It’s not often our reviewing process starts by sticking a post-it note onto a product, but labelling the Apple iPad 8th Generation is necessary in the company of the older generation model.
The new iPad is almost identical to its predecessor – and not just physically. It has the same 10.2in retina display, same 8MP rear and 1.2MP front camera array, and more or less the same specifications – 3GB RAM, 32GB and 128GB storage options, and a 10-hour battery life. Even the Silver, Gold and Space Grey finishes carry over.
There’s only one significant spec difference between the two tablets, and that’s the processor: the iPad 2020 is powered by the Apple A12 Bionic also found in the iPhone XS, 2019 iPad Air and fifth-generation iPad Mini. It’s not the latest Apple chip – that's the A14 Bionic found in the new iPad Air and probably the iPhone 12 too – but, nevertheless, it promises to be 40 per cent faster than the Apple iPad 7th Generation and offer twice the graphics performance.
To be underwhelmed by the transition from the seventh to eighth generation of iPad would be an understandable reaction, but this operational progression is notable and the price tag has actually gone down – in the UK and Australia, at least. Despite its seemingly incremental evolution, this iPad is still at the top of the tablet game.
The new iPad is actually a few grams heavier than the 7th generation model, but otherwise the 25cm by 17cm slate is just as classy, its 7.5mm thickness and curved edges helping it to be just as ergonomic.
The relocation of the Touch ID function to the top edge in the new iPad Air and the shrinking of its bezels has us wishing the standard iPad had followed suit. But while its bezels are more prominent, the 8th gen model retains the classic iPad look, complete with the familiar Home button with its accurate Touch ID unlock scanner.
Storage 32GB or 128GB
Dimensions (hwd) 25 x 17.4 x 0.75cm
The top bezel also accommodates the 1.2MP front ‘selfie’ camera, while the 8MP rear lens is tucked away in the top left corner of the back panel. It’s unlikely you’ll use the iPad’s photography skills much – its main snapper captures perfectly fine photos and videos with decent levels of brightness and colour punch, but the results will be softer than snaps taken by your phone. The front lens should really just be for the convenience of video calls.
What every user is sure to benefit from, though, is the upgraded processor, which is not only super fast, but also feels future-proofed to handle more taxing apps and the better chips that will no doubt come along in the next few years.
In Apple’s latest dedicated operating system, iPadOS 14, widgets in the ‘Today View’ are now moveable and adjustable in size. Smart Stacks is useful to combine multiple widgets in one place. While these widgets can be pinned to the home screen with iOS 14 on iPhone, they can only have a presence on an iPad’s home screen in landscape mode (after activating it in the ‘Home Screen & Dock’ settings).
Sidebars have been redesigned too, and Siri and incoming call notifications have been minimised from their previous screen-hogging presence to be less disruptive. Those who invest in the Pencil will reap the benefits of one the update’s neatest features, Scribble, which can automatically convert handwriting to text.
Having jumped from 9.7in to 10.2in in the previous transition, Apple has kept the screen size the same this time. The 10.2in screen is a good compromise between the iPad Mini’s 7.9in screen and iPad Air’s 10.9in display, and is compatible with the Apple Keyboard and Apple Pencil for those looking to push the iPad to its creative, multi-tasking potential. The Smart Connector on the left-hand side facilitates the attachment of the Keyboard, allowing the iPad to be used in landscape mode.
The quality of the 2160 x 1620-pixel display hasn’t come on leaps and bounds, but it didn’t need to. A punchy yet natural colour palette, sharply defined detail, and sleek smoothness all amount to a lucid watch, whether we’re playing The Mandalorian season two trailer on YouTube or The Lion King reboot on Disney+.
In the latter, the pridelands look luscious, with colours compellingly (but not inauthentically) saturated and elephant skin, tree bark and ostrich fur all finely etched. Thanks to a 500-nit peak brightness, introduced in the previous-gen iPad, it remains watchable outdoors, too.
There appears to be a touch more clarity on offer – more detail in cave walls reveals itself in the backdrop of the hyena’s lair, while spots of sunlight around Simba and Nala look slightly more intense – but the differences are negligible. For watching videos and performing everyday tasks, the iPad is ideal, however those serious about drawing with the Pencil may want to consider upgrading to the sharper, more responsive Liquid Retina display in the pricier iPad Pros.
The story is similar as we plug our Sennheiser Momentum M2 earbuds into the iPad’s 3.5mm headphone jack – yes, the iPad still has one. It retains the pleasing Apple sound – neutrally toned, detailed and dynamic – but adds an extra (modest) dose of clarity.
Play Taylor Swift’s the 1 on Tidal and those opening piano chords and the overlaying beat sound effortlessly musical. Switch to the B&W PX wireless headphones and the plucked guitar strings in Radical Face’s Sunlight are tangible. There’s a presence to the anchoring bass rhythm, and his vocal comes through the middle with confidence.
It’s a pity the speakers are still packed closely together on the iPad’s bottom edge, as there’s little stereo separation on offer here. Again, you’ll need to splash out for the iPad Air to get a truly involving soundstage in landscape mode.
Apple fans might be slightly perturbed by the modest progression made here – the iPad 8th Generation’s advancements won’t make owners of the previous generation iPad rush out to upgrade.
However, they provide a welcome and affordable opportunity for anyone who is a few generations behind to catch up – those who don’t have the markedly improved features brought in by the iPad 7th Generation, or access to iPadOS 14, or anyone whose budget doesn’t stretch as far as the iPad Air or iPad Pro.
The new iPad may not be much better this time round, but it’s still better. And, due to its all-round excellence, it gets away with it.
- Picture 5
- Sound 5
- Features 5
Read our Apple iPad Air (2019) review
Read our Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review