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iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): which iPad should you buy?

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): Which iPad should you buy?
(Image credit: Apple)

There's a new iPad in town. Apple recently unveiled the ninth-generation iPad, which replaces the eighth-gen entry-level model. It has a bunch of improvements over its predecessor including a faster processor, better camera and an improved screen.

But do they make it a better buy than the previous iPad? Which would serve you better? And are you better off hunting out the old model and saving yourself a bit of money? Find out as we pit the two tablets head to head.

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): what's new?

  • A13 Bionic processor
  • New front-facing camera
  • True Tone display
  • £319 ($329, AU$499)
  • More storage (256GB)
  • Out 24th September

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): price

Usually, a new Apple device launches at the same price as the model it replaces, but for the iPad 9, Apple has actually lowered the price (in the UK at least).

The entry-level 64GB wi-fi-only model costs £319 ($329, AU$499), which is £10 cheaper than the 8th generation iPad (US and Australian prices remain the same). Wi-Fi + Cellular models start at £439 ($459, AU$699).

There's also a 256GB option, which starts at £459 ($479, AU$729) with Wi-Fi, or £579 ($609, AU$929) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

Apple no longer sells the iPad 10.2 (8th Gen), but you might be able to pick it up cheap from another retailer. The iPad 9 is available to pre-order now, with shipping starting on 24th September.

**Winner** iPad 9 (2021)

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): design

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): Which iPad should you buy?

(Image credit: Apple)

While there are plenty of points of difference between the two iPads, the design isn't one of them. In fact, to look at, they're nigh-on identical. The iPad 9 retains the 8's solid bezel, aluminium frame and physical Home button (something that was dropped for the recent iPad Mini 6). 

There aren't any new colour options either, with Space Grey and silver remaining the only choices available. A bit dull? Perhaps, but at least your old accessories will work if you're doing a straight upgrade. And the colours won't jar.

**Winner** Draw

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): screen

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): Which iPad should you buy?

(Image credit: Apple)

Physically, the two devices have the same screen: it's the 10.2-inch retina display we know and love, with a 2160 x 1620-pixel resolution, pixel density of 264ppi and brightness of 500 nits. But there is one key difference: the iPad 9 has True Tone technology.

This adjusts the screen's tone depending on your environment to make it easier on the eye. So if you're in a dark room, the screen will adopt warmer tones so it doesn't burn your retinas. It does this using an ambient light sensor.

It's not new technology – it's been used in higher-end iPads and the iPhone for years. But to see it trickle down to the standard iPad is very welcome indeed. And its presence secures a win for the iPad 9 in this round.

**Winner** iPad 9 (2021)

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): power

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): Which iPad should you buy?

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad 2021 (9th Gen) is a step up in terms of processing power, too. It boasts the A13 Bionic chipset, which is more advanced than the A12 Bionic found in the iPad 8. The A13 Bionic is also found in the iPhone SE (2020).

According to Apple, it makes the iPad 9 20 per cent faster than the iPad 8 in terms of both GPU and CPU performance, so no matter what you're doing, it should work quicker on the new iPad. It should also improve Live Text performance, which is especially useful if you want to use the new iPadOS feature that analyses text in photos.

**Winner** iPad 9 (2021)

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): cameras

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): Which iPad should you buy?

(Image credit: Apple)

Cameras on a tablet used to be a bit of an afterthought, but since we're all living on Zoom nowadays, they're more important than ever. In recognition of this fact, Apple has bestowed the iPad 9 with a much better front-facing camera than its predecessor. The 12-megapixel ultra-wide front camera has 10 times the pixels of the 1.2-megapixel effort found on the iPad 8, and records in a slightly higher resolution (1080p compared to 720p). Which should make for much crisper video calls.

The fact it's an ultra-wide lens means you'll be able to capture a lot more in the frame too, whether you're taking a group selfie or conducting business calls from your kitchen. Better clean the worktops.

**Winner** iPad 9 (2021)

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): specs

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): Which iPad should you buy?

(Image credit: Apple)

Other than that, the two devices are nigh-on identical. They both have a Lightning port, and are both compatible with the Apple Pencil (first generation) and Smart Keyboard accessories. They're exactly the same dimensions too, though the iPad 9 is a shade lighter than the iPad 8 (487g to 490g for the Wi-Fi model).

Battery life remains unchanged, with 10 hours of video watching/web surfing over wi-fi, or nine hours using cellular data. The rear cameras are the same 8-megapixel resolution, with the same 1080p HD videoing (though the iPad 9 has the option of videoing at 25fps as well as the iPad 8's 30fps).

**Winner** iPad 9 (2021)

Apple iPad 9 (2021) vs iPad 8 (2020): early verdict

Just like the iPhone 13, the iPad 9 is an incremental improvement on its predecessor. You get more storage, a better front camera, an adaptive screen and a faster processor, but not much else. Is that enough?

We haven't reviewed the device yet, but considering it's building on what was already one of the best tablets in its price bracket, and that Apple has actually managed to lower the price a little (in the UK at least), it's could be another hit for the Cupertino company. Stay tuned for our full review.

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Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.