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Apple iPad 10.2in (2019) review: The iPad grows up

Finally, an iPad you can use to get work done for under £500

  • Great battery life; iPadOS is outstanding for work; Great value
  • Official Smart Keyboard is expensive; No True Tone display; Uninspiring performance

In many ways, Apple's entry-level iPad is the perfect answer to the question 'what's the best laptop you can get for under 500?' Alright, it might not technically be a laptop, but add a decent Bluetooth keyboard and it'll do the job well enough for most users - and more importantly, it offers far better quality than an equivalently-priced notebook.

It seems as though Apple is well aware of this fact, and has updated the product accordingly with its latest refresh. It's now a lot more productivity-friendly, thanks to the changes introduced by iPadOS and a few new hardware features, and is now firmly worth considering as a proper business-grade device.

Apple iPad (2019) review: Design

If you've ever laid eyes on an iPad Air, an iPad mini 5, or the original iPad Pros then you'll recognise the stylings of the new 2019 iPad. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio screen surrounded by fairly broad black bezels with a Touch ID fingerprint reader below the screen and a webcam above it (assuming you're holding the tablet in portrait orientation). It doesn't, however, feature the snazzy edge-to-edge display adopted by last year's redesigned iPad Pros.

It's a very slim and light device, measuring 7.5mm front to back and weighing 483g (or 493g for the cellular model) but there's no getting away from the fact that, in a world where even budget smartphones now have edge-to-edge displays, it's a fairly staid look.

The big new feature, from a hardware point of view, is the magnetic, three-pin Smart Connector, which sits on the left hand side of the tablet, and provides both power and data connectivity for add-on keyboards. All the rest of the buttons and features are in the same places as they have been for years: the power and volume keys are on the edges at the top right corner, with the Lightning connector and speaker grilles on the bottom and the rear camera is in the top left corner.

Incidentally, this camera is still the same 8-megapixel unit as found on the previous model and the front-facing camera hasn't changed either - it's still a fairly underwhelming 1.2-megapixel shooter.

Apple iPad (2019) review: Display

Again, there's not much new on show with the display. The screen on the 2019 model is half an inch larger across the diagonal than the previous iPad but it uses the same tech and method of construction as on the previous version.

As always with Apple devices, the resolution of the display is a "Retina" class 2,160 x 1,620 (264ppi) screen, which means when it's held at normal viewing distances most people won't be able to see the pixels.

Unlike Apple's Pro tablets, the touchscreen is not laminated to the LCD beneath it, which means there's a small gap between the two layers. You can see this for yourself if you look at the edges from an oblique angle. This can have an adverse effect on perceived contrast in bright ambient light. Another feature the iPad doesn't have that the iPad Pro tablets do is True Tone, where the screen senses and matches the colour tone of light in your immediate surroundings.

Still, the screen on the iPad is as good as it gets at this price. It's very bright, peaking at 492cd/m2 in our testing, ensuring good readability in most conditions. Its contrast ratio is a decent 1,060:1 and, as ever with Apple's devices, it's fully calibrated in the factory and colour accurate. When tested against the sRGB colour space, we measured an average delta E of 1.01 (the lower the better in this test), which is very good indeed.

Apple iPad (2019) review: Specs and performance

Performance is another area in which the 2019 iPad hasn't changed much. In fact, it uses exactly the same SoC as the previous 9.7in iPad - the dual-core A10 Fusion - coupled with 3GB of RAM and 32GB or 128GB of storage. If you remember that far back, this is also the same chip that was first used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s.

You might think this might mean sluggish and unresponsive performance, but not a bit of it. The benchmark numbers may not be all that impressive - its Geekbench 5 multi-tasking score of 1,434 is more than two times slower than the 12.9in iPad Pro's mammoth result of 4,539 - but there's not been a moment when we've felt the iPad to be wanting in terms of responsiveness and general usability.

A more interesting comparison is to be made with the Microsoft Surface Go, which costs around the same amount but runs Windows 10 instead of iPadOS and utilises a dual-core, 1.6GHz Intel Pentium Gold CPU. The iPad beats it in both the Geekbench 5 and GFXBench benchmarks by a significant margin.

Battery life is better, too. In fact, if the results of our video rundown test are to be believed, it's improved significantly since the previous model, rising from 8hrs 43mins to 12hrs 29mins. That's despite a slightly bigger screen and the same size battery. It's more than two hours longer than the iPad Pro's time, too.

