If you’re considering buying a new iPad, but aren’t sure which one to get, then this guide can help you in your decision with a side-by-side comparison.
Apple’s best iPads are brilliant devices for on-the-go entertainment and creativity. But is the newest iPad a significant upgrade over the previous generation, or is it one to skip? Here’s what we think, based on the product’s key categories.
The design is one area where we feel that we’ve seen a clear advantage in buying Apple’s most recent effort.
The new iPad 10 is similar to that of the iPad Air, so it’s got a flat back and sides, a slimmer bezel, and no Home button – instead, Touch ID is present on the power button.
It’s 10g lighter (at 477g) yet feels robust, and the additional mod-cons include USB-C rather than a Lightning port, plus a Smart Connector; though we do bemoan the loss of a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s also available in brighter colours, including yellow, blue and pink. With the iPad 9th gen, it’s only available in silver and grey.
On the other hand, we feel that the iPad 9th gen is really starting to show its age. The design looks a little dated, especially with such large bezels, but it is at least sturdy and robust.
If appearance is your priority or at least a strong consideration, then we think this is an easy win for the iPad 10th gen, as it’s both more attractive and arguably more practical.
The iPad 9 has a display very similar to the previous base iPads, being a 10.2-inch IPS panel with a 2160×1620 resolution that can reach a brightness of around 450 nits.
True Tone technology alters the colour temperature depending on your environment, and that worked particularly well when reading bright white pages.
The iPad 10’s display is far from the best that Apple’s range has to offer, but that’s not to say that it isn’t good. The display is slightly larger as well at 10.9-inches, though the resolution stays at 264ppi.
Images are sharp and colourful, but it does lack the P3 colour gamut offered by superior Apple tablets, and unfortunately the display does not have an anti-reflective coating to ward off distracting sunrays. Nonetheless, it still has True Tone and it does a good job if you want to use it for watching movies or playing mobile games.
Overall, the 10th-generation iPad does have a slightly better screen than the last generation, but it still didn’t knock our socks off compared to the most recent iPad Air. If a screen is highly important to you, especially if you enjoy watching TV shows on your tablet, then you might like to look at that model instead, but these tablets are still good enough though not exceptional.
The iPad 9 is powered by the A13 Bionic chipset, which is the same one that you’d find in the iPhone 11. It’s not the very latest silicon, but all the games we tried worked perfectly, and it was the same case for more demanding apps such as Lightroom and LumaFusion too. iPadOS provides a wonderful selection of apps to choose from, and there are Wi-Fi and cellular versions of the tablet available depending on your requirements.
The iPad 10 has received a boost to its performance, running as it does on the A14 Bionic chipset (from the iPhone 12 series), and it gives us exactly the performance we’d expect from an iPad in this price bracket; you won’t need to worry about lag or poor gaming performance from this device. Graphics rendering has seen significant improvement over its predecessor, and it is perfectly capable of taking on video editing as well.
The 4GB RAM (an improvement of 1GB over the previous edition) is another welcome change, while you’ll still get the same wonderful software that we enjoyed so much on the iPad 9.
While the performance of the iPad 9 is still good, the iPad 10 definitely has an edge on it and is, without doubt, the better performer when the two are put head to head.
Apple claims that you’ll get 10 hours of battery life from the iPad 9 and we found this to be true if you simply play video on loop, so it’s ideal for long-distance travel such as a transatlantic flight. When using this as our day-to-day tablet, we needed to charge it just a couple of times per week, though when charging it back up it does require a lengthy 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Battery claims remain more or less the same for the iPad 10 and, once again, we found these claims to be substantiated. Even after a heavy day’s usage we could only get the battery bar down to 50%, so you’ll be very hard-pressed to deplete it entirely in one sitting. As previously mentioned, we’re also fans of the switch to USB-C for charging, though that might be a little annoying for you if you wanted to use the same cable to charge both your iPhone and iPad.
On this score, we reckon that battery expectations between the two tablets are very similar. The biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether you’d prefer the Lightning port or USB-C.
Optional extras are always handy to have with tablets, because they can transform the device into something that can be used for art or a work station. Both of these tablets are compatible with key accessories; the two work with the first-generation Apple Pencil, while the older one works with the Smart Keyboard and the newer iPad 10 functions well with the Magic Keyboard Folio.
However, the Pencil integration on both iPads did cause us to raise our eyebrows; on the iPad 9 it sticks out awkwardly from the Lightning port, while for the iPad 10 you’ve got to buy a separate adaptor to let it charge. Neither implementation is an ergonomic success, and we hope that the time round this will finally have been solved.
Both of these iPads are currently on sale, and there’s quite a significant difference in price between the two.
You’ll be able to get yourself an iPad 9 for $329/£319, for which you’ll still get a high-quality product even though it’s a few years old now. On the other hand, if you want to treat yourself to the latest iPad 10, then you’ll have to spend a bit more cash. The starting price is $449/£499, so it’s comfortably over $100/£100 more than its predecessor.
While the iPad 10 isn’t exactly perfect – in fact, its mash-up of specifications make it a difficult device to categorise – there are still some clear improvements over its predecessor here, most notably in terms of its design and performance. We’d have appreciated further improvements to the screen, but it remains good enough for watching videos or gaming, and the battery life remains excellent.
If you’re on a tight budget then the iPad 9 still offers plenty of great value and should not be dismissed, but if you have a little more cash to splash then the iPad 10 will be worth it.