Ap­ple iPad (2018)

THE LEAST EX­CIT­ING IPAD UP­DATE YET, AL­THOUGH STYLUS SUP­PORT ADDS A SOUPÇON OF EX­CITE­MENT

PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS - VICKY WOOLLASTON

We’re used to Ap­ple launch­ing prod­ucts in dark­ened halls, with the hush of an ex­pec­tant crowd only bro­ken by the gen­er­ous dis­tri­bu­tion of ad­jec­tives. “Mag­i­cal.” “Won­der­ful.” “Amaz­ing.” “Cool.” By con­trast, Ap­ple’s key­note un­veil­ing of the new iPad felt pos­i­tively down­beat. The key­note wasn’t even in a glam­orous lo­ca­tion: Ap­ple chose Lane Tech Col­lege Prep High School in Chicago.

This sig­nals a gear change for the iPad. Ap­ple is clearly aware that it’s al­ready reached the vast ma­jor­ity of home users and pro­fes­sion­als who are go­ing to buy tablets, and it’s switch­ing its gaze to po­ten­tially the big­gest mar­ket of all: schools. This is the rst iPad to be aimed at stu­dents, and that’s re ected in a lower price plus fur­ther dis­counts for ed­u­ca­tional es­tab­lish­ments.

It’s a wel­come de­vel­op­ment, but Ap­ple needs some­thing else if it’s go­ing to schools – and all other po­ten­tial buy­ers – in­ter­ested.

POINT OF DIF­FER­ENCE

There is, if you’ll ex­cuse the pun, one key point of dif­fer­ence: this is the rst non-iPad Pro de­vice to sup­port the Ap­ple Pen­cil. Nor has Ap­ple scrimped by re­mov­ing the ex­cel­lent tilt and pres­sure-sen­si­tive fea­tures that made the $145 Pen­cil such an ex­cel­lent ad­junct to the iPad Pro.

If you don’t fancy spend­ing a third of the price of the iPad on a stylus, Ap­ple has opened up its tech­nol­ogy to third-party man­u­fac­tur­ers. The rst of these will be the Log­itech Crayon, which was an­nounced along­side the new iPad; it sells for $49 in the US, but we haven’t yet heard what the Aus­tralian price will be.

Whether you choose the Ap­ple Pen­cil or a cheaper al­ter­na­tive, it’s ed­u­ca­tion-fo­cused apps where such a stylus comes into its own. I’ve used the Pen­cil to draw pic­tures and take notes in meet­ings in the past, but the new Smart An­no­ta­tion fea­ture on Pages feels al­most rev­e­la­tory: you quickly for­get you’re an­no­tat­ing a dig­i­tal le on a touch­screen. Of course, you don’t get the same feed­back as a pen on pa­per, but it’s very close.

SPOT THE DIF­FER­ENCE

Else­where, the new iPad is much less ex­cit­ing. It’s iden­ti­cal to the pre­vi­ous iPad in terms of looks and phys­i­cal at­tributes, right down to the di­men­sions and weight. Un­sur­pris­ingly, it feels the same in the hand too, with an ex­cel­lent dis­play and a highly re­spon­sive touch­screen. The screen is vi­brant and colour-ac­cu­rate, while the con­trast ra­tio is slightly bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous model at 1,023:1. Bright­ness reaches a peak of 507cd/ m2.

It must be said, though, that the iPad’s 9.7in, 2,048 x 1,536 dis­play looks dated along­side the edge-toedge dis­plays we’ve seen on many re­cent phones, tablets and lap­tops. The bezel is huge in com­par­i­son to ri­val tablets. This un­chang­ing de­sign does bring ad­van­tages, in that ex­ist­ing ac­ces­sories will con­tinue to work, but his­tory may well sug­gest that this was the year Ap­ple should have ei­ther re­duced the size of the iPad or boosted the size of the screen.

The cam­eras are sim­i­larly old-school. On the rear you get an 8-megapixel f/2.4 cam­era ac­com­pa­nied by an f/2.2 1.2-megapixel “HD FaceTime” cam­era at the front - the ex­act same of­fer­ings as last year. As be­fore, the front cam­era is only good enough for FaceTime, but the rear cam­era re­mains a strong in­clu­sion for a tablet – al­though, with no ash and medi­ocre low-light per­for­mance, it’s for use in good con­di­tions only.

There’s still a Touch ID but­ton be­low the screen (phew) but no Smart Con­nec­tor for hook­ing up an ex­ter­nal key­board. Con­sid­er­ing stu­dents do a fair amount of typ­ing that’s a baf ing omis­sion. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a key­board at all. For schools

“This is the first iPad to be aimed squarely at stu­dents, and that’s re­flected in a lower price plus fur­ther dis­counts to schools”

speci cally, Ap­ple is re­ly­ing on Log­itech to pro­vide rugged key­boards and cases that can be dropped from a height of 4ft and shared among stu­dents.

