John Gruber, Daring Fireball:
The new iPad Mini 3 really just gets two things: Touch ID and a gold case option. Really, that's it. Everything else about it remains unchanged.
The iPad Air 2, though, is entirely new. It's a thorough refresh, that not only makes it a nice year-over-year improvement over last year's iPad Air in just about every single regard, but arguably positions it above the iPhones 6 as the top-tier iOS device, period.
Jim Dalrymple, Loop Insight:
I will continue using both iPads because they both have a place in my lifestyle and workflow. At the end of the day, I still use the iPad Air for the larger screen, while I use the iPad mini when I go out for a coffee and need to be a bit more portable. That's not going to change any time soon.
The iPad created and made popular a market for powerful, portable tablets. The latest updates, along with iOS 8.1 and the App Store ecosystem, only solidifies Apple's position as the No. 1 tablet-maker in the world.
Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal:
The iPad Air 2 pushes forward in all the ways you'd expect Apple's tablet to. The blend of screen, build and app quality make it the best full-size tablet you can buy.
But it doesn't move ahead in one area where some of us have been waiting (desperately) for evolution: true multi-tasking, going beyond the one-app-at-a-time functionality. Perhaps that's the big surprise that Apple will bring when it introduces a 12.9-inch iPad next year.
It would be nice to see the iPad get beyond the lean-back experience that's been the focus since Steve Jobs first sat down on the couch.
Nilay Patel, The Verge:
There's no question that the iPad Air 2 is the best iPad ever made. It's also the best tablet ever made — its incredible hardware and enormous ecosystem of apps offer a commanding advantage over the competition. But it's not Apple's best product; it's not the company's most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.
It's mostly just thinner.
Dieter Bohn, The Verge:
So it's not so much that I'm disappointed in the iPad mini 3, it's more that I'm disappointed with the state of the small tablet in general — there's simply no top-tier device if you want the smaller size. This iPad mini might be the best option, but "best option" for 7-inch tablets turns out to be faint praise.
The iPad mini 3 is still great, even if it's not a great deal.The iPad mini 2, on the other hand, is both — it's nearly exactly the same device minus a huge chunk of the price tag. Really, right now is a stupendously good time to buy an iPad mini 2.
Brad Molen, Engadget
In the wake of dire sales, the Air 2 is exactly what Apple needed to keep the lineup fresh. It may not be a brand-new design, per se, but its thin frame helps keep the marquee tablet looking sleek and exciting, and the extra burst of performance ensures that it stays among the most powerful tablets on the market for the next year. It could use a little help with battery life compared to the Air, but it's still an improvement over the iPad fourth-gen and older. Most importantly, the Air 2 feels like Apple hasn't given up on the tablet form factor, even if it's experiencing a dip in sales.
That said, I'm not sure where the mini 3 fits into Apple's strategy. Since the only hardware improvement to the new slate is Touch ID, the mini lineup is no longer on par with the Airs; it's now a second-class tablet citizen. I love Touch ID, and I favor the screen size of the mini, but it's not worth paying an extra $100 for Apple's fingerprint sensor unless you use a ton of passwords or want to make a lot of online Apple Pay purchases. It's still a great performer, but I can't help but wonder if the mini lineup can remain relevant at its price point -- especially now that 5.5-inch iPhones are even more portable and still offer a large screen.
Walt Mossberg, re/code:
That leaves future-proofing as the main reason to get an iPad Air 2. Its faster processing and graphics capability are likely to make it better than the original Air, as more apps are built that try to bring advanced gaming, or heavy-duty video editing, to the tablet.
If those things don't matter to you, neither may the iPad Air 2.
Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian:
The iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly Apple's best tablet to date. Its Touch ID fingerprint scanner works well, it's thin, light and powerful and lasts a long time on a single charge. But it no longer stands head and shoulders above the competition.
