iPad (2017)

Innovating in the world of tablets is a difficult proposition right now, even for Apple. The iPad Pro brought about a new way of working, and a variety of accessories to complement your 12.9-inch or smaller slate – but what if you don’t want those features?

If that’s you, this new iPad is the device designed for you. It offers a premium spec, a great-looking design and top-of-the-range features, but at a lower price without all the productivity extras tacked on.

Update: The New iPad 2018 is launching to replace this 9.7-inch iPad 2017 at the same price in the US, Australia and other countries (and it's even cheaper in the UK). Unless you can find the iPad 2017 at a serious bargain, get Apple's newest iPad.

It’s much like the iPad Air 2 – the device it replaces in Apple's lineup, which earned a five-star review here at TechRadar, and like that device it sits between the iPad Pro and the iPad 4 mini – but there are a few key upgrades that make this an all-round better tablet. 

New iPad price and release date

  • Out now directly from Apple and other retailers too
  • Cheaper than iPad Air 2 at $329 / £339 / AU$469
  • Price is even lower now too as we've seen it on sale for £279 / $300

The new iPad is cheaper than the iPad Air 2 was when it was on sale through Apple’s website. That's noteworthy, as affordable Apple products are hard to come by, especially when the iPhone only seems to rise in cost with each new generation.

This new version of the iPad has an RRP of $329/£339/AU$469 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, and goes all the way up to $559/£559/AU$799 if you want to get one with 128GB of storage and cellular connections – there’s no 256GB or 512GB version of this latest iPad.

We've seen the price of the 32GB version drop down to £279 / $300 during sales periods, but you may not be able to find it that low at all times of the year. The 128GB with cellular connectivity variant has kept its value a little more, but you may be able to find it a touch cheaper from some retailers.

Design and display

  • Similar design to previous iPads, but still looks great
  • Thicker and heavier than the iPad Air 2
  • Easy to hold and 9.7-inch screen, which is great for watching media

If you’ve used an iPad Air 2, you’ll be familiar with the design of the new iPad. This new version is a touch thicker than the Air 2, but that’s barely noticeable considering it’s still only 7.5mm thick, which makes it easy to hold in the hand.

It’s weighs just 469g, so if you plan to carry this device on your commute you should find it light enough to hold onto for extended periods. You may want to use two hands though, as at 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm it’s not particularly easy to grip with only one hand.

A lot of the headlines have focused on how this is a thicker iPad, but in real everyday usage we don’t think that matters. The iPad Air 2 was so incredibly thin and light that you won’t notice the slight padding here.

The back of the iPad has a metal body that feels smooth to the touch but is still easy enough to grip. There’s no denying the iPad is still the best-looking tablet you can buy, and the rounded corners makes this a gorgeous device to hold in the hand.

We’d recommend buying a case to ensure it won’t get scratched when putting it in your bag though. The metal on the back can easily get marked, and you may also find that greasy fingers will start to detract from the gorgeousness if you don’t rub it down often.

The new iPad is available in gold, silver or space grey – sadly Apple hasn’t seen fit to include a new red version of the iPad to match the new brightly colored iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

As on other recent iPads, just below the screen is a home button featuring Apple's Touch ID scanner that allows you to keep all of your data securely stored away behind a fingerprint lock. It’s not particularly easy to reach with your thumb though unless it’s lying down, so we’d usually just use a passcode instead.

The iPad has a 9.7-inch display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. That gives you 264 pixels per inch, which is the same as either of the iPad Pro models.

It’s a Retina display, which is Apple’s way of saying you won’t be able to notice the pixel quality as it’s so high. We’d agree with Apple on that fact, and during our time using the tablet we found that everything we watched looked beautiful.

The screen is particularly bright too – especially compared to, for example, the original iPad Air – and this gives it a great advantage over a lot of the tablet competition.

The screen size is particularly notable on the new iPad too. The iPad Pro 12.9 is just too big for comfortable everyday use, and Apple has got the size just right here – large enough to view content easily, small enough to use comfortably.

Interface and reliability

  • Running iOS 10.3 software out of the box, but you can upgrade to iOS 11
  • iOS is a great interface for tablets that's easy to use
  • Access to millions of apps that work with your new iPad

iOS is arguably the best interface out there for tablets, and this new iPad is the first to come running iOS 10.3 right out of the box.

iOS means you have more than a million apps that will work with your iPad, and all of them are optimized for the platform. During our time with the iPad we didn’t find any apps that wouldn’t work with the latest iOS software, with each fitting the platform remarkably well.

The odd app won’t be perfected, but most developers ensure their apps work on both iPhone and iPad before submitting them to Apple’s Store. There isn’t such a large selection of apps there as on the Google Play Store, but all the highlight apps you’ll need are available.

If you’ve owned an Apple product before, you’ll find the interface easy to understand. If you haven’t, it’s easy enough to learn from scratch.

All of the apps you download will appear on your home screen – there’s no app drawer to hide things away, as on Android. You can put your apps into folders though, by holding down on an app’s icon and dragging it onto other apps.