Apple iPad 10.2 (2019) review: iPadOS

Probably the biggest improvement to the newest iPad, somewhat ironically, is one you don't have to buy new hardware to experience: iPadOS. To use the marketing term, this is iOS "reimagined" for the world of productivity. In other words, it's a version of iOS that has been liberated from the shackles that had previously been imposed upon it.

A lot of this centres around the revamped Files app, which now allows you to connect to an external hard disk drive and transfer files back and forth. Not only photos and videos, but any kind of file, and this facility even extends to network drives - better late than never.

Other niceties include the addition of Column View just like the one you'll see in the MacOS Finder, allowing you to drill down folder by folder quickly and efficiently. A host of "quick actions" allow you to perform common tasks with files simply by long-pressing and selecting the option. In this way you can quickly annotate files, create PDF files from images or compress a file into a ZIP.

Small potatoes, you might think, but it turns the iPad into something that can now be used for most of the same day to day work tasks you'd have had to use a MacOS or Windows 10 laptop for previously. It's now something you can spit a file out from and not have to scratch your head too hard about how to get it to a colleague.

Elsewhere, the improvements continue. There's now full desktop web browser capability in iPadOS, where previously it was a more limited mobile browser. For most browsing tasks, you probably won't notice much of a difference but if you use websites for work that involve online forms - maybe a website CMS or an antiquated admin tool that hasn't been designed with mobile use in mind - this will make a huge difference to your ability to use an iPad for work.

Elsewhere, the improvements are a tad less far-reaching. Slide Over has had a do-over: you can now stack apps in this view and cycle between them, hide them off-screen by flicking them away and bring them back by flicking your finger back onto the screen. It's also now possible to squeeze more app icons onto the homescreen and there's also something called "Today View", which brings iOS' lockscreen widgets - Apple News, stocks, calendar notifications and the like - directly onto the desktop.

Other grownup features include the ability for apps to spawn multiple instances. We also like the fact that MacBook, iMac and Mac mini owners can also now use the iPad as a second screen using the Sidecar feature. This only works with MacBooks and Mac Minis running on the latest MacOS Catalina, though.

Of course, there's still the odd irritation. For instance, if you're using a web form to upload files to a website, it's only possible to select one file at a time. There is a workaround to this, but only if you're uploading multiple images. In this case, you have to save them into Photos and upload from there instead.

Apple iPad 10.2in (2019) review: Verdict

You probably won't be surprised to discover that the price has risen in line with the iPad's new-found capabilities. It's only gone up by 20, though, from 329 to 349 for the 32GB model, with the 128GB model costing 449.

With the Smart Keyboard cover costing 159, that puts a full, laptop-style iPad at 508, which is a bit much but, fortunately, you don't have to buy the official Apple keyboard. Logitech's Rugged Folio and Slim Folio cost 120 and 90 respectively and do largely the same job, although they work over Bluetooth, not the Smart Connector.

As far as alternatives go, the iPad's main competitor is the Microsoft Surface Go, which runs Windows 10. This is a touch more expensive at 369 for the tablet but the add-on keyboard is only 99, so the overall cost runs to a less expensive 468. This model comes with double the storage of the iPad (although it's pretty slow eMMC storage), an Intel Pentium Gold CPU and a marginally smaller 10in IPS display.

In truth, there isn't much that's new and exciting about the new Apple iPad - unless your idea of exhilaration is adding a keyboard connector and making the screen fractionally bigger.

In fact, it could be argued that, in some regards, the 10.2in iPad is a bit of a disappointment with Apple sticking with the same A10 Fusion chip as last time around. We can't say we're thoroughly enthused by the internal hardware.

It is, however, impossible to deny the quality of the thing. The 10.2in iPad is still the best tablet you can buy for under 500 and, with the addition of a keyboard and iPadOS, it's also a very good lightweight laptop alternative.

Processor6-core, Apple A13 Bionic (2x
Screen size6.1in
Screen resolution828 x 1,792
Pixel density326ppi
Screen typeIPS
Front camera12MP, f/2.2
Rear cameraPrimary: 12MP, f/1.8; Ultrawide: 12MP, f/2.4
Dust and water resistanceIP68 (2m for 30mins)
3.5mm headphone jackNo
Wireless chargingYes
USB connection typeApple Lightning
Storage options64GB; 128GB; 256GB
Memory card slot (supplied)No
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
NFCYes (payments only)
Cellular data4G, Cat16 (1,024Mbits/sec DL; 150Mbits/sec UL)
Dual SIMYes (via e-SIM)
Dimensions (WDH)76 x 8.3 x 151mm
Operating systemApple iOS 13
Battery size3,110mAh
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