Apple iPad (2018) Review: The 6th generation iPad, also known as the iPad 2018 is half that tablet when compared to the iPad Pro but is available at half the cost. It is essentially the same as the 2017 iPad, but now, it comes with Pencil support.
With the new iPad, Apple has changed their focus on the education industry, something that has been dominated by Microsoft and Google for a while. With the low cost and support for Apple Pencil, the Cupertino company is planning to attract students and teachers as potential customers.
Same Old Design
The iPad design has not changed much over the years. It is thin but comes with beefy bezels on all four sides. The 9.7-inch model looks uncannily similar to last year’s tablet. But Apple is going for an “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” philosophy here. The device measures 240mm x 168.5mm x 7.5mm and weighs 478 grams.
Keeping the same design means that you get the TouchID and Home button too. There is also a front camera for making video calls. The bezel looks particularly thick once you see the thin bezels on the iPad Pro that comes with a 10.5-inch screen, but given the audience that Apple is targeting, there is not much to be concerned about here.
Apple released a new color variant called “Gold”. It is same as the iPhone 8 and the Watch 3 designs. It is slightly warmer in color than the previous “rose gold” variant, but there is not much of a difference. The 9.7-inch screen has been made compatible with the Pencil but is still reflective enough to annoy some.
The device is quite well made. With the metal back and machined metallic buttons, the iPad truly has a premium feel to it. The glass and metal construction feels quite sturdy in hands. With the 7.5mm thickness, it is only 1.1mm thicker than the iPad Air. The power and the volume buttons are on the top and right side respectively. In the bottom, you have a Lightning port and the speaker grills on the bottom.
The Pencil works with the iPad 2018 in the same way as it does with the iPad Pro. It is one of the cool accessories that make the iPad worth owning for teachers and students. If you want to use the iPad for taking notes, annotating scans, or drawing, then the Pencil is going to help you a lot. It is especially quite handy when it comes to signing documents.
The Pencil on the iPad is just as responsive as it is with the iPad Pro. The Pencil has been in the market for the past couple of years and Apple has been able to tweak the software so that even a device with lower specs will work flawlessly with Pencil. You get zero lag while using the Pencil. It is also pressure-aware, so you can shade using darker or lighter lines.
The pencil is not just a drawing accessory. There are tons of other apps that support Pencil too. Even Microsoft Office apps support Apple Pencil just like the Surface Pen is supported on Surface Devices. Apple Pages app supports pencil. You can draw annotation in documents too and share it with others. It’s not known if it will work with Microsoft Word at the moment. Windows has great inking support in Office, but it’s unknown whether Apple will leverage it or stay in their walled garden.
A child-friendly option to the Apple Pencil is the Logitech Crayon. Apple has teamed up with Logitech to make a 49-dollar accessory that is aimed at kids. With the Crayon, there is no pressure sensitivity or Bluetooth pairing. The Crayon is a great option for classrooms since no pairing is required. So, one does not need to remember which iPad is paired with which Crayon. It just works right out of the box.
Performance, Display, Audio, and Optics
Processor and Storage
The iPad comes with a new processor called the A10 Fusion. It is the same processor that is there in the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s not as powerful as the A11 Bionic, but it can do almost all the things that the iPhone 7 can do – and that is actually a lot. The iPad comes with 32GB and 128GB storage options. There is no 64GB in between.
It can cope with pretty much any task that you will throw at it. Obviously, you need to know the limitation of iOS. But besides that, things like 1080p video recording, running AR apps, browsing the web – everything runs pretty well.
The A10 Fusion is not as powerful as the A10X. The A10X is the processor that comes with the iPad Pro. If you are not being extra demanding, the A10 Fusion can handle most tasks. Again, you need to be aware of the target audience here. Compared to A9, The A10 Fusion has a 40% Faster CPU and a 50% faster GPU. Even with the performance improvements, it delivers the same 10-hour battery life that older iPads would provide.
If you are taking notes, browsing the web and watching Netflix, the battery life is enough to get you through the day. However, it would be better if the device came with fast charging support. This is something that most iPhone devices have but is not on the iPads. Given the larger battery on the iPads, the long charging times can be quite annoying. A lack of Smart Connectors means that you cannot use any wired peripherals. To use a keyboard, you need to buy a Bluetooth Keyboard separately.
The screen is not the best screen from Apple, but it is decent enough for the price you are paying. It comes with a resolution of 1536 x 2048 pixel, 4:3 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 264ppi. At 9.7 inches, this pixel density, the screen looks a little pixelated. However, with antialiasing, everything appears smooth enough. Moreover, you will keep the screen further away than your phone. Hence the lower pixel density can be overlooked.
