Apple's new entry-level iPad is the tablet I wish I had in uni

Credit: Apple

Skipping right over the short period of my life where I subscribed to the way of the Chromebook, the MVP of my university computing experiences was my trusty iPad Mini. 

Originally nabbed on discount at Big W, it got me through lectures, tutorials and group assignments galore. But compared to the new sixth-generation iPad that represents the bottom-end of Apple’s modern tablet lineup, it barely holds a candle. 

Envisioned as a workhorse for cash-strapped students, this thing might not be as eye-catching or brilliantly powerful as Apple’s iPad Pro but it easily eclipses what’s come before it. That’s really cool to see, even if it’s not necessarily something that power users will go for.

2012 iPad Mini vs 2019 iPad - By The Numbers

How far we've comeCredit: Fergus Halliday | IDG
How far we've come

On paper, the new 10.2-inch iPad stakes out an exciting new baseline for what “the cheapest iPad” can look like. 

2019 iPad - What’s good about it?

Even if it’s not quite as nice in look and feel as the iPad Pro, jumping between the new 10.2-inch iPad and Samsung’s Tab S4 made me appreciate just how nice the standard iPad experience is. Putting the two tablets side by side, Samsung’s is definitely thinner but, held in hand, the iPad just feels like a more cohesive and concise object. It’s really more evenly-weighted. It’s even got a headphone jack.

Beyond the hardware specs, iPadOS itself also feels like it makes a massive difference. 

You can read our full spiel on Apple’s reworked tablet operating system here but the short version is that iPadOS goes a long way towards making every iPad - not just the most expensive ones - a more capable portable computer. It’s snappy in action and, even if the processor inside the new iPad is a few years old, it’s still very easy to get good results from it. 

Credit: Apple

If you’re planning to do some serious content creation on this thing, then it is probably going to be worth talking yourself up to buying an iPad Pro. However, for students or everyday usage, the A10 processor feels more than fast enough. 

Apple Pencil support is another cool perk here that my old iPad Mini didn’t have - which is a shame, since Apple’s stupidly-premium stylus is still one of the best on the market. Even if the accessory does add a not-insignificant surcharge to purchasing one of these, the Apple Pencil still adds a fascinating third dimension to the way in which you interact with a tablet like this one.

Last but not least, buying a 2019 iPad does give you a nice and current iPad that should be capable of letting you try all those cool games that have made Apple Arcade. Will the 2019 iPad run those games quite as well as the iPad Pro or the iPhone 11 Pro? No. But, at the same time, it’ll run those games at all - which can’t be said for any of the Android, Surface or ChromeOS-powered alternatives.  

2019 iPad - What’s bad about it?

The most noticeable downside about the 2019 iPad is that, well, it doesn’t look quite as cutting edge as the rest of Apple’s product lineup. It’s the company’s new bottom-tier iPad - and it looks the part. 

The bezels on this thing are enormous and you don’t get the sleek metal banding found in the more premium options. In other words, the 2019 iPad looks a little dated.

It also lacks a lot of the more modern features found in the other iPads. It still charges via Lightning cable rather than USB Type-C and the decision by Apple to opt for a classic fingerprint sensor rather than some sort of Face ID feels positively antique.

In addition - if you’re a crazy person like me, who has recently started using their Samsung Android tablet to call forward from their main SIM to their secondary one, the 2019 iPad doesn’t support that. No further questions on this topic, please. 

Credit: Apple

2019 iPad - Would I recommend it?

Despite the above reservations? I’d still absolutely recommend folks looking for a cheap tablet that doesn’t feel cheap and students after something that’s both affordable, portable and powerful enough to handle their workload. 

Simply put, the 2019 iPad is the tablet I wish I had in uni. 

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Fergus Halliday
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