At Apple’s iPad-and-Watch-themed Time Flies event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced not only the new Apple Watch Series 6 and mid-range Apple Watch SE, but also an update to the long-standing entry-level iPad. The 8th-gen iPad hasn’t had the same TLC as the new iPad Air, which received a raft of hardware upgrades and an iPad Pro-like design. However, Apple has addressed one of the biggest flaws of the seventh-gen iPad – the ageing A10 chipset.
This time around, Apple has opted to include the updated A12 Bionic chipset, the same as that found in the iPhone XS. The upgraded chipset brings a 40% boost to overall performance compared to the A10 of last year’s model, and you’ll notice a 2x improvement to graphic performance too. That makes Apple’s entry-level iPad two times faster than the top-selling Windows laptop and six times faster than the top-selling Chromebook – according to Apple, anyway.
The A12 Bionic doesn’t only introduce significant performance gains, also bringing the company’s Neural Engine to the entry-level range for the first time. The CPU allows for improved machine learning capabilities including motion tracking in AR apps, improved photo editing suggestions, Siri performance and more.
There’s also a bunch of handy new features coming in iPadOS 14 like Scribble, allowing Apple Pencil users to handwrite directly and convert that into text in real-time, that’ll improve the iPad experience.
However, while the updated chipset is a welcome addition to the new entry-level iPad, it’s essentially the same as last year’s model in just about every other respect. It features the same 10.2in Retina display with the same chunky bezels and physical Home button on the front, a stark difference to the all-new iPad Air with side-mounted Touch ID sensor and near bezel-less display, and it’s beginning to look a little dated. That being said, there are always compromises when it comes to entry-level products – it just depends on what’s more important to you, price or design.
What can’t be easily forgiven, however, is the 32GB of storage on offer from the base £329 model. 32GB of storage doesn’t go very far these days, with most smartphones and tablets offering 64GB at a minimum, and that means app and game sizes are increasing too. It’ll be fine for casual users, but it won’t take long before your growing list of apps, photos and downloaded music take up all that’s on offer. It’s worth bearing in mind that the advertised 32GB capacity doesn’t take iPadOS into consideration, leaving consumers with less than 32GB of storage to use on a day-to-day basis.
So, while the updated iPad gets some things right, there’s always something wrong with Apple’s entry-level tablet that stops it from being a straightforward recommendation. Last year it was the underpowered A10 chipset, this year it’s the lack of storage at the base level.
If that doesn’t bother you, the 8th-gen iPad is available to pre-order from Apple right now for £329 ahead of release on Friday 18 September 2020. Take a look at how the new iPad stacks up against the competition in our best iPad chart.