In 2017, Apple released a $329 iPad, and since then the company has declared this basic tablet to be the most popular. It’s easy to see why: when I reviewed last year’s model last fall, I found that this relatively modest device could do almost everything I normally do with my 11-inch iPad Pro. more expensive. That said, in a world where Apple got rid of the home button and cut bezels from all of its tablets, the basic iPad was starting to feel outdated.
So this year, for its tenth generation, Apple rebuilt the iPad, obviously taking inspiration from the iPad Air. It has the same size screen, cameras, a USB-C port, optional 5G networking and a Touch ID-enabled power button, all of which are upgrades over last year’s model. It also has an A14 chip, which doesn’t compare to the M1 in the iPad Air and the M2 in the new iPad Pro, but it’s still a capable piece of silicon. Apple even designed a new Keyboard and Trackpad Folio, the first iPad keyboard the company has created with a row of function keys.
Of course, Apple had to cut some corners to differentiate this iPad from the Air. The usual compromises are here – namely, the screen isn’t quite as good as the Air’s, with no full lamination on the front glass, anti-reflective coating or support for the wider P3 color gamut. It also only supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, which is a big disappointment for those looking for an enhanced stylus experience.
And all the changes Apple has made mean the iPad isn’t the huge value it used to be – it’s now $449, while last year’s 9th-gen iPad stays within range at its price. original $329. I’ll give the new iPad a full review soon, but in the meantime, here are my first impressions after spending a few days with it.
While the new iPad is still a little bigger and thicker than the Air, my first feeling when picking it up was one of complete familiarity. It looks almost exactly like the Air, but it’s obviously a completely different experience than using last year’s model with the old Home button. Although the 10.9-inch screen isn’t much bigger than the old 10.2-inch screen, it’s just big enough to make multitasking more comfortable. I miss things like the iPad Pro’s fully laminated screen and 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate, but I notice the “air gap” between the screen and the front glass less on this iPad than on any of the older base models. While the iPad Air technically has a better screen than this tablet, the difference between the two models has been reduced considerably.
Between the bigger screen and the new trackpad-equipped Magic Keyboard Folio, I feel much more productive on the new iPad than on last year’s model. The trackpad may be small, but when using the iPad with a keyboard, it’s much more convenient to use than tapping the screen every time you want to move a cursor or switch apps. And the row of function keys that Apple included on the Smart Keyboard Folio is something that should have been included on every other iPad keyboard that the company has made, so I can’t give them too much credit for finally having got things here.
That said, it’s always handy to have an escape key and a handful of other useful shortcuts on hand when you need them. Between that and the trackpad, you can get by without having to touch the screen any longer than ever (this might make you wonder why you’re using an iPad in the first place, but I’ll save those philosophical questions for my full review ). Meanwhile, the typing experience is significantly better than that offered by the old Smart Keyboard cover, and the keys are quite similar to the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro and Air. I’m much more likely to use this iPad for long typing sessions than I was with last year’s model. As with most things Apple, however, it comes at a price — this new keyboard costs $249.
I’ve been using an M1-powered 12.9-inch iPad Pro for much of the last four months as a test device for iPadOS 16, so I had some concerns about the A14 chip on the new iPad. I shouldn’t have worried; while occasional things like swiping to see all my open apps felt a little less fluid than I’d like, overall the new iPad holds up extremely well so far. I can browse my RAW photo library in Lightroom with no lag, the games I’ve tried so far (including Skate City, Spire Blast and Mini-highways) all worked perfectly, and the apps load quickly when I swap them or select several at once in both Split View and Slide Over.
The only real issue I’ve noticed with the A14 compared to more powerful chips like the M1 is that apps often have to reload their content, probably because there’s less RAM here. For example, if I navigated away from the file I was writing this in, I usually had to reopen it when I returned to Google Docs. it did not keep the loaded file in memory.
Before I can fully assess this new iPad, I have to push the A14 further with more intensive tasks; try out the new cameras (including the landscape-oriented front-facing camera!); dig deeper into the new features of iPadOS 16; and relive my frustration with the first-generation Apple Pencil. But on the face of it, I’m a little disappointed with the price hike, but I recognize that these updates are a major improvement to the iPad experience. So far, I think spending the extra $120 to get this iPad instead of last year’s model is worth it, and most people will even prefer it to the $600 iPad Air.
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