Apple iPad 10.2in (2020) full review

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The iPad is Apple’s ol’ faithful; it’s always there, never changing, offering a great entry point for those interested in trying out an iPad. Why? Simply put, because it works. Though it might not sport the modern look of the rest of Apple’s iPad range, the value for money on offer from the £329/$329 tablet is undeniable – especially when compared to the majority of the Android competition.

It allows access to iPadOS, arguably the best tablet software available, and the high-quality tablet-optimised apps and games available on the App Store. There’s even basic support for Apple’s Pencil and Smart Keyboard, accessories first brought to market for creatives. With so much on offer, it’s easy to overlook the larger-than-life bezels and ageing design.

With a much-needed processor upgrade, a brighter display and new software features, the iPad 10.2in is more tempting than ever.

Design: It’s an iPad

Apple’s iPad design is iconic at this point as, aside the screen size change in 2018, the design of the iPad has remained largely unchanged since the release of the first iPad Air back in 2013 – pretty crazy when you think about it.

So, it should come as no surprise that Apple has held back on the premium look present on the iPad Air and Pro for its entry-level tablet, opting instead to carry on with the same look and feel that has carried the range until now. It’s not quite as eye-catching as the premium options, admittedly, but it’s wholly acceptable at such a cheap price point.

Like last year’s entry-level iPad, there’s a 10.2in display on offer with noticeable bezels on each side. The top bezel houses the 1.2Mp front-facing camera, while you’ll find the Home button (complete with Touch ID scanner) on the bottom bezel. It’s certainly not as swift as the Face ID of the iPad Pro range, having to touch a finger or thumb on the sensor to unlock the tablet, but as with all Apple’s Touch ID-enabled products, it’s fast and works well.

On the sides, you’ll find volume controls and a SIM tray if you opt for the cellular model, there’s a power button on the top and there’s a Lightning – not USB-C like the rest of the range – port on the bottom. It measures in at the same 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm and near-identical 490g (495g for the cellular model), and it’s available in the same Silver, Space Gray or Gold colour options as last year’s option too.

The problem with using the same design as it has done since 2013 is that things have changed in the past 7 years, and that means the design of the iPad doesn’t always cut it. Take the speakers for example; there are two speakers on the iPad, both housed at the bottom and facing the same direction. That was fine back in 2013 when all tablets used the same mono-output system, but with most featuring stereo playback in 2020, it’s an area that the entry-level iPad simply can’t compete without a redesign.

There’s also Apple’s own accessories, compatible with the iPad 10.2in. The Smart Keyboard is a great accessory for writing the occasional email or typing up school notes, but it simply can’t compete with the high-end typing experience on offer from the iPad Pro and Air’s Magic Keyboard, thanks to the redesigned form factor the other tablets sport.

Even the Apple Pencil experience is diminished, with iPad 10.2in owners relegated to using the first-gen Apple Pencil, charged via the iPad Lightning port, rather than magnetically snapping to the side of the iPad and charging wirelessly as it does with the rest of the iPad range.

These are entry-level products with entry-level prices, so some concession has to be made, but the limitations of the standard iPad design will become more noticeable as time goes on.  

Display: Brighter is better

As you can probably tell from the name of the product, the iPad 10.2in has a 10.2in Retina LED display. Shocker, I know.

That’s the same size as last year’s iPad, but that’s not surprising considering the 2018 upgrade from 9.7in to 10.2in was the first in the history of the standard-sized iPad. That’s not so great for those looking to upgrade from last year’s model, but it does mean that those upgrading from an older iPad – like the original iPad Air – will get half an inch of extra screen real estate.

There is admittedly one upgrade on offer; Apple has upped the peak brightness to a claimed 500 nits, which makes it easier to use outdoors, although it’s not a dramatic difference. It’s more something you’d notice if you put the two side-by-side to compare.

In our benchmarks using the SpyderX Pro to test the display, the iPad topped out at 511 cd/m2, slightly higher than Apple’s claimed max brightness – that’s always a welcome surprise. It can also replicate an impressive 98% of the sRGB colour space, and although the 73% AdobeRGB score isn’t quite to the standards of pro creatives, you’ve always got the iPad Pro.

Yes, the display is a fair way behind the high-end iPad Pro (2020) and its 120Hz Liquid Retina IPS display, but it’s not aimed at the same Pro creative audience – the key thing is that the 2160 x 1620 60Hz LED display looks bright, detailed and vibrant enough for everyday use.  

The only real downside of the iPad display is that there’s a gap between the display panel and glass, resulting in a noticeable flex when putting pressure on the display. It does put a dampener on the overall build quality of the iPad, but it was also present on last year’s iPad 10.2in so it’s not technically a downgrade – just an area in need of TLC.

That being said, it is a minor complaint and anybody on the hunt for a cheap iPad is unlikely to notice or even care.

Specs, performance & camera: My biggest complaint, fixed

One of, if not the biggest complaint about the 2019 iteration of iPad 10.2in was the processor: it featured Apple’s A10 chipset, which made its debut back on the iPhone 7, and the performance wasn’t great – even for an entry-level tablet. There’s also the question of future software updates for an iPad with such old tech at its heart.

