Review: The new iPad is an affordable iPad Air with the best webcam

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Apple’s latest iPad represents the nicest and most useful upgrade we’ve seen on the base model in a few years. In short, you now get a cheaper iPad Air, itself an affordable version of the iPad Pro.

And because Apple made it compatible with a great new keyboard accessory – which is very similar to the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard – it’s now essentially an iPad that you can comfortably use as a laptop. efficient and powerful enough work or student at a much less off-putting price than the iPad Pro.

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€599 (64GB); €799 (256 GB); €200 extra for cellular models

Pros: Bigger screen, much better webcam, new design to match iPad Air and iPad Pro

Cons: Expensive due to Eurozone inflation, only supports 1st generation pencil

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If it hadn’t been for the Eurozone inflation crisis, which caused all Apple products to skyrocket (priced in dollars), this would be a bargain. As it stands, at €599, it’s still a bargain if you want something that can double as a home laptop with some work capacity.

At first glance, there are a few major upgrades worth mentioning here.

The first is the new form. This mirrors the recently redesigned iPad Air, itself a close copy of the iPad Pro. That means you get a larger 10.9-inch screen (like the iPad Air and Pro) and the square bezel that’s recognizable from those two high-end devices. While there’s no Face ID (like the iPad Pro), it has the same thin Touch ID button on the outside corner found on the iPad Air.

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iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil. Photo: Adrien Weckler

iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil. Photo: Adrien Weckler

The next upgrade worth mentioning is a change in the position of the webcam, which now sits in the middle of the “landscape” bezel, just like on a laptop. It’s much more convenient for things like Zoom calls and easily beats webcam positioning on the iPad Air and iPad Pro. It’s also a recognition that more and more people are using iPads as laptops, with keyboards, in landscape format; the days of thinking an iPad was just a larger smartphone held vertically are mostly over. (Unfortunately, Irish companies such as Bank Of Ireland are still way behind the curve with their iPad apps.)

As for the webcam itself, it’s Apple’s ultra-wide 12-megapixel lens with its Center Stage technology that puts you right in the center of the frame, even if you move around a bit. It is superb.

It’s the first basic iPad to use USB-C instead of Lightning, which means slightly faster charging and file transfers, if you’re doing it using a wired connection. Note that although this is happening at the same time as the EU’s USB-C charging law, it has little to do with this regulatory change – Apple has been gradually moving its iPads from Lightning to USB-C over the past four years.

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Apple iPad 10th generation.  Photo: Adrien Weckler


Apple iPad 10th generation. Photo: Adrien Weckler

Apple iPad 10th generation. Photo: Adrien Weckler

The iPad uses its two-year-old A14 chip, the same one that featured in the still excellent 2020 iPad Air, as the main engine of the new iPad, along with 4GB of RAM. While it’s not as powerful as today’s iPad Air or iPad Pro, it’s still good enough for me to use for work documents, movies, and web browsing without no problem. I noticed it was a bit slower when trying to quickly switch between multiple apps, but that was the extent of its limitation for me.

Other than the chip, webcam position, and Pencil support (see below), the main difference between this iPad and the iPad Air is the display. It’s a bit low end, mainly because it’s not a “laminated” screen. This has a marginal impact on the overall quality of the screen, as there is a small gap between the glass on top of the screen and the next layer below. It’s not as good at deflecting glare in bright light, for example. For the same reason, it also likely contributes to this non-laminated iPad being ever so slightly thicker than the (laminated) iPad Air or iPad Pro.

That said, other improvements to the iPad’s display mean you’ll often barely notice it. I used it to watch several episodes of TV shows on the usual streaming platforms and was very satisfied.

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Apple iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio


Apple iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio

Apple iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio

As you’d expect, this isn’t the Apple “ProMotion” (120Hz) display of the iPad Pro lines, but rather a more basic 60Hz display (similar to the current iPad Air). This means it’s slightly less fluid when scrolling through web pages or screens. However, that also means the screen uses slightly less battery life than the ProMotion models.

