It’s 2019. Apple’s then VP of Worldwide Marketing, Greg “Joz” Joswiak, takes the stage to introduce the newly redesigned, seventh-generation iPad.
It has slimmer bezels, a larger 10.3-inch display, Smart Keyboard support, and an upstart operating system called iPadOS — all for $329. Eyebrows are raised. Apple has done it again. You hit up the Apple store, slap your wallet down, and the rest is history.
It is now 2022 and Apple is back with another iPad makeover, the 10th generation model, which boasts symmetrical bezels, a larger 10.9-inch display, Magic Keyboard Folio support, and the latest software version, iPadOS 16.1. This time, it costs $449. Ouch.
At a time when consumers are cutting back on spending, raising the price of your most affordable iPad line is certainly one way to get attention — or lose it. But after spending the past five days with the 10th-generation iPad, I can’t help but accept that Apple, somehow, has managed to justify the $120 upcharge. In several ways, the regular iPad even beats out the Pro.
While I will reserve my final review score until after further testing, it’s almost certain to me that the vanilla iPad, not the Pro, Air, or Mini, will remain the tablet that I recommend going into the holiday season. It’s not for all users but is for most.
|Processor||Apple A14 Bionic|
|Display||10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone|
|Rear cameras||12MP wide|
|Front camera||12MP Landscape Ultra Wide FaceTime|
|Battery||Up to 10 hours of web surfing on Wi-Fi (9 hours on cellular)|
|Connectivity||USB-C, Smart Connector (side)|
|Operating system||iPadOS 16.1|
|Colors||Silver, Yellow, Pink, Blue|
Design gets a breath of fresh air
Since the expansion to Pro, Air, and Mini models, the standard iPad has always been playing catch-up on the hardware side of things. That changes this year. In lieu of the front-facing Touch ID and home button, the new iPad has thinner bezels surrounding a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the outer edge, and dual speakers flank the left and right sides when the tablet is held in landscape orientation. The whole package weighs approximately one pound.
Had this been an iPad Air review, everything that I just listed would still apply. The two models are identical in these regards, so much so that if you displayed the regular iPad next to the iPad Air on a storefront, I’d probably inch closer to the former for one obvious reason: Color.
What do the iPhone 5c, iPhone XR, 24-inch iMac, and new iPad have in common? They don’t settle with the usual spectrum of Space Gray, Silver, and Gold finishes. Apple clearly has a way with colors and knows full well that come holiday season, it won’t be the processor or software features that drive sales, but the rainbow of gadgets — meticulously placed across the wood grain tables of Apple stores everywhere. Heck, go to Apple.com right now and take a guess at what the company thinks will sell you on the new iPad.
This is only half of the story with 2022’s iPad, of course. There are several more changes across the board that alter the Apple tablet experience — for better or worse. The plus side includes USB-C support, leaving the iPhone as the final product line not converted to the universal charging standard, 5G support for on-the-go tasks, and a new 12MP ultra-wide camera that sits on the longer side of the iPad instead of the shorter one. More on that later.
As for changes that no one asked for: a new dongle! The 10th-gen iPad does not support the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil and, with the conversion to USB-C, no longer has a port to directly plug the original Apple Pencil into. The solution, as is the case with many Apple accessories, is an adapter (female to female, Lightning to USB-C) that bridges the pencil and a separate USB-C cable to the iPad. Considering the new iPad does not have a magnetic strip to station the Apple Pencil on — the new landscape camera has moved into that real estate now — the dongle, along with the stylus, are just two accessories you’ll have to carry around separately.
How the regular iPad beats the Pro
I’ll have to spend some more time with the iPad before I do a deep dive into its performance, but my initial impressions of that end have been very positive. With an A14 Bionic chip and running iPadOS 16.1, the base tablet can handle multitasking like a champ, with split screen operation and a picture-in-picture (PIP) video playing on the side (see image below).
Fortunately, I don’t need any more time to share my hot take: The iPad beats out even the Pro model in two regards. The first is Apple’s own accessories. During Apple’s press release frenzy last week, the company unveiled a new Magic Keyboard Folio specifically for the 10th-gen iPad. Not only does the $250 casing come with an adjustable kickstand, but it also comes fitted with a 14-key function row for shortcuts — both of which are not available on the Pro’s Magic Keyboard cover.
The second area where the regular iPad edges out the Pro is camera placement. Now, I’ve already shared the hypothetical reasoning behind why Apple was able to situate the new iPad’s front camera where it is, but generally speaking, it really does bring an improvement to how you’re presented in video calls and photos.
Naturally, every video begins with you at the center, wide angle or not. Your figure is not disoriented or appears as if the camera is positioned to your side like on the iPad Pro. Considering how likely you are to use this iPad for FaceTiming with family, virtual lectures for class, and collaborating during work meetings, this simple hardware design makes all the difference for the greater good.
More to come
Obviously, the elephant in the room with this year’s iPad is its price. $449 is not a small ask, especially when compared to the $329 iPad (9th Gen) that Apple still sells. If you’re shopping on a budget, the latter should make the most sense — Apple clearly thinks that, too. But I can’t help but compare the new iPad to the rest of the ensemble, all of which remain pricier and, in several aspects, are not as good as the vanilla model. That said, I’ll be testing the tablet some more and sharing my conclusive thoughts in the upcoming review.
Stick around with ZDNET for the latest coverage, including my colleague Jason Cipriani’s review of the new iPad Pro.