Apple's latest tablet is simply called iPad – no suffix or qualifiers like "Air" or "Pro." Based on our first impressions of the device, the simple naming makes sense. The 9.7-inch tablet presents an experience that's so typically iPad that there's not much to remark about.
This tablet replaced the iPad Air 2 in Apple's tablet lineup, and just by looking at it, it would be easy to get the two confused. The refreshed-for-2017 version maintains the same size display as well the familiar aluminum form factor that all iPads have. The overall body dimensions of this iPad and its Air 2 predecessor are within millimeters of one another, and its dimensions are identical to those of the original iPad Air (2013). The new iPad is essentially a rebooted iPad Air 1 with some internal updates.
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Knowing some thickness and weight was added since the Air 2 (presumably to fit a bigger battery and boosted internals while keeping on budget), I wanted to see if a return to the iPad Air 1's heft was problematic. I do think it could stand to be a little lighter, but then again, if it were much lighter, it would be strikingly so. That's not what we're expecting from Apple's least expensive tablet ever (US$329).
So far, my most notable takeaway was a disappointment – after becoming accustomed to last year's premium devices, this iPad's display leaves something to be desired. Large photos on social media feeds look a bit grainy, but the color accuracy (or lack thereof) bothered me more than resolution. Colors seem off, and perhaps a little oversaturated.
This iPad has boosted internals over those of the aging Air 2, but those minor changes aren't easily perceived. (After all, this tablet uses a last-generation Apple A9 processor – it's nothing we haven't seen before.) The entire experience of setting up, handling, and web and app surfing on this tablet doesn't throw any curveballs. Based on a short session, the iOS 10 experience was nothing to complain about, but nothing to get excited about, either.
Of course, a closer look might reveal some more insights on what Apple's entry-level tablet gets right, and what it gets wrong. How does it fare through day-to-day demands and more rigorous use? How much does the unimpressive display detract from the experience? Stay tuned for a full-length review.
The 2017 iPad is available now, starting at $329 for a Wi-Fi only/32 GB storage configuration.
Product page: AppleView gallery - 4 images