The iPad speakers are, I found, as good or better than most laptop speakers I’ve tested. They do, however, lag a little behind the iPad Air and iPad Pro speakers, as a handful of side-by-side tests have shown me. The main difference is in the bass. But they are absolutely fine for what you pay here.

Battery life is about the same on most iPads and I didn’t find it different here, between six and ten hours depending on what I was doing (working in daylight at outdoors will shorten battery life as the screen defaults to full brightness).

For those who want it as a laptop replacement for work or college, there’s a brand new Magic Keyboard Folio ($299) accessory for the new iPad. It’s a big step up from Apple’s older basic iPad keyboards.

Typing on it is almost identical to the more expensive Magic Keyboard, thanks to its excellent scissor mechanism with its nice 1mm of travel. There’s also a cursor control pad, which might be a revelation for those who haven’t used cursor control on a basic iPad before. Unlike the Magic Keyboard, there’s a thin top row of function keys like a MacBook, with useful controls like screen brightness, search, volume and a screen lock key. That last key, helpfully, doesn’t automatically lock the screen if it’s swiped (as I’ve often done because it’s located next to the delete button), but requires a full second with your finger on it. Apple has clearly learned that people like me sometimes inadvertently press the lock button, as is my usual habit on the new iMac’s TouchID keyboard.

It’s a small tweak to the productivity safety net that I’m grateful for.

So is it as good as the Magic Keyboard? Not enough. Opening it is sometimes a bit trickier, taking a fraction longer, than the more expensive model. It’s also not as stable as the Magic Keyboard when using it on your lap. There’s no USB port to use for backup power to your iPad when you want to use the primary USB-C port for another reason. And it can’t replicate the forward tilt angle of the Magic Keyboard, meaning any FaceTime, Zoom or Teams calls inevitably mean the camera is looking at you at eye level instead.

But otherwise, it’s excellent and a huge productivity bonus for anyone looking for an ultraportable work or student laptop at a low price.

It is true that, given its size and its proportions almost identical to those of the iPad Air, Apple could have made this iPad compatible with the Magic Keyboard itself. But that would be one less reason to opt for the Air, or even the Pro, over this model.

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iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil.  Photo: Adrien Weckler


iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil. Photo: Adrien Weckler

iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil. Photo: Adrien Weckler

One of the weirdest things about the new iPad is the Pencil setup. Even though the iPad is basically the same size and shape as the iPad Air and iPad Pro 11, it’s not compatible with the high-end Apple Pencil. Instead, Apple is sticking with the first-generation Pencil. This, however, leads to a strange charging stalemate. The basic Apple Pencil is charged via a Lightning connection on the end of the Pencil, which is usually inserted into the Lightning connection port of previous iPads. But this iPad is powered by USB-C. Apple’s response is to provide a small adapter in the box (both for the iPad itself and for newly manufactured versions of the first-generation Apple Pencil) that connects a USB-C power cable (included with iPad) to the Lightning connection on the Pencil. It feels more than a little janky and not quite the user experience you’re used to from Apple; I can imagine several people getting confused and losing the adapter connection. On the other hand, it has the advantage that you can charge the pencil using any USB-C cable and socket, as long as you have the adapter at hand (although you cannot use the pencil when charging).

As for the use of the pencil itself, it’s pretty excellent. It’s smooth and very responsive, even though it’s Apple’s lowest-end display for its iPad line.

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iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio.  Photo: Adrien Weckler


iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio. Photo: Adrien Weckler

iPad with Magic Keyboard Folio. Photo: Adrien Weckler

Other things to note here include the lack of a 3.5mm headphone port, the first time a basic iPad has left it out. That means you’ll need wireless headphones or headphones with a USB-C connector.

It’s also available in a number of bright new colors, including blue, pink, yellow and silver.

All in all, this is a more than capable tablet that can do almost everything the more expensive ‘Pro’ models can, just with fewer frills, a slightly lower resolution and less storage. If you gave me one instead of an iPad Pro to work on, I wouldn’t really have a problem; the only thing I would sorely miss would be the extra screen size of the larger 13-inch Pro model.


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