The other big announcement for the day is of course Apple’s new iPads, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. As signaled by their names, neither is intended to be a massive departure from their (still for sale) predecessors. But both of them, the iPad Air 2 in particular, pack a number of improvements over the 2013 models.

In-hand, the iPad Air 2 is not as significant a departure from its predecessor as the original Air was from earlier iPads, but if you are familiar with the original Air then you can appreciate the fact that Apple has taken it down from 7.5mm thick to 6.1mm thick. The weight is roughly the same (437g vs. 469g) so it’s not much lighter in the hand, but handling it makes the change in size more apparent.

Perhaps more readily apparent is the anti-reflective coating, a first for an iPad. While Apple’s controlled demo room doesn’t give us the opportunity to introduce too much light, in what testing we could do there’s definitely a difference. Whatever it is that Apple is using, the coating doesn’t seem to have changed the clarity at all; it is seemingly still as clear as the non-coated iPad mini 3.

Meanwhile the A8X inside presents us with a new mystery. This is a new chip, and we know very little about it besides Apple’s claims of 40% better CPU performance and 2.5x better GPU performance. The CPU performance points to a dual core “Enhanced Cyclone” configuration like A8, while the GPU performance number is well in excess of what we saw going from A7 to A8. So comparing A8X to A7, we are most likely (finally) looking at a hex-core Imagination PowerVR GX6650 GPU. However, this alone does not explain where the roughly 1 billion additional transistors compared to A8 have gone. Most likely there are additional surprises to be found.

Moving on, we have the iPad mini 3. Unlike the iPad Air 2, Apple isn’t overhauling the hardware by nearly as much, so the iPad mini 3 is a smaller upgrade over its predecessor than the iPad Air 2 is. Size and weight stay the same, so the new mini feels the same in your hands as the old one. The display is also once more a 2048 x 1536 pixel display, though it did look a bit better than we recall the iPad mini 2’s display being, so it may be a new panel (but this is something we’d need to test).

Apple hasn’t replaced the SoC or WiFi radio – it’s still an A7 and 802.11n respectively – so performance isn’t any different either. What’s left to set apart the new mini from the old then is the inclusion of Apple’s Touch ID sensor along with a larger 128GB storage option. It’s admittedly not much, especially when the iPad mini 2 is now $100 cheaper. On the other hand it is available in Gold, and as we’ve seen with the iPhone that has proven to be a very popular option at launch.

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  • Nexus5Forum.com - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    Even better, get an official Apple refurbished iPad Mini Retina. It'll knock off an additional $50 so you can pick up the 16GB model for $249. Refurbished iPads from Apple are indistinguishable from new. Any part that is worn or not working right is replaced by Apple during a rigorous testing/cleaning process and you get the same 1 year warranty as a new iPad gets. It's a great deal for those looking to save even more cash. Reply
  • eanazag - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    That is an ignorant choice. The Mini 3 should have had the updated wireless hardwares and an A8 from the iPhone, if not the A8X. TouchID isn't worth $100.

    I'm also having a hard time making sense of their pricing at the 16 GB level. Their marketing used too much guessing and not enough liquor. No adequate differentiation from the iPad Air 16 GB and iPad Mini 3 16 GB. The Mini 3 should have had a base model with 32 GB. It would have been odd, but sensible for the extra $100 over the Mini 2.
    Reply
  • sonicmerlin - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    What if it has more RAM? Reply
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    Doesn't iPad Mini 2 have 1 GB, too? Reply
  • jameskatt - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    I think it is fantastic! It has a better screen. The Touch ID is great for buying things using Apple Pay. The Larger Storage is great for all the books you can store and movies too.
    Obviously, those who can AFFORD the iPad Mini 3 think nothing about upgrading to it.
    And it is best to get the most expensive model.
    Reply
  • Tom2014 - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    TouchID and possibly an improved display panel. The larger 128GB was always available but sold for $699 now they are selling it for $599 with TouchID. Not worth it for people who own an iPad mini 2 but original iPad mini owners would make it a worthwhile upgrade for 64GB and 128GB models because they are $100 cheaper than a year ago. Reply
  • CZroe - Sunday, October 19, 2014 - link

    I think they forgot the AR coating. At $100 less, I'd definitely go for the iPad mini 2.

    Because the original iPad mini sold so well and it was basically an iPad 2 with better WiFi, FaceTime camera, and Lightning, I was shocked when they made the iPad mini Retina the almost the equivalent of the iPad Air. I guess this move puts a little more distance between their top offering and the mini, but I think the mini should be a little compromise as possible beyond the smaller screen and battery (only reason why I was considering one),
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Well,I have to admit that the ipad Air 2 is everything I hoped it will be.
    Just like I forecasted here, Apple reserved the 2GB RAM and the true all out A8 chip for the big iPad. Well played.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Do you know it's 2GB yet? They didn't mention it and there's no teardowns yet. Reply
  • SirKnobsworth - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    Not for sure, but leaks have pointed to 2GB. Reply

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