Ap­ple iPad (5th-gen)

AP­PLE’S TABLET LOOKS BACK TO GO FOR­WARD, WITH NEW COM­PO­NENTS IN AN OLDER CHAS­SIS – BUT A SOLID PRICE CUT KEEPS IT THE IDEAL TABLET

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This iPad is the most ex­cit­ing bor­ing up­date to a prod­uct we’ve ever seen. It re­places the iPad Air 2 at the lower-price end of Ap­ple’s 9.7-inch tablet range, and doesn’t in­clude any new tricks, fea­tures we’ve never seen be­fore, or any­thing like that. What it does is take T3’ s num­ber one tablet, make it a lit­tle bit faster, a lit­tle bit cheaper, and give it even bet­ter bat­tery life. It’s more of the same, and when the same sits at the top of our Elite list, we’re good with that.

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, 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. While we ad­mit to be­ing kind of ob­sessed with our tech be­ing the small­est, thinnest de­signs pos­si­ble, even we have to ad­mit that this is… fine, re­ally.

So that’s the one re­ally ob­vi­ous down­side, and even that comes with a bonus, in that this has a big­ger bat­tery than the Air 2 – and, in fact, big­ger than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Which is 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, the beefier up­graded A9X ver­sion, which is what the iPad Pro mod­els run.

LIT­TLE AND LARGE

This means you’ve got a pow­er­sip­ping phone pro­ces­sor paired with a bat­tery nearly five times larger. The main power draw on a tablet is

the screen, and the iPad 5th-gen (as Ap­ple is call­ing it, ap­par­ently pre­tend­ing that the Airs didn’t hap­pen, a bit like when Su­per­man

Re­turns just 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 brows­ing the web. 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 – more like six to seven hours. The dif­fer­ence over an iPad Pro isn’t trans­for­ma­tive, but it can mean an ex­tra hour of use in some cases.

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 unit and, while it’s slower than the iPhone 7’s A10 chip, it’s more than fast enough for ev­ery­thing you prob­a­bly want to do with a $469 tablet. Apps don’t hang, web brows­ing is fast, ev­ery­thing is to­tally fluid, and it wakes in­stantly from sleep. It’s only car­ry­ing a slight 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. If you want to cre­ate or edit an 8K im­age, then you’ll want some­thing more well en­dowed – the Pro, the Gal­axy Tab S3, or just a lap­top.

SCREEN STARS

The screen is 9.7 inches across, with a res­o­lu­tion of 2048 x 1536 – pretty much what you ex­pect from an iPad. There’s noth­ing fancy about the screen – you don’t get the wide colour gamut or TrueTone dis­play of the iPad Pro, or HDR sup­port like the Gal­axy Tab S3. It’s more like the Tab S2 (which is about the same price). It’s just a beau­ti­ful, de­tailed, bright screen that we have no com­plaints about for the cost.

We men­tioned the Tab S2, and Sam­sung’s last-gen tablet is re­ally the main com­pe­ti­tion for this iPad. They’re both the same size, with nearly iden­ti­cal dis­plays. The Tab S2 is no­tice­ably thin­ner and lighter (by nearly 100g), but re­mains pla­s­ticky and less pre­mium-feel­ing, with gen­er­ally weaker bat­tery life. The Tab S2 is more ex­pen­sive though.

More than that, though, with an iPad you get ac­cess to the App Store, with its su­pe­rior suite of soft­ware com­pared to An­droid tablet of­fer­ings. The gulf be­tween the two is nowhere near as large as used to be, and for a lot of the uses you might find for this (YouTube and Net­flix, brows­ing photos, check­ing Face­book, check­ing Snopes to see if that wild con­spir­acy your un­cle posted on Face­book is true…), the apps are much of a much­ness across plat­forms. But the ecosys­tem on iPad has that ex­tra spark of qual­ity and cre­ativ­ity that has helped el­e­vate the iPad to be our tablet of choice for so long. You also tend to get bet­ter sup­port for new soft­ware fea­tures – or even hard­ware fea­tures, such as the Touch ID sen­sor, which can be trusted to keep your bank­ing apps as safe as your notes about what to get your part­ner for their birth­day. (And is just su­per-use­ful for un­lock­ing the thing, or us­ing Ap­ple Pay in apps.)

There are a few other mi­nor dis­ap­point­ments to note: we’d love it if the vastly im­proved speak­ers from the iPad Pro had made it over, and the cam­era is pretty lack­lus­tre. All this might 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, faster, and it comes with 32GB of stor­age as stan­dard, which is great for most peo­ple. Or you can get 128GB for an amaz­ingly rea­son­able $599.

STRIN­GENT SCREENING The 5th-gen’s 9.7 inch panel doesn’t do HDR or TrueTone, but it’s per­fect at the price

ABOVE The Touch ID finger­print sen­sor and cam­era po­si­tion re­main the same as on ear­lier mod­els

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