iPad Air Vs. iPad Air 2: Time To Upgrade Or Cash In On Year-Old Tech Holiday Sales?

By Connor Sears , Updated Nov 06, 2014 12:44 PM EST
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Last month Apple released two new tablets, including the powerful new iPad Air 2. For the sake of providing options to consumers, however, it has kept many of its older models on the shelves, one of which being last year's original iPad Air. Obviously the iPad Air 2 comes equipped with more powerful innards, but the iPad Air enjoys a lower price point. The holiday shopping season is also coming up, and year-old tech is always a popular product to offer for a discount.

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So if you're in the market for an Apple tablet, do you go with the latest and greatest or with the option that can likely save you a pretty penny? Maybe a quick comparison can help you decide.

Size and Display

The two iPad Airs have identical display sizes. Both sport the same 9.7-inch screen with a 2048x1536 resolution. They also share the same width and height, though one of the big announcements for the iPad Air 2 was that this new model was able to shave a little more than a millimeter of its thickness. This also means the iPad Air 2 is just a touch lighter than its predecessor.

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The iPad Air 2 was also able to add an antireflective coating onto its display, giving it the slightest visual edge over the original Air. Overall, though, the two devices aren't too different in this category.

Hardware Specs

Here's where the iPad Air 2 pulls ahead. Inside the iPad Air 2 is Apple's new A8X mobile processor and M8 coprocessor. The original Air is stuck with last year's A7 and M7 – respectable hardware, but just not as powerful as the Air 2. Further, the iPad Air 2 was treated to 2 GB of RAM, twice what other Apple mobile devices run, including the original Air. If you're looking for devices with large storage spaces, the iPad Air 2 has models that have 64 and even 128 GB of space. The iPad Air, on the other hand, tops out at 32 GB.

The iPad Air 2 also pulls ahead in terms of camera power. While both models share the same 1.2 MP front-facing camera, the iPad Air 2 packs an 8 MP rear-facing camera. In comparison, the original Air only has a 5 MP camera on the back.

Features

No major features were lost in the transition from iPad Air to iPad Air 2. The only differences in this category are features that the iPad Air 2 gained. One of the big new features of the Air 2 is Touch ID, which allows users to log into the tablet and various apps securely with only their fingerprint. Touch ID also allows the Air 2 to support Apple Pay, albeit only for online purchases. Also added in the iPad Air 2 were burst mode and slo-mo capture for the tablet's camera.

A barometer found its way into the iPad Air 2, allowing the device to detect changes in elevation. The Air 2 also introduced a new gold color option, though this is hardly the most pressing difference between the two.

Price

Both varieties of the original iPad Air (the 16 GB version and the 32 GB version) are cheaper than the cheapest iPad Air 2. The original iPad Air, Wi-Fi only, will cost either $399 or $449, depending on how much storage you get. The cheapest iPad Air 2 is the $499 16 GB version, followed by the $599 64 GB version and the $699 version with 128 GB of space. As always with Apple tablets, you can add $130 to the price of these Wi-Fi models to get the cost of the LTE version.

So the iPad Air is certainly the cost-effective option, and it's likely to get even cheaper during the holidays. We already know that Sam's Club is offering $100 off the original iPad Air this month. That's the beauty of older tech. It gets cheaper even if it still performs relatively well.

In the end, this is the case for the original iPad Air. You can pick it up for a relatively low price this year, and it's still a competitive tablet, even if it does run slower than the Air 2. If you can do without new features like Touch ID and slo-mo video and don't mind the slightly outdated hardware (which is, by the way, the same hardware still found in Apple's new iPad Mini 3), the original iPad Air is still a great tablet option. If you're looking for the newest hardware in the tablet world, though, the iPad Air 2 is waiting for you.

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