The premier entry-level Apple device

The premier entry-level Apple device

When I first saw the new 7th-generation iPad, I wondered why Apple even bothered to release an updated model this year. Sure, the 10.2-inch display reveals a slight boost in size over last year’s 9.7-inch iPad, and the latest model finally has a Smart Connector, but for all that, this iPad has the same cameras and A10 processor as last year’s model, the form factor hasn’t changed significantly, and it’s even ever-so-slightly heavier. Both models still only come in 32GB and 128GB configurations, and both deliver around 10 hours of battery life. Let’s get this out of the way now: If you have last year’s 9.7-inch iPad, I see no reason to “upgrade” to this one.

Wider horizons
The biggest outward difference in the two models is that this year’s iPad is simply larger than last year’s. At 6.8 by 9.8 inches, the new model sits directly on top of last year’s refreshed iPad Air with only an extremely minimal thinness advantage in the Air’s favor to distinguish them. (Last year’s iPad measured 6.6 by 9.4 inches.) They look so similar, in fact, that I kept accidentally picking up the iPad Air while preparing this review.

That, in turn, translates into a boost in the size of the display size for the new iPad, as the unlaminated LED display comes with a resolution of 2160 by 1620 pixels compared to last year’s 2048 by 1536 pixels, although both have a pixel density of 264ppi. (The iPad Air’s 2224 by 1668 display is a tad larger than both.)

A Smart Connector without many connections
Now that the new iPad has a Smart Connector, you also also hook up the iPad Air’s Smart Keyboard (which also works with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro). The “origami” design takes a little getting used to and it only allows for one tilt angle while typing, but it’s pleasantly thin in a way most third-party keyboards are not. I also prefer keys with a little more key travel, but the chiclet design makes for easy typing and I admire how the canvas-like coating keeps crumbs, grains of sand, and similar objects from working their way under the keys.

Unfortunately, the Smart Connector isn’t as useful as it could be. Four years on, Apple’s Smart Keyboards are the only accessories they’re really good for, and we’ve yet to see the flood of compatible accessories Apple suggested we’d see.

The iPad still isn’t as versatile as a Mac, but iPadOS makes it easier to interpret the iPad as Apple’s “low-cost laptop line,” which I get the impression Apple has been wanting us to do for a while. All the better reason to release a device like this at this point in Apple’s history.

Petrified performance
Normally, the processor performance would get more attention in a review like this, but there’s not a lot to say here. It still supports the A10 processor, and as you can see from the benchmarks, it still performs about the same on iPadOS 13.1.1. On the charts, they’re virtually identical, and in fact, by sheer numbers the 9.7-inch had a (minuscule) edge in both single-core and graphical performance, which I’m tempted to attribute to its smaller screen size.

If you’re going for raw power (and future-proofing), the A12 Bionic chips in both the new iPad Air and iPad mini will serve you better and for longer. That’s not to say the 10.2-inch iPad is a clunker: I played several graphically intensive Apple Arcade games on the new model (such as Sayonara Wild Hearts) and never noticed a dip in performance. I don’t think an iPad like this will be adept at handling the full iPad version of Adobe Photoshop—if it ever comes out—but for almost every app it should serve you fine for a few more years to come.

As for everything else, little has changed. You’ll still find two speakers along the bottom, a 3.5mm headphone jack along the top, a Lightning port, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. You’ll also still find the pitiful 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera and a decent 8 megapixel rear camera—just enough to have a video chat with mom or scan some documents and little else. The cameras in particular serve as one of the few remaining reminders that this isn’t a “Pro” device.

The most enticing regular iPad yet
All of which brings us to the question: Just who is this iPad for? It’s certainly not for people who bought last year’s iPad, which I said was “pro enough for many of us”—and I still think that. This model performs about the same, the previous version has more established keyboard case support, and its smaller size even makes it slightly more portable. If you’re new to the iPad and you just want to play Apple Arcade games, browse the web, or watch videos, I’ll even go so far as to say you should get that model instead. It’s not that uncommon to see it selling for as low as $250 on Amazon these days, at least when you can find it in stock.

Abigail Smith is an inventive person who has been doing intensive research in particular topics and writing blogs and articles on  Lexmark Printer Support and many other related topics. He is a very knowledgeable person with lots of experience.

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