The entry-level iPad has to be one of the intriguingly boring device to come out of Apple Park in Cupertino. Yes, we understand the oxymoronic nature of the above statement but that’s what the iPad really is. It’s boring because not much changes year on year. And it’ intriguing because this is the iPad that most first-time buyers end up picking because of its affordability and utility.
The 8th-gen iPad — we are just going to call it the iPad —is no different. On the face of it nothing has changed except the processor. Even the price is the same as last year. But still, it’s an iPad and has become a generic name for anyone who wants to buy a tablet. Apple’s philosophy for the iPad over the years is to have an iPad for everyone out there — first-time buyers, those who want stylish iPads and for the Pro users. This one is clearly for first-time buyers and those looking for a tablet on a budget. We used the iPad for sometime to see what makes it an intriguingly boring device:
Apple iPad review: Design and display
The iPad looks the same as the one that was launched last year. And the one the year before. There’s a 10.2-inch Retina display that comes with an aluminium body. Apple really aced this design years ago and there’s no need to alter it. The alterations are reserved for the high-end iPads like the iPad Pro and the new iPad Air. So for instance, while the resolution — 2160 x 1620 — is the same as the iPad Air but the iPad doesn’t get a laminated display. What you get are also quite thick bezels. The bezels on the iPad certainly look outdated and makes it look like a device out of sync with modern design.
Having said that, the bezels and non-laminated display don’t take away from the fact that it is a strikingly good one. The screen colours are delightful and clarity is also spot on. During gaming sessions, the iPad’s display is good to look as is the case while consuming multimedia content on it. In bright sunlight also, the legibility remains high and you don’t have to strain your eyes on this iPad. The iPad comes in three colours: Gold, Space Grey and Silver.
The iPad continues to feature a Home button that doubles up as TouchID. Apple has moved the TouchID to the side in the new iPad Air whereas the iPad Pro comes with FaceID. This iPad — along with iPhone SE — is keeping the Home button alive on Apple devices. There’s a section of people who quite like the Home button but it does feel a little bit antiquated in times of devices have in-display fingerprint sensors and face unlock features.
The iPad isn’t too heavy to hold despite weighing close to 490 grams. Apple has put two speakers on the bottom, a 8MP rear camera and a 1.2MP front camera — yes you read that right. The iPad has a 1.2MP front camera only. On the bottom is the Lightning port, which can also be used to charge the Apple Pencil. On the side of the iPad is the Smart Connector which can be used to connect Apple’s Smart Keyboard and a few other third-party keyboards as well. Apple continues to give the 3.5-mm headphone jack in the iPad after dropping it from the iPhone almost 4-5 years back.
Apple iPad review: Performance
The iPad boasts of a A12 Bionic chip — introduced with iPhone XS in 2018 — which is a big upgrade compared to last year. Apple claims that the new processor is 40% faster than the one found in previous-generation iPad. The A12 Bionic has an AI chip as well that makes machine learning-based tasks easier. We have never seen the iPad much of a gaming device but with the A12 Bionic it is a breeze. Be it graphic-intensive games on Apple Arcade or titles like Call of Duty, it’s really fun to play games on the iPad. Multitasking is quite good on the iPad but it has a steep learning curve with getting used to all the gestures.
The iPad runs iPadOS 14, which is quite frankly the best tablet OS you are going to find. The app support is unparalleled when compared to Windows- or Android-based tablets. What also works in the favour of this iPad is that users can expect 5 years of software support — something none of its competition can offer. If you buy an Android tablet, you aren’t sure how many years of updates you will get. What this means is that for five years — hardware permitting — you can use the iPad without any worries about software updates.
iPadOS 14 gets a new interface with home screen widgets — just like iOS 14. The universal search feature works really well and is quite similar to Spotlight on a MacBook. It helps you to search for data in apps, or look for emails and even search anything on the web in a pop-up box. iPadOS borrows a few features from macOS which means that stuff like toolbars, sidebars are easier to use.
Apple’s focus on privacy can be found in iPadOS 14 as well, which means users have more control over what they hand over to third-party apps for tracking.
The highlight of iPadOS 14 is the Scribble feature, which allows you to hand scribble hand written text in any text box. Of course, for that you will need an Apple Pencil, which means spending an extra amount of cash on a cool feature but one you are likely to use quite less on a daily basis. Having said that, Scribble is fun and impressive. It recognises really terrible handwriting (guilty on that count) and it’s really handy for those who like taking quick notes in meetings or during calls.
The iPad cameras are still stuck in a time warp it seems. The 1.2MP front camera is of low resolution for video calls on Zoom. Plus, if you use it in landscape mode then it’s hard to centre it on yourself. Surprisingly, the resolution isn’t as bad on FaceTime calls as it is on Zoom. It could be a deal-breaker for some and it’s high time Apple upgraded the front camera at least. At the back is an 8MP camera which click good images but we didn’t use it too much for photography.
The battery life of the iPad is really good. It can last easily up to 10 hours with gaming, watching movies and some basic editing of documents among other things. The iPad now ships with a 20W USB-C to Lightning cable.
Apple iPad review: Verdict
At Rs 29,990, Apple has got the pricing quite right for the iPad. It’s not meant for those who are looking to get the best from Apple. Instead, this iPad is testament to not just the fact that Apple knows what it’s doing when it comes to tablets but also how competition hasn’t been able to outwit Apple at the tablet game. The Cupertino-based tech giant continues to make tweaks here and there and goes for the first-time buyer who is in the market for a tablet. The pandemic has ensured that video calls, online classes and meetings are here to stay and this is the iPad they should — and are likely to buy.
Why you may ask when the design is old, the display isn’t a shiny one nor does it have impressive cameras, why is this the tablet for most buyers out there? Because despite all the shortcomings, it somehow still manages to outperform every other tablet in this price range. Because the iPad is really good at everything a first-time buyer would want in a tablet — it delivers impressive performance, it is easy to use and does everything consistently well. Because it might be a ‘boring’ iPad but it is at the end of the day a really good iPad. Because it is an iPad and that’s all that matters to a lot of buyers out there.