UP­GRADED SPECS

Al­though there are in­ter­nal up­grades, there’s noth­ing to get par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about in­side the new iPad.

An Ap­ple A10 Fu­sion pro­ces­sor runs the show, backed by 32GB or 128GB of stor­age and a choice of ei­ther Wi-Fi only or a pricier 4G ver­sion. The A10 Fu­sion chip is a signi cant up­grade on the 2017 model, but falls signi cantly short of the A10X seen in the iPad Pro. This isn’t so much a crit­i­cism as an FYI– the dif­fer­ent iPads do vary wildly in price after all. The charts on p59 il­lus­trate the dif­fer­ence in per­for­mance.

Bat­tery life, un­for­tu­nately, isn’t as long as pre­vi­ous iPads. In our stan­dard bat­tery life tests, the 2018 iPad lasted 8hrs 43mins, which com­pares un­favourably with pretty much ev­ery re­cent iPad. Even mod­ern Win­dows 10 lap­tops, such as the Dell XPS 13 on p53, have over­taken it. Al­though Ap­ple will point out that nigh-on nine hours of life is more than enough to last a school day with­out charg­ing, in this re­spect the school re­port reads “could have done bet­ter”.

UP­GRADED APPS

While Ap­ple has stuck to its hard­ware guns, it has over­hauled the core iOS apps. What’s more, 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, 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.

Pages, in par­tic­u­lar, could eas­ily be­come my go-to notes pro­gram now that I can use it with the Ap­ple Pen­cil, and the Smart An­no­ta­tion fea­tures are such an ob­vi­ous, wel­come ad­di­tion, it’s a sur­prise they haven’t been in­tro­duced be­fore. Build­ing on the ex­ist­ing markup and an­no­ta­tion fea­tures, Smart An­no­ta­tion lets you se­lect whole chunks of text, mark them up and move them around the page. This is handy if you’ve edited a chunk of text and then want to move it fur­ther down the doc­u­ment, for ex­am­ple. Tap­ping the doc­u­ment with the Ap­ple Pen­cil brings up the con­trols along the bot­tom of the screen and they’re amaz­ingly straight­for­ward to recog­nise and use.

With the ad­di­tion of Ap­ple School Man­ager and the new School­work app, which lets teach­ers as­sign home­work and track progress, the new iPad is bet­ter suited for use in schools than ever be­fore. Only teach­ers will be able to truly test the ef­fec­tive­ness of such apps, but com­mon sense sug­gests they will stream­line com­plex pro­cesses such as man­ag­ing more than 30 stu­dents and their vary­ing abil­i­ties and progress.

MUST TRY HARDER?

I don’t want to be too hard on Ap­ple’s new iPad. It’s the 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 with that gen­er­ous iCloud of­fer­ing.

But what about ev­ery­one else? At $469 for the 32GB, Wi-Fi-only vari­ant, the new iPad is Ap­ple’s cheap­est tablet, un­der­cut­ting the iPad mini 4 – which is only avail­able with 128GB of stor­age – by $110. The stiffest com­pe­ti­tion from an An­droid tablet (still) comes from the Sam­sung Galaxy Tab S2, which, al­though a lit­tle old, costs $446, is glo­ri­ously slim and slight, and in­cludes a fan­tas­tic AMOLED dis­play.

How­ever, Google still can’t ri­val Ap­ple for the ecosys­tem of apps and add-on hard­ware avail­able for the iPad. Yes, it’s dis­ap­point­ing that the sole hard­ware im­prove­ment is a slightly faster pro­ces­sor, while the added stylus sup­port is only use­ful if you hand Ap­ple yet more of your cash, but you’ll be hard pushed to

nd a bet­ter tablet any­where for this price. It fully de­serves its place on the A List.

KEY SPECS

Quad-core 2.34GHz Ap­ple A10 Fu­sion pro­ces­sor • Pow­erVR Series7XT Plus graph­ics • 2GB RAM • 9.7in IPS dis­play, 2,048 x 1,536 res­o­lu­tion • 32GB stor­age • 8MP/1.2MP rear/ front cam­era • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.2 • Light­ning con­nec­tor • iOS 11 • 32.4Wh bat­tery • 240 x 7.5 x 170mm (WDH) • 469g • 1yr war­ranty 32GB Wi-Fi, $469 • www.ap­ple.com/au

Ap­ple in­tends to woo teach­ers with a com­pre­hen­sive set of tools

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