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Apple iPad (2019) Review

Our Verdict

The king keeps its hold on the crown this year, thanks to the iPad's brighter (and slightly larger) screen and gains in battery life.

For

  • Longer battery life
  • Brighter display
  • More screen space
  • Smart Keyboard support, finally

Against

  • Gets pricey with Keyboard and Pencil
  • Aging design
  • Last year's processor

The iPad is the tablet. Much like "Xerox" was for photocopies and Nintendo for consoles, the iPad is the dictionary definition, no-questions-needed, tablet.

This year's model offers a bit more screen, at 10.2 inches up from the 9.7-inch panel on the previous generation. The iPad also finally gets support for Apple's optional Smart Keyboard Cover (something all of its iPads should have). On top of that, the iPad's battery life got even better this year, despite having a larger screen to illuminate.

This year's iPad lasted nearly 2 hours longer than the 2018 model.

There are some significant downsides, however. The new iPad inherits the 2018 iPad's A10 Fusion CPU, and its keyboard and pencil accessories will bump you up to nearly $600. Further, some might find its design a bit dated. Still, this year's improved model helps the iPad remain the best tablet overall for most people.

iPad (2019) price and accessories

Just like last year, the iPad costs $329 for most folks and $299 for those in education.. We frequently saw the previous-gen iPad drop from $329 to $249, so keep an eye out for iPad deals. A storage upgrade of an extra 96GB (bumping you from 32GB to 128GB) costs $80 more and cellular connectivity will run you an extra $130.

More important than either of those, if you ask me, is the $159 Smart Keyboard Cover. Apple's $99 1st Generation Pencil is neat for doodlers, but I prefer the costlier 2nd Gen Pencil that only works with the iPad Pro (check out my review of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2018, my favorite iPad ever).

Design

Slightly taller and wider than last year's 9.7-inch iPad, the 10.2-inch iPad Pro makes room for its larger panel with a brand-new chassis. That extra half inch isn't a noticeable boost, but at least it's something (slightly) new.

The iPad's top and bottom bezels still have space to shed, but I'm OK with that. I'd rather see Apple shake up its design. Apple slimmed down the left and right bezels in 2017, but (overall) this iPad looks like every single one to come before it.

MORE: Best Tablets - Top Tablets on the Market - Laptop Mag

We tested a Space Gray iPad, but Apple also makes silver and gold designs (the latter is likely the best, especially if Apple's using the same hues it uses for the MacBook Air).

The iPad sports the familiar Touch ID fingerprint reader in its home button, though Face ID remains exclusive to the higher-end iPad Pro series.

At 1.1 pounds and 0.3 inches thick, the 10.2-inch iPad is similar in size and heft to the 10.1-inch Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (1.1 pounds, 0.3 inches) and the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite (1.1 pounds, 0.3 inches). The iPad Air (2019) (1 pound, 0.2 inches) looks nearly identical when stacked on top of the iPad, but it's a hair thinner and lighter.

I'm not waiting on Apple to give the iPad a USB-C port, as this tablet still charges via a Lightning port, the same outlet you'll use to power the Apple Pencil (more on that below). The iPad Air also uses a Lightning port, while the MediaPad M5 Lite and Tab 4 10 Plus both use the increasingly relevant USB-C.

Display

The iPad's 10.2-inch screen is super-bright and crisp. As I watched a scene in the film The World's End where Simon Pegg and his fellow frumpy old men beat up a bunch of teens, I noticed rich blue puddles of alien blood, bright whites of fluorescent lighting and dark blacks in Pegg's duster jacket. Splotches of said blue blood appeared clearly enough on Nick Frost's jacket for me to think that one looked like the state of Florida.

Just don't expect to see the difference in screen size. Moving from the 9.7-inch iPad's 2048 x 1536-pixel panel to the 10.2-inch iPad's 2160 x 1620-pixel screen is an 11% screen estate expansion. While that's nothing to sneeze at, it's still incremental.

The iPad's 10.2-inch screen is super-bright and crisp.

According to our colorimeter, the iPad produces 105% of the sRGB spectrum, close to the 108% tablet average. The Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (109%) got a similar score, while the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite (114%) and the iPad Air (132%) hit even higher.

The iPad is one of the brightest tablets we've ever tested, rating 450 nits of brightness, outshining the 404-nit tablet average. The Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (400 nits), iPad Air (425 nits) and MediaPad M5 Lite (427 nits) are all dimmer.

Smart Keyboard

Finally, the iPad finally has the Smart Connector port, which you'll need to use Apple's $159 Smart Keyboard cover. In my iPad Pro keyboard case face-off, I concluded that this accessory may not be the best at everything, but I still love it for how breezy it is to set up.

After docking the iPad with its keyboard's magnetic port -- yes, you don't need to even touch Bluetooth once -- you're ready to jot notes. I've tested Apple's Smart Keyboard covers enough to become a relatively fast typist on them, but I still don't love using them.

Taking the keyboard for a spin, I hit a rate of 78 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is pretty close to my 80 wpm average. Typing fast, though, when the keyboard's keys are so shallow, proved a bit difficult for my hands, which began to hurt after about 15 minutes of use. This is likely just a "me" problem, as I prefer mechanical keyboards, which feature more key travel and have me used to hitting the keys much harder than you need to on the iPad's Smart Keyboard.

