Ap­ple 9.7in ipad

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P ull it off the shelf at the Ap­ple Store, and you’d be hard-pressed by sight alone to dis­tin­guish the new sixth-gen­er­a­tion 9.7in ipad from last year’s model. And un­der the hood it’s not much dif­fer­ent ei­ther, where there’s sim­ply a speed­ier A10 pro­ces­sor. The new ipad is, well, an ipad.

What’s truly new is sup­port for Ap­ple Pen­cil, the sleek sty­lus that for­merly only played nice

£319 inc VAT from fave.co/2gyrup4

with the ipad Pro. But never doubt that the Pen­cil sup­port marks a bold move on Ap­ple’s part. Com­bined with the new chip, the for­merly ca­pa­ble ipad is trans­formed into some­thing that’s now a ser­vice­able sub­sti­tute for an ipad Pro – for a mere £319. Some will find Ap­ple Pen­cil sup­port a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, and if you’ve been look­ing to up­grade from an ipad that pre­dates the ipad Air 2, then this is a de­vice that will make you glad you waited.

The more things change

In light of Ap­ple’s mar­ket­ing of the new ipad to schools, the de­sign feels like an ex­hor­ta­tion not to judge a book (or a tablet) by its cover. It re­minds us that some things can change for the bet­ter de­spite

out­ward ap­pear­ances. In some re­gards, much of what we said about last year’s ipad ap­plies here as well, whether it’s the way the but­tons rang­ing from the vol­ume con­trols to Touch ID sit in the same spots or the way it of­fers much the same Wi-fi and LTE con­nec­tiv­ity.

The new ipad weighs about the same as its pre­de­ces­sor, and the same pro­tec­tive cases will fit. It still only has two speak­ers, com­pared to the four you get on the ipad Pro. It even sports the same ser­vice­able 8Mp 1080p rear cam­era and the puny 1.2Mp 720p front cam­era, the lat­ter of which seem­ingly ex­ists only for oc­ca­sional Skype and Face­time chats. Were the new ipad judged solely on spec­i­fi­ca­tions, it’d hardly war­rant much at­ten­tion over last year’s model at all.

Pen­cil pusher

But you shouldn’t judge the new ipad based on its spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Tim Cook and friends de­cided to let this scrappy de­vice sup­port the Ap­ple Pen­cil, although you’ll have to buy it sep­a­rately. (That also means an ex­tra £89 to the to­tal cost, bring­ing the 2018’s ipad’s ‘true’ price up to £408.) It may seem like a sim­ple thing, but the magic of the Ap­ple Pen­cil is that it lets you share much the same ex­pe­ri­ence of us­ing a pricey ipad Pro, but on a lower-priced tablet.

Never mind for a mo­ment that the new ipad doesn’t have some of the best tech­ni­cal good­ies found on the ipad Pro, whether it’s the True­tone tech­nol­ogy that ad­justs the dis­play to match the

light in the room or the ipad Pro’s 4GB of mem­ory. (The 2018 ipad makes do with 2GB.) It even lacks the ipad Pro’s Pro­mo­tion tech, which boosts the dis­play re­fresh rate up from the roughly 60Hz found on a de­vice like this to an im­pres­sive 120Hz. That’s im­por­tant, as it means the newer ipad

Pros can bet­ter catch the slight­est move­ments of your hands, which makes them more ideal for pro­fes­sional artists.

How­ever, you’re not go­ing to no­tice the dif­fer­ence in ev­ery­day use. I’ve been us­ing an Ap­ple Pen­cil as a writ­ing tool since 2016 on my first-gen­er­a­tion 12.9in ipad Pro (which also lacked Pro­mo­tion), and I al­most never felt the Pen­cil was do­ing any­thing but lay­ing down pre­cisely the lines I wanted to see. Thanks to the pres­sure

sen­si­tiv­ity, the way it in­ter­prets tilts and an­gles, and, yes, the over­all low la­tency, the Ap­ple Pen­cil is the clos­est you get on a tablet to mim­ick­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of writ­ing with a pen­cil or pen on a spiral note­book, which is part of the rea­son Ap­ple wants to see it catch on in schools.

The only real draw­back to the new 9.7in ipad is that it doesn’t have a lam­i­nated dis­play like the Pro, and so you’ll see a vis­i­ble gap between the dis­play and the glass above it. I found, though, that it barely af­fects the ‘feel’ of writ­ing, although the ex­tra space makes the sound of the Pen­cil hit­ting the glass a bit louder than what you’ll hear on a Pro.

I love the Pen­cil for the way it lets me scrib­ble out ideas in apps like Nota­bil­ity or Myscript

Nebo with­out hav­ing to waste a forests’ worth

of pa­per, and it’s in­cred­i­ble for mark­ing up PDFS with high­lights and mar­ginal notes.

It’s also fan­tas­tic for stu­dents in that they can use Split View mul­ti­task­ing to open a PDF or other doc­u­ment on one side of the screen and scrib­ble out notes in an app on the right. And, nat­u­rally, the Pen­cil re­mains a stel­lar tool for artists, who can use it with fully fea­tured apps like Pro­cre­ate.

