Apple is dead set on making sure there's an iPad for everyone. Want something fast and future proof? Try an iPad Pro. Prefer a smaller device? There's the updated iPad mini. Need a spacious screen and excellent performance without paying Pro prices? The iPad Air is probably for you. And now with the $329 iPad 10.2 (or the 2019 iPad or whatever you want to call it), Apple is making sure people who just need the essentials are getting them. Again.
Chiefly, it offers a solid screen, great software and the sort of good battery life we've come to expect from Apple. With that said, the new iPad isn't a massive improvement over the model it replaces, and that's OK. When you consider how few companies are making good tablets, the 2019 iPad gets enough right that it's still the best reasonably priced tablet out there right now.
- Reasonable price
- Slightly bigger screen
- The same good battery life
- Older processor
- Smart Connector still feels limited
- Base model only has 32GB of storage
Gallery: Apple iPad 10.2 review | 17 Photos
Gallery: Apple iPad 10.2 review | 17 Photos
A big redesign
Last year's entry-level iPad was a great tablet for the time, but it left me with a few items on my wishlist. Apple has had some version of a 9.7-inch iPad since Steve Jobs revealed the original nearly a decade ago, so I thought it would be nice to see the company mix up its design a bit. I also thought one of Apple's magnetic Smart Connector ports would be a helpful addition. After all, students (especially young ones) use iPads quite a bit, and they'd certainly benefit from some clever accessories.
So what did Apple do when it was time to build this new iPad? Well, it redesigned it and gave it a Smart Connector. Apple basically gave us the iPad I wanted last year, this year.
The most obvious change here is the new, 10.2-inch Retina display: It's half an inch bigger than the screen in older models, but honestly, the extra screen space doesn't feel that valuable. Yes, you have slightly more room for your movies, and avid Pencil users will probably appreciate having extra screen real estate for their notes and sketches. Still, unless you happen to have last year's model sitting right next to it, you'd probably be hard-pressed to tell the difference. It's fine.
Thankfully, it's still a pretty nice screen for the price: The colors are vivid, and Apple has bumped up the brightness slightly, making it a little easier to use outdoors. Unfortunately, this screen isn't laminated, so there's a bit of dead space between the Retina panel and the glass that protects it. That's hardly a dealbreaker -- the same is true of Apple's other cheap iPads -- but there's no denying that laminated displays in devices like the $500 iPad Air just look better.
That bigger screen obviously means a bigger enclosure too. This year's standard-issue iPad is almost exactly the same size as the iPad Air, except it's a hair thicker. Don't worry: The change in weight compared to earlier models is negligible, which means the new iPad is still comfortable to hold onto for long periods of time. (Say, when you're reading or binging Succession in bed.)
Beyond making everything a little bigger, the rest of the standard iPad features remain. You'll still use a Lightning cable to change instead of USB-C, and since there's no Face ID here, you'll rely on a fingerprint sensor in the home button to unlock your iPad. Oh, and thankfully, there's still a headphone jack here.
The only real exception is the new Smart Connector I mentioned earlier. Apple introduced it in 2015 as a way to magnetically attach accessories to the original iPad Pro, and since then, the connector has been slowly working its way down into more reasonably priced tablets like the iPad Air. That means for the first time, you can snap one of Apple's $160 Smart Keyboards onto the cheap iPad. Despite the hate it tends to get, I had no trouble bashing out my review on it. It's not an ideal keyboard -- its keys aren't backlit and the short travel will feel weird for some people -- but the fact that it doubles as a screen cover makes it more valuable than a Bluetooth keyboard.
I'm glad the Smart Connector is here; I'm less glad that few companies have bothered to do anything with it. Apple has that keyboard case. Logitech has a charging base and a handful of slim connector keyboards complete with backlit keys, and... well, that's about it. Maybe now that the Smart Connector is available on nearly every new iPad, its ecosystem of accessories will start to blossom. Until then, there's a decent chance you're never actually going to use this thing.
I have to say, I wish the iPad came with more storage. For $329 you get you a tablet with 32GB of space, which might be perfectly manageable if your music library lives in services like Spotify and if you mostly stream your movies instead of downloading them. But let's say you're buying into Apple's new vision of itself as a services company and want to download a bunch of Apple Arcade games or save a few episodes of a TV show for a flight. That's when extra storage would come in handy. Now that the iPhone 7 has been discontinued, you can't buy a new phone with less than 64GB of space. In 2019, that should apply to iPads too.