Anick Jesdanun, ABC
Last year's iPad Air was a huge improvement over the 2012 iPad, so this year's update seems small by comparison. The improvements might not be enough for existing iPad Air owners to upgrade, but there's enough there for those who have older models or are getting their first tablets.
Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch:
Apple's iPad is a category that in some ways is trying to define itself, now that it's moving into its relative young adulthood. Larger phones mean that it will mean different things for users than it did when it was introduced four years ago. The iPad Air 2 is the best reflection of what a tablet likely means to users currently, though – it's a big-screened slate with a gorgeous display, an exhaustive software library and powerful processing capabilities that you'd be comfortable holding all day, should you have to.
To build the iPad Air 2, Apple had to speed up and improve its usual hardware update process, and the intense focus and commitment required shows in the final results. There's no question that if you're in the market for a tablet, this is the best one available today.
Also Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch:
Apple's new iPad mini 3 is the same iPad mini with Retina it introduced last year – with the welcome addition of Touch ID. The changed product lineup it also now offers, which include last year's iPad mini 2 starting at $299, and the original iPad mini at $249, mean that for most users those will be a better all around value, even figuring in the reduced price you'll pay for 64GB and 128GB storage options on the new iPad mini 3. If you want the latest and the greatest, however, and all the options that Touch ID does and will eventually bring, and you're okay with spending a bit more for the privilege, the iPad mini 3 is still the best small slate available, even without significant engineering investment from Apple this year – but you have to really value the 'small' aspect of that to make it worth it. The iPad Air 2 is the best all around tablet, however, and a much better choice for those looking to be at the technological forefront of this market.
Harry McCracken, Fast Company:
The fact that the Mini 3's upgrades are so much less meaty than those of the Air 2 represents an apparent shift in strategy from last year's models. Technologically, 2013's iPads were nearly identical: You could pick your screen size and get Apple's latest technology either way. That made it seek like the highly portable and powerful Mini had a shot at becoming the dominant model in the iPad lineup, a bit like the way the iPad Nano came to overshadow the full-sized, classic iPod.
For this year, at least, that's not happening. Polished though the Mini 3 is, it's the iPad Air 2 that boasts the sleekest industrial design and most potent components. Once again, the full-sized iPad is clearly the flagship--not just of the iPad line, but the whole tablet category.
Lance Ulanoff, Mashable:
The Apple iPad Air 2 is the best tablet Apple has ever produced. It will please Apple fans, but may not have raised the bar far enough on tablet technology to hold onto its crown indefinitely.
Also Lance Ulanoff, Mashable:
The iPad mini 3 is a great tablet, but so was the iPad mini With Retina Display. Can Apple really justify the premium price for last year's (slightly updated) model?
Farhad Manjoo, New York Times:
I performed a test of tech benchmarks — Geekbench 3 — on the device, and I got a single-processor performance score of 1,812 on the Air 2, and a multi-core score of 4,530. Don't worry if those numbers are greek to you. What they mean, technically, is that the iPad Air 2 is faster than any other iOS or Android device ever sold. It's about as fast as the Macs that Apple was selling as recently as 2011.
This gets to what is perhaps the main reason to choose an iPad Air 2. All that power will last a long while; you could get four or five years of use out of this tablet before you'll need to upgrade. Of course, you'll pay a pretty penny for that longevity.
David Pogue, Yahoo:
It must be darned hard coming up with a new tablet model every October. In any case, the list of incremental improvements keep the iPad Air 2 at the front of the state of the art. It's a glorious, fast, beautiful, tablet, edging ever closer into laptop-replacement territory. And with the impressive iOS 8 and Apple's universe of online services behind it, this iPad will light up a lot of faces under the 2014 Christmas tree.
Chris Davies, SlashGear:
After a year tied with the iPad mini, the iPad Air 2 has reclaimed the 9.7-inch iPad's spot as the flagship of Apple's tablet range. Easier to hold, faster, with a better display, and yet with no noticeable penalty in battery life, the iPad Air 2 takes what we liked about the original Air and improves on just about every area.