2017 iPad vs. iPad Air 2 vs. iPad Air: What's new and different in Apple's latest tablet?

Posted:
in iPad edited March 2017
With the last update to the iPad Air line over two years ago, how does Apple's new 2017 iPad compare to its predecessors? AppleInsider takes a look at the three statistically, to see how they stack up.




As we discussed yesterday, the new iPad is a compelling, inexpensive upgrade for users of the iPad 4 and earlier which comprises 30 percent of the existing user base. However, the iPad Air and Air 2 owners hold a commanding 35 percent of iPad users who may be looking at the new iPad as well.




How do those models stack up with the new 2017 iPad?

Big general gap between the iPad Air, less so for the iPad Air 2

It's been a while since the last iPad releases in the Air family.




Since the iPad Air, 802.11ac wireless is more prevalent with enthusiasts, if not for all "regular" home users. For Air users, that's a big plus but less so if your network infrastructure doesn't support it yet.

Not in our chart is an improvement in the camera from the Air to the 2017 iPad. The iPad Air has a 5MP rear-shooter, improved to an 8MP camera in the Air 2 and new iPad -- but please don't be that person who holds up your iPad at a concert or other venue to capture it on video.

We've already touched upon the return to the iPad Air's size and weight -- the Air 2 is thinner than the 2017 iPad, but has a smaller battery. How much of a difference the difference in battery and a shift from three cores to two in the new iPad will have on use time remains to be seen. AppleInsider will evaluate the difference when we can get our hands on one.

Real-world performance

The improved specs lead up to better performance -- with notable improvements from the iPad Air, and even some from the iPad Air 2.




It's never been quite clear how much of the iPad's day-to-day use implements symmetrical multiprocessing -- this probably depends greatly on the app in question. The new iPad has the best single-core performance out of the iPads we're comparing today, with a comparable multi-core performance to the three-core iPad Air 2.

There is a notable caveat -- the benchmarks we've listed in the chart are pulled from the iPhone SE which has an A9 processor running at 1.8 GHz. The 2017 iPad is said to run at 1.85 Ghz, so we're not expecting a major difference from that, but there may be other factors involved. We'll update the chart accordingly when we can get a reliable benchmark running on the hardware itself.

Repairability seems better on the 2017 iPad than on the iPad Air 2

The iPad Air has in essence the same display as the iPad 3 and 4 -- a multitouch display with LED backlighting, and a scratch-resistant coating with a glass cover. The iPad Air 2 moved to a fully laminated display with an additional anti-reflective coating.

The 2017 iPad as gone back to the older display construction, with a discrete glass panel, and LED display. In theory, this should allow for easier repairability of the newer iPad, as the entire display assembly doesn't have to get removed to fix a crack in the glass.

As the display isn't completely laminated, the Touch ID sensor should be discrete as well -- but confirmation of this will require a teardown.

The new iPad is a less obvious choice for any iPad Air user than for those with older iPads




Unless Tim Cook or somebody else at Apple uncharacteristically spills the beans on the thought process behind the new iPad, the rest of us can only guess about intent. At first glance for the consumer, it appears to be a way for Apple to differentiate between the non-Pro and pro lines, and give a compelling upgrade option to the about 1/3 of the user base on non-Air iPads.

As an education model, the lower price will allow for lower pricing for schools of all stripes. The non-laminated screen makes repairs a bit less arduous, and may allow for discrete Touch ID module replacement -- but on this, we'll see with time.

The price is hard to argue with. For $329 on March 24 buyers can get the new iPad, with all it entails. Prior to its unveiling, the very similar iPad Air 2 cost $399.

The 2017 iPad revision excels in some aspects, and is a bit behind in others compared to the iPad Air 2 -- but the choice to buy or not isn't so cut-and-dried for iPad Air owners. At this point, iPad Air users have seen a pretty decent return on investment -- but the replacement cycle for iPads is more like for computers, so it may not feel like time to upgrade just yet.