The only thing that seems to be missing in the display department is the lack of HDR support. There is also no ProMotion or True Tone, but you cannot argue for the price.
Some may complain about the screen reflectance, but it will not be an issue if you are using the tablet indoors at a reasonable brightness.
The iPad comes with stereo speakers. Both the speakers are facing down. When you are watching movies without headphones, having two speakers on one side can be an issue. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, comes with quad speakers.
The iPad has the optics that are needed for taking basic photos in well-lit scenarios. The low light performance is quite poor. At the heart of the iPad’s camera is the same 8-megapixel sensor that is there in the cheapest iPads. The photos look detailed in well-lit scenes, but once you zoom in, you can see the lack of details.
Apple really has not done much to improve on the camera. Even the image processing is not up to the mark. The A10 chipset does come with a few neat tricks – you can take super slow-motion footage as well as panoramic shots, full HD movies and time-lapse videos. But without a decent sensor, nothing turns out that good. It just gets the job done. Moreover, the camera also enables AR applications.
Compared to the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X, low light performance is quite poor. Scenes appear dark and muddy, with lack of details. Then again, if you want to take photos, there are a lot of good cameras and phones on the market. Apple just makes it clear again that tablets are not for taking photos.
iOS 11.3, Apps and everyday use
There are tons of apps that are available for the iPad, and with the new iPad comes pre-loaded with classroom focused apps. For most people buying a new tablet, the app selection on iOS is the last thing to worry about. But if schools are looking forward to equipping classrooms with the iPad, then the App Store has got them covered.
The Pencil and the note taking is already quite good. Apple’s own notes app has been revamped in iOS 11. You can add tables, format texts, scan documents and annotate them. With the iOS 11.3 update, a lot of iPad focused features have been introduced. One of the major updates is the ARKit. Developers can now do more with ARKit to make augmented reality apps.
Apple has also updated their iWork lineup of apps. These include Pages, Numbers and Keynote, covering your needs for documents, spreadsheets and presentation. If you are a Microsoft Office guy, then even Microsoft has their full office suite available for Apple devices and works great with the Pencil too.
According to Apple, the App Store has over 200,000 apps for students and educators. Teachers will get access to iTunes U and Schoolwork that will make it easier to set assignments and see how well the students are progressing.
Since Apple is not really competing with Google in terms of price, Apple will have to convince people that the iPad can be used for much more than just browsing the web and typing documents.
Should You Buy It?
The iPad 2018 is not the best tablet that Apple has ever made. But it is a reasonable option to consider given the price. Apple has specifically selected the classroom as their target audience. But then again, it is not all that different from the 2017 iPad, which was aimed at the general crowd.
The 2018 iPad will not be able to replace the traditional Windows PC for many. However, with iOS 11, multitasking and note-taking features, the Apple Pencil, or the Logitech crayon, the iPad Pro does come quite close to being a laptop for those who do not demand much out of it.
It can be an excellent digital sketchbook, a decent music production suite (with Garage Band and iMovie), a great way to browse the web, read some books, watch videos on Netflix and YouTube. It’s the perfect device for students. Even beyond the classroom, it does not fail to deliver when it comes to casual use. However, if you do need to catch up on some serious work, then get something else.
The $329 price tag is not something less, but reasonable enough for an iPad. The Apple Pencil and a Bluetooth keyboard will set you back by $200 or so, depending on what keyboard you are getting.
Alternatives to Consider
iPad Pro 10.5
If you are planning to hold back on buying the new iPad, then you can wait for a little and get the 10.5-inch iPad Pro when the price drops.
You get a larger screen with thinner bezels, quad speakers, a better processor and also a smart keyboard that takes power right from the iPad.
iPad Mini 4
If you want an Apple tablet with similar specs but in a smaller form factor, then get the iPad Mini 4. It has pretty much the same specs, but with a slightly smaller 7.9-inch screen. You will be missing out on the Pencil support and costs a little more than the 2018 iPad.
Costing as much as the iPad Pro, the Surface Laptop will get you a full-fledged Windows PC that you can use to browse the web, edit photos and videos, write code and more. A premium Microsoft device aimed at students – comes with a full keyboard, a larger 12.3-inch screen, Windows Hello support, USB 3.0 port and headphone jacks. The learning curve might be a little steeper for younger people, but a great option for college folk.
Google Pixel C
The Android tablet market is dwindling right now, but you can get similar functionality out of a Pixel device. The Pixel C has the cleanest and most functional variant of Android, is really well made, and fast enough to cope with most daily tasks. Moreover, like the Surface, it comes with a built-in keyboard that is built for typing.