It’s hard to beat the Apple iPad for a good all-rounder tablet, but in the latest model, Apple has found a few ways to make the 2020 iPad even better.
You may not realise it, but the iPad has been around for quite some time. Apple’s first proper tablet first launch in April 2010, some ten years ago, providing a starting place for what has grown into a massive range for the company.
Ten years on, there are five — count ’em — iPad models in the world, with the 7.9 inch iPad Mini, the 10.2 inch iPad, the 10.9 inch iPad Air, the 11 inch iPad Pro, and the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. That’s a lot of iPads.
While they all typically have something different, and a unique selling point, these days, the very thing that makes the standard “iPad” shine is how it drives value. Specifically, Apple offers a 10 inch screen in a metal body, complete with support for Apple’s accessories, and for a price that can seem a little too good to be true. At $499, it offers so much, and was already so good last year. Is the 2020 iPad even better?
There’s a new iPad in town, but you’d never know it upon looking at it. A quick glance at last year’s 7th gen iPad and this year’s 8th gen, and you’ll be convinced they’re the same.
That’s because Apple has kept the chassis of the iPad 10.2 the same between 2019 and 2020, with an identical aluminium body, complete with the magnetic edge the iPad has long arrived with.
While the design hasn’t changed, what’s under the hood has. Ever so slightly, anyway.
Rather than the A10 from the previous model, Apple has upgraded the innards, moving to the A12 Bionic with Neural Engine, found in the iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max. That new chip is paired with either 32GB or 128GB storage, an amount that is locked in at the time of purchase, alongside whichever wireless version you get. If you get the WiFi only model, it’s Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, while the 4G model adds 4G LTE and GPS to that.
Wired connection ports still exist here, with a Lightning port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headset jack up top, while physical buttons can still be found on the iPad 8th gen, with a power button up top, volume buttons on the right side, and a home button at the very front, complete with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor underneath.
You’ll find two cameras on the iPad, with an 8 megapixel F2.4 camera on the back, plus a 1.2 megapixel F2.4 FaceTime HD camera at the front, the former supporting 1080p video capture and the latter 720p.
And all of this is encased in an aluminium and glass body, with the glass protecting the screen.
Like last year’s switch from the 9.7 inch iPad to the more iPad Air-like 10.2 inch screen, you’ll find a 10.2 inch display on the 8th gen iPad, the model for 2020.
Nothing has changed here, so you’re still getting the same 2160×1620 touchscreen, still without the white-balancing technology that is Apple’s TrueTone, as that tends to be reserved for Apple’s premium devices, which this doesn’t count as.
Despite that, the screen is bright enough and offers a clear picture few would really complain about, while also offering support for the Apple Pencil for writing and drawing, made even more complete by the iPadOS 14 inclusion of scribbles, which can translate writing and drawings to words and shapes, respectively.
Using the Apple iPad 8th generation is pretty much like using any iPad from a previous generation, though iPad OS has helped make the experience a little more computer like if you fancy.
Take the 2020 iPad for a spin like an iPad, and you’ll find you can load up an app, swipe up from the bottom to get home or load the multi-task menu, and even press that oh-so-satisfying home button, which still has Apple’s Touch ID hidden underneath. No facial security here, folks; this is all standard Apple fare.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, either, though it is nice to see all the “standard Apple fare” from last year’s iPad for everyone stick around. That includes support for the first-gen Apple Pencil, which means you can write and draw if you pay for the optional $145 cost, or even the Smart Keyboard Cover, which adds $235 to the cost.
Both accessories can make the iPad 10.2 8th gen a little more capable, with the keyboard bringing a slightly darker shade of grey to Apple’s flexible cloth keyboard cover, effectively turning the new iPad into more of a computer, something iPadOS helps with, while the Pencil lets you take notes, draw, and do some digital painting.
Or in other words, it’s a tablet that feels like a computer if you need it to, or just a great tablet overall. Dealer’s choice, and a bit more, because while you can create content, you can consume on it, too.
Armed with a new processor, the A12 Bionic from the iPhone XR, the 2020 iPad is a little different under the hood compared with last year’s iPad, the 7th generation model, also known as the 2019 iPad.
It will seem small, and that’s actually quite true: the upgrades are so small, you’d have to open the aluminium chassis up and find them on the inside, with the processor really being all that’s new here.
But the processor does make a dent, and our benchmarks showed the difference between the A12 in the 2020 iPad and the A10 in the 2019 iPad as being roughly double. That is to say that the new 8th gen iPad scores almost twice the performance in multi-core processing and graphical power, which is enough to let you know this thing means business.
More processing and graphical power means more for games, heavier apps, and some of those augmented reality needs, really turning this into a beast of sorts, but it’s a beast on a budget.
While budget devices normally exhibit the odd sacrifice or two, the battery is one area that Apple’s 2020 iPad still handles itself well in, or well enough.
Depending on what you do, there’s up to ten hours of performance, which isn’t really any different from last year. Using the 4G LTE option can cut down on the battery life some more, though that’s if you’ve bought the 4G model. Stick to WiFi and you’ll find the iPad handles itself a little better, getting closer to that full ten.
One thing has changed with the new iPad, however, and it concerns power: instead of the standard 10W USB charger Apple has included with the iPad since it first arrived, it now sports a 20W charger, complete with a Type C to Lightning cable. That’s the sort of thing that will improve charging time, not just on the new iPad, but over on the iPhone, so it’s a great inclusion.
And at $499, the 8th generation iPad represents really excellent value, delivering a fast and capable tablet that can do doubly duty as a notebook with a keyboard case, and even take notes and translate them from the Apple Pencil.
Granted, both the Smart Keyboard Cover and Apple Pencil add an extra cost or two to the overall price tag, but at a buck under $500, the 8th generation iPad is hard to argue against. It’s just solid value all round, helped even more now by that increase in performance.
What needs work?
As close as Apple gets to perfection, there’s still something missing in action: water resistance. It’s not here, though to Apple’s credit, it’s not on any iPad, so it’s not as if Apple isn’t excluding it by any specific reason: it’s just not something the iPad gets.
But it is something we think it should have, and with virtually no needed changes beyond water resistance, adding features to version 9 of the iPad, the next model, well that’s going to be difficult. Maybe including TrueTone in the display, though we’re just getting picky.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Easily one of the more modest updates you’re likely to find in the Apple iPad range, the 2020 iPad is more or less a faster version of last year’s 10.2 inch iPad, which itself was already a pretty stellar package.
This year, an improved chip, lower price, and slightly more impressive charger round out the iPad to help make it a tablet for anyone. Whether you plan to write, draw, type, watch, read, listen, or play games, the iPad has your name.
And sure, there are better iPad models out there, but much like the MacBook Air, it’s a machine that can do it all, and is unabashedly ashamed to admit it. It’s essentially the Swiss Army iPad: great for everything, including your wallet. Highly recommended.