Anirudh RegidiOct 21, 2020 12:01:40 IST
If the iPad Pro is the pinnacle of Apple’s craft, the refined, concentrated essence of everything Apple, the 2020 iPad is its blandest, most dilute offering.
Everything that the Pro is, the 2020 iPad just… isn’t. It doesn’t even have a name to grant it distinction. It’s just iPad. Like ‘phone’, or ‘car’. It has no identity.
That lack of identity is, perhaps, also why the iPad works so well. It’s the default option, the one you pick when you’re not picky, or don’t have the budget to be picky.
You need a tablet PC, you buy the 2020 iPad. It’s that simple.
This iPad doesn’t have a 120 Hz display. The glass isn’t laminated. The screen is sub-par (by Apple standards). There’s only a single speaker (The horror!). There’s no USB-C. There’s no wireless charging. The A12 SoC is now several generations old and the slowest chip Apple sells. And the design? It’s as generic as they come.
Do I care about these shortcomings? I thought I would, but, surprisingly, I don’t.
In the last one week, ScreenTime tells me I’ve spent an average of 6.5 hrs a day with the device. Whatever I want to do, the iPad is always within arm’s reach. If I need to input some data into a spreadsheet, I grab the iPad. Light entertainment? iPad. Games? iPad. Research? iPad. Shopping? iPad.
It’s more comfortable to use than my phone, it’s more handy than my PC or laptop, and while the design is old, it’s also very familiar.
Do I wish I had a better iPad? Yes. If I had a choice, I’d opt for the Air.
Is this iPad sufficient for my needs, however? Also yes.
Reasons to upgrade/spend more
Compared to something like Samsung’s budget OLEDs for example, which I would charitably describe as an acquired taste, the iPad’s display is very pleasant. It doesn’t blind you with radioactive greens, orange reds, or shimmering blues: the colour balance is very neutral.
Compared to the rest of Apple’s line-up, though, this display pales. The glass isn’t laminated, which means there’s a noticeable air gap between your finger and the UI. There’s no HDR or wide gamut colour (DCI-P3) support, which means videos and images lack punch. The poor contrast ratio also means that text is simply not as sharp as it is on other Apple devices. I also don’t think the display gets as bright as it does on Apple’s iPhones or more expensive iPads.
Then there are the speakers, or rather, speaker. Why, in 2020, there’s a device on the market with a single speaker, I’ve no idea. It’s weird, and discordant, and a little bit frustrating.
When watching video, which you would in landscape mode like a normal human being, the single speaker pumping out sound from either your left or right is, well, just plain wrong. Why should one ear do all the work? We were born with two, and for very good reason.
Lastly, there’s performance. The 2020 iPad is running on 2018’s A12 Bionic SoC. It’s still a powerful chip, no doubt, and benchmarks put it at par with the 2020 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. But it is an old chip, and you can tell.
The iPad just doesn’t feel as zippy and snappy as any of Apple’s other devices. You can feel the UI stutter at times, and even browsing isn’t as smooth as I’ve experienced on other iPads and iPhones. When playing games – unless they’re 2D ones – you can feel the device struggle a little bit to maintain a steady frame-rate.
This stuttering and display needs to be put into context, however. Yes, the A12 Bionic is the slowest SoC in Apple’s arsenal, but I challenge you to find any other tablet, or even Windows laptop, available for under 30k, that can perform as well as the 2020 iPad. Ditto the display. I doubt there’s any non-Apple device in this price range that is as colour accurate and can seamlessly edit 4K video or run 3D games as smoothly as the 2020 iPad can.
On the plus side, the iPad does come with a charger – a 20 W charger – no less, and includes a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Battery life is also rather good, with the device easily getting me through a day, sometime a day and a half, of doing iPad things.
Note: Don’t confuse the A12 Bionic in the 2020 iPad with the A12X Bionic in the 2018 iPad Pro or A12Z Bionic in the 2020 iPad Pro. The X and Z variants are considerably more powerful, packing in at least two additional CPU cores and 3 additional GPU cores, not to mention a whole host of other performance tweaks. In terms of graphics performance alone, the Z and X chips are 2-5x more powerful than the iPad’s A12.
This isn’t the best value, but it is the cheapest iPad
If I were to be gifted an Android/Windows tablet today, one with the latest Snapdragon/Intel SoC, more RAM than a gaming PC, a blindingly bright AMOLED display with blacks so inky and deep that you’d feel like you were looking into the soul of the universe itself, I’d sell it and buy an iPad. Even if it was the cheapest one Apple is selling right now.
Apple’s strongest offering isn’t the hardware it sells, it’s the ecosystem. Sure, that ecosystem can seem a bit Orwellian at times, but once you’re in it, you don’t ever want to get out.
I don’t care that the 2020 iPad is one of the most boring, unexciting Apple devices I’ve ever used.
I don’t care that its design is meh, or that I can already feel it stuttering slightly when gaming.
I don’t care that there’s no HDR support, or that there’s only a single speaker.
All I care about is the fact that the 2020 iPad is the cheapest window into Apple’s vaunted ecosystem. And believe me, if you’re considering this iPad, especially the base model, that’s all you can really look forward to.
Still, I’d avoid the 2020 iPad
Pro tip: Don’t buy the 2020 iPad, or at least, ignore the base model. Rs 28,900 is cheap for an iPad, but 32 GB of storage will be more curse than boon. You’ll spend more time micro-managing storage than having fun. Either buy the 128 GB iPad (for Rs 37,900), or, if you don’t mind the size, opt for the Mini.
The Mini is smaller and similarly specced, but it also offers a proper Apple display (wide-gamut colours, HDR support, laminated glass), and more importantly, 64 GB of storage. And all this for just Rs 34,900.
The 2020 iPad is indeed cheap, but the 2019 Mini is, I think, better value.
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