Apple’s latest iPad is the nicest and most useful upgrade we’ve seen for the base model in a number of years. In short, you now get a cheaper iPad Air that’s itself an affordable version of the iPad Pro. And because Apple has made it compatible with an excellent new keyboard accessory – very similar to the iPad Pro’s industry-leading Magic Keyboard – this is now basically an iPad that you can comfortably use as an effective, fairly powerful work or student laptop for a lot less scary price than the iPad Pro.
If it weren’t for the Eurozone inflationary crisis that has sent all Apple products skyrocketing (priced from the dollar), this would be something of a bargain. As it is, at €599 it’s still a fair deal if you’re looking for something that can double as a home laptop with some work features.
On the face of it, there are a few key upgrades worth talking about here.
The first is the new shape. This reflects the recently redesigned iPad Air, which itself is a close copy of the iPad Pro. That means you get a larger 10.9-inch display (like the iPad Air and Pro) and the angular bezel recognizable on these two premium devices. While there’s no Face ID (like the iPad Pro), it does have the same slim Touch ID button on the outer corner as the iPad Air.
The next upgrade worth noting is a change in the webcam position, which is now in the middle of the “landscape” frame, like a laptop. This is much more convenient for things like Zoom calls, and beats the webcam positioning on the iPad Air and iPad Pro. It’s also a realization that more and more people are using iPads as laptops, with landscape keyboards; Gone are the days when you thought an iPad was just a larger smartphone held vertically. (Unfortunately, Irish companies like Bank of Ireland are still way behind the curve with their iPad apps.)
As for the webcam itself, it’s Apple’s ultra-wide 12-megapixel lens with its center-stage technology that puts you in the center of the frame, even if you move a little. It is great.
The iPad uses its two-year-old A14 chip
This is the first base iPad to use USB-C instead of Lightning, which means slightly faster charging and faster file transfers if you’re doing it via a wired connection.
The iPad uses its two-year-old A14 chip, the same one found in the still excellent 2020 iPad Air, as the main engine for the new iPad, along with 4GB of RAM. While this isn’t as powerful as today’s iPad Air or iPad Pro, it’s still good enough for me to have used it for work documents, movies, and web browsing with ease. I did notice that it was the tiniest bit slower when trying to quickly switch between multiple apps, but that was the extent of its limitation for me.
Aside from the chip, webcam location, and stylus support (see below), the main difference between this iPad and the iPad Air is the display. This is a little low end, mainly because it’s not a ‘laminated’ screen. This has a small impact on the overall quality of the display as there is a tiny gap between the glass on top of the display and the next layer below. It’s not that good at deflecting glare in bright light, for example. It probably also contributes to the fact that this non-laminated iPad is slightly thicker than the (laminated) iPad Air or iPad Pro for the same reason.
However, other improvements in the iPad’s display mean that you often hardly notice it. I used it to watch several episodes of TV shows on the popular streaming platforms and was completely satisfied.
The speakers on the iPad are as good or better than most laptop speakers I’ve tested, in my opinion. However, they fall slightly behind the speakers of the iPad Air and iPad Pro, as a handful of side-by-side tests have shown me. The main difference is in the bass. But they are absolutely fine for what you pay here.
Battery life is about the same for most iPads and I didn’t find it any different here, between six and 10 hours depending on what I was doing (working outdoors in daylight shortens battery life as the screen defaults to full brightness) .
For those who want to use it as a laptop replacement for work or college, there’s a brand new Magic Keyboard Folio (€299) available as an accessory for the new iPad. It’s a big step up from Apple’s previous base iPad keyboards.
Typing is nearly identical to the more expensive Magic Keyboard, thanks to its superb scissor mechanism with its nice, clicky 1mm travel. There’s also a cursor control pad, which might be an eye-opener for those who have never used cursor control on a basic iPad. Unlike the Magic Keyboard, there’s a sleek MacBook-like top row of function keys with useful controls like screen brightness, search, volume, and a screen lock button.
This is a more than capable tablet
One of the quirkiest things about the new iPad is the Pencil setup. Although the iPad is basically the same size and shape as the iPad Air and iPad Pro 11, it is not compatible with the higher-end Apple Pencil. Instead, Apple is sticking with the first-gen Pencil. However, this causes a strange loading pause. The basic Apple Pencil charges using a Lightning connector on the end of the Pencil, which typically plugs into the Lightning connector on earlier iPads. But this iPad is powered via USB-C. Apple’s answer is to provide a small adapter in the box (for both the iPad itself and newly manufactured versions of the first-generation Apple Pencil) that connects a USB-C power cable (included with the iPad) to the Lightning connector connects the pencil. This seems more than a little choppy and not quite the user experience you’re used to from Apple; I can imagine some people getting confused and losing the adapter connection. On the other hand, it has the advantage that you can charge the stylus with any USB-C cable and plug, as long as you have the adapter handy (although you won’t be able to use the stylus while it’s charging).
As for using the pencil itself, it’s pretty excellent. It’s sleek and very responsive, despite this being the lowest display Apple makes for its line of iPads.
This is a more than capable tablet that can do almost everything the more expensive “Pro” models can, just with fewer frills, a slightly lower resolution, and less storage. If you gave me one of those instead of an iPad Pro to work with, I wouldn’t really have a problem; The only thing I would miss would be the extra screen size.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/reviews/apple-brings-its-base-model-ipad-up-to-date-but-it-comes-with-a-hefty-pricetag-42115009.html Apple is updating its base model iPad, but it comes with a hefty price tag