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iPad Air 2 is thinner, starts at $499, £399, AU$619; has Touch ID (hands-on)

2015-04-02 17:37:42 

The Apple iPad Air 2 starts at $499 (£399, AU$619), finally includes Apple's TouchID fingerprint sensor and at 6.1 millimeters thick, is -- according to Apple -- currently the world's thinnest tablet. The tablet weighs 0.96 pound or 437g -- 0.98 pound/444g for cellular -- which is about 0.07 pound/32g lighter than the original iPad Air.


Preorders start Friday, October 17, and the tablet starts shipping the following Friday, October 24. Wi-Fi model pricing looks like this: $499 for 16GB; $599 for 64GB; $699 for 128GB. Cellular models are more expensive, as we'd expect: $629 for 16GB; $729 for 64GB; $829 for 128GB.

The Air 2 gets a huge upgrade in potential graphics performance, thanks to the new A8X CPU, custom-made for the tablet. According to Apple, the new chip has a second-generation 64-bit architecture, houses 3 billion transistors and compared to the iPhone 6's A8 chip, has a 40 percent faster CPU while its GPU is 2.5 times faster. As a gamer finding himself gaming more and more on a tablet, those details excite me the most.

Here's a hands-on look at the new Air 2 from CNET Section Editor Dan Ackerman. He notes -- although it's difficult to tell in the video -- that the tablet is in fact ever-so-much thinner than last year's Air.

The tablet includes the new M8 motion coprocessor, last seen in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The chip tracks motion, calibrates sensors, and acts as a barometer.

Don't expect people to stop using their iPads to take pictures anytime soon. The iSight camera is now an 8-megapixel shooter -- up from 5 megapixels on the Air -- with a burst mode for taking a bunch of photos in succession. The rear camera also supports time-lapse, slow-motion, and 1080p video recording.

The new FaceTime camera hasn't been left out of the upgrade goodies. It now does burst selfies and has improved face detection.


Wi-Fi is purportedly faster, with Apple claiming a 2.8x speed increase and 802.11ac support.

The new tablet ships with iOS 8.1 and includes support for Apple Pay, Apple's new payment system. However, since there's no NFC chip inside, you (thankfully?) won't be seeing it used at retail. It will be used for in-app purchases instead.


Apple addresses glare on the new tablet by making some changes to the way it's manufactured. It's gone to some lengths to make the space between the different components smaller, thereby reducing the amount of space for light to move through. The result is a tablet that should significantly reduce the amount of glare seen when using the tablet in sunlight. There's also an antireflective coating on the screen.

Apple appears to have checked most of the expected upgrade boxes. The A8X chip is by far the most exciting upgrade, but will likely only lead to better graphics in games and faster overall performance. If the iPad has never appealed to you as a product, the Air 2 probably won't change your mind. However, if you know what you're getting into, the Air 2's upgrades look to deliver palpable advantages over any tablet before it. Look for a full review soon.