Things have been weird at Apple since Steve Jobs passed away in 2011. A company is known for reinventing its products almost annually went into iteration mode and we haven’t seen much that’s “new” in their products since. At first glance, the new 2017 Apple iPad looks to continue that trend, but looks can be deceiving.
From an Apple perspective, the 2017 Apple iPad is a departure from what Apple has done with the product line before. iPad sales have been shrinking for years although at $5.5 bn for the last reported year it’s not exactly a dead product.
While there are a few possible reasons for the drop in sales, the most likely explanation is that iPads are suffering the same fate as netbooks did some years ago. Basically, an iPad from four years ago is still perfectly fine for most people, so they have little reason to upgrade. iPhone users, on the other hand, can barely wait to dump their old phones when a new model comes out.
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What’s Old is New Again
Not too long ago, Apple did something very interesting with their iPhone line. They took the beloved smaller chassis from the iPhone 5 and stuffed the guts of the iPhone 6 into it. What we got was the iPhone SE and it’s been a huge success for the company.
It’s not just the fact that the SE is much cheaper than other iPhones, although that’s a big factor, it’s that the phone remixes the best features from previous iPhones. So you can think of the iPhone SE as a “best of” compilation by Apple.
It’s that formula that Apple has brought to the iPad line. The 2017 Apple iPad almost exclusively uses components we’ve seen in other Apple devices before. The question is whether this is a bad thing or not.
Hold the Line
In case you haven’t been following Apple’s product line revisions, here’s the current selection that the new 2017 Apple iPad falls into.
There are now only four models of iPad that you can buy new from Apple, barring old stock of Air 2s and such.
- iPad Pro 12.9″
- iPad Pro 9.7″
- 2017 Apple iPad
- iPad Mini 4
One thing that’s pretty clear is that this new iPad is not the iPad Air successor. The 9.7″ iPad Pro has essentially taken over the mantle of premium iPad tablet and we can probably expect a Pro 2 at some point in the future.
The 2017 Apple iPad is then essentially the iPad SE and that brings up all sorts of questions about who this iPad is actually for. Should you upgrade to it if you own an older model? What compromises will you be making?
To answer this question we need to take a closer look at the guts of this new Apple slate and really figure out where it stands in relation to older iPads and in the market for new tablets today.
One of the most important components on any tablet is the screen. The iPad Pro 9.7″ represents the pinnacle of Apple’s screen technology at the moment with an expensive lamination process to eliminate the air gap (as with the Air 2) and Trutone technology for color accuracy under all lighting conditions.
Put a Pro 9.7 next to an Air 2 and there is simply no question that it is a worthwhile upgrade your eyeballs will love you for. It’s brighter, crisper and improved in every way.
While the 2017 Apple iPad has a screen that’s 25% brighter than the Air 2, it is inferior in other ways. Gone is the lamination process as well as the anti-glare feature. So Air 2 owners should already look elsewhere, although that doesn’t mean the 207 Apple iPad has a bad screen!
One area where the 2017 Apple iPad does beat the Air 2 is in the performance area. It reuses the A9 chipset we saw in te iPhone 6 which is a speedy chip.
The CPU in the A9 is not that far off the performance of the two iPad Pros, which means it is significantly faster than an Air 2 in general. Benchmarks show that the Air 2’s CPU only has about 70% of the 2017 Apple iPad performance.
That’s good news for productivity, but the GPU in the Pro iPads absolutely smashes the new iPad. Another issue is that despite being so much slower than the 2017 Apple iPad, the Air 2 is not slow in its own right. Most users would be hard-pressed to notice the difference and Air 2 owners should still be looking at the Pro 9.7 on this front.
Although I personally find it hard to care about tablet cameras, if you do you’ll also find a competent but mediocre camera on the 2017 Apple iPad. The best camera on any iPad still belongs to the 9.7 Pro, which crucially also has a flash.
This means that 4K is also out of the question on anything but a Pro 9.7. The front-facing camera on the Pro 9.7 is also way, way better than on the 2017 Apple iPad. We’re talking 5MP vs 1.2MP. Both do 720p streaming, but there is no competition in terms of sensor quality.
Sounds Good Man
Another big difference comes in the audio department. The four-speaker system on the two iPad Pros is an utter revelation. When I went from the Air 2 to a Pro 9.7 this one change made the biggest difference to the iPad experience.
Bass on a tablet? Stereo separation in landscape mode? Yes, please!
While Air 2 users, of course, won’t notice a difference, they’d be missing out on one of the best features you can find on any tablet, much less the iPad range.
The 2017 Apple iPad: A Simple Choice
If you are somehow in the market for a new iPad and you have an Air 1 or older this new and (much) cheaper iPad is an excellent choice. However, if you have an Air 2 there are no compelling reasons to buy the 2017 Apple iPad other than it being a cheap replacement for a broken Air 2.
If you can afford it though, the Pro 9.7 is the clear and dramatically better choice. We are however comparing “good” with “very good” here. At this relatively low price, the 2017 Apple iPad is a smart and bold move my Apple.
Images Provided via Apple Press Image Site. All Images are the property of Apple Computers.