While Apple’s Pro lineup of products continues to push new and innovative ideas into the marketplace, it also makes the wallets of many consumers weep with sorrow. Due to large price tags scaring away new buyers, Apple has shifted their strategy somewhat and is now developing an affordable core lineup of products. That strategy starts with the 2018 iteration of the iPad, the new gateway drug into Apple’s ecosystem for students and businesses alike.
Consumers can purchase the core model of the 2018 iPad starting at $429 CAD, which includes Wi-Fi connectivity and 32GB of storage. The subject of this review though is the highest cost variant, retailing for over $600 CAD after upgrading the storage to 128GB and including the option for cellular LTE connectivity. While that’s a big jump in price, the overall specs and expected performance remain the same between all of the 2018 models so it’s up to the consumer to determine how important these upgrades really are when they purchase this device.
The largest improvements over last year’s iPad is that the 2018 iteration is powered by the same processor as the iPhone 7+, the A10 Fusion chip, and also includes support for the Apple Pencil. Combine that new processor with 2GB of RAM and suddenly Apple has upped the performance of their core iPad considerably. Apps launch noticeably faster, the UI is consistently responsive, even during more intensive tasks, and the device will run at cooler temperatures in overall use thanks to the extra legroom in power. All of that efficiency adds up to an expected battery life of over 10 hours off a single charge, which is respectable for a tablet in this price range. What’s even better is that Apple managed to include this upgraded CPU without having to markup the price tag for consumers.
Operating off iOS 11, the Apple iPad 2018 is now a host to some of the best UI design in the tablet market to date. Using the device feels intuitive right out of the box and really gives the user a newfound sense of freedom when exploring the interactivity between their files and apps. The Dock can finally be opened from any screen; the user can open two apps at the same time for better multitasking, and files can be moved around freely with just a simple drag and drop. While these are simple changes to the overall experience on iPad, they really enhance how users interact with their device and are simple enough commands that any level of user can learn how to use them within seconds.
A surprising disappointment for me while using the Apple iPad 2018 was the 9.7” HD Retina display. Compared to Apple’s previous tablet offerings and the wide market of competition today, this 264ppi display appears underwhelming to the eye when next to the iPad Pro. While the screen remains impressively responsive, the true culprits here are the lack of HDR support, large black bezels and the noticeable gap between the glass and the screen, which makes the viewing experience in any type of media lose some detail. Thankfully, colours still shine brightly and Apple has coated the glass with non-reflective material so the viewing experience isn’t further harmed by different lighting scenarios or a mass of fingerprints.
The included 8-megapixel camera and 1.2-megapixel front facing camera are also nothing to write home about. While they certainly get the job done in a pinch, most photo centric users will stick to their phone to do the job or they will want to upgrade to the iPad Pro for a wider selection of options and more powerful hardware. Photos and video on the Apple iPad 2018 simply lack a level of detail and vibrancy that I’ve come to expect from today’s smartphones. While everything around budget oriented tablets is now aiming for premium specs, like 4K video at 60 FPS, these devices are stuck firmly in the HD era for another couple years until the technology becomes cheaper to manufacture.
Lastly, the abundance of accessories for any Apple product is rich in variety, and the Apple iPad 2018 is no exception. While the first choices for any consumer are always a case and a screen protector, Apple is really pushing for users to tack on an extra $129 CAD to their purchase and buy an Apple Pencil. What the Pencil offers users is 12 hours of precise interactivity off a single charge. Feel free to draw on-the-go, mark up documents or emails and hand write notes in Apple’s suite of compatible applications. While it’s a fun way to push more interactivity onto the budget oriented iPad, this accessory is one that will understandably be low on many consumer’s priority lists. That being said, I believe the best market for this accessory are art students because it offers them a much more precise experience then what they can expect from a standard Bluetooth stylus.
Overall the Apple iPad 2018 is a great purchase for any casual or budget oriented consumer. The perfect combination of the powerful A10 Fusion processor and the freedom of iOS 11 create a truly worthwhile experience for any level of user. While I noticed some disappointments when compared to the more premium tablets offered on the market, the price to performance of this particular iPad is near unbeatable. This is a great gateway product for Apple to get new users into their ever-evolving ecosystem, and once they’re hooked in, it will be hard for them to find reasons to ever leave.
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