Apple has chosen not to port the Force Touch screen sensitivity from its recent iPhone models onto the new iPad, which is a bit of a disappointment. It would have been interesting to see what third-party app developers could do with a larger touch-sensitive screen.

If you’re looking for an easy to use interface, the new iPad will certainly suit you – personally we find iOS devices a touch easier to use than comparable Android products.

In terms of reliability we’ve found the new iPad to be one of the best for keeping apps running throughout the time we’ve used it. No apps crashed during our time with the slate, and that’s exactly what you expect from an Apple product.

It’s also worth noting that the new iPad launched on iOS 10 and it now comes with iOS 11 too, so we expect it to be included in Apple software updates for the next few years. 

Here's everything you need to know about iOS 11 and we'll update this review soon with how it runs on the tablet.

Apple will usually keep products from the last few years up to date with the latest software, so this iPad should last a lot longer than, say, the iPad Air 2.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Perfect size screen for watching movies and TV while on the go
  • Good speaker setup, but not as great as the iPad Pro models
  • 32GB or 128GB storage sizes, no 256GB option

Movies, music and gaming is likely why you’re looking to buy the new iPad. Apple’s App Store offers a variety of apps you can download to watch movies and listen to music, and myriad games, plus there are a couple already included on the new iPad to get you started.

For movies, Apple includes the iTunes Store, so you can directly buy a selection of the latest films, or upload them to your tablet’s storage and play them through the Videos app.

The bright and high-res Retina display makes this the perfect device for watching movies while on the go. While the larger 12.9-inch iPad gives you a larger screen you lose out in terms of ease of holding the device, and we found the new iPad offered a nice compromise between these competing requirements.

The iPad is also a great way to access apps such as Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services, making it easy to play video on the slate.

When it comes to music you have ready access to Apple Music streaming service, or you can buy tracks from iTunes. There’s also the built-in storage if you want to upload tracks from your computer.

The speakers on the new iPad are similar to what we’ve seen before on the iPad Air 2, but this is still a fantastic setup that will suit you when listening to music or watching movies.

They're suitably loud, and don't sound as tinny as the speakers on most phones. You’ll find that it’s easy to block off sound here though, if you’re holding the iPad at the bottom where the drivers sit.

The iPad doesn’t offer four speaker drivers like the iPad Pro models do though, so that may be a reason to go for the more expensive iPads if you think you’ll need it to be louder.

The iPad should also keep you happy if you’re a gamer too. Many of the best games available on the App Store cost quite a bit of money, but every big-name game is here for iOS if you want to download it.

We took Rome: Total War, a very graphically intensive game, for a spin, and the GPU managed to keep up with everything that was happening.

As we’ve mentioned, there’s a 32GB version of the new iPad, which is the cheapest model and should give you around 20GB of free space, or a little bit more, for your apps and media.

For this review we used the 128GB version, and found we had 102GB spare for our media. That’s enough room for a huge amount of movies, music and games, and you shouldn’t be filling it up any time soon.

For some reason Apple isn’t offering a 256GB of the tablet at the moment, although it may decide to do so in the future. If you’re looking for an iPad with truly enormous storage capacity you’ll need to go for the iPad Pro.

Performance and benchmarks

  • Running an Apple A9 chipset, which was first seen in the iPhone 6S
  • Not the fastest iPad on the market, but should still suit most of your needs

Gaming was one of the most intensive tasks we put the iPad through, and we found it didn’t struggle at all. The iPad did get a little warm when running some high-end apps, but we never found it too hot to hold.

One of the major upgrades on the new iPad is the inclusion of Apple’s A9 co-processor tech. It’s a chip that made its debut in the iPhone 6S back at the end of 2015, and isn’t the top-of-the-range tech you’d find in the iPhone 7 or the iPad Pro range.

This is something Apple has had to limit due to the price, but it has included an improved processor compared to the iPad Air 2. If you’re looking for the highest-end chipsets you’ll want to go for one of the iPad Pros, but they’re only a little more powerful, with the A9X chipset inside.

Most recent iPad models have included 2GB of RAM, and although we don’t know for certain what’s in the new iPad it’s likely to follow suit.

In our benchmarking we found the new iPad returned an average multi-core score of 4351 in Geekbench 4. For comparison, both the iPad Pro 9.7 (5227) or the iPad Pro 12.9 (5472) scored much higher, but they do use the slightly better A9X processors.

For everyday usage though, the new iPad will be able to handle all the apps you want it to. It may struggle a little with multi-tasking or some productivity apps, but apart from that you’ll be happy with how fast everything loads and works.

Battery life

  • We found no issues with the new iPad battery life
  • About 10 hours of on screen time, letting you watch about five movies in a row

Apple reckons your iPad will last for 10 hours on a single charge, and during our testing we’ve found that’s about right when browsing the web and watching video.

Gaming will likely mean it drains a little bit quicker, but it’s still impressive stamina considering how slim the new iPad is, which necessarily limits the size of the battery.

We did want to see a slight improvement on the battery life of the iPad Air 2, but it looks like the new iPad’s juice pack lasts a similar amount of time.

