The new 10th-generation iPad is ostensibly the new starting point for the iPad line. It’s got a bigger screen, faster processor, and better design than the ninth-gen model that came out in 2021 and has been the entry point for the iPad line for the past few years. The bigger size screen and many of the design features have trickled down from the more expensive iPad Air, but the 10th-gen iPad has an older processor and makes some other omissions to bring the price down.
At its core, this iPad is an excellent tablet with fast performance, reliable battery life, and a vast library of optimized apps to make use of its large touchscreen.
But along with those upgrades comes a higher price: the 10th-gen iPad starts at $449, $120 more than the previous model, and can be kitted out to over $1,000 with storage, cellular, and accessory upgrades. This is for the entry-level iPad with no qualifier after its name, the one that you buy for casual use, kids, schoolwork, travel, and content consumption — it’s not really a device to replace your laptop with.
Apple seems to be aware of this conundrum because it’s still selling the ninth-gen iPad for $329, a much more palatable and accessible price for the many people just looking for a basic iPad to do basic iPad things.
That puts this iPad in a weird spot — it’s certainly better than the ninth-gen model (which is still great), but it costs considerably more and is not as good as an iPad Air. And since you can find a current iPad Air on sale fairly easily at this point, this new iPad is not the iPad to buy right now despite the fact that it has a lot going for it.
Looking the part
The 10th-gen iPad brings the squared-off, even-bezel, home button-less design Apple introduced on the iPad Pro way back in 2018 to the sub-$500 price point. It’s very nearly a clone of the last two iPad Air models, with the same size display and chassis measurements within a millimeter of the Air in every dimension. (Those millimeters do mean it’s different, though, and precisely fitted cases can’t be swapped between the Air and the new iPad.)
The updated look is much more modern than the ninth-gen iPad, but since we’ve seen variations of this for four years now on other iPad models, it doesn’t look particularly fresh. It just looks like an iPad.
Like virtually every other iPad ever made, the new model has an excellent fit and finish that feels nice to hold and interact with. My review unit is a yellow that I’m not especially fond of, but thankfully Apple sells it in three other colors, including silver, blue, and pink.
Apple says the iPad has an “all-screen design” in its marketing materials, but let’s be honest here: the front of this new iPad is not “all-screen.” There is a considerable bezel area framing the display, and though it’s nice that it is the same size all around and provides a place to hold the thing without accidentally touching the screen, it’s far from edge-to-edge. Plus, there’s a camera on the front. So even if you don’t count the bezel, it’s not “all-screen.”
The camera is good news, though: in a long overdue change, Apple’s stuck the front-facing camera in the bezel on the long edge of the screen, which makes using it for video calls in landscape orientation much easier. It’s surprising that this is the first iPad to actually have the front camera in the right spot, but it’s a safe bet we’ll see this change in future updates to other iPad models (though not for this year’s iPad Pro M2, oddly). The camera itself is just fine, but the better placement makes using it for video calls from a desk much less awkward. It still supports Apple’s self-centering Center Stage feature, but there’s no real point to using it now that the camera is in the right spot, and I left it off for the majority of video meetings I took on the iPad.
The biggest upgrade over the ninth-gen iPad, other than the updated design, is the larger screen, which stretches out to 10.9 inches diagonally from 10.2. It’s the same size as the iPad Air’s screen, and it has the same brightness and resolution. It’s a good size for a tablet and comfortable enough for getting light work done as well as watching movies, reading, or playing games, even if it feels a bit cramped as a laptop replacement. The roughly 3:2 aspect ratio also works well in either portrait or landscape orientations.
But unlike the screens on the iPad Air or Pro, this is not a laminated display, and it has an inferior anti-glare coating to those models. That results in a screen that’s just not as nice to look at, with more reflections, a noticeable gap between the glass and the LCD panel, and shifts in brightness when you view it off-axis. These issues are much more forgivable at $329, but it’s a lot tougher to excuse this display at $449.
The lack of a laminated display is harder to excuse at this new, higher price
Also carried over from the iPad Air and Mini models are the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the power button on the left side (when in landscape orientation) and a USB-C port for charging and data in place of the prior iPad’s Lightning port. The Touch ID scanner works well enough, even if it’s not quite as seamless and convenient as the iPad Pro’s Face ID system. The USB-C port makes charging and attaching accessories like USB hubs much more convenient than before, though it is limited to USB 2.0 data speeds and 4K 30Hz (or 1080p 60Hz) external displays. I don’t think either of those limitations will matter much for the consumer uses this iPad is meant for.
The big thing that’s missing here is a headphone jack, which is a baffling deletion for the iPad that is supposed to appeal to the widest range of people. A lot of schools and parents buy entry-level iPads for kids, and not having a universal and easy way to plug in standard wired headphones will be frustrating. Apple does include a braided USB-C cable (nice) and a 20W charging brick (bless) in the box, but there’s no USB-C to 3.5mm wired headphone adapter. That’ll cost you $9.
