The new iPad review: This is the best couch computer ever
The bigger iPhone could simply do all the same things as my iPad, and as my iPad's hardware got older - it still used Apple's old-style charger - I stopped using it.
But Apple's newest iPad reminded me that for iPhone users, a big tablet that does the same things can be a huge luxury. Browsing the web, playing games, and checking social media is all more pleasant with a bigger screen.So a few weeks ago, I bought Apple's newest iPad. Apple just calls it "iPad" but you might have better luck Googling "2017 iPad" or "iPad (5th Generation.)"
Ultimately, it's not that much different than the other iPads that have been sold over the past two years, except for one big change: It's cheap. I paid $329 for mine.
But I couldn't be happier with my purchase. It can't do anything new compared to other iPads, but it's a great value, and it's clear that Apple has refined the iPad over the past seven years to simply be a great tablet for most people.
I don't use my new iPad for anything productive. I use it for content consumption, mostly - and it almost never leaves my house. And after using it for the past six weeks, I'm confident it's the best couch computer ever.
Here's what I do on my iPad:
- I surf the web. Mobile Safari, the iPad's built-in browser, is awesome, stable, and fast, and there aren't many websites that the iPad can't handle.
- I play games. I've been exploring the large number of games available on Apple's App Store, and there are a surprising amount of deep games that you could pour 20 or more hours into. I've been playing Crashlands lately.
- I watch video. I've been using my iPad to keep up with Nationals games on MLB At Bat while my roommates watch what they want to on TV. I've also watched HBO, Netflix, and other streaming services on the iPad's sharp 9.7-inch screen. It's pretty engrossing, especially with headphones.
- I check social media. If there's one issue I have with Apple's iPad in general, it's that there's no Instagram or Snapchat apps for iPad. That being said, it's a perfect device to catch up with most of my social feeds, including Facebook and Instagram.
- I iMessage my friends. Texting from an iPad is difficult, but if your contacts use iMessage, it's easy to send them notes and stuff from the iPad.
Here's what I don't do on my iPad: anything resembling productivity. I set up my various email accounts on the device, but I turned notifications off, and I haven't really checked my mail or sent any emails on the iPad. I can handle quick notes from my iPhone, and if I need to do any word processing or work, I'll boot up my Mac.
I hadn't used a 9.7-inch iPad on a regular basis since 2012, and I immediately noticed two things about this new iPad. First, it's light enough you can use it for really long stretches of time, something that I didn't find on my older, heavier iPad.
Second, there's no physical mute switch. You'll have to turn the sound off on the touchscreen, or hold down the "volume down" rocker until it goes silent.
Finally, all of Apple's new iPads, including the 2017 model, come with a fingerprint sensor. While the fingerprint sensor is less useful on the iPad than it is on the iPhone, it can still be handy, especially if you plan to share your tablet with your family - simply give everyone their own fingerprint password.
Apple says this iPad can manage 10 hours of battery life and I believe it. I haven't timed how long it takes this iPad to completely run out of battery, but I do know it doesn't seem to lose charge from day to day when I'm not using it, and it can last an entire afternoon gaming. I haven't ever had an issue where the iPad ran out of batteries and I needed to charge it.
For my use, the battery life isn't just good enough - it's unclear whether an improvement would make the iPad significantly better.
Which iPad should I get?
I got the $329 model of the new iPad in Space Grey, because I prefer the black border around the tablet's screen. It comes in gold and silver as well, but those come with a white bezel on the front side.The entry-level comes with 32GB of space, which is more than enough for me, because I'm not uploading videos or music onto my tablet. So far, it's plenty of storage space for my use, and unless you know you use a lot of space, it probably will be for you too.
After a month of heavy use, I still have over 15GB of space still available on my iPad.
I also declined to get the cellular-enabled model. For $459, the iPad comes with a modem so you can get high-speed internet on the iPad without connecting to a Wi-Fi network. Of course, the cell service requires a monthly fee. Since I use my iPad at home, connected to Wi-Fi I didn't need it - so I saved the money.
Should you buy it?
You might want to upgrade to the iPad Pro 9.7-inch if you like the size and shape, but really want to be able to use Apple's stylus, the Pencil. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has a slightly better screen, speakers, and camera, but for my usage, it's not a huge upgrade, and since it costs $599 from the Apple store, it's not worth the $270 extra for me. The more expensive iPad Pro also works with Apple's keyboard case, but there are plenty of third-party options for the less expensive model.
The bigger iPad Pro is the most expensive and heaviest iPad model. I used a review unit provided by Apple for a few months before I bought my new iPad. My advice is that if you're using it for media consumption, like I do, then it's not the best option. Not only is it more expensive, the ergonomics as a couch computer doesn't work that well - it's heavy, and feels oversized. Only get this one if you're sure you want to use an iPad as a laptop replacement.
The iPad Mini starts at $400, and its screen is the same resolution as the 9.7-inch iPads. It's more expensive than the latest iPad, and it's got a slower chip. I wouldn't recommend it unless you're sure you like the smaller tablet size. It doesn't support the Apple Pencil.
If you don't fit into one of these categories, I'd recommend Apple's latest iPad. Apple's pricing the tablet aggressively, and it's a better value for most people than anything else in Apple's tablet lineup.