In terms of day-to-day usage, the new iPad will be able to offer you a few days with small amounts of usage. We found ourselves using the iPad for about three hours a day and it lasted just over three days with that amount of usage.

We ran our battery test on the new iPad that includes a 90 minute video played at full brightness with connectivity off, and we found it lost 15% of its battery in that time. That's impressive considering the iPad Air 2 lost 20% in the same amount of time.

If you buy the cellular version of the iPad it’s worth noting that maintaining that connection will mean the tablet chews through the battery a little bit faster than the Wi-Fi version. You can easily turn off that connection when you’re not using it though by using the Airplane mode, which is easy to access in the Settings.

For recharging you’ll be using a Lightning cable that connects to the bottom of the iPad. This has a reversible connector, so it’s simple to insert without fumbling.

There's no fast-charging tech inside the iPad though and filling up such a big battery will take quite a bit of time. We found the new iPad would take just over four hours to charge from zero to 100%.

Camera

  • 8MP rear camera is useful but shouldn't act as your main camera device
  • 1.2MP front-facing sensor may sound poor, but works well for voice calling

The camera should never be your main consideration when you’re buying a tablet, but it’s  a useful extra feature to have one on the front and another on the back of your device.

The new iPad comes with an 8MP shooter on the rear that can take detailed shots, but we wouldn’t recommend it over a smartphone; it can be difficult to hold the iPad to shoot with, and it certainly won’t suit you when you’re out and about.

The camera can be useful to shoot things around the home and then upload them directly to the apps on your iPad, though, so it’s good that Apple has included a capable shooter on the back of the new iPad.

The 3264 x 2448 resolution images are of decent quality and won’t embarrass you in Social Media World. Don’t expect this shooter to compete with the camera on the iPhone 7, or those most other modern phones though.

During our time with the new iPad we found the front camera to be much more useful.

As well as taking the odd selfie, you’ll likely use the 1.2MP front-facing camera to video chat with friends, or take photos for use on social media. That’s a pretty meagre resolution though, so don’t expect stellar image quality.

Camera samples

The new iPad looks to be the tablet to buy in 2017, and shows that Apple’s iPad range are still the slates to beat. It offers everything you’ll need for watching media, and costs less than the iPad Air 2 did when it was on sale.

This iPad isn’t as appropriate for professional use as the iPad Pro range, but the build and specs add up to a great all-round package.

With a beautiful and easy-to-hold design, a great-looking display and some powerful internals, it’s hard to find a tablet that offers as much as the iPad for such a low price.

Who’s this for?

If you’ve never owned a tablet before, the new iPad would be the perfect place to start. Quite simply, if you’re not using it for productivity tasks, everything you could want in a tablet is here.

If your tablet is a few years old and needs upgrading, the new iPad would also be a great option.

Don’t buy this if you are looking for a productivity product though. For that you’ll want an iPad Pro, plus accessories, or perhaps a laptop. This iPad doesn’t have a strong enough processor to handle those kinds of intensive tasks, and the accessories you’ll need for the new iPad aren’t as good as the accessories for the iPad Pro.

Should you buy it?

The new iPad is far better than the iPad Air 2 – which was itself a fantastic tablet – and will offer you everything you need from a media device that you can use on the sofa.

If you have an iPad Air 2, iPad Pro or a recent iPad Mini, it’s not worth upgrading to the new iPad. It doesn’t offer anything radically different to those devices, so it’s probably worth waiting for a more significant upgrade.

The new iPad is, however, better than almost every Android tablet on the market right now, and with its low price it’s a great choice for anyone looking to buy a new tablet.

Competition

Don't think the new iPad is made for you? Here are a few other options you should take a look at.

iPad Pro 9.7

Like the design and size of the iPad, but need something with slightly more professional credentials? The iPad Pro 9.7 will be right up your street. It has Apple’s Pro connector, so you can use it with a smart keyboard, and there’s also the Apple Pencil stylus.

If you’re going to be taking notes or drawing, the iPad Pro 9.7 is probably a better setup for you than the new iPad. There’s also a 256GB version of this iPad, but it’ll be more expensive than the new iPad.

Read the iPad Pro 9.7 review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Think an Android tablet may be your best bet? The best one on the market right now is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. This offers top-of-the range-spec – you’ll be able to watch HDR video on this screen – as well as compatibility with a collection of accessories that make this a great choice for professionals.

Again, though, the Galaxy Tab S3 is going to be more expensive than the new iPad, and you may want to go for the Apple option here purely as it’s cheaper than Samsung’s latest.

Read the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

iPad Mini 4

This is the option to go for if you’re liking the Apple ethos, but want something a little bit smaller. The iPad Mini 4 is the best miniature tablet Apple has ever created, and offers you most of the same features as the new iPad, but with a 7.9-inch screen.

That’s still high-resolution though, and actually offers you a slightly crisper picture than the new iPad. It’s quite small though, so certainly isn’t the go-to device for everyone.

Read the iPad Mini 4 review