CUPERTINO, Calif.—Apple’s iPad lineup has been in considerable flux of late. Just in the past year, Apple totally overhauled both iPad Pro sizes, introduced a new iPad Air based on the chassis of the prior iPad Pro, and relaunched the iPad mini (albeit without much in the way of modern hardware to recommend it).
Today, the company’s representatives took the stage to announce new iPhones, but they also revealed a major update to the entry-level iPad.
The biggest news here is that the screen is bigger, at 10.2 inches. That’s thanks to a significant bezel reduction, among other tweaks. The other major change is the addition of Smart Keyboard support, using the same Smart Keyboard connector as the 2019 iPad Air. Of course, since this iPad starts at $329 and the Smart Keyboard costs $159, you’re looking at spending almost half the cost of your tablet just to get a keyboard for it.
I tried the keyboard and, well, it’s identical to the one people are using with the iPad Air right now. So there’s not much new to say. It’s good for a tablet keyboard, but it won’t hold a candle to a good desktop or laptop keyboard.
The new iPad feels almost exactly the same in your hands as the 2019 iPad Air; it’s only slightly different in a couple of minor ways. This iPad has a 10.2-inch display, whereas the iPad Air comes in at 10.5 inches; the difference is the bezels. There are the same number of pixels-per-inch as you see in the iPad Air display; it’s just a little less display.
The iPad Air is slightly thinner—just 0.05 inches less. Perhaps most importantly, the Air has an A12 chip, whereas this iPad has the A10 from a couple of years ago. There’s a dramatic performance difference between those two CPUs/GPUs, especially for augmented reality applications and games. But the A10 is still fast enough for most light browsing and content-consumption activities.
It’s the same chip as was in last year’s entry-level iPad, though, so don’t expect improved performance if you do a one-year upgrade here. And it still just supports the first-generation Apple Pencil.
If you look at Apple’s website promoting the seventh-generation iPad, you’ll find that most of the pitch is about iPadOS, a new tablet-specific branch of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system due at the end of this month. It changes the home screen, adds a bunch of new multitasking features, attempts to make working with text less nightmarish, and more. We’ll review that later this year, and we wrote about it when it was first unveiled this summer.
But the very, very short version is that it’s more powerful and useful for sure. But the device is still not going to replace a laptop for anyone looking to get serious work done.
The new iPad comes in 32GB and 128GB variants and ships starting September 30. You can pre-order it now, and it starts at $329 for most people or $299 for education customers.
Listing image by Samuel Axon