Apple's iPads typically offer high quality at hefty prices, but the company's latest tablet flips the script. Replacing the $499 iPad Air 2, the newly released (and simply titled) $329 iPad packs a speedy processor, vibrant display and phenomenal battery life. We can pick some nits about thickness and reflectiveness, but those failings are more than acceptable at this price. So if you've always wanted an iPad, but haven't been able to pull the trigger -- or you have an iPad that's five years old and you want to upgrade -- this is a fantastic deal.
Design: Still an iPad
As innovative as Apple can be, the iPad's design policy appears to emanate from the old axiom of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Available in the all-too-familiar tones of silver, gold and space gray, the iPad's two-tone aluminum unibody still looks sleek, though it won't wow anyone who is familiar with the past several years of Apple design.
The home button on the iPad features an actual, clicking button (rather than the capacitive touch seen on the iPhone 7), as well as Touch ID.
Weighing 16.5 ounces and measuring 0.29 inches thick, this iPad is a hair heavier and thicker than some competitors. The 9.7-inch Asus ZenPad 3S 10 (15.20 ounces, 0.23 inches) and Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch (10.4 ounces, 0.24 inches) are more svelte, as is the 7.9-inch Apple iPad mini 4 (10.4 ounces, 0.24 inches).
Stereo speakers sit on the bottom edge of the tablet, while buttons for power and volume are on the upper right corner. As is the case with all non-Pro iPads, this machine's only ports are its lightning port and headphone jack.
Display: Vivid, but missing some perks
The iPad's 2048 x 1536-pixel panel offers bright, vivid color and fine details. Watching a Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer on the tablet, I noticed a rich orange in a flickering flame and the strong reds of Iron Man's armor. The high-res display made it easy to see the fine textures of Spidey's costume and the burnt wreckage of the Staten Island Ferry.
According to our colorimeter, the iPad reproduces a high 123 percent of the sRGB gamut, beating showings by the ZenPad 3S (113 percent) and iPad mini 4 (100 percent), and the 100 percent category average. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro (122 percent) comes close to that mark.
The iPad's panel is also amazingly accurate, scoring 0.18 on the Delta-E test (where 0 is perfect). That beats ratings from the ZenPad 3S 10 (4.21), iPad mini 4 (5.86) and iPad Pro 9.7-inch (1), along with the 2.97 tablet average.
Emitting 470 nits (a measure of brightness), the iPad is amazingly bright. That means the panel outshines the ZenPad 3S 10 (426 nits), iPad Pro 9.7-inch (432 nits) and 374-nit category average. With that brightness, the iPad offers excellent viewing angles, avoiding color darkening even at 75 degrees to the left and right.
After a couple hours of tapping away at apps and watching videos, I noticed that the iPad's screen doesn't offer fingerprint resistance or anti-glare coating. Both perks can be found in the iPad mini 4 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, whose displays are more flat to the glass, while the iPad's panel looks slightly separated.
Audio: Strong, sweet sound
The iPad's stereo speakers filled our large conference room with an accurate rendition of "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz. The track's bass sounded full, synths hit accurately and vocals came through clear.
While Apple's other iPads also offer solid sound, the ZenPad 3S 10 packs audiophile-level quality that's a step above them all.
Performance: Premium speed at an entry-price
The A9 processor in the iPad provides excellent multitasking performance. As I split my screen among 12 Safari tabs and a streaming 1080p YouTube video, the tablet stayed responsive and speedy. It remained zippy as I switched the side-rail app from among YouTube, Slack, Tweetbot and Narwhal (a Reddit app).
The iPad turned in a solid score of 4,429 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, which beats the 3,821 tablet average and the showing by the Mediatek MT8176 Turbo-powered ZenPad 3S (3,270). The A9X-powered iPad Pro 9.7-inch earned an even higher score (4,802).
On the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark, the iPad earned a solid score of 28,399. That beats showings by the ZenPad 3S 10 (14,124) and iPad mini 4 (18,313), along with the 17,080 category average. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro earned a higher mark of 32,494.
Battery Life: It goes all night
This iPad is one of the longest-lasting slates there is. On the Laptop Mag battery test (web surfing at 150 nits) the slate lasted 12 hours and 59 minutes on Wi-Fi and 11:59 over LTE.
Both scores beat the Wi-Fi-only times for the ZenPad 3S 10 (8:09), iPad mini 4 (9:23) and iPad Pro 9.7-inch (10:53), along with the 9:41 average for tablets.
iOS 10.3 & Apps: The best tablet OS
The iPad benefits from the multitasking view modes that Apple introduced in iOS 9. That means you can slide a second app in from the right side of the screen, split your screen between two apps and watch video in Picture-in-Picture mode. If you're upgrading from an older iPad, these modes will be a welcome boon to your experience.
One thing iPads offer that Android-based tablets cannot is a deep library of apps made to fit the device's screen, and not blown-up versions of phone apps. The number of apps designed for tablets has grown so much that Apple no longer feels the need to highlight a section in its app store for iPad-optimized apps.
All of my favorite apps fit cleanly on the iPad. From games (Super Mario Run and Stagehand) to email clients (Airmail), Twitter (Tweetbot) and productivity apps (Todoist), the iPad does everything your iPhone can do. And it gives you a bigger screen to get it all done.
Cameras: Excellent stills and films
The iPad's cameras shoot rich and accurate photos and videos.
Testing the rear-mounted 8-megapixel camera on a dreary Manhattan day, I shot images that captured the bright red of a nearby truck and the delicate, gold facade work across the street. Even small details, such as thinly printed names on a faraway poster, are clear and legible.
The selfie I shot on the front-facing 1.2-MP FaceTime HD camera also benefits from good detail and solid color. I can clearly see the stubble on my face in these photos, and the green and yellow tones of my cap look correct.
Both of the iPad's cameras take Live Photos, Apple's GIF-like tap-to-animate snapshots. A waving U.S. flag came through clear and vivid in one of these images, with its stitching and faded red and blue colors portrayed correctly.
The tablet's rear camera also records sharp, accurate 1080p videos. The clip I shot of our NYC sidewalk could have been shakier, since my trepidatious hands shot the video, but the iPad's video image stabilization helped create smooth video.
Configurations and Accessories
The iPad is sold in 32GB ($329) and 128GB ($429) configurations, with 4G connectivity running an extra $130. Since this iPad isn't a Pro tablet, it doesn't support Apple's Pencil or Smart Keyboard accessories. Neither add-on is entirely necessary, thanks to third-party options, though the company's optimizations for the Pencil make this the best stylus available for the iPad Pro.
With its epic battery life, speedy performance and brilliant display, the 2017 iPad is the best tablet for the money and one of the best tablets overall. It may be a tad heftier than the competition, and it doesn't break new ground, but people who want a long-lasting, large-screen slate with plenty of pop won't find a better value.
If you demand the best performance and stylus, you'll spend more than twice as much for the $599 9.7-inch iPad Pro and its $99 Pencil. Those who prioritize high-end audio might like the ZenPad 3S, though the Android ecosystem is still stuck in phone mode. For most people, the new $329 iPad is, dollar for dollar, the best tablet on the market.
Photo credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide
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|Storage Drive Size||128GB|
|Storage Drive Type|
|Display Resolution||2048 x 1536|
|OS||Apple iOS 10.3.1|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||1.2MP|
|Card Reader Size|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||9.4 x 6.6 x 0.3 inches|