Apple iPad (2017)

Subtle tweaks and lower pricing make this the best-value iPad yet.

This iPad is the most exciting boring update to a product we’ve ever seen.

It’s the replacement for the iPad Air 2 at the lowerprice end of Apple’s 10-inch tablet range, and doesn’t include any fancy new tricks or features. What it does is take a great tablet, make it a little bit faster, a little bit cheaper and give it even better battery life.

“The screen is 9.7 inches, with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536. There’s nothing fancy about it— you don’t get the TrueTone display or wide color gamut of the iPad Pro. It’s just a beautiful, detailed, bright screen that we have no complaints about for the cost.”

These upgrades come with a surprising downside — it’s thicker and heavier than the iPad Air 2. It’s pretty weird to see Apple add bulk to a product given its near fetish-level obsession with all things thin and light, but this iPad is the same 469g weight and 7.5mm thickness of the original iPad Air.

That’s a weight increase of just 32g and a more noticeable 1.4mm thickness.

So that’s the one really obvious downside, but even that comes with a bonus, in that this has a bigger battery than the Air 2 — in fact, it’s even bigger than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. That’s especially interesting when you pair it with the new processor, which is an Apple A9, as seen in the iPhone 6s.

It’s not, you’ll note, an A9X processor, which is what the 12.9-inch iPad Pro models run — basically, a beefier version of the same chip.

This means you’ve got a power-sipping phone processor that’s paired with a battery nearly five times larger. The main power draw on a tablet is the screen, and the iPad fifth-gen (as Apple is calling it, apparently pretending that the Airs didn’t happen, a bit like when Superman Returns skipped over the existence of Superman III and IV — except the Airs were actually good) has a slightly brighter screen than the Air 2, so you’ll still get around the standard 10–12 hours of use from it, as you do from other iPads. But in our tests, it does work out as one of the longest-lasting tablets around. It’s good for 12–13 hours of video at mid-level brightness, and nearly as much from regular light use such as emailing and web browsing. We think only the iPad mini 4 was as good for battery life, and that had a much smaller screen.

Obviously, games or other really intensive tasks lower the figures a lot to more like 6–7 hours.

The A9 processor is a good step forward from the A8X in the iPad Air 2, despite being a phone chip, rather than a dedicated tablet one.

It’s a dual-core chip, and despite being slower than the iPhone 7’s A10 chip, it’s more than fast enough for everything you probably want to do with a tablet. Apps don’t hang, web browsing is fast, everything is totally fluid, and it comes on instantly from sleeping.

It’s only got 2GB of RAM, but with the way iOS manages apps, this doesn’t really get in the way, or slow things down the way it might on a laptop or Windows hybrid tablet. If you want to create or edit an 8K image, you’ll want something beefier — the Pro, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 or a laptop.

The screen is 9.7 inches, with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536. There’s nothing fancy about it — you don’t get the TrueTone display or wide color gamut of the iPad Pro. It’s just a beautiful, detailed, bright screen that we have no complaints about for the cost.

There are a few minor disappointments here; we’d love to have seen the vastly improved speakers from the iPad Pro, and the camera is pretty lacklustre.

It may sound like we’re a bit down on the new iPad, but that’s only because its improvements aren’t the flashy kind. It’s exactly what we liked about the iPad before, but cheaper and faster, and comes with 32GB of storage as standard.

Matt Bolton

Rating 5/5

Verdict

It’s not the most exciting update, but this latest iPad is an amazing piece of kit for the price.

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