Apple iPad Air 2 Review: Should You Upgrade?

Performance: Graphics & Gaming

Now that we've seen what the A8X SoC and 2GB of DDR3 RAM can do for lightweight tasks like web browsing, let's how these parts fare when stressed with 3D graphics and gaming benchmarks.

Graphics testing
iOS and Android Graphics testing

Apple iPad Air 2 GFXBench T-Rex

Remember when Mr. Miyagi signed up Daniel LaRusso to compete in a karate tournament where he was sure to face off against experienced Cobra Kai opponents? Well, like the Karate Kid, Apple's iPad Air 2 waltzed into the ring with some burly opponents, such as NVIDIA's SHIELD tablet, and ultimately took home the trophy, even if just by a few frames per second. That speaks to the might of the A8X chip, that it can square off with a dedicated gaming tablet and offer better performance. Was it a fluke victory?

Apple iPad Air 2 GFXBench Fill Rate

Negative, Ghost Rider. If anything, the few additional frames per second the iPad Air 2 posted compared to NVIDIA's SHIELD tablet undersell the A8X's capabilities. In the fill rate test, the iPad Air 2 scored more than 30 percent higher than the SHIELD, and more than doubled up the score of every other device we tested it against.

Graphics and Gaming
Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm
Apple iPad Air 2 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

While on the verge of clean sweeping our run of performance benchmarks, the iPad Air 2 finally yields to the competitor. Fittingly, the gaming-oriented SHIELD tablet pulls ahead of the iPad Air 2 in Futuremark's 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test. Apple's latest tablet can't claim total victory, but it can pound its chest in triumph at having posting great scores across the board, including this one, which took a second place finish.

Subjectively, games (and apps in general) load fast and run smooth on the iPad Air 2, and of course they look great as well. What's more, Apple is making a concerted effort to help developers ensure that their games will run smooth on the iPad Air 2 by handing them Metal, framework and shader language that gives them low-level, low-overhead access. Over time, Metal could lead to faster performing and more complex games and apps than what are available today.

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