone considering a 10-inch tablet purchase, unless you’re bent on a single device workhorse solution, in which case your better bet may be a Microsoft Surface 3 that can run desktop Windows apps and offers standard USB connectivity and peripherals support. But it has really poor battery life.

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Another portable single-device strategy would be to go with a new Retina MacBook, although you can’t get a touchscreen with it, and it’s expensive, but notwithstanding those points it may be the least compromised compromise solution of all.

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