IT Pro Verdict
Not a must-have for owners of the original iPad Air, but a great buy for owners of older iPads and first-timers
Slim and light
Useful Continuity features
iCloud features have some problems
No longer supported by Apple
Apple has slowly decommissioned the iPad Air 2 and it will no longer receive the latest iPadOS, but that doesn't mean it can't serve as a perfectly functional tablet for you and your business.
Along with the iPad Mini 2, the Air 2 was discontinued in 2017, with both replaced by entry-level models. The Air 2 was supported by eight different versions of the OS, from iOS 8 to iPadOS 15, but hardware limitations have meant it isn't eligible for iPadOS 16.
However, with refurbished models as low as £120 on Amazon the iPad Air 2 is potentially a good option for creative businesses with tight budgets.
iPad Air 2 review: Build quality, display and battery
The Air 2 looks almost identical to its predecessor, but it’s 1mm thinner than before and just over 30g lighter. We scoffed at such small changes in dimensions on paper, but they’re surprisingly noticeable in the flesh. With its lighter, more evenly distributed weight and thinner profile the Air 2 is much more comfortable to hold than its already slender predecessor - especially for long periods of time.
We were also sceptical about Apple's claims that the 10in screen is less reflective, but once again the difference was noticeable. Compared to other tablet screens, it was considerably less reflective under both domestic halogen lighting and fluorescent office lighting strips. This means it's less likely you'll have to change your seating position or turn down the lights just to avoid seeing your reflection while attempting to read or watch a video. Contrast and colour accuracy are both excellent -the only tablet display that's as goodis the one found on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 which has more vibrant colours.
It doesn't have the True Tone display of the iPad Pro 9.7in, which actively adjusts the colour depending on lighting conditions. However, it's still a very good screen, and it does take advantage of the Night Shift feature, first introduced in iOS 9, which automatically changes the colour temperature depending on time of day.
The Air 2's thinner build means that the battery is a little smaller than before, which we feared would result in noticeably shorter battery life. This wasn't the casethough, with the battery lasting ten and a half hours when playing videos - the same lengthy score achieved by the original iPad Air. However, rival tablets can last even longer - the Tab S 10.5 lasted 14 hours and 20 minutes for example, while the SonyXperiaZ2 Tablet lasted a staggering 16 hours.
iPad Air 2 review: Hardware, performance and connectivity
Part of the reason for the Air 2's lengthy battery life is its power-efficient triple-core processor, the 1.4GHz A8X.It's also very fast,excellingin our 3D graphics tests as well as our app and webpage loading benchmarks. Paired with 2GB of memory, it makes the Air 2 one of the fastest tablets we've seen so it should have no trouble running demanding apps for some time to come.
We suspect most people will opt for theWiFi-only version of the Air 2, but if you do opt for the 4G variant then there's a potentially handy new feature called Apple SIM. This SIM card can, in theory, be used with any mobile network so you can take advantage of the best mobile broadband deals by simply selecting the network and package you want in the Settings app instead having to order, wait for and swap SIM cards.
However, for now the only UK network that works with Apple SIM is EE, whereas Americans have their choice of almost all the major nationwide mobile networks in the US. Hopefully, the other UK networks will become compatible with Apple SIM soon. You can of course use a standardnanoSIM with a 4G Air 2 and the Apple SIM is still useful if you're travelling in the US and want to have mobile broadband as British visitors can sign up for one month plans with T-Mobile US.
Although the new fingerprint reader isn't as useful here as it is on an iPhone, which is more likely to be lost or stolen due to its smaller size, it's still a useful feature to have on an iPad. Whether you're worried about data security or simply want a more convenient way to unlock your tablet, the fingerprint reader worked flawlessly.
iPad Air 2 review: Camera, iCloud and iOS 8.1
We feel very conspicuoustaking photosusing a tablet, but many other people share no such inhibitions. We've seen tablets used as cameras from the streets of London and Rome to the Jordanian desert. The Air 2's camera coped well in brightly lit conditions, capturing surprisingly sharp and detailed photos. It's not as good as the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus for low light photography where its photos aren't as sharpor well-litand have more noise, but the Air 2 is still a respectable camera to fall back on.
There are lots of new features on the Air 2 that came embedded at launch with iOS 8, Apple's latest mobile operating system at the time of release, and one of our favourites is Continuity. This lets you use different iOS devices together more efficiently and now work with Macs too. For example, you can now instantly share the Air 2's 4G connection with your Mac without fiddling aboutwithsettings andyou canreply toiMessagesusing your Mac's keyboard.
You can even start tasks on your iPad, such as writing a long document or working on a spreadsheet, and finish them on your Mac picking up right where you left off. It's a shame but unsurprising that these useful features aren't available for Windows, but even if you do have a Mac most of the Continuity features rely on your Mac having built-in Bluetooth 4.0 or require apps to specifically support them.
One feature which does work with Windows is iCloud Drive, Apple's equivalent to online storage services such as Dropbox and is used for sharing files betweenthe Air 2 and your othercomputers. You get 5GB free, but this is shared with any other iCloud services you use such as iCloudemail. Extra storage is reasonably priced starting at 79p per month for an extra 20GB.
However, iCloud Drive does have some odd limitations. While it works with Windows 7 and 8, it only works with Mac OS X Yosemite and not any older versions of Apple's own desktop operating system. Plus, there's no currently no way to share a large file with non-iCloud Drive users by creating a link as you can with Dropbox. In any case there's little reason to use it if you already use other storage services as apps updated for iOS 8 can now access other storage services more easily than ever before.Plus, if you want to share files between your iOS 8 devices and Macs without using the internet you can do so using the revampedAirDropwireless file sharing feature.
iPad Air 2 review: Conclusions
Each of the iPad Air 2's new features seem minor on paper, but taken together they all add up to help make itone of the best tablets available it'ssimplya joy to use. If youwantthe longest possible battery lifethoughorifyou want waterproofingthen theSonyXperiaZ2Tabletis a better pickdespite its inferior screen and camera.
Should you buy a 9.7in iPad Pro instead? The cheapest iPad Air 2 a 16Gb WiFi-only model can be had for as little as £30 on eBay or Amazon, which is a big drop compared to the cheapest iPad Pro – £499 – though the latter includes 32GB of storage and will have much better performance all round. A refurbished iPad Air will be more than £100 but it will be more than good enough for everyday use.
Not a must-have for owners of the original iPad Air, but a great buy for owners of older iPads and first-timers.
How old is the iPad Air 2?
9-years-old; the iPad Air 2 was released in October 2014.
How much should I pay for an iPad Air 2?
For a refurbished model, the iPad Air 2 can be purchased for as low as £120, though as a discontinued model it isn't something businesses can by direct from Apple.
What year was the iPad Air 2 discontinued?
Apple stopped making the iPad Air 2 in 2017, however, the tablet was still supported by OS updates until March 2022 – it was, by that point, the only device to receive eight versions of iPadOS.
iPad Air 2 specs
|OS||iOS 8.1 to iPadOS15|
|Display||9.7in 2048 x 1536 display|
|CPU||1.4GHz Apple A8X triple core processor|
|Dimensions (WHD)||170 x 240 x 6mm|
Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.
Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.
You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.