How well the new iPad will sell to the iPad Air crowd and the education market remains to be seen. There wasn't a large jump of users from the "flagship" iPhone line to the similarly positioned iPhone SE. However, since there's not a dramatic difference in any regard between the iPad Air 2 and the new iPad, there's no real reason for iPad Air 2 owners to jump to the new model.
albegarcRoyfb
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    I'll be purchasing one shortly after release, I still have the iPad 2 and while it runs okay (considering its age) it's time for an upgrade. I know Apple is holding an event during April but since I only use the iPad for multimedia, I don't think I'll be missing much.
    mike1albegarcRoyfbwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 32
    tyranntyrann Posts: 6member
    Will wait for reviews to confirm the 2GB ram and how much a difference the increased battery capacity makes on the new processor. If it does indeed have 2GB ram and more than 10 hours battery then i may finally upgrade from my iPad 2 lol.
  • Reply 3 of 32
    Interesting that in a previous article there were some posts that the mini was a low volume player. I agree that margins could be a concern but according to the data above the mini represents 30% of iPad volume...
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 32
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 898member
    B3BADASS said:
    I'll be purchasing one shortly after release, I still have the iPad 2 and while it runs okay (considering its age) it's time for an upgrade. I know Apple is holding an event during April but since I only use the iPad for multimedia, I don't think I'll be missing much.
    I had an iPad 3 before purchasing an Air 2  last year.. I don't know how you can still put up with the snail's pace of the iPad 2, especially after the recent iOS versions turned my iPad 3 into a paperweight. The difference in speed and lightness is incredible!
    pscooter63radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 32
    Anyone able to confirm whether the Touch ID is the one in the iPhone 6 or the one in the 6S, 6S is much faster.
  • Reply 6 of 32
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 5,008administrator
    Anyone able to confirm whether the Touch ID is the one in the iPhone 6 or the one in the 6S, 6S is much faster.
    No way to tell today. It'll have to wait on a teardown.
    albegarcwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 32
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,706member
    Like Tyler82, I had an iPad 3 and then moved to an iPad Air 2, which I'm actually using to write this comment. I agree with Mike's analysis: iPad Air and Air 2 users can stay put, anyone with an older model should look into upgrading. The Air 2 (which you may be able to find used for around the same price as the new iPad) retains the "sweet spot" point in the non-Pro market, being lighter and thinner than the latest iPad and only slightly slower. The pricing on this new model is definitely attractive, but for myself I think I'll hang on to my iPad Air 2 for at least another year. I'm really enjoying using it (primarily for writing, booking travel, and reading/web reading).
    albegarcbb-15radarthekatr00fus1watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 32
    To me this is very simply just a lower entry point for those people who are not in the iPad ecosystem yet or those who are but only need to add a simple iPad at a low cost.  If you're an existing iPad owner and want to upgrade, your upgrade path already exists and leads you straight into the pro lineup.  
    The_Martini_Catradarthekat
  • Reply 9 of 32
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 678member
    Interesting that in a previous article there were some posts that the mini was a low volume player. I agree that margins could be a concern but according to the data above the mini represents 30% of iPad volume...

    People talk about how Apple doesn't pay attention to this or that product because it's a low volume player.  Desktops are a smaller percentage of sales, etc.  It's a kind of circular logic.  Apple doesn't sell a lot of desktops or iPad Minis because they don't pay any attention to them - and vice versa. 
    albegarcentropyswilliamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,992member
    I agree that the education market, where Apple has been having a major problem because of low priced Chromebooks, and upgraders, are a major target of this. But additionally, new users are being targeted too. More than a few people have told me over the last few years that they don't want a small tablet, like the Mini, but that the 9.7" models are too expensive. Some have bought Android models instead. Since they don't plan to get too much software, Android is ok. This pricing might get some of that market.

    i have thought that Apple should have done this before. But maybe the pricing wasn't possible.
    bb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 32
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,299member
    Heavier, thicker, otherwise pretty much the same. No wonder there was no event. 
  • Reply 12 of 32
    fred1fred1 Posts: 359member
    My wife and I both have the iPad Mini 2 and are very happy with them. Mine is two years old and hers is three. 
    Why is there now only one option for the Mini? And why is it more expensive than the new iPad?

    Can someone please help me understand?

