Apple unveiled a pair of new iPads at a media gathering held on its own campus in Cupertino today. The iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 are both incremental updates meaning there aren’t any new groundbreaking design changes or sizes (the rumored 12.9-inch iPad was a no-show) this time around.
Instead, Apple’s latest iPads feature a number of minor revisions and new features that result in faster and better-rounded devices.
The 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 is considered the world’s thinnest tablet at 6.1mm thin, which is 18 percent thinner than the model it replaces. To put that into perspective, you can stack two iPad Air 2s and they’d still be thinner than the original iPad. It weighs just 0.96 pounds.
Apple said this was achieved by optically bonding the LCD, touch sensor and glass which eliminates a thin air gap found in previous models. This manufacturing technique is said to result in a sharper image and with a new anti-reflective coating, the screen is 56 percent less reflective.
Under the hood is Apple’s second generation, 64-bit A8X chip with M8 motion co-processor. It features 3 billion transistors which translates to a 40 percent faster CPU and a GPU that is 2.5x faster. Again, to put it into perspective, the Air 2 offers up 180x the graphics performance of the original iPad. Even with the added power, the iPad Air 2 carries a battery life claim of 10 hours.
Apple realizes that people use their iPads out in public for photography and for those people, they’ve upgraded the rear iSight camera significantly. The new camera is an 8-megapixel unit with an f/2.4 aperture and 1.12 micron pixels. It can shoot 1080p HD video, 43-megapixel panoramas, time lapse images, slo-motion video, has a burst mode and uses the image signal processor found in the A8X.
It also appears to sit flush with the back of the iPad versus the protruding camera assembly on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The front-facing FaceTime HD camera has also been upgraded with a new sensor and a larger f/2.2 aperture that lets in 81 percent more light. It can do HDR with a single image, burst selfies, HDR videos and has improved face detection.
Elsewhere, the iPad Air 2 has a 2.8x faster Wi-Fi chip (802.11ac with MIMO). Cellular models now have 20 LTE bands capable of speeds up to 150 Mbps and as expected, Touch ID is present on both new slates.
Pricing for the iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for a Wi-Fi model with 16GB of storage. An Air 2 with a capacity of 64GB will set you back $599 while 128GB of local flash memory will command $699. Cellular variants can be had for $629, $729 and $829 for 16GB, 64GB and 128GB of storage, respectively.
Apple only devoted a few slides to the iPad mini 3. It’ll include the same 7.9-inch Retina display as before, a 5-megapixel iSight camera capable of 1080p HD video recording, a FaceTime HD camera, 802.11n Wi-Fi with MIMO and the aforementioned Touch ID. Interestingly enough, it still carries the same A7 chip as the model before it (no wonder it didn't get any stage time). It's clear that Apple will be pushing the iPhone 6 Plus as its small-screen "tablet" device moving forward.
Wi-Fi only models start at $399 for 16GB and top out at $599 for the 128GB version. Cellular connectivity adds an extra $130 to the mix so you’re looking at $529 for a 16GB version all the way up to $729 for the 128GB model.
Pre-orders for both new iPads begin tomorrow and will ship by the end of next week in silver, space grey and gold color schemes.
What’s more, the original iPad Air is sticking around and now starts at $399. The iPad mini 2 (iPad mini with Retina) can now be had starting at $299 while the first mini has dropped down to just $249.