Review: Apple iPad (2017) isn’t more of the same, and is a winner on price
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With the two Pro iPad variants (9.7-inch and 12.9-inch) vying for your attention, Apple at some point quietly eliminated the Air and the Air 2 and simplified the line-up. This means we now have the iPad Mini, the iPad and the iPad Pro, in ascending order based on price. And it is the iPad, sitting right in the middle of this jigsaw, which has now received a refresh—you can call this the Apple iPad (2017), the iPad 9.7 or the 5th generation iPad.
Why change a design that works
Continuity is sometimes a good thing, and that is exactly what the new iPad is all about. It bears a resemblance to all previous generations (this is the 5th generation), and sits somewhere around the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2 in terms of design. It measures 7.5mm thick, which itself would be quite thin—but there are the inevitable comparisons with the 6.1mm thickness of the Air 2.
Also read: Little dynamo: iPad Pro 9.7
The pursuit of making gadgets thin enough to be used as weapons to slash someone’s throat is good for a while, but not when that may start to hurt the potential experience—this extra thickness allows Apple to plonk in a bigger battery into the iPad as compared with the Air2, the advantages of which we will get to in a moment. It tips the scales at 469 grams, and you are barely going to notice that it’s in your backpack. In terms of how it looks and feels, the iPad (2017) scores a definite win.
Reflecting on things
Not much has changed, with the same 9.7-inch Retina Display (2,048 x 1,536 resolution) as we saw in the Air 2 and even the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. These canvases have, for many years now, defined how tablet screen should be—though there is a demographic that prefers the bright and pop-out colours on AMOLED screens that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Series sports. Incidentally, the iPad (2017) does not have the True Tone feature (this is still reserved for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro) which can automatically alter the display to suit the ambient lighting. This isn’t a deal breaker, because you still get the Night Shift capabilities, which make a considerable difference when using the tablet at night or in low-light conditions.
Having said that, the lack of a lamination layer on the new iPad, compared to what we saw on the Air 2, means that the screen is now a tad more reflective than usual. While we as reviewers might find this a glaring omission on the spec sheet while comparatively using it against the Air 2, for most iPad (2017) buyers, this screen will simply be all about the fantastic colours, sharpness and brightness levels. Be it for reading an article on Flipboard (free; App Store), books on Blinkist (free, with optional subscription; App Store) or access mails on the Mail app by EasilyDo (Free; App Store)—the versatility and the comfort of using this screen cannot be quantified justly.
A lot is hidden under the hood
The iPad (2017) gets the Apple A9 chip, which makes it significantly faster than the previous generations. The PowerVR GT7600 graphics make it significantly better at gaming than the Air 2 as well, as things stand, and isn’t entirely inferior to even the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. You can stretch this iPad with games, and it doesn’t bat an eyelid.
One of the reasons why we have always loved the iPad is because of the robust battery life. While Apple says the iPad (2017) battery will last about 10 hours of video viewing, for example, we noticed that it lasts significantly longer on every battery charge cycle—for a mix of web browsing, ebooks, Netflix (free, App Store), games and streaming music on Apple Music.
Even stretch this on LTE, the battery drain isn’t any quicker. This means that if you are, for instance, heading out on a 4-day vacation, where you intend to use this for an hour or two daily, you might not even need to charge this even once during those days, and still have considerable battery juice for the flight back home.
But what is the catch?
Unlike the iPad Pro line-up, the iPad (2017) is not compatible with the Apple Pencil, and does not have the smart connectors on the side spine for hooking up accessories such as the Smart Keyboard which Apple has for the iPad Pro. Also, while the Pro variants have four speakers, the iPad (2017) gets dual speakers only—but they are loud enough nonetheless. In fact, none of these missing features are a deal-breaker, to be very honest—this does everything one expects from an iPad.
How much does it cost?
As always, the iPad (2017) is also available in the Wi-Fi and the Wi-Fi + LTE variants. The prices start at Rs28,900 (32GB; Wi-Fi). Then comes the 128GB Wi-Fi variant which costs Rs36,900. If you also need LTE connectivity (useful while travelling), you’ll need the Wi-Fi + LTE variants, which are priced at Rs39,900 (32GB) and Rs47,900 (128GB). For most, the entry-level 32GB version will be the pick of choice.
Is this the iPad to buy?
The answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no. First, if you don’t own an iPad, and need one, the iPad (2017) is the one to buy. Second, if you own an older generation iPad or even the iPad Air (1st generation), the iPad (2017) will be a worthy upgrade. If you own the iPad Air 2, what you’ll get is incrementally more power and certainly longer battery life, but we aren’t entirely sure if that is worth the investment.
The thing is, the new iPad isn’t revolutionary, it isn’t setting any innovation charts on fire, it isn’t going to replace your phone, and it surely isn’t going to replace your work laptop. It is a freedom device though—from the bulk of the laptop when you don’t need it, and freedom from the constant flurry of communication that is forever inbound on your phone.
The iPad (2017) does well what the iPad has done brilliantly all along—it is your ultimate device for a spot of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video binge watching on a lazy weekend, music streaming on Apple Music or Saavn when you get home after a tiring day at work, casual gaming when you don’t want to fire up the console and the perfect device to have when the relatives FaceTime you.