MORE: iPad Pro Keyboard Case Face-Off: Apple vs. Brydge vs. Logitech

This keyboard is ideal for writing on a table or other surface, as balancing it in your lap (especially when you're on the couch) can get a bit cramped.

Apple pencil

Doodling in Notes, I witnessed Apple's superfast stylus in real time. From tilt shading to other general tricks, the $99 Apple Pencil is still one of the best.

Sadly, though, it still charges in the lamest way ever: you pop the cap off its bottom and then awkwardly plug it into the Lightning port on the bottom edge of the iPad. Trying to connect the two again, I was reminded about how the act of plugging the Pencil in doesn't feel stable at all, still making me think something will snap.

Audio

The iPad is still a solid speakerbox. Listening to Charli XCX's "Warm" on the tablet as it filled one of our medium-size conference rooms, I noted strong sound from its stereo speakers, drums and synths hit accurately and backing vocals came through quite clearly, making it easier to discern which lines came from the bang Haim and which from Ms. XCX herself.

Testing the iPad on something more timeless, I played Herbert von Karajan and The Vienna Philharmonic's rendition of the 4th movement of Antonín Dvoák's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (also known as "From the New World") and appreciated both the powerful opening strings and the smaller details when the crescendo lowers from boil to simmer.

Performance

Rocking the same A10 Fusion processor as its predecessor, the 2019 iPad is capable at basic work and multitasking, but it could be a bit speedier. The iPad demonstrated acceptable speed while moving among a half dozen Safari tabs (including this review as a Google Doc), a 1080p YouTube video (Shia LaBeouf's Hot Ones episode is great) and the Twitter app. Still, that Google Docs file sometimes took a moment to load, when jumping back. It wasn't a hindrance, but it's something you'd notice.

As I played through my current favorite Apple Arcade games -- the visually stunning Sayonara Wild Heart and the cartoonishly brilliant What the Golf? -- I saw no lag in the gameplay and everything rendered smoothly. Of course, I tested the iPad out on non-Apple Arcade games, such as Asphalt 9, a racing game that also ran well on the iPad, where I managed a couple of easy wins and noticed the crisp detail of confetti falling around my Mitsubishi.

The iPad earned a 1,429 on the Geekbench 5 general performance test (which is as new as benchmarks get). Luckily, we had the brawnier iPad Air (A12 Bionic) to see how it would perform on this test, and, predictably, the Air walloped the newer iPad with a 2,519.

Over on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, the iPad earned a 38,929, which is pretty close to the 38,196 tablet average. The iPad Air (yet again) earned a higher score of 77,385, while the

As I played through my current favorite Apple Arcade games -- the visually stunning Sayonara Wild Heart and the cartoonishly brilliant What the Golf? -- I saw no lag in the gameplay and everything rendered smoothly.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 625-powered Tab 4 10 Plus (13,801) and the Huawei Kirin 659-based MediaPad M5 Lite (11,746) notched lower marks.

Battery life

The most important improvement in the iPad can't be seen with your eyes. While last year's iPad lasted 10 hours and 7 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), this year's model went a film's length longer, making it 11 hours and 58 minutes.

That's more than 2 hours longer than the 9:57 tablet average and in a dead heat with the 11:54 time from the iPad Air. The Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus (13:06) and the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite (13:13) lasted even longer.

iPadOS is here

iOS on the iPad is now iPadOS, as Apple's done even more to optimize the operating system for the tablet's larger screen. Key improvements include a more capable home screen (with widgets!), supercharged multitasking and a version of Safari that's closer than ever to being a desktop-level browser.

MORE: How to install iPadOS public beta

Cameras: AR apps but no Face ID yet

You could take OK-ish photos and video using the iPad's 8-megapixel rear cam, but I'm not a fan of its 1.2-megapixel selfie shooter. In a pinch, either will work -- as I found when I shot photos of myself and my coffee in our office -- but maybe consider using the phone in your pocket.

The arguably better use for its cameras is augmented reality apps, such as the Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs game I played on the iPad. It placed a virtual wooden fort of piggies on one of our conference tables and each object bounced off the table correctly.

Bottom line

The new iPad is better than last year's, with hours of extra battery life, a slightly larger screen and Smart Keyboard support. We'd like a faster processor and a more modern design -- maybe next year.

Apple's biggest competition is coming from within, as the new iPad Air offers a speed bump for those willing to spend $170 more. If you'd consider an Android tablet, the Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite and the Lenovo Tab 4 10 Plus both last longer and cost less, but their screens aren't as bright.

This year's update isn't groundbreaking or monumental. 2018 iPad owners don't need to run out now, and I don't think 2017 iPad owners need to either.

Still, though, the iPad is so great across the board that it's still the tablet I'd recommend to most people. For writing with an easy-to-use physical keyboard, to gaming in AR, watching movies and listening to music, there's no tablet that's better at everything as the iPad.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Tech Specs

CPUA10 Fusion Chip, embedded M10 coprocessor
Size9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches
Weight1.1 pounds
Display Size10.2
Wi-Fi802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Warranty / Support1 year hardware repair coverage, up to 90 days of technical support.
OSApple iPadOS
Display Resolution2160 x 1620
Camera Resolution8MP
Front-Facing Camera Resolution1.2MP
BrandApple
Has BluetoothYes
PortsLightning, Headphone
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Henry is a senior writer at Laptop Mag, covering security, Apple and operating systems. Prior to joining Laptop Mag — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and wondering why Apple decided to ditch its MagSafe power adapters.