Originally met with equal parts scepticism (for its yet unknown purpose) to ridicule (for its hygienic name), the Apple iPad as we all know, has gone on to become a global phenomenon on its own and also the rejuvenator of a category of computers that was languishing on the ocean bed of failed tech.
Some new and some old
In its 7th generation, after nine years of its first version, how has Apple kept its ultimate consumption device up to date, you ask? Well, by making it more productive, ironically! Cutting to the chase, the biggest difference between this “new” iPad and its earlier generation is the support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard from the 10.5in iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (1st gen). Club these two aids with iPadOS and you have a respectable replacement for a laptop. And for a change, it’s not Apple trying to sell you the idea of a consumption device even when you’d rather just create – the iPadOS really does open up a whole new way to interact with the tablet.
Packed with the A10 Fusion processor, the iPad also gains more power than before – but still lesser than an iPad Air or an iPad Pro. So, there’s no confusion that this is still the entry level iPad but with a lot more capability than before, which an average user would appreciate. The screen is as usual – Apple managed to get the most accurate colours, even though it doesn’t support the P3 colour space. Strangely though, all the iPads maintain a resolution of 264ppi, no matter what screen size or type. The Retina display ensures that even without the higher-end ProMotion or True Tone features, it is in isolation, still one of the best tablet screens out there and perfect for everyday use.
Performance and power
Although the A10 Fusion seems three generations old on paper, it’s still a very capable SoC that breezes through heavy-duty apps like Call of Duty and iMovie without any stuttering or frame drops, the stereo speakers also adding to the overall experience. Although the speaker count is down to two from the four you get in more expensive Pro models, it’s loud enough to enjoy a full length movie if that’s your thing. Apple Arcade games are handled effortlessly, as one would expect and, strangely, most of them feel right for a screen this size and in the handheld format.
One of the biggest improvements, or changes, rather are the Pencil and Smart keyboard support, and while the Pencil is great yet limited in use, the keyboard is a boon for everyone. In fact, one of the key reasons for Apple to go from the 9.7in to the new 10.2in screen size was to allow the smart keyboard meant for iPad Air and iPad Pros to latch on via the smart connector. It provides the necessary screen protection and while the key travel isn’t the best, it gets the job done while being sturdy and spill-proof.
Battery life, like all iPads historically, is claimed to be 10 hours on a good day and while we did manage a nice day, it is variable as you know. We didn’t have any reason to complain though. No one ever does or should use an iPad to shoot videos or take pictures, but if you decide to end your social life, you’ll be doing it with a rather inferior 8MP rear cam and an archaic 1.2MP front snapper. If you want to win any Nat Geo reposts, stick to your phone.
Perhaps the most significant dent here is made not by the hardware but by the iPadOS. Multi tasking, file system access and OTG support amongst other much-yearned features have opened up a new way of using the iPad without anxiety over its “consumption” or “creation” nature. Fact is, you can survive a day without your laptop now if you have a couple of USB-C dongles to connect legacy gear. The keyboard makes it productive and the Pencil makes it fun, all-in-all, making the entry-level iPad the best value it has ever been in its decade-long run!