Which Apple iPad Air tablet should you buy? iPad Air vs iPad Air 2
Two months ago, Apple announced its latest flagship in its tablet lineup, the Apple iPad Air 2. But at the same time, Apple slashed the prices of all the previous generation tablets that are available for sale in Malaysia including last year's iPad Air. This actually made things harder for many buyers as now they must choose between buying the latest iPad Air 2 tablet or the slightly more affordable iPad Air from last year. With the recent price listing on Apple Malaysia for the iPad tablets, we decided to compare both the aforementioned models, the iPad Air 2 vs iPad Air to help you decide which one to buy this holiday season.
Design – Slimmer and Lighter with a new color option
Unlike the Apple iPad Air, which was a revolutionary upgrade as compared to previous iPad generations, the new iPad Air 2 suggests a gentle upgrade in terms of design. Apple has managed to cut down the thickness of the new iPad by almost 1.4mm, so the new measurements are 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm. As you can see, except for the change in the thickness, the measurements remain exactly the same. In essence, the iPad Air 2 looks exactly like the earlier iPad Air.
However, there are some subtle differences. For example, Apple has removed the mute/lock rotation button from the new model and has shifted the position of the dual microphones. These changes are not noticeable at first glance, and you could easily mistake the new iPad Air 2 for the old iPad Air. The new iPad is lighter too, and just weighs 437 g (Wi-Fi) and 444 g (3G/LTE). Like in the iPad Mini 3 there is also the new Champagne Gold colour option to choose from.
Tech Specs and Features – Better CPU, 2GB RAM and 8MP rear camera with Touch ID
Apple has incorporated a new processor on the new Apple iPad Air 2. It comes with a modified version of Apple's own A8 processor found on the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus - the A8X. The original iPad Air comes with Apple's A7 processor with M7 motion co-processor. The new processor should deliver 40% better performance and 2.5 times the GPU performance as compared to the previous generation. The company has also bumped up the RAM on the new model from 1GB to 2GB. There is no memory card slot to expand the internal storage but there are 16GB, 64GB and 128GB storage variants.
The Apple A8X processor offers even better performance
The iPad Air 2 comes with the same 9.7 inch Retina display with 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution as its predecessor. However, the three display components in the tablet, namely cover glass, touch sensor and (IPS) LCD panel are now fully laminated resulting in better contrasts. It also comes with multiple layers of anti-reflective coating which Apple claims reduces reflection by over 54%. This makes for a better overall display on the newer tablet, but the original iPad Air's display is still great, even without these new additions which have mainly been added to increase the thinness of the newer tablet.
The fuly laminated display allows the Apple iPad Air 2 to be thinner than before
The addition of Touch ID is one of the most notable upgrades for the iPad Air 2 as it is the first Apple tablet to get this feature ever since it was introduced on the Apple iPhone. You can unlock the tablet with your unique fingerprint or to authorize payments on the Apple App store. Unfortunately, like the iPad mini 3, the iPad Air 2 does not come with NFC, so it cannot be used like the latest iPhones with Apple Pay. Apple Pay is also currently limited to the US, and the company has not yet announced any plans for its launch in Malaysia. In short, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on the iPad Air 2 cannot be used for Apple Pay wireless transactions. Although it is a great feature, it isn't really necessary, especially when you cannot use Apple Pay in Malaysia.
As for the camera, Apple has upgraded the 5MP rear iSight camera to 8MP in the new model but the 1.2MP Facetime HD front camera remains the same. This should result in better images taken with the iPad Air 2, but don't expect a remarkable difference in picture quality due to the lack of any LED flash. Check out the detailed tech specs comparison using our comparison tool.
Performance – Clearly the iPad Air 2
In benchmark tests, the iPad Air 2 easily beats the iPad Air in both CPU and graphics performance. While the iPad Air managed to score just around 1400 and 2600 in the single core and multi-core tests on Geekbench, the newer iPad Air 2 scored well above 1500 and 4500 in the same tests. Even in graphics test, the iPad Air 2 managed to score well over 21000 as compared to the iPad Air's score of 15000. This clearly shows that the iPad Air 2 is superior when it comes to CPU and graphics performance.
However, even though the newer iPad model performed better than the older generation, it does not necessarily mean that the iPad Air performs poorly. As you can see in the picture shown, the iPad Air still easily beats out most other competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. This means that the iPad Air is still a great tablet with excellent CPU and graphics performance. If you are not planning to use graphic intensive games or apps on your tablet, the older generation iPad Air is still a great tablet to buy.
Interestingly, Apple has reduced the size of the battery in the new iPad Air to 27.62Wh instead of the 32.9Wh battery in its predecessor. This doesn't change the battery life of the new device, even with a faster processor though. This means that both the devices have the same talktime, which is about 10 hours on Wi-Fi and 9 hours on Cellular networks.
Price – about RM250 or so price difference
The 16GB iPad Air Wi-Fi only model starts at RM1279 while the latest iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi model starts at RM1599. Similarly, there's a RM250 to RM300 difference between the Wi-Fi + Cellular variants of both the tablet models. This means that you could save well over RM250 if you decide to purchase the older generation iPad instead of the latest version.
Conclusion – Apple iPad Air 2 if you can wait
There's no doubt that the new Apple iPad Air 2 is better than the iPad Air both in terms of design and performance as it is thinner and lighter while maintaining the same battery life and adding on an 8MP rear camera. If you have not bought a larger Apple iPad tablet yet or are using an older iPad 4 tablet then the better buy would certainly be the iPad Air 2. On the other hand, the display on the older iPad Air tablet is more or less the same as the new one and the processor and graphics performance is still very good compared to other competing tablets - even a year after launch. You get all of these for around RM250 less than the price of the iPad Air 2, so we'd recommend you get the older iPad Air if you're not looking to use it for graphics intensive apps or purposes.
In any case, the new pricing has made the larger storage variants more affordable. Therefore, if you are going to get an iPad Air or iPad Air 2 tablet, try to get one with a larger than 16GB storage option. Neither tablet supports expandable memory and the new iOS 8 update may take up to 6GB of your storage space, which will leave you less than 10 GB of available storage if you buy the 16GB version. As of the time of writing, the iPad Air 2 may be listed on the website but is still not available for shipping in Malaysia. So, if you cannot wait for a few more days to get the newer iPad Air 2, the iPad Air is your best bet.