The new iPad isn’t much different from its predecessor in terms of its hardware.
It’s the exact same size and weight as the 2017 model and has the same 8-megapixel and 1.2-megapixel rear and front cameras. Storage options are also also identical: you can pick between 32GB and 128GB variants.
Inside, the main change is that everything’s powered by a faster A10 Fusion processor. The other significant improvement, which is directly linked with Apple’s push into the educational space, is that it supports the Apple Pencil. Unfortunately, though, there’s no Smart Connector contact for the addition of a keyboard.
Features and hands-on impressions
Along with its new £319 price the most notable thing about the new iPad is that it’s the first non-iPad Pro device to support the Apple Pencil, with all the same tilt and pressure-sensitive features. Impressively, there’s no discernible difference between using the Apple Pencil (now £89) on the cheaper iPad and on the iPad Pro.
Education-focused apps are definitely where the Apple Pencil comes into its own – more so than when I've used it to draw pictures or take notes in meetings. The new Smart Annotation feature on Pages, in particular, is very slick, and you quickly forget you're annotating a digital file on a touchscreen. Of course, you don't get the same feedback as using a pen on paper, but it is very close.
If you don’t want to spend a third of the price of the iPad on a stylus, Apple has also ow opened up its its technology to third-party manufacturers, so that companies can produce their own alternatives. The first of these will be the Logitech Crayon, which was announced alongside the new iPad and will retail for $49 (£35), a big price reduction on the £89 Apple device.
Elsewhere, the new iPad is much less exciting. It’s identical to the previous £339 iPad in terms of its looks and physical attributes and has the same dimensions and weight. Unsurprisingly, it feels the same in the hand too, with an excellent display and a highly responsive touchscreen. It has to be said, though, that the new tablet’s 9.7in, 2,048 x 1,536 display is now beginning to look dated alongside the edge-to-edge displays we’ve seen on many recent phones, tablets and laptops.
The biggest disappointment, though, with the new iPad, is that there’s no Smart Connector contact for hooking up an external keyboard. Considering students do a fair amount of typing that’s a baffling omission.
New core apps
Beyond the Apple Pencil compatibility and its lower price, the new iPad isn’t all that exciting. However, Apple has also overhauled its core iOS apps, and students buying the new iPad now get 200GB of free iCloud storage rather than the measly 5GB they got before.
Firstly, there are new versions of the Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps, complete with extensive support for the Apple Pencil. In addition to this, there are a whole host of education-focused apps, teacher aids for use in the classroom and an IT management suite and Apple Pencil-focused updates for apps such as GarageBand.
Price and competition
At £319, the new iPad is Apple’s cheapest tablet, cheaper even than the iPad Mini 4 (£320), which only has a 128GB variant.
The stiffest competition from an Android tablet (still) comes from the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, which, although a little old, costs £329, is gloriously slim and slight, and has a fantastic AMOLED display.
If you’re looking for a tool for working, you might decide that you don’t want a tablet at all and could be better served by a Chromebook with a slightly larger display such as the £200 Acer Chromebook 14.
Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431 14-Inch Notebook - (Silver) (Intel N3060 Celeron Processor, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC, Chrome OS)
There’s a lot to like about Apple’s new iPad. It’s Apple’s cheapest 9.7in iPad ever, it works with the Apple Pencil and, with a more education-focused software offering, it will have greater appeal to teachers, schools and students than ever before – especially that generous iCloud offering.
However, for any consumer who’s not interested in the educational apps, it’s a little disappointing that the only hardware improvement comes in the form of a slightly faster processor – after all, not everyone is all that bothered about stylus support. Having said that, you’ll be very hard pushed to find a better tablet anywhere for £320.