One side effect of the slimming down is that the various layers of the screen are more compressed, and air gaps have been taken out. And this translates into a screen that is firmer to the touch, and consequently more pleasurable to use.
Some of the hardware buttons and features have moved or altered. The microphones are now either side of the camera aperture, the mono speakers have changed from a double to a single row of holes - audio quality remains a weak point - and the mute lock has been removed completely.
iPad Air 2 review: Screen
In terms of size and resolution, the iPad Air 2 has the same screen as the Air 1.
But two things have changed. Firstly, the screen has become more responsive to the touch: flipping from screen to screen, and within apps, seems near-instantaneous. The second is the addition of an anti-reflective coating, which darkens and minimises the distracting reflections that appear when using an iPad under lights.
iPad Air 2 review: Performance
The iPad Air 2 contains a new processor: the A8X. And this is the fastest chip ever included in an Apple tablet.
The A8X will prove its worth in the months and years to come, as more processor-intensive apps are released, but for now, the difference in speed between the iPad Air 1 and 2 is minor. Some apps boot up a second or two quicker, and the camera is ready to shoot a little earlier, too.
iPad Air 2 review: Camera
The iPad Air 2’s rear-facing camera has been boosted from 5 to 8 megapixels. Our tests suggest this isn’t a huge leap forward in visual fidelity, but under some shooting conditions you’ll see appreciably more detail.
There are also new camera features. The iPad Air 2 gets slow-mo and time-lapse video modes, as well as burst mode and a timer.
iPad Air 2 review: Touch ID
Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner comes to the iPad line-up for the first time.
You can use a single touch of a finger to unlock your iPad Air 2, and, thanks to third-party Touch ID support, to unlock various apps. You can also verify App Store purchases with Touch ID, and when it launches in the UK you’ll be able to use the online and app-based elements of Apple Pay. Instore payments are not possible with the iPad Air 2 because it doesn’t come with an NFC antenna.
iPad Air 2 review: Verdict
This is a lovely update of an already lovely device, with an improved camera, a considerably faster processor, a slimmer, more portable body and Touch ID. If you currently own an iPad Air 1, however, we probably wouldn’t recommend an upgrade - it’s a lot of money, and by the time the speed gains of the A8X chip are really noticeable, we'll be thinking about the iPad Air 3. But if you're on an iPad 4 or earlier, or new to the world of iPads, this is an excellent choice.