Don’t spend a lot. Get something that works. Screens for the kids. Another Zoom window. I’m juggling that stuff all the time, and the everyday iPad, which Apple just calls the “iPad,” has served that role for years.
The iPad has been the “good enough” iPad for forever, while the Pro and Air have offered fancier features and better performance. This year, the iPad Air is getting a major revamp with a new processor, big display and USB-C that looks very much like an iPad Pro for less. But that new iPad Air starts at $599 (£579, AU$899). The eighth-gen iPad I’ve been using, available Friday, starts at $329 (£329, AU$499). Most stores will probably drop that to $300, and holiday sales could even bring it down to $250, if past years are any indication.
iPad 2020 (10.2-inch, 8th-gen): $330 at Best Buy
There’s not a lot to say about this new 10.2-inch iPad. It’s the same device as last year with one key improvement: Now it has an A12 processor instead of last year’s A10. That’s a big difference, and makes this a great time to consider the upgrade if you have an iPad that’s several years old. Last year’s basic iPad increased screen size and added a smart connector on the side, but didn’t change the processor. Between the two years, it’s a major overhaul.
The great news
The A12 is as good as last year’s iPad Air. For comparison, the 2019 iPad Air had an A12. Now it feels like the basic eighth-gen iPad is the Air, essentially.
The screen still looks great. The 2,160×1,620 display isn’t 120Hz and it isn’t quite as vivid as the iPad Pro, but you won’t notice. Seriously.
There’s a better charger in the box. The 20-watt charger is more powerful and charges faster. That’s a nice pack-in, considering Apple normally doesn’t upgrade chargers. This iPad still has Lightning instead of USB-C, but the charge cable’s other end is USB-C now, so it plugs into newer MacBooks more easily.
The not-so-great news
This iPad still doesn’t have USB-C. The other iPads now do, and USB-C is more compatible with other chargers and accessories. Oh well. There are still Lightning adapters for a lot of dongle needs like HDMI, but it’s a hassle.
It’s compatible with the older Apple Pencil and keyboard cases, not newer ones. While the iPad Air and Pro get to use fancy side-connecting Pencils, this one still uses the old rolly Pencil that jabs into the Lightning port to charge. It works with a few smart keyboard cases, too, but not Apple’s new and expensive Magic Keyboard.
Those accessories aren’t included. All you get in the box is the iPad and charger. If you want the Pencil ($100) and keyboard cases (varying prices), you’re going to start driving up the total price fast.
$329 only includes 32GB of storage. You really want the 128GB version, which costs $429.
The camera placement is still weird. Come on, Apple. Most people use Zoom and similar video calling apps with the iPad in landscape mode, which rotates the camera to a weird off-center placement and leaving your face off-angle. iPads should shift their camera placement to the long side edge. Who’s with me?
Cellular costs extra, and you don’t need it. If you want to get a cellular iPad, you can… for $130 more. Plus data fees. Tether with your phone instead or just use Wi-Fi.
Should you wait for the iPad Air?
Apple’s fancy iPad is still a few weeks off. Do you wait for that? It depends on whether you’re willing to spend more and you think you’ll need the extra processing oomph. The new Air may have a sharper design and could be the best all-around iPad, but it’s hard to beat what’s essentially last year’s iPad Air right in front of me for just $329.
I haven’t spent more than a day with the new iPad, so more impressions to come. But there’s nothing I’ve seen so far that changes my previous advice. For most people, this is the iPad to buy.
Video: Unboxing the iPad 8 (CNET)