Nikki Ekstein
October 16, 2014

If you were one of the thousands who lined up for a shiny new iPhone 6 last month, get ready to queue up again: Apple is back at it with next-gen iPads that are bound to become instant travel tech classics. Here’s everything you need to know about today’s big news.

“How do you make the best tablet in the world better?” asked Tim Cook leading into today’s big tablet reveal. Well, for one thing, you make it thinner. It used to be as slim as a No. 2 pencil, but the new iPad Air 2 measures in at 6.1mm, shaving 18% off its predecessor’s width. (Joked Cook: “Can you even see it?”) Other improvements: a sharper Retina display, an anti-reflective coating that cuts glare by 56% (optimal for e-reading), a 10-hour battery life, and a whole new generation A8X chip that makes for even faster performance. Naturally, the Air 2 comes in three colors—white, silver, and gold—starting at $499 for 16GB models with WiFi (models are available for pre-order tomorrow and will begin to ship next week).

But many of the improvements take direct cues from the iPhones that have just landed in the hands of millions. One of the most prominent is Touch ID, which unlocks your device with a scan of your fingerprint. But more exciting for travelers is the new iSight camera—possibly the single most-used travel function of the iPad, whether you think that looks ridiculous or not. Among its enhancements: a full 8MP, a fast f/2.4 aperture lens, and 1080p video capabilities for HD-quality footage (which you can quickly and easily touch up on an impressive new built-in video editing program, Replay). You can also take panoramas up to 43MP, burst mode photos, slo-mo videos, and time lapses—features that have made the iPhone camera a pro favorite. On the amped-up front facing camera, there’s improved face detection and single-shot HDR photos.

Especially exciting for travelers is faster Wi-Fi connectivity, made possible by an upgraded MiMo chip that delivers 2.8x faster performance and faster LTE with a whopping 20 bands—that’s more than any other tablet. This will enable you to connect at high-speeds at more networks around the world than ever before—no small feat. Almost all of these features are also included in an upgrade to the iPad Mini, the iPad Mini 3, which starts at $399 for 16GB models.

Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

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