We Told You What to Dream: The iPad Air 2 Review

Merely the best mainstream tablet.

“What good is an iPhone that can’t make calls and doesn’t fit in your pocket?” That’s what I (and many others in the tech enthusiast community) said upon the announcement of the original iPad back in the far off antebellum past of 2010. The whole idea of an ARM-based tablet running a smartphone OS seemed absurd. Tablets were specialty tools for students and professionals who needed the ability to take notes and annotate presentations on the go in a way that a traditional laptop wouldn’t easily allow. And here comes Apple, trying to suggest they should be mass-media consumption devices. “Harumph,” we said.

How does that old saying go? “Time makes fools of us all.” The iPad was a runaway success that spawned a legion of competitors, and tablets have all but replaced small sub-notebooks and netbooks. Now they even threaten to overtake traditional laptop sales in the coming quarters, though as per usual the market Apple found the ideal time to capitalize upon seems to have run away from them. Once thought to be the new crown jewel in Apple’s mobile empire, the iPad has seen its market share toppled by Google’s Android, while the realities of competing without carrier subsidies have never allowed it to be the cash cow the iPhone has become for Apple. Some speculated after the launch of the iPad Mini in 2012 that Apple might refocus on the more popular sub-8” tablet market and leave the traditional flagship 9.7” iPad to rot. This doom and gloom quickly proved misplaced, however, when the iPad Air launched in 2013. The largest iPad shed substantial weight and girth, slimming down to be lighter than many competing 8” tablets. Then, late last year, it was refreshed again with the predictably-named iPad Air 2. This device was not just thinner and lighter still than its immediate predecessor, it also picked up some new tricks. Externally, the iPad Air 2 picks up a higher-resolution camera sensor and TouchID-enabled home button, but as always it’s what’s on the inside that counts. While the original iPad Air shared the same 1 GB of RAM and A7 system-on-a-chip (SoC) as the iPad Mini and iPhone 5s it debuted alongside, the iPad Air 2 features a specially-designed A8X that brings two things to the table never seen in a previous iOS device, even the new iPhone 6 Plus: a second gigabyte of RAM, and a third processor core. Combined with a monstrously powerful GPU co-designed with Imagination Technologies and a desktop-class 128-bit memory bus, Apple is competing on specs like never before. The message is clear: Apple is through playing second-fiddle in a market they exploded. The king wants his crown back.

Video Review

I’m trying out something new with this device: a ‘brief’ video review. This one has some limitations related to my setup and being my first go at such a task, but it’s definitely a process I want to work on improving and refining for future devices (and possibly even some editorial content). You may notice that content is coming at a faster clip these days, and I fully intend that to be something that continues, with a full review every couple of months and (ideally) one to two shorter news or editorial articles a week. Anyway, the first official Blag-o-nets video review should be embedded here, barring any WordPress-related disasters:

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Now We’re Gettin’ Somewhere: The Nexus 7 (2013) Review

Ever since the launch of the original Kindle Fire in 2011 showed the world that a $200 tablet didn’t have to suck, the market for smaller, media-focused tablets has exploded.  Google seized upon this opportunity to show the world how it’s done just over a year ago with the introduction of the Nexus 7.  The flagship Android tablet packed a high-quality 1280×800 IPS LCD, quad-core Tegra 3 CPU, and all-day battery life into a slim frame that weighed barely a third of a kilogram.  While that spec sheet would have been impressive at almost any price, Google chose to go for Amazon’s throat with the Nexus 7, pricing it directly opposite the Kindle Fire at a mere $199 for the 8GB model.  The Nexus 7 sold incredibly well – especially for what is, at least in theory, a device aimed mainly at developers – with most estimates placing it with over 10% of the Android tablet market.  Google clearly had a hit on their hands, and as Google I/O 2013 neared, the Android community was abuzz with rumors surrounding the Nexus 7’s surely-imminent replacement.  It was, after all, the one-year anniversary of the original Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” launch.  Much to our surprise, however, that event passed largely uneventfully, with no announcement of either a new version of Android nor a new 7-inch horse for it to ride in on.

Rumors continued to swirl, however, and when Google announced a press conference on July 24th, there was little doubt what they had in store for us.  Sure enough, that morning Google officially announced to the world the heir apparent to the 7-inch tablet crown, simply enough simply called the Nexus 7.  The name says everything that needs to be said: This is everything that was awesome about the Nexus 7 you know, but better.  It’s a bold promise to make, but one Google were intent to deliver on.  So does 2013’s Nexus 7 live up to the lofty standards set by its predecessor?  Read on to find out.

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Apocalypse Never: The PC Market In Perspective

The third-quarter sales figures are out from the usual suspects at Gartner and IDC, and they show (as was expected) a dip in sales from almost every major PC manufacturer in the US – even Apple, who have until now managed to continue selling more units despite an industry-wide slump.  This time, only ThinkPad manufacturer Lenovo and famed king of reliability ASUS managed to keep their heads above the waterline – and did so spectacularly, with Lenovo moving up to 4th place behind Apple in the US, and taking the number one spot worldwide away from HP.  Despite Lenovo’s successes, however, the industry as a whole declined for yet another quarter.  The question on many people’s minds is obvious: why?  Computers are faster and cheaper than ever, so why aren’t they selling as well?  As it turns out, it’s actually a fairly complex answer that can’t be easily boiled down to something pithy like “iPad sales,” no matter how hard some members of the tech press might desire to do so.

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