I have never managed to justify the purchase of a tablet. With phone screens larger than six inches today, I find them good enough for casual entertainment in transit. If I were to ever buy a tablet, the iPad mini would be the only one of its form-factor I would pick. Barring it, I have found every other iPad too large as a handheld device, lacking some thing or the other, to be a true laptop replacement.
So the new 10th generation iPad comes as a revelation of sorts. Over two weeks, I have used the 10th generation iPad as a full-fledged work device—armed with two multi-tab-laden web browsers and my work suite of Microsoft apps and Slack.
The physical keyboard cover, which Apple sells separately as the Magic Keyboard Folio, helped.
Coming from a 2017 MacBook Air, my priorities and expectations from a work device are simple: no fuss, plug-and-play usage experience, and easy portability.
Rationalising the pricing
On the lookout for a new work device, I had been eyeing the M1-powered Mac-Book Air. At present, a flat 10% retail discount at brick-and-mortar stores, coupled with bank-linked offers for an additional ₹6,000 discount, means that even if I avail the three-year extended Apple Care warranty, the M1 MacBook Air would cost me ₹1.03 lakh.
In comparison, the full-spec 10th generation iPad with LTE and 256GB storage (the 64GB variant starts at ₹44,900), with a first generation Apple Pencil (which is what it is compatible with), the Magic Keyboard Folio cover and additional warranty coverage, would cost ₹1.12 lakh after bank discounts.
At well over ₹1 lakh, buying an “entrylevel” tablet makes about as much sense as the measly business-class options domestic airlines offer in India. Rationally speaking, you should buy a two-year-old Mac- Book Air rather than the basic iPad. Moreover, the latter runs on the two-year-old A14 SoC, so even on this “new” device, you don’t get a chip that’s newer than the M1 on the MacBook Air.
iPad vS MacBook Air: Still a contentious story
But pricing is only one part of a purchase decision, even more so for a brand like Apple. Three years ago, when Apple made iPadOS a separate, stand-alone version (even though it is pretty much the same as iOS), it became apparent that the company was arming iPads to become laptop replacements.
Come 2022, and the story is somewhat confusing. To its credit, the iPad lineup is as good as any MacBook for all email, web browser and writing-related work. I could multitask well enough—and swiftly enough—even with the base iPad and not feel anything was missing.
The iPad gave me a fantastic keyboard and a precise enough trackpad, both of which are nearly on a par with MacBooks. The well-designed keyboard has gentle palm rests but lacks backlight on its keys— unforgivable on a laptop-class device that costs upward of ₹1 lakh.
The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display is as good as any new generation Apple display and is large enough to load two rich webpages in split-screen view. With all email and messaging suite notifications in one place, the iPad became a surprisingly convenient device for everyday work.
To add to this, it has excellent battery life, the ability to use WhatsApp’s web interface on browsers, and control my phone calls and messages. While you would get all this on Macs too, the point is that you don’t feel it’s a compromise. That is, not until some of the quirks start catchingup.
While the iPad does get a trackpad and its pointer on screen, you soon realise that the operating system isn’t fully optimised for use with a pointer. Scrolls would often see glitches, forcing you to use the touch screen. That isn’t a problem, but, amid the glitches, the touch screen often takes too long to react to your input from the trackpad and the display—this can be infuriating.
The pointer is not the equivalent of the Apple Pencil. You realise this when you are unable to control the display and volume sliders with your trackpad, or need to rearrange browser tabs. So you will need an Apple Pencil— but you need the older version for the 10th generation iPad.
This means that even if you have an iPad Air (or mini) that’s compatible with a second-generation Pencil, you can’t use it with this iPad. For a company that managed to sustain its multi-trillion dollar valuation even through the September quarter’s Big Tech valuation crash, this feels like a breach of consumer trust. Some of it, such as the interface glitches that would force you to buy a Pencil, and the lack of support for all versions needing you to buy a certain version of the Pencil, is simply inexplicable.
If you manage to make peace with these quirks—and you can—you will find that the iPad is rather capable for a basic tablet. Starting with an updated design, it no longer carries the old generation Apple design language. Instead, it has the buttonless front design that new iPads offer. The black borders around the display are thicker than on the “Pro” iPads, but at least at first glance, the entry-level iPad does not look like a compromise.
The display size is significantly larger than your average portable entertainment device, and good enough for a regular work device. Ergonomically, the power and volume buttons are easy to reach with the left hand when in landscape mode, and with the right when in portrait mode. This is a right-handed configuration but easy enough to use when it comes to the layout.
As a hand-held device, it’s a tad heavy. It would, however, be safe to assume that you would be using it largely with the stand propped up. With its keyboard cover, it feels a bit thicker than the Mac- Book Air, but not bulky. Carrying it around is a breeze.
It also has a super compact charging adapter and a USB-C port, which means you wouldn’t need to lug around a bulky adapter. In a sense, it has everything—including a crisp new 12MP landscape-oriented FaceTime front camera with Center Stage support for video calls. It’s good for multitasking—with the split-screen view adding an extra layer.
But then, the price. The sticking point remains the price. If you have a budget of ₹1.1 lakh for a device that can be used for work and entertainment, look at the MacBook Air. It doesn’t matter if the form factor is different—you get a still-larger and same-resolution display.
Apple would have you believe, however, that the iPad is aimed at a completely different audience, one that needs a tablet for casual entertainment streaming, perhaps a few online classes and some educational browsing. If so, the compact iPad mini— ₹5,000 more expensive than the iPad—would be the option.
Of course, the iPad is fairly pleasant to work with, barring the quirks. It can be good enough to make you feel you don’ t really need a laptop. If you have the option, however, buy the laptop.