At the beginning of the tablet history, back in 2007-2008, the new device type was considered by some observers as capable to crowd the laptops out of the market. However, ten years later, the prediction is far from being the truth. Moreover, it is the tablets themselves that show signs of decay or at least a flounder. The reason is the increasingly powerful (and larger) smartphones shipped recently both by Apple and by some other market players.
Actually, the tablets keep competitive owing largely to Apple’s models, and, to a lesser extent, to those produced by Samsung and Microsoft. The overall gloomy prospects are partly mitigated by tablets’ growing positioning as an educational appliance. In Apple’s tablet line, the most recent model has been the 6th generation 9.7-inch iPad recently presented in Chicago largely as an educational device. One of the model’s most significant novelties is the Apple Pencil support. Of the remaining improvements, the most serious is the A10 Fusion processor previously installed on iPhone 7.
In this context, let us try to find out whether the Apple’s newest tablet is capable to revert the long-term sluggish market trend. For this to be done, we will analyze, one by one, the model’s main aspects and produce a conclusive verdict, which will be the answer, in particular, for those wondering which iPad to buy.
Regarding the appearance, 6th-gen iPad has definitely no news. The model strongly resembles the iPad Air. The available colors (Silver, Space Gray and Gold) don’t bring any novelty either. The model’s solid build, comparatively light weight (under a kilo) and slimness (7.5 mm) are certainly in favor of its design, but not sufficient to call it perfect. Much less so as the 6th-gen’s design and build are not completely free from shortcomings. Among them are the thick bezels and lack of a stereo sound unit.
Representing hardly anything new in the appearance, the model could have brought some serious improvements inside. Unfortunately not. While the substitution of the previous chipset with the Apple A10 Fusion is undoubtedly a step forward (compared to the previous generation), it is still anything but a breakthrough. The chipset is fine but weaker than the A10X Fusion already established in the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The storage of 2GB RAM (with 32 GB and 128 GB variants available in the Wi-Fi-only and Cellular versions respectively), is overall OK. The cameras (8mp on the rear, 1.2mp on the front) remain the same as in the previous version, but, sincerely, they are not so important for a tablet.
What’s worse is that the tablet is equipped with a first gen Touch ID sensor (located on the home button), which is considerably inferior to the more recent versions (at least in terms of speed and reliability).
The 9.7-inch diagonal display (a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels) producing a pixel density of 264 PPI is a familiar feature. The verdict for the display is similar as for other aspects. It has no clearly outdated features, it is reliable and provides a high-quality image. However, it lacks significant novelties and is not free from shortcomings.
Unlike Apple’s modern iPhones, the 6th-gen iPad ships without DCI-P3 gamut support and has no TrueTone chops (like on the iPad Pro). This definitely makes sense taking into account the model’s attractive price tag. However, the lack of the useful features brings a few negative consequences. Thus, when watching movies, one can notice some lack of image quality, especially in dark scenes.
The support of Apple Pencil is probably the most significant point in favor of the latest iPad’s display. However, the feature is not free from shortfalls either. For instance, when you use the Pencil, you can notice quite a considerable air gap.
Already starting to use the 6th-gen iPad, you may be upset by the slow and unpredictable Touch ID sensor. Especially after some experience of using Apple and Android modern phones with their highly responsive fingerprint sensors. It’s difficult to explain why Apple did not install, on t
he model, its second-gen Touch ID, which is charmingly fast especially compared to the first version.
An important issue is related to multitasking with the modest and half-outdated 2 GB of RAM in the iPad’s regular version. The issue consists in the fact they are hardly compatible. While the iPad Pro allows easy toggling between more than two apps at a time, with the 6th, the third app is hardly possible. And, if you are using the third app in a slide-over, the two previously opened in split-view just won’t work.
The Apple A10 Fusion is a serious improvement enabling an overall smooth performance in most possible modes. Though a certain lag can be noticed, especially when you use the Apple Pencil when it seems that ink follows the Pencil tip. However, such shortcomings are far from critical. And the model’s function with such loads as streaming video, multimedia apps or AR stuff proves to be quite decent.
In general, in spite of various issues, the latest iPad’s performance should be assessed as quite reliable.
The 6th-gen is equipped with an 8mp rear camera (an f/2.4 aperture and 1.12 micron pixel size), and a front 1.2mp camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The front one supports FaceTime HD calling, so you can enjoy the feature with a reliable data connection.
The rear camera performs fine, especially in the bright outdoors. Being inferior to those on the new iPhones, it still provides acceptable quality functions. Thus, the photos taken on it are quite suitable for the purposes of quick social sharing.
The battery life on the new device is very competitive, the drain is slow. As a tablet, the device will be normally used for media consumption for several hours a day. In such a work mode, the device may last without recharging for 3 days or more, which is a decent level. However, the charging procedure will last long as well. Thus, with the delivered charger, it would take about four hours. So, before travel, you should take care of the device’s recharge.
Verdict and Recommendations
The 6th-gen iPad brings very little new to the market thus illustrating the overall condition of the tablet segment.
However, if you wish a tablet now, the 9.7-inch iPad will be certainly your best choice. The reason is simple: the absence of really serious competitors. In practice, it is only the last year’s Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 that can be another option. But the model comes with numerous issues that probably surpass those detected on the new iPad.
In spite of the above-described shortcomings, the 6th-gen iPad is generally a high-quality tablet (especially for its modest price). And it is a strong competitor in its niche because its probably only competitor is the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which is definitely better but also definitely dearer. So the conclusive verdict is strongly in favor of the 6th-gen iPad as a budgetary versatile device with an acceptable and smooth performance.