Apple debuts the iPad Air 2 with a fingerprint scanner and better camera and processor

Apple updated its iPad line in an event at its campus on Thursday. Say hello to the iPad Air 2.

The iPad Air 2 sports a very similar design to the previously available iPad Air, although it is thinner than its predecessor at 6.1mm thick.  The major improvements here are faster processors and an [company]Apple[/company] Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Apple’s flagship tablet also gets a new type of screen covering that should reduce glare in direct light.

The iPad Air 2 will be running an improved A8X processor with an M8 motion coprocessor. The processor in the iPad Air 2 is actually more powerful than the processor in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple says its CPU is four times faster than its predecessor, and the GPU is 250 percent faster as well. The new chip, like the iPhone 6, has a barometer installed.

The iPad Air also gets its first major camera improvement in years. The iPad Air 2 will be equipped with a 8-megapixel camera that allows for burst mode shooting. The new camera will have a f/2.4 aperature and will be able to shoot video in 1080p. It can even manage slo-mo video at 120 frames per second, although it will only be at a 720p resolution. There’s a lot of controversy about whether people should use large tablets to take photos, but it’s hard to deny that there are a lot of pictures taken with iPads, and the camera improvements are very welcome.

The front-facing camera also got an upgrade, with a larger sensor and a f/2.2 aperture.

The iPad Mini also got a spec bump. There’s a new iPad Mini 3, but Apple didn’t spend a great deal of time on its new features — perhaps because it’s competing with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Although the new hardware doesn’t reimagine the iPad, Apple’s emphasizing new features that are coming in iOS 8.1, including online Apple Pay support thanks to the new Touch ID sensor. There are also new Continuity features, including the ability to receive text messages and make calls from an iPad that’s paired with an iPhone. And there is improved integration with Mac desktops running OS X Yosemite. Both iPads now support 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, which means up to 866 Mbps throughput, which could make a big difference with the new Continuity features.

Like the older models, the iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for the entry level model, with pricing for additional disk space or LTE support going up to $829 for a 128GB model with LTE. The iPad Mini 2 will continue to cost $399. Like Apple did with the iPhone, it has eliminated the 32GB model, pushing the mid-level model up to 64GB of storage.

Apple’s keeping the older iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display in its lineup and discounting them by $100. The original iPad Mini — without a Retina display — now costs $250.

And if you’ve ever wanted a gold-colored iPad, here’s your chance. The iPad Air 2 now comes in the same champange color as the iPhone. Pre-orders start tomorrow and they’ll ship next week.