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Apple iPad 9th generation review: Not worth the upgrade

The A13 Bionic chip, battery life on this iPad will appeal to entry-level users. But it still falls short in terms of design and chipset capabilities

The new Apple iPad (9th generation) features a 10.2-inch Retina display with True Tone, a 12MP Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage, support for Apple Pencil (1st generation) and Smart Keyboard, and twice the storage of the previous generation. (Courtesy; Apple)

For about half a decade now, reviews of iPhones and iPads have had one thing in common — the fact that they have been modest and iterative updates. But in doing so, we tend to oversee just how much progress companies like Apple have made during that time. The iPad (9th Generation) is a reminder of that.

It doesn’t have Apple’s flashy new screens, runs on the A13 Bionic chip, and still uses the Touch ID fingerprint sensor instead of the FaceID unlock mechanism. If you’re coming to this iPad from a newer generation iPad Air or (god forbid) an iPad Pro, you’ll feel like you have stepped back into the dark ages. That sounds like a bad thing, but is actually not. Here’s why.

What’s good

With every new iPad, we talk about how Apple’s premier tablet is the future of computing. When Apple moved to its cutting-edge new M1 chips last year, the company came one step closer to realising that future. But while it works on perfecting and achieving that dream, the iPad (9th Generation) is for people who don’t really care about being at the cutting edge and want a device that ‘just’ works.

Also read: Apple iPhone 13 Pro review: The ‘S’ year iPhone without the S

Let’s begin with the chipset. There’s no arguing the fact that the A13 Bionic is significantly slower than the new M1 chips. Heck, it’s even slower than this year’s updated iPad Mini. But you will notice this only if you have used one of those devices, and if you actually have them there’s no reason to consider the iPad (9th Generation) anyway. This is Apple’s entry-level iPad. Period.

And for an entry-level user, the A13 Bionic is fast enough. Which means that the new iPad will handle anything, whether you’re working on Google Docs, browsing on Chrome or Safari, or playing a game. In fact, I play a game called Sky: Children of Light, which feels really smooth and fast on the iPad Pro and also kills its battery in just over an hour. Whereas, on the iPad (9th Generation) I charge my device only once in two days.

The powerful A13 Bionic chip comes to the most popular iPad, allowing users to seamlessly run advanced apps.
The powerful A13 Bionic chip comes to the most popular iPad, allowing users to seamlessly run advanced apps. (Courtesy: Apple)

The battery life sometimes justifies the trade-offs. What I’m saying is that an entry-level user gets to play or do nearly everything they can on more advanced iPads, while getting some added battery life. This iPad isn’t one for designers or power users, but it works for almost anyone else.

For instance, if you want to convert a 4K video into a different resolution, the new iPad (9th Generation) will do it. It’ll just not do it as fast as the newer ones. Essentially, if all you want is something to write on, watch a few movies and play some games, this works.

Moving to the display, the new iPad doesn’t get Apple’s ProMotion OLED screens. It only gets True Tone, the Apple tech that balances colour on the screen based on ambient light. It’s not the mesmerizing screen we get on a new iPhone or iPad Pro today, but it’s not bad either. By Apple standards, this is very ordinary, but if you’re comparing against affordable Android tablets, this is great.

What’s not

Entry-level is fine, but the problem with the iPad (9th Generation) is how little has changed in most areas. First, while the A13 Bionic is faster than the A12, it feels like Apple is punishing entry-level buyers. Given that the company has moved to processors as fast and cutting-edge as the M1, one wonders why both the iPad Mini and iPad couldn’t have been powered by the A15 chip.

After all, the iPad Mini is about getting a smaller display, and the M1 chip is much faster than any other Apple chip. Product differentiation really wouldn’t be the problem.

Further, the new iPad is exactly the same as its predecessor in terms of design. In a world where everyone, including Apple, wants to give consumers edge-to-edge screens and cut the bezels, why do we still need this old design?

This one’s especially important for India, where an iPad or any Apple product is aspirational. You don’t want to pull out the brand new iPad you just bought from your bag and have everyone think it’s an old device, would you?In India, the entry-level iPad is affordable compared to Apple’s usual pricing, but no Apple product is really ‘affordable’.

The iPad (9th generation) comes in 64GB and 256GB variants.
The iPad (9th generation) comes in 64GB and 256GB variants. (Courtesy: Apple)

Should you buy it?

And while we’re on the price, you get to choose between 64GB and 256GB variants on the iPad. While both offer double the storage against older versions, it’s really hard to justify any 64GB device nowadays. If you’re going to download a host of movies, music etc. on your new iPad, the 256GB is the one that will last longer.

You’ll spend almost 45,000 on the purchase. If that sounds ‘entry-level’ to you then buy the new iPad. It does what an entry-level tablet should. In fact, no entry-level Android tablet will beat it, though they will cost much less. They will also not work with Apple’s Smart keyboards or with styluses as good as the Apple Pencil (1st Generation).

However, if you have an 8th Generation iPad then you can safely hold on to it. There’s nothing here that really warrants an upgrade.

Also read: The definitive iPhone 13 series report card is here

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