Hardware

Craig Grannell puts Apple’s latest iPad through its paces

It’s an iPad. That’s the first thing you’ll think on getting hold of Apple’s latest tablet. And that’s fair enough – after all, Apple pretty much nailed iPad right out of the gate. This year, there are a couple of minor changes – the screen’s a bit bigger, and you get the Smart Keyboard connector. But that’s all.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to use an iPad Pro, you can’t help feeling the regular iPad is now more a love letter to the past than a vision of the future. Apple’s high-end tablet boasts an all-screen design, Face ID, a superb display, USB-C connectivity, and four powerful speakers. By contrast, this regular iPad is lumbered with relatively large bezels, Touch ID, a non-laminated (and therefore sometimes irritatingly reflective) screen, a Lightning connector, and just two speakers on the same end as the Home button – very noticeable when using the tablet in landscape. Also, the chip inside is an A10, which was introduced three years ago.

All of which is a big pile of grumbling, until you realize two very important things. The first is that this is still an iPad. It’s easy to use, lightweight, and – whatever reservations I might have about the A10 chip – fast. The app ecosystem is second-to-none, and iPadOS now seriously ramps up productivity when you’re using this device. Yes, this can just be a machine purely for consumption – movies; TV; music; books; comics; games. But grab a Pencil and you unlock a wealth of creative options. Add a keyboard as well (Apple’s Smart Keyboard is fine, but do also consider the Brydge 10.2 and Logitech’s Slim Folio) and even this entry-level iPad can give any laptop a serious run for its money.

And that’s the second thing: money. This iPad starts at just $329/£349. Admittedly, that is for the miserly 32 GB version. But even plumping for the 128 GB model only sets you back $429/£449. If you’re looking for your first tablet or replacing an old iPad on a budget, nothing else comes close.

If you’ve got the cash, there are of course better options. The iPad Air ($499/£479) will last longer due to its A12 chip, and the aforementioned iPad Pro ($799/£769) is a demonstrably better tablet in almost every way. But the vanilla iPad – just like when it debuted – has a unique mix of power, usability, and sheer value for money. It’s not the best iPad; but it is, for most people, the best tablet to buy.