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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  • peteo - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    wired says 2GB
  • tralalalalalala40 - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    2 billion more transistors and 20% smaller. These devices are getting crazy good. Expect to see full fledged adobe/microsoft/everyone products on these as developers start taking advantage of the specs here. The iPad is years ahead of the competition.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    Any news on compatibility of the iPad 2 with the watch?
  • GC2:CS - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    The thinnest tablet on the planet, 437g is absolutelly insane for an full metal builded ten incher.
    You got an optically bond display with ultra low reflectivity, you got the fastest SoC in the world that will not kill your battery life. You got a Touch ID so you don't have to type in your password like in stoneage.
    A great camera... Well as I don't have many sceneries to photograph from my couch I only heavilly appreciate it doesn't stick out like in iPhone 6.

    It's just an insane upgrade to an already great tablet.

    iPad mini 3 is a different story, I think you will only buy it because of golden color, Touch ID or because you just like to have the newest thing possible. A combination of tiny upgrade and a much nicer price for the iPad mini 2 implies to me that Apple doesn't want you to buy the iPad mini 3. Why ?
  • GC2:CS - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    Because there is an 6,1 mm, A8X, with LTPS full sRGB and optically bonded retina display coming in ~6 months like with iPad 3 and 4 ?
    And so the less people will buy the mini 3 the less will complain later.

    Don't get me wrong, the iPad mini 3 is still a great iPad !
    It's just iPad Air 2 that went crazy and just kind of overshadows everything.
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    They did that to move their release date to the pre-Christmas quarter instead of the post-Christmas quarter. It was always kind of weird to have the launch in March.
  • mkozakewich - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    It's the same price and has some improvements. I agree that it's less than we thought it would be, but it's not like they're suddenly charging a premium.
  • bj_murphy - Friday, October 17, 2014 - link

    Ryan, it would appear that the iPad mini 2 already had a 128 GB option available, meaning the only real change seems to be the inclusion of the touch ID sensor in the mini 3.
  • GC2:CS - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - link

    He probably wanted to imply that both 64 and 128 GB models are 100$ less expansive than before.

    You don't longer have to pay 699$ for a 128 GB mini.
  • wylie102 - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    Gizmobic are reporting Benchmarks showing the A8X is a 1.5Ghz triple core configuration with 2gb of RAM. Interesting. Turns out the iPad air 2 could be a beast!

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