Magic Keyboard Follies
Despite the 10th-gen iPad looking like the iPad Air and iPad Pro models, it doesn’t share any accessories with them. Instead of using the same Magic Keyboard as the Air and Pro, the 10th-gen iPad gets a wholly new keyboard accessory called the Magic Keyboard Folio. (If you’re keeping count, that brings Apple’s iPad keyboard lineup up to six distinct models, and no, you can’t use this new one with an iPad Air or Pro.)
The staggeringly expensive $249 Magic Keyboard Folio (a full 55 percent of the iPad’s starting price, putting an iPad-plus-keyboard kit at $700) has a two-piece magnetic design with a back cover with a kickstand and a separate keyboard. The keyboard connects to the iPad via the Smart Connector on the tablet’s edge, eliminating the need for a battery or Bluetooth connection.
Typing on the Folio keyboard is satisfying — the keys have the same amount of travel as Apple’s Magic Keyboard, and they are well-sized and spaced apart. The trackpad is also excellent and even slightly larger than the one on the Magic Keyboard. The inclusion of a function row with quick access keys for things like media control, volume, and brightness, is much appreciated; the lack of any kind of backlighting is a dumb omission, especially at this price.
Unlike the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Air and Pro, which features a unique floating design, the Magic Keyboard Folio is a design we’ve seen many times before. It’s very similar to Microsoft’s Surface keyboards and basically identical to the keyboards that are bundled with inexpensive tablets like Lenovo’s $300 Chromebook Duet. It’s even effectively the same design as the $160 Logitech Combo Touch, which comes in versions for the iPad Air, Pro, and now the 10th-gen iPad.
This two-piece design provides more flexibility than the Magic Keyboard — you can pull the keyboard off and still have a kickstand holding the tablet up for movie watching or gameplay with a controller. But it’s also much less stable on my lap — I’m able to make it work, but it’s not nearly as comfortable as the Magic Keyboard or a proper laptop. Microsoft solved this somewhat with more magnets to hold the keyboard in place better, but Apple’s keyboard is much floppier on a lap. You really have the best experience using this on a desk or table.
The Magic Keyboard Folio only comes in white, so avoid eating Cheetos while using it
Apple’s design also limits how far back the kickstand can travel, so you can’t push it down to a 20-degree angle ideal for drawing or writing like you can with many other keyboard cases of this type. And just like the Magic Keyboard, the Magic Keyboard Folio provides virtually no protection against drops — if you need something with more protection, you should look at Logitech’s offering.
Lastly, the Magic Keyboard Folio only comes in white, so you’ll want to be careful using it while eating a Doritos Locos Taco unless you want a slightly orange Magic Keyboard Folio.
Another confounding accessory situation is that the 10th-gen iPad doesn’t work with the second-gen Apple Pencil, which has been shipping since 2018. It only works with the first-generation model that came out way back in 2015. But since the new iPad doesn’t have a Lightning port anymore, pairing and charging the $99 first-gen Pencil with this iPad requires a new $9 USB-C to Lightning adapter that plugs into a USB-C cable that then plugs into the iPad itself. (Apple is bundling the adapter in the box with first-gen Pencils purchased now, but if you’re upgrading from an older iPad and still want to use your Pencil with this one, you’ll have to buy the adapter.)
So despite the new iPad having the same design as the iPad Air and Pro, complete with a flat side that could be home to a second-gen Pencil, you’re stuck with a comical umbilical cord charging situation and nowhere to store the Pencil when you’re not using it.
Those limitations with charging and storage were always weird with the first-gen Pencil but made more sense when it was introduced as an add-on to an existing iPad design that wasn’t built to accommodate it. Apple figured out a better iPad and Pencil solution back in 2018, and this iPad uses that better design, so it’s baffling that we’re in this situation with a new iPad released in 2022.
So, yes, there’s an awkward charging situation and a silly little end cap that’s easy to lose. But don’t worry, the first-gen Pencil is also worse to use than the second-gen model and doesn’t support things like double-tap to switch between writing and erasing. Its glossy surface is also not as nice as the matte finish of the newer model, and it has a much greater tendency to roll off a desk due to its circular design.
As for its performance, the first-gen ApplePencil is the same as the second-gen, and it has very little lag and a smooth stroke. It’s pressure sensitive and has tilting support — both good for art and drawing purposes — but I prefer Samsung and Microsoft’s softer-tipped styli for handwriting. The Pencil’s hard tip slips and slides across the glass of the iPad and makes more noise when writing compared to the others.
For those who already have a first-gen Apple Pencil and are just looking to upgrade to this iPad, it’s great that the older stylus is compatible with the new iPad. But Apple could have designed the iPad to work with the second-gen Pencil and provided backward compatibility for the first-gen one for those that need it, and it chose not to.
