In a thankfully U2-free event, Apple revealed its newest additions to the iPad range today. The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are already available for pre-order from the Apple Store, and while there's no huge surprises, the company has made a few tweaks to last year's iPad design.
While both models will run Apple's iOS 8 operating system, there's more differences between the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 than just pricing and screen size.
The iPad Air 2
First up – the newer, faster, slimmer iPad Air 2, which at just 6.1mm thick is officially the world’s thinnest tablet. The Air 2 measures 9.2 inches and features Apple’s new A8X chipset, which promises a 40% faster performance than last year’s model.
The tablet sports an 8MP iSight camera (which includes burst mode, timelapse, panorama and the ability to film 1080p HD video), as well as an upgraded FaceTime HD camera. Connectivity-wise, the Air 2 supports MiMO WiFi with theoretical speeds of up to 866 Mbps, and the cellular model will connect to over 20 bands of 4G LTE.
With an anti-reflective coating on the iPad’s display and around 10 hours of battery life, the only main let-down is that the device won’t support Apple’s recently implemented NFC capabilities; but luckily, you'll still be able to use Apple Pay to make online purchases (eventually).
This is because the Air 2 includes a fingerprint scanner and Touch ID for Apple Pay identification, and if you like your devices blinged-out, will also finally come in gold (alongside space grey and silver). Apple has also upgraded the iPad’s graphics, and included the M8 motion coprocessor and barometer to gather motion and movement data.
It’s not all improvements though – in Apple’s quest to achieve its thinnest and lightest iPad ever, the company seems to have omitted the tablet’s rotation lock and mute button, which won’t please many iPad owners planning to upgrade.
Apple’s US pricing for the iPad Air 2:
- 16GB - $499
- 64GB - $599
- 128GB - $699
WiFi and cellular version:
- 16GB - $629
- 64GB - $729
- 128GB - $829
The iPad mini 3
The iPad mini 3 is a smaller, 7.9-inch device with the expected Retina display and Apple’s A7 processor. The Mini 3 features a 5MP iSight rear camera and HD FaceTime camera, and wireless connectivity, but overall we were surprised at how little has changed since last year’s iPad mini announcement.
The main differences are the inclusion of Touch ID, and gold being added to the mini 3's colour options…and that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s the same specs, same design, same camera, same everything – just at a higher price.
As with the iPad Air, the mini 3 is available in both WiFi and WiFi + cellular models and pricing in USD is as follows:
- 16GB - $399
- 64GB - $499
- 128GB - $599
WiFi and cellular version:
- 16GB - $529
- 64GB - $629
- 128GB - $729
Our recommendation? Unless Touch ID and Apple Pay is really important to you, save yourself $100-plus on the iPad mini 3, and get practically the exact same device for less cash by picking up the now-cheaper iPad mini 2 (aka last year’s iPad mini with Retina display).
The iPad mini 2 is now selling from $299 USD for the 16GB WiFi-only option...and you can even use the money you save to buy a gold iPad cover.