Say hello to the iPad Air 2, the Apple tablet that's thinner than a pencil shaved down to size by a laser. I just held one at Apple's event, and I have to say: oh gosh is it thin and light and gorgeous. Enough so, in fact, to completely overshadow the new iPad mini.
Not only is it way, way thinner than the smaller iPad mini 3 — and this will sound crazy — but it feels lighter too. Even though it's nearly a quarter of a pound heavier, the 6.1mm-thin chassis is so thin and easy to lift with a single hand that it makes the mini seem downright fat by comparison. I feel like I could hold it over my head in bed without any worry of smacking myself. Not something I can say about any other 10-inch tablet.
And then there's the screen. Oh, that lovely new iPad Air 2 screen. The iPad mini 3's screen is certainly sharp, bright, and beautiful, but it has a visible air gap. The iPad Air's display puts pixels right up against my fingers as I loft it effortlessly in the air.
In fact, the screen's delightful enough that after looking at some of Apple's sample pictures on it, the new iPad's 8MP camera seems a little disappointing... at least in a completely white room filled with people crowding around the new gadgets! The viewfinder locked onto people's faces mighty quickly, but I'm not sure I'd take to shooting with this tablet quite as much as I did with the iPhone 6 Plus.
I immediately missed the 6 Plus's optical image stabilization as I moved the tablet around, and I could instantly tell the 120fps slow motion doesn't hold a candle to the 240fps — that's twice as slow, slow enough to film an amateur shampoo commercial with wavy hair — as Apple's latest smartphone.
So yeah, I don't know why I'd ever want an iPad Mini 3 when I can get an iPad Air or a iPhone 6 Plus. Both are thinner, lighter, more comfortable, and if you really want something smaller that isn't a phone, you can go back to the iPad Mini 2.
The only major bummer with the iPad Air 2, meanwhile, is that it doesn't have NFC for Apple Pay at cash registers. The Touch ID sensor is there, but you can only use it to sign into apps and for online transactions. (The iPad Mini 3 doesn't have it either.) If you want payments on the go, you'll still need an iPhone. I'm an Android devotee when it comes to smartphones, and was hoping to get in on the Apple Pay by upgrading my iPad. Oh well.
There's also no rotation lock / mute switch anymore, which is really kind of a bummer. I use it *all* the time on my third-gen iPad.
Here are all the pictures I took of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3. First, the Air:
The iPad Mini 3: