by Jim Lynch

Is the new, cheaper iPad worth buying?

Mar 22, 2017
Consumer Electronics iPad Mobile

The new iPad starts at just $329, but is it really worth the money? Or should you buy the 9.7-inch iPad Pro instead?

iPad sales have been sluggish in recent years, and Apple has become painfully aware of how its tablet sales pale in comparison to iPhone sales. Now the company has released a new, cheaper iPad that starts at $329 for 32GB and goes up to $429 for 128GB.

But is the new iPad worth the money?

Well let’s start with the tech specs of the new, cheaper iPad. MacRumors has a list of what you can expect from the new iPad in terms of hardware:

The new 9.7-inch iPad is similar in many ways to the iPad Air 2, which had an A8X chip and started at $399, but slightly thicker and heavier with a faster A9 chip and a brighter Retina display. Another difference is that the new 9.7-inch iPad does not have a fully laminated display or anti-reflective coating per its tech specs.

Beyond the A9 chip, those specs include a 9.7-inch screen with 2,048‑by‑1,536 resolution and 264 PPI, 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera, two speakers, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, Touch ID with Apple Pay, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.2.

Given its price point, the tablet lacks most iPad Pro features, including a True Tone display with a wide P3 color gamut, Smart Connector, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support, 4K HD video recording, LTE Advanced, Live Photos, True Tone flash, and four-speaker audio.

More at MacRumors

So, as you can tell from the tech specs, the new iPad is somewhat lacking compared to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. But it’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than the pro version which starts at $599.

What will you use an iPad for?

Before making a purchasing decision, I think it’s a good idea to step back and figure out what you will be using an iPad for in the first place. Will you just be browsing the web, watching a few videos here and there or playing a game once in a while? If so then the new iPad could be perfect for you.

But if you are a professional or a power user, then it might very well be worth spending the extra cash to get the iPad Pro. Remember that the new, cheaper iPad does not come with Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support, 4K HD video recording, or a True Tone display.

As with anything else, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Before making a decision, it’s important to know exactly what you need an iPad to do. You can then figure out which model is worth your hard earned money.

My feeling is that most casual users will probably be quite happy with the new iPad. It looks like a great device for casual content consumption at a very reasonable price. But if you do more than that with your iPad then the iPad Pro might be a much better overall value despite the higher cost.

The new iPad is heavier and thicker than the iPad Pro

One onion in the ointment for some potential buyers is that the new iPad is a tad bit thicker and heavier than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Here are the weights and thickness for the new iPad and the iPad Pro:

New iPad

Depth: 0.29 inch (7.5 mm)

Weight (Wi-Fi): 1.03 pounds (469 grams)

Weight (Wi-Fi + Cellular): 1.05 pounds (478 grams)

9.7-inch iPad Pro

Depth: 0.24 inch (6.1 mm)

Weight (Wi-Fi): 0.96 pound (437 g)

Weight (Wi-Fi+Cellular): 0.98 pound (444 grams)

Personally, I don’t think that the additional weight or thickness of the new iPad is significant enough to avoid buying it. However, your mileage may vary in this since some folks do prefer a lighter, thinner tablet.

The change in weight and thickness of the new iPad is somewhat out of character for Apple. The company has long been known for making devices as thin and light as possible, but now it seems that perhaps we’ve hit “peak thinness” at Apple.

Anyway, you’ll have to make up your own mind about the weight and thickness of the new iPad. I don’t see it as a big deal, but others might prefer the slightly lighter and thinner iPad Pro.

What people are saying about the new iPad

The MacRumors article about the new iPad spawned a huge discussion thread in the site’s forum. As I write this post there are more than 600 messages already, so I’ll leave you with this selection of comments from the thread:

BustyCat: “So they renamed iPad to iPad Air and then renamed iPad Air back to iPad. That is so innovative!”

Alexcanton: “Another iPad to the already messy, fragmented, unnecessarily long line up of iPads to saturate the already saturated mobile market while continuing to leave the demand of Macs behind.

I’d love to say we’re losing faith Tim, but that was so long ago now.”

Sandstorm: “AMAZING pipeline, Tim! Bravo! So much innovation, I can’t even believe it!!!!”

Aston441: “I have no idea which iPad is which any more, and I’m 99% more informed than most consumers. Every one in a while I feel like buying one, but don’t feel like spending three hours trying to figure out which to get. Then I just “whatever” out, move on, and don’t spend the money.”

Traverse: “Nice upgrade and good price.”

Darkashnet: “The Air is dead! Its a lot heavier than the Air 2, I wonder why.”

BK: “At least it still has a headphone jack…”

Jsameds: “Products get updated, people whine and moan that it’s not the product they wanted updating.

Apple makes a clear effort to simplify the product line, people whine and moan that it’s getting more complicated.

People, cheer up for god’s sake. Bunch of miserable sods. This is a great update.”

Cibonak: “30g heavier than pro.”

Canny: “No one wants to take your tablets Tim. We want the return of the Mac.”

More at the MacRumors Forum

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