An Air on the inside
Inside, the 10th-gen iPad is a dead ringer for 2020’s fourth-gen iPad Air. It’s got an A14 Bionic chip, Wi-Fi 6, and either 64GB or 256GB of storage. While the A14 is not as fast as the M1 or M2 processors Apple’s putting into the more expensive iPads, I’d be shocked if most people can really tell. This iPad has no problem doing the exact same tasks I use my 11-inch iPad Pro M1 for, from running multiple apps side by side to jumping between tasks to playing games like Genshin Impact smoothly and without issue.
Apple now has four different processors (five if you count the still-available ninth-gen iPad) in its lineup of iPads, but outside of the most demanding uses, all the iPads I’ve used perform effectively the same. If you’re coming to this iPad from a model that’s considerably older, you will certainly notice a faster experience using it. But you’ll also get a faster experience from the $329 A13-powered ninth-gen iPad and save $120.
Consistently, what’s struck me the most in the time I’ve been using this iPad is just how similar it is to every other modern iPad once you look past its lower-quality screen. There really wasn’t anything I couldn’t or found frustrating to do on this iPad that I’m accustomed to doing on the iPad Air or an 11-inch iPad Pro. That’s a different experience than I have with MacBooks, where I can notice the difference in performance between a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro.
Battery life on this iPad is right in line with what we’ve come to expect from every iPad released over the last decade or so — it will last about 10 hours or more for basic tasks, closer to six or seven if you try to use it for office productivity work. The 10th-gen iPad also has optional sub-6GHz 5G support, making it useful when you don’t have Wi-Fi available, but that’s a $150 upcharge, and at that price, you might as well just consider an iPad Air.
The iPad runs iPadOS 16, which isn’t a huge departure from the last couple of versions of iPadOS. It’s got a lot of the features that arrived on the iPhone in iOS 16, including editable iMessages, live text for video, and the ability to pull a subject out of a picture and place them into another app. It also has more options for adjusting the way apps are arranged in split-screen mode, as well as more configurability for toolbar layouts in apps. My colleague David Pierce has a much more complete look at iPadOS 16 for all iPad models here.
What’s missing in iPadOS 16 on this model compared to the Air or Pro is the Stage Manager windowing feature and the ability to adjust the display scaling to show more things on the screen at a smaller size. At least lacking Stage Manager isn’t a loss — it’s not a great experience in its current state — and unless you’re coming to the new iPad from an Air or a Pro and are used to the scaling option, you’re not likely to miss that, either.
iPadOS 16 is not much different from iPadOS 15, but it does bring some of the new features of iOS 16, like editable iMessages, to the iPad
iPadOS remains very straightforward and easy to use for tablet tasks, such as reading, light email, watching movies, or playing games. It can also handle light workloads — I wrote much of this review on the iPad in Google Docs in the Safari browser — but it still struggles with multitasking and heavier workloads compared to a laptop. The 10.9-inch screen quickly gets cramped when working with longer documents and multiple apps, as well. I don’t think many people are actually replacing their laptop with an iPad at this level, and if they are, they are likely light users and aren’t hamstrung by iPadOS’s limitations.
I have seen some odd graphical and display bugs here and there, though, which tarnishes the polish that we’ve come to expect from Apple’s platforms. Given that iPadOS 16 is actually launching as iPadOS 16.1, I’d have expected these bugs to be ironed out, but it’s clear Apple still has some work to do.
Oh, and I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but I still think Apple should add multi-user support to iPadOS, even though with each passing year, it seems less likely to happen. Entry-level iPads are often shared devices in homes, as opposed to the iPad Pro, which is likely purchased for use by one person. Not being able to support more than one user account at a time makes for a lousy experience when sharing an iPad. The most basic Android tablets can support multiple users, complete with parent and children accounts — it’s long past time Apple did as well.
In a vacuum, there’s very little to complain about with the 10th-gen iPad. It’s an excellent tablet that does all of the things you expect from a tablet very well. Even though its screen isn’t as good as other iPads, it’s still good enough, and its performance is unimpeachable. If this was the only iPad Apple sold, many people would buy it and be perfectly happy with it.
But in context with the many other iPads that Apple sells, I’m not sure why you’d pick this one. If cost is a factor, you’re buying an iPad for a kid, or need a headphone jack, the still-available and much less expensive ninth-gen model is the one to go with. For a lot of people, the ninth-gen model is the better iPad for their needs. If you want the bigger screen and more modern design, the iPad Air is right there with its better display, even faster processor, and better accessory landscape, and you can frequently get it for less than $100 more than the new iPad.
In a vacuum, the 10th-gen iPad is great; in context, it is a confusing mix of new ideas and old compromises
It’s likely that this iPad will be the entry-level iPad at some point, fully replacing the ninth-gen model. But I hope that Apple brings the price down quite a bit by the time that happens and adds the headphone jack back (which is, admittedly, unlikely to happen). Until then, the 10th-gen iPad sits as a weird sub-midrange, not really budget-level middle child in Apple’s sprawling iPad lineup.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge