What's right (and wrong) with the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3

The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 will spearhead Apple's tablet push for the next year or so. Are the improvements enough to keep the iPad ahead of the game?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3
Image: Apple

Apple has opened up preorders for the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. These are the devices that will spearhead the Cupertino tech juggernaut's tablet push for the coming year or so.

Are the improvements good enough to keep the iPad ahead of the game over the coming months?

What's right with the new iPads

Touch ID

If you've spent any time with a Touch ID-enabled iPhone then you'll know how convenient this feature is. Not only does it make unlocking the device easier, it allows the user to protect their iPad with a stronger passcode with very little of the hassle associated with a stronger passcode (essentially, users will only need to enter it manually after the device has been rebooted).

Touch ID is also going to win enterprise and BYOD users, especially people who are customer- or client-facing. Not only does it make the unlocking process easier, it's also more secure because the owner doesn't have to key in a passcode to unlock the device.

Touch ID is present on both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3.

A8X processor

More power, more performance. The new silicon – which features triple-cores as opposed to the dual-core architecture found in earlier chips – will unlock more possibilities for the tablet, especially when it comes to heavy computational lifting or pixel pushing. The A8X also features 2GB of RAM – double what has been present on previous generation iPads – and an L2 cache increase to 2MB from 1MB.

The A8X is only present in the new iPad Air 2, with the iPad mini 3 still being powered by the previous-generation A7 chip.

Thinner and lighter

This is a popular mantra over at Apple, and while it might feel as though this is said a lot, the new iPad Air 2 is 18 percent thinner than the original iPad Air: 6.1mm compared to 7.5mm. It is also a fraction lighter, shaving 32g off the weight of the initial iPad Air.

The iPad mini 3 retains the same size and weight as the previous model.

If you're going to be carrying the new iPad Air 2 around all day, then this size and weight reduction might be welcomed.

Battery life

The iPad Air 2 sees its battery's capacity cut by 5.1Whr, but thanks to the more efficient A8X processor it still delivers the standard 10 hours of battery life that iPads have always delivered.

The iPad mini 3 actually manages to deliver better battery life compared to its predecessor.

Better storage capacity options

While the storage options still start at 16GB – which is getting cramped for pretty much everyone except those using their iPad for a couple of apps, such as enterprise users – the middle of the road option now features 64GB of storage for an extra $100, and the top end offers 128GB for $200 extra.

Improved display

Not only is the new display thinner, but also for the first time Apple has applied an anti-reflective coating to the surface, which should help make it easier to use alfresco.

What's wrong with the new iPads

If you're expecting revolutionary changes, you're outta luck

The new iPads are evolutionary upgrades applied to the old iPads. The new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are still just iPads. They look like the old iPads, and feel like the old iPads.

Battery life could be better

One of the most revolutionary features of the iPhone 6 Plus is the dramatically improved battery life. This single feature has boosted my productivity dramatically, and helped alleviate battery anxiety.

No multi-app support

No, you can't have two apps on the screen simultaneously, like some of the rumors were predicting, although the improved hardware does open up this possibility.

No multiuser support

Apple still wants people to buy a tablet for themselves, not one to share between several people.

Weak iPad mini 3 improvements

The iPad mini 3 is an iPad mini 2 with a Touch ID sensor and the 16GB/64GB/128GB storage options. That's it.

The bottom line:

While it's easy to criticize Apple for not having packed the new iPads with everything that people have been asking for, that doesn't make good business sense. While many would have liked to have see Apple leap light years into the future, the iPad really only needs to last out the year, and then Apple unveils another.

Are they good enough? Well, given that iPad sales seem to have tanked, perhaps it was time for Apple to pull out the stops, but since it's unclear what's behind the fall in sales – lack of interest, the iPad being overshadowed by other products, an as-yet unclear upgrade cycle – then perhaps Apple is better playing things slow.  

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