  • Reply 13 of 32
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 308member
    "benchmarks we've listed in the chart are pulled from the iPhone SE which has an A9 processor running at 1.8 GHz. The 2017 iPad is said to run at 1.85 Ghz, so we're not expecting a major difference from that, but there may be other factors involved".  Well, graphics for one, no?  an iPad has to push a lot more pixels than an iPhone SE.
    Royfbwilliamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 32
    I see this as, potentially, the start of the reorganizing of the iPad offering. This is the low-end: not the top-of-the-line tech but extremely capable. I think, with iPads, the real dividing line seemed to be between the Air and the Air 2: the Air and earlier do not take advantage of the split-screen features, while the Air 2 and later do. That seems to be the line. So this new iPad sits at the bottom end of that spectrum, for an attractive price.

    Then you've got the iPad Pros, which are a different value proposition: top-of-the-line tech for a higher price. I'm leaving out the mini, I'll leave that aside because its size makes it fundamentally different.

    I do not think this is "aimed" at current iPad Air/2 users. It's the new low end, and I would not be surprised to see it kept there: the lowest-end tech that can handle the broad range of things that Apple wants available to everyone, at the most attractive price. This (kind of) reminds me of iPod, though the similarity is probably coincidental. First came iPod, then the (more expensive) iPod Mini and Nano...and then starting with the shuffle, with various models and capacities eventually Apple had covered a very broad spectrum of price points. No matter what you wanted to spend, from $50 to $500, there was an iPod model that could fit your budget. If indeed this is the vision for iPad (it's probably not), then this might be the first step.
    albegarcwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 32
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,982member
    sog35 said:
    This new budget iPad is for:

    1. People coming to their senses and finally dumping their crappy Android tablets

    2. Education market

    3. People with iPads pre Air1

    I have an Air1 and see no reason to upgrade to this tablet. My wife has an iPad3 and this will be a HUGE upgrade. She is basically getting a way better iPad for almost half the price ( $599 vs $329).
    Agree. At $329, it's no reason to not own one! 
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,992member
    tjwolf said:
    "benchmarks we've listed in the chart are pulled from the iPhone SE which has an A9 processor running at 1.8 GHz. The 2017 iPad is said to run at 1.85 Ghz, so we're not expecting a major difference from that, but there may be other factors involved".  Well, graphics for one, no?  an iPad has to push a lot more pixels than an iPhone SE.
    The graphics of the A9 is slightly better than the graphics of the A8x used in the older unit. So there is a slight boost there too. Also the 2GB of RAM, as opposed to the 1GB of the Air 2 will make a noticeable improvement in browsing with a bunch of tabs.

    in addition, Apple used three CPU cores in the A8x, it is believed, because moving on to that generation, it's thought that Apple couldn't put two much more powerful cores on the silicon. They moved back to two much more powerful cores in the A9 and A9x.

    you'll see much better performance in a lot of apps, where that matters, using an A9 with 2GB RAM, than when using an A8x and 1 GB RAM.
    edited March 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,992member

    Heavier, thicker, otherwise pretty much the same. No wonder there was no event. 
    Very little heavier, just a little bit thicker. Brighter screen, better performance, likely better battery life and much better price, particularly when considering that it comes with 32GB storage at that price rather than the 16GB on the Air 2.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 32
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,992member

    fred1 said:
    My wife and I both have the iPad Mini 2 and are very happy with them. Mine is two years old and hers is three. 
    Why is there now only one option for the Mini? And why is it more expensive than the new iPad?

    Can someone please help me understand?

    If we understood, we'd explain it. I'm making an assumption here, but it's always possible that people are buying it mainly for music and video, and the large storage model is the most popular. I know that may seem strange. There has to be some reason though. If the cheaper versions were selling well, I would think they would drop the price a bit, and continue them.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 32
    jason98jason98 Posts: 765member
    melgross said:

    Heavier, thicker, otherwise pretty much the same. No wonder there was no event. 
    Very little heavier, just a little bit thicker. Brighter screen, better performance, likely better battery life and much better price, particularly when considering that it comes with 32GB storage at that price rather than the 16GB on the Air 2.
    7.5 vs 6.1 is a very noticeable and annoying difference.
    albegarcwilliamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 32
    sog35 said:
    This new budget iPad is for:

    1. People coming to their senses and finally dumping their crappy Android tablets

    2. Education market

    3. People with iPads pre Air1

    I have an Air1 and see no reason to upgrade to this tablet. My wife has an iPad3 and this will be a HUGE upgrade. She is basically getting a way better iPad for almost half the price ( $599 vs $329).
    4. People like me that have never owned a tablet. 
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
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