iPad Air 2 review: Six months later

iPad placed above keyboards
iPad placed above keyboards (Image credit: More)

We've had just over half a year to test and use Apple's latest iPad — to feel out if the company's tablet is settling in as a valued device in our lives, or just another paperweight. Here's what the iMore team had to say about the iPad Air 2, six months later.


Rene: The iPad Air 2 is just ridiculous. Even six months out I can't believe Apple's hardware team was able to pack this much power into a casing that's even lighter than the original. The lightness is what really does it for me, though. I use the iPad to read or watch video at night, browse the web, catch up on Twitter or email — things that I could do on my laptop but that I want to mode-shift and do on an iPad instead. And because it's so freaking light, I can do it for a longer time. Apple not only made the iPad Air 2 more powerful, they made it more usable.

Ally: Now that I've been using my iPad Air 2 along with my iPhone 6 on a regular basis, the hardware choices Apple made are more than obvious. Both have such a similar design that passing tasks of between them just feels right.

Ren: I've always been skeptical about Apple's push for "lighter" above all else, but with the iPad Air 2, it feels like the perfect balance — lighter and powerful. I'm not a heavy iPad user the way Rene and Ally are, but the tasks I use it for require both easy portability and strong performance. I love using it more than any previous iPad I've owned.


Rene: The display on the iPad Air 2 remains incredible. I have a Retina 5K iMac now. I've been using a new MacBook for a few weeks. And I say this again — the display on the iPad Air 2 remains incredible. The lamination and all the other new screen technology has made it look more than ever like digital paper, and that's an amazing thing.

Ally: If you're still questioning whether or not the laminated display on the iPad Air 2 makes that much of a difference, wonder no more. It makes a huge difference. I recently picked up an iPad Air and I could immediately tell it was an iPad Air, without looking at whether or not it had Touch ID, and that's saying something (my eyes aren't that great to begin with).

Ren: Gosh, I love this display. I've used it to read, to draw, to edit photos, and to watch movies on, and I've had a wonderful time on all fronts. My only real sadness about the new display is that the screen lamination has messed up the tracking on a few of the Bluetooth-enabled pressure-sensitive third-party styluses, and most have yet to really figure out a perfect solution for it.

Performance and battery life

Rene: The iPad Air 2 is the first device where I absolutely feel like Apple's chipset team has outrun the company's software team. The Apple A8X is just stupefying, and I'm almost frustrated iOS doesn't let me take full advantage of it. It's so amazing it makes me suspect all those rumors we've been hearing about where Apple might go next with the iPad have to be more than rumors. This much power in this portable a form-factor just can't be gated by either phone or traditional computing software. I've said before I hope Apple eventually does an iPad OS the way they did a Watch OS, and six months later I still feel that way.

Oh, yeah. Battery life for me is fine. It's still at the level where I forget I need to charge it, then remember only when the warning pops up.

Ally: My iPad Air 2 does "alright" on battery life but that's about all I can give it. I wish it lasted longer than it did but it still gets the job done. As far as performance goes, I've had very few issues there. I use Pixelmator to edit photos on a regular basis and it chugs along just fine, regardless of whether I'm making an object disappear in mid-air or adjusting tones.

Ren: My only qualm with the iPad Air 2's battery life is how quickly it drains in standby. I use it a lot when traveling, but if I put a fully-charged iPad in a bag and don't use it for a few days, I'll pull it out at 60 percent, which can be minorly frustrating.

Touch ID and Apple Pay

Rene: I still don't have Apple Pay, of course, but Touch ID makes unlocking my iPad so quick and easy I forget it's even locked anymore. Simply having it on all my iOS devices means I no longer have to remember which ones do and which ones don't, and that's a lot of saved energy mental and physical.

Ally: Touch ID makes everything simpler from buying apps on the App Store to shopping. More than anything, I appreciate not having to type in a passcode any longer. They now somehow feel inferior to me and I slightly groan when I have to.

Ren: I don't use in-app Apple Pay a lot on the Watch, but like Ally, I love Touch ID for unlocking my iPad. It's so simple, and keeps me from being frustrated over repeated passcode prompts.


Rene: Ally is going to be mean and insensitive here, so I'll just preempt her by saying — you go iPad photographers! I almost never have to use my iPad for taking still pictures, because the iPhone's camera is still technically better and it's with me all the time, but I have used that magnificent screen as a viewfinder on occasion and it's been, well, magnificent.

Ally: I still say no to iPad photography.

Ren: I'm with Ally. It's not for me. That said, Apple probably put cameras in this thing for a reason, and if you're finding good success taking images with an iPad, that's awesome. I'd still recommend using an iPhone, though. :)


Rene: The iPad has always had far and away the best tablet apps, but here's where I'm hurting a little — We've seen amazing software from the original iWork and iLife apps to last fall's Pixelmator, but we still haven't seen enough of it. This might be because the iPad has to evolve, like I mentioned above, or that the platform has to find a way to better promote and reward making transformative apps, but whatever it takes, I want them. I've seen the possibilities and they're too incredible not to be realized.

Ally: My app habits haven't changed much with the iPad Air 2 over other iterations. I still prefer triaging email on my iPhone and editing photos on my iPad. I still like gaming on the iPad better than I do on my iPhone. I just enjoy these things more on the iPad Air 2 than I ever have on any other generation iPad.

Ren: I almost exclusively edit images and sketch on my iPad, and that hasn't changed with the Air 2. Pixelmator, Paper, and Forge have been great additions to that workflow, and I'm still waiting to see what else third-party developers have in store.


Rene: I haven't really added any accessories. I still AirPlay a ton, so Apple TV is a must for me, but that's about it.

Ally: Smart cover only! I prefer keeping my iPad as naked as the day it was unboxed!

Ren: Styyyyyyyluses! I have a huge box of iPad styluses both that I've picked up over the years and ones I still need to test on the Air 2. The one bummer is, as I mentioned above, Apple changed the way the display functions, which means that some Bluetooth-enabled styluses don't draw as well as they used to.

The bottom line

Rene: Six months later and the iPad, even assaulted by ever-bigger iPhones and ever-lighter MacBooks, remains an incredible product. It's still bigger than even my iPhone 6 Plus and lighter than even the new MacBook I've been using, and that gives it enough reason to stay in my daily life. Again, given the hardware under the hood, and the path shown by the Apple Watch, I do think there could be a way for iPad to become even more, and I think it will. For many people, however, especially those who need an incredibly accessible computing appliance, I think it's still the best thing on the market. And I think that's what most of the tech-centric coverage consistently misses.

Ally: Every year Apple gets me to use my iPad more and more. It has went from a device that I picked up occasionally to play games on to something that I actually enjoy carrying around with me to get writing done, edit photos, and tons of other things. Three years ago I would have told you I used my iPhone far more than my iPad. While I do still use my iPhone more than my iPad, that gap is closing more and more each year. The iPad is getting more convenient to carry around and it's getting powerful enough to allow me to leave my MacBook at home. And that's a win in my book.

Ren: People may be grousing about the iPad's declining sales, but I continue to love the device. It's about the right use case for your house — if you don't have a use case for the iPad, that's okay. You may find that the iPhone or Mac fits better in your life. For me, the device fits perfectly as an auxiliary option for editing images, doing some digital sketching, and a nice second screen while I'm in the kitchen or watching video.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.