Per­for­mance

The new ipad is still a good buy even if you’re not into the whole ‘writ­ing with pen­cils in 2018’ bit. That’s be­cause the new tablet is also fast.

Last year’s ipad had an im­pres­sive A9 chip packed in its cas­ing, but the new ver­sion has the A10 Fu­sion chip we’ve pre­vi­ously seen in the iphone 7 and 7 Plus. The im­prove­ments show up in Geek­bench re­sults, with the 2018 ipad scor­ing 3463 on the sin­gle-core CPU test and 5845 on the multi-core test. (That’s about the same score you’ll get with an iphone 7 Plus.) Last year’s 9.7in ipad, how­ever, scored only 2384 on sin­gle-core and 4372 on multi-core. That’s not too shabby, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that the new 10.5in Pro scores 3908 on sin­gle-core and 9305 on multi-core.

In the most ca­sual cases you’ll find this only means that apps open ever-so-slightly faster, but I find it some­times greatly af­fects game per­for­mance. On the new ipad, the pop­u­lar bat­tle royale shooter Fort­nite ran beau­ti­fully, com­plete with the shad­ows and richly-de­tailed tex­tures you’d find while play­ing on a Mac. Play­ing on last year’s

ipad, though, I found the char­ac­ters and build­ings look pixel­lated and rough, and the shad­ows and other de­tails were gone. The dif­fer­ences aren’t so jar­ring on PUBG Mo­bile, but it’s worth not­ing that the pop­u­lar game rec­om­mends the ‘high’ set­tings on the new ipad and only the ‘medium’ on last year’s. If you’re look­ing for per­for­mance, in other words, you’ll want to pick up the new one.

From there on out, it’s ba­si­cally the same de­vice as last year’s ipad. The screen once again has no anti-glare coat­ing, which means you can ba­si­cally use your ipad as a mir­ror when you’re in sun­light. The bat­tery life eas­ily meets the 10 hours Ap­ple claims it reaches, even af­ter I played graph­i­cally in­ten­sive games and watched a whole movie with the bright­ness cranked up.

What about the chil­dren?

Ap­ple sees this ipad as its cham­pion in the fight against Chrome­books in class­rooms, and there’s

no doubt that it’s an im­pres­sive de­vice for the price. I don’t think it’s much of an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to claim that it’s the only tablet that truly mat­ters in the lowend price range.

Sure, on its own, the ipad man­ages well, but the fact re­mains that get­ting the most out of an ipad in the class­room re­quir­ing mak­ing cer­tain po­ten­tially ex­pen­sive ad­just­ments. Want a phys­i­cal key­board? You’ll have to shell out ex­tra for a key­board case, and then you’ll have to pair it through Blue­tooth since the new ipad doesn’t have a Smart Con­nec­tor for con­nect­ing Ap­ple’s Smart Key­board.

Ap­ple’s ap­proach with its Class­room and School­work apps, though, re­quires a full com­mit­ment to the Ap­ple ecosys­tem. We’ve al­ready said that we’re op­ti­mistic about see­ing it in

class­rooms on ac­count of its em­pha­sis on pri­vacy and qual­ity, but ev­ery­day schools might find ipads a tough sell when look­ing solely at im­me­di­ate pric­ing. All the same, keep in mind that ipads will likely hold up bet­ter than dirt-cheap Chrome­books over time, which could save school dis­tricts a lot of money in the long run.

Verdict

In our re­view of last year’s 9.7in ipad, we said it was a “bet­ter choice than the ipad Pro for a lot of users”, and the ad­di­tion of Ap­ple Pen­cil sup­port and a faster pro­ces­sor makes that es­pe­cially true for this year’s model. For £319, you’re get­ting a stel­lar tablet that feels as though it’s very ca­pa­ble, although with­out some qual­ity-of-life fea­tures. For a gen­eral-pur­pose tablet for school, busi­ness, or plea­sure, it cur­rently doesn’t get any bet­ter than this. Leif John­son

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 9.7in (2048x1536) LED back­lit dis­play • IOS 11.3

• A10 Fu­sion chip

• 32/128GB stor­age,

• 8Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era

• 1.2Mp front-fac­ing cam­era

• 802.11ac Wi-fi

• Blue­tooth 4.2

• 32.4Wh lithium-poly­mer bat­tery • 240x169.5x7.5mm

• 469g

Can you tell which is this year’s model and which is last year’s?

The Ap­ple Pen­cil has been around for a few years now, so there are many Pen­cil­com­pat­i­ble note-tak­ing apps on theApp Store

The Ap­ple Pen­cil sup­port on the new ipad makes cre­at­ing dig­i­tal art more ac­ces­si­ble for bud­getchal­lenged artists

Fort­nite on the 2017 9.7in ipad (left) and the 2018 ipad. No­tice the greater pixel­la­tion on the older de­vice

Jot it down

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