iPad (2017) vs. iPad Air 2
Apple has axed the aging iPad Air 2 and replaced it with a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad (just iPad, no suffixes) that's slightly more affordable. The two are nearly indistinguishable from the outside, but their internals vary. Here's how their specs and features stack up.
When most mobile electronics are rushing to be thinner and lighter, the newer iPad actually adds a bit of thickness (though it's only 1.4 millimeters' worth, or about 0.06 of an inch), perhaps to accommodate its bigger battery. Other dimensions remain the same.
The newer tablet is heavier, too. The lightest iPad is nearly 7-percent heavier than the lightest iPad Air 2.
Nothing to compare here – these tablets have nearly identical aluminum unibodies.
They're also available in the same three neutral metallic color variants.
The display stands pat – both iPads have the same 9.7-inch diagonal dimension and 4:3 aspect ratio.
There have not been any significant improvements in display resolution or quality. Supposedly, though, the new model does have a brighter display.
Nor are there any new fingerprint sensor tricks – the Touch ID sensor is integrated into the home button on both devices.
The newer iPad retains the Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + LTE options, so you can still use your cellular data plan to surf the web.
The new iPad can connect to Bluetooth keyboard accessories (and should be compatible with most iPad Air 2 keyboards) but it doesn't add any support for OEM snap-in keyboards like with the iPad Pro. (There's no smart connector on either of these.)
Nor does the new entry-level iPad offer Apple Pencil support.
In one of the biggest improvements over the Air 2, the 2017 iPad upgrades the older Apple-made A8X chip to a faster A9 processor. The A9 isn't the latest or greatest of Apple's mobile chipsets, but it is still amply capable for most apps and web surfing.
Note that the 1.85 GHz listed for the new iPad is a guess, based on the A9 chip in the iPhone 6s series. If it ends up being different after we run benchmarks, we'll update.
Apple hasn't confirmed the amount of memory in the new iPad (the company does not usually post RAM specs for its tablets or smartphones) but it very likely has the same 2 GB of RAM as the Air 2 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
Apple is finally doing away with all of its paltry 16 GB mobile devices. The newest iPad doubles the storage capacities of the Air 2.
Don't expect expandable storage options, however. Apple does not include microSD slots in these or any of its smartphones and tablets.
The camera resolution remains the same as well. It's rare to rely on a tablet for rear-facing photography, but we do wish the 1.2 MP selfie cam was made a little sharper. (iPads are handy for FaceTime or Skype video chat.)
The battery in the newer iPad is larger, but it retains the same battery life estimate of "up to 10 hours of web surfing." Of course, overall battery life can vary dramatically according to use.
There are no changes in speaker configuration – there are still two speakers placed below the home button.
Since this is Apple we're talking about, the iPad runs iOS 10.
And yes, iOS 10 allows for some iPad multitasking with split-screen, picture-in-picture and slide over window options.
The latest iPad goes up for pre-sale on March 24, shipping and hitting stores the following week. The device it replaces was introduced in October 2014.
Despite its incremental improvements, the refreshed iPad has a slightly lower price than its predecessor. Starting at US$329, it's clear that Apple is positioning this iPad to be its entry-level tablet. We've long thought there should be a more affordable, all-purpose iPad option, so it will be interesting to see whether or not this price drop drives sales.
We'll post a full-length review on the refreshed iPad in the near future. In the meantime, you can always revisit our assessment of the iPad Air 2. Or, for a look at a higher-end tablet that's still available, read about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.