iPad Air 2
It's even thinner and lighter than last time around and to a noticeable extent. The screen is better, with more vibrant colours, it's more powerful thanks to its A8X processor and the battery life holds up just as well. It even benefits from Touch ID and Apple Pay and while these features aren't as exciting here as they are on phones they're still nice to have. Performance
The 64-bit A7 processor introduced on the iPhone 5S was altered to provide a power boost to last year’s iPad Air. Called the A7X this chip was similar in performance to the A7 – up 5-10% in our benchmark tests.
This year Apple has gone further and designed a processor specifically for the iPad Air 2. The A8X has a tri-core CPU running at 1.5GHz and a quad-core graphics processing unit coupled, for the first time, to 2GB of RAM.
If we play Specs Top Trumps the iPad Air 2 looks a shadow of top-end Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and its 2.3GHz quad-core processor. Don’t let that fool you, though. The iPad Air 2 is the most powerful tablet we’ve ever tested – and that’s including Nvidia’s Shield Tablet that packs the great new Tegra K1.
And while the processor is key to that performance, Apple has also ensured that iOS 8 can make the most of it. Metal lets developers take full advantage of the quad-core GPU, while the new iOS programming language, Swift, means apps can hook into certain features such as Touch ID.
Some observers have even compared the iPad Air 2's performance to a desktop PC. In some respects they’re right. The A8X processor performs a few tasks faster than PCs just a few years old, but the question is: do you need all that power? If you intend to use your iPad as a productivity device then you’ll appreciate it. Even if you don’t, you may find yourself using it more as a laptop replacement than you anticipated.
During the launch of the Air 2, Apple showed off a video-editing app called Replay that lets you create slick-looking videos with ease. The iPad Air 2 powered through the edits.
There are clear benefits to be had from the extra performance, but let’s see how it stacks up against the competition.
The iPad Air 2 scores an excellent 4,509 on Geekbench 3. To put that in some context, the next fastest tablet we’ve reviewed, the Nvidia Shield, scored 3220 – that’s 40% faster. That also makes the iPad Air 2 almost 70% faster than the iPad Air. That’s some impressive work in just a year.
And the wins keep coming with a 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited score of 21,797. That’s 33% higher than the Shield and almost 50% better than the first-generation iPad Air.
The iPad Air 2 is astonishingly fast – so fast, in fact, that you might not know what to do with all that power. Not that we’re complaining, of course. The extra grunt means that this is a tablet you can use for more than just checking out the latest memes and Facebook. It future-proofs the Air 2 to some degree.
There’s also been an upgrade to the co-processor, now called the M8. This handles all the sensor data from the iPad Air 2, such as the accelerometer and the new barometer. The reason that Apple favours a co-processor is that it uses much less power than the main processor, helping the battery to last longer.
In short the iPad Air 2 really is the complete package and while you can always find things to niggle about there are no significant flaws. In the time since the original iPad Air launched everything else is still struggling to match it and yet Apple has managed to raise the benchmark higher still. Everyone else really has their work cut out if the iPad Air 2 is going to be unseated from the number one spot. The new iPad Air gets an improved A8X processor, better rear and front-facing cameras, an even thinner and lighter design, an anti-reflective screen, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and more built-in storage at higher configurations than last year. But The Air 2 isn't a big change from last year's iPad in terms of overall function; battery life remains the same, although its battery life is already pretty good. Audio playback via speakers makes the thin metal body resonate more than before. The Bottom Line The iPad Air 2 is a nice refinement and finesse of last year's model, with a bevy of tweaks, enhancements, a much faster processor, and the welcome addition of Touch ID. Simply put: it's still the gold standard for tablets.
Weight: 437g | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm | OS: iOS 8.1 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: Triple-core 1.5 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16/64/128GB | Battery: 7340mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP $349.95 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 It's the best screen I've seen on a tablet and the Retina iPads are the only ones that really come close. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S rocks a vividly colorful, razor-sharp screen and exclusive software perks in an ultra-thin and lightweight design. That fabulous display is backed up by plenty of grunt and a battery that ensures you can keep going for a day or two. There's a case to be made that 7-8 inches is the sweet spot for a small tablet, but at least the Tab S offers two choices to buyers. The Galaxy Tab 10.5 is fast. Not as fast as the top-end phones like the Snapdragon powered Galaxy S5 and OnePlus One, but still more than powerful enough. It scores 2,669 in the multi-core test in Geekbench 3, which puts it in the top 5%.
It suffers a little more in the graphics department. Here, more powerful phones and tablets like the Nvidia Shield Tablet have a noticeable advantage. This shows in a 13,500 score in the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited test, which falls a long way short of the 20,000 or so of the top phones.
But most people won’t notice this difference in actual games. We couldn’t find any game on Android that didn’t run smoothly or look good. The middling graphics performance should only concern serious gamers.
But,The plastic backing and faux-chrome rim will certainly not be to everyone's tastes, but that aside this is a tablet with very few negatives. Starting at $500, it's a high-end purchase. Touchscreen response can lag if many of its memory-hogging apps are open in the background.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Ultimately it's a whisker away from being a 5-star tablet. I'd like to see small improvements in the camera, the hardware design and the way Android fits to larger screens, but other than that it's a tablet that Samsung can be very, very proud of. An exceptional screen and a long list of software goodies make the Galaxy Tab S Samsung's best tablet to date and our top Android choice for an entertainment slate. Key Features: 10.5-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 AMOLED display; Exynos 5 Octa 5420; 3GB RAM; 16GB storage; 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0; microSD up to 128GB; 7,900mAh battery; 465g
Manufacturer: Samsung Price:$500
VS Nexus 9 The Nexus 9 is a bit of a weird one - it's both the replacement for the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10, without really being a sequel to either thanks to the all-new 8.9-inch screen.
For the eagle eyed among you, you may notice it's jumped up a place in our rankings. That's because it can now be picked up for around £210, making it super affordable. It'll likely be replaced in the next month when Google launches a new slate - but for now it's a steal.
It's mimicking the iPad range by going for a 4:3 screen ratio (which means wider viewing for web browsing, but annoying black bars above and below when watching movies) so you've got a wider device that's not quite able to be gripped in one hand.
But that doesn't mean it's not a great tablet, helped by the fact it's made by HTC. The brand has brought over its Boomsound speakers for greater front facing audio, and the screen is certainly high resolution too. Weight: 425g | Dimensions: 228.2 x 153.7 x 8mm | OS: Android 5.0 | Screen size: 8.9-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: Dual-core 2.3 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16/32GB | Battery: 6700 mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.6MP