Thankfully, Apple has addressed the complaint with the 2020 iPad 10.2in, ditching the ageing A10 for the A12 Bionic with a boosted 3GB of RAM. It’s not Apple’s latest, first appearing in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR, but it’s certainly an upgrade, with Apple claiming a 40 percent improvement in processing power and a 2x jump in graphics performance compared to the A10.

What does that mean to you at home? It essentially means you’ll see improved performance from this year’s iPad, although you shouldn’t expect the blistering speeds of the A14 Bionic of the new iPad Air or the A12Z Bionic of Apple’s Pro tablet range.

Still, the new iPad is certainly quick enough for everyday use, with no stutter or lag when scrolling through apps like Facebook or browsing the web in Safari, and I’ve even played a few demanding Apple Arcade games without any real problem. That’s decent for an entry-level tablet – especially compared to the Android competition – and that’s backed up by the benchmark results too:

The only time you’re likely to run into performance issues is when using two apps side-by-side. It’s a popular feature of iPadOS, especially when it comes to the larger 12.9in iPad Pro, but with only 3GB of RAM on offer, the entry-level iPad can’t offer quite the same performance when running two apps simultaneously.

The entry-level iPad comes with 32GB of storage, something not seen on the iPhone range since the iPhone 7 in 2016. Why? Because 32GB of storage isn’t enough for the majority of people, especially when you consider you’ll have to share that 32GB with the iPadOS operating system, giving you something closer to 20-25GB to work with.

There’s no microSD card slot to expand storage on the iPad like with Android alternatives, so you’re locked into whatever storage option you opt for. With that in mind, I’d recommend staying away from the 32GB option and opting for larger 128GB variant. If even that isn’t enough for your digital needs, your only option is to spend a little more money and get your hands on the iPad Air with 256GB of storage.

Battery life: On the money

Apple doesn’t disclose the size of the batteries inside its tablet range in the traditional milliamp-hour unit of measurement, making it hard to compare with Android tablets. There’s a 32.4-watt-hour battery inside the iPad, and that should equate to the same 10 hours of use as the rest of the iPad range. Apple likes to be uniform when it comes to battery life on its iPad range, apparently.

The good news is that Apple’s claims ring true, with the iPad lasting 10 hours and 34 minutes during our battery benchmark test. In real-world use, usage can vary slightly depending on what you’re doing – playing games will likely drain the battery faster – but I comfortably got through the day using the iPad for emails, browsing and FaceTime.

There’s a 20W charger in the box, an upgrade from the old 12W charger bundled with the previous iteration of iPad, and it’s in the square form factor of the iPhone 11 Pro charging brick – and yes, that means it’s Lightning to USB-C rather than USB-A. The upgraded power brick is a welcome addition, but don’t assume it’ll be lightning-fast to charge, achieving only 16% charge in 30 minutes during testing.  

Cameras: Same old, same old

Let’s be honest, you’re never going to buy a tablet because of its photographic capabilities, and Apple knows it too – that’s why the camera setup in the iPad 10.2 remains unchanged compared to last year’s iteration.

You’ll find a single 8Mp camera with f/2.4 aperture on the rear of the iPad. Photos taken in bright environments are admittedly fairly detailed with vibrant colours, but it’s certainly not going to give you anything near the level of quality available on your iPhone, and there’s not a flash available either. But, it does come in handy if you want to try out the occasional AR app or show a friend something you’re watching via FaceTime.

Flip the iPad over and you’ll find a 1.2Mp 720p selfie camera, which could’ve done with an update this time around, especially given the new reliance on video conferencing tools during the ongoing pandemic. Admittedly, the iPad selfie camera is fine if you’re using it for video chats, but it won’t take stunning selfies perfect for the ‘gram.

Software: Say hello to Scribble

The new iPad runs iPadOS 14 out of the box, complete with new features to help get the most out of the iPad experience. You might be confused by the new software branding if you’re coming from an older iPad, but don’t worry, it’s still the same familiar operating system, but with a few tablet-focused tweaks.

One of the most interesting new features in iPadOS 14 is Scribble, functionality that takes your handwritten notes in the Notes app and converts them to text with impressive accuracy, and with all the correct formatting too. It’s not limited to Notes either - you’re also able to input handwritten text in just about any text field across iPadOS 14. The only limiting factor is that you need to use an Apple Pencil – it won’t translate notes scribbled by finger.

It may seem counter-productive to write instead of type, but it’ll be an invaluable tool for students that use the iPad for notetaking. You can select words and sentences independent of drawings and diagrams that might be nearby, move them on the page or convert to standard text to share with classmates.

Beyond the iPad-focused features like Scribble and split-screen multitasking, iPadOS just runs better than most Android tablets on the market. Apps are perfectly optimised for the

Price: The entry-level tablet

The iPad 10.2in is Apple’s entry-level tablet, so it makes sense for it to be cheap – but nobody was expecting a £20 price drop in the UK. While the $329 starting price remains the same for those in the US, the iPad now begins at a numerically identical £329 in the UK, although prices begin to climb as you increase storage and add cellular connectivity.

  • iPad 10.2in (32GB): £329/$329
  • iPad 10.2in (128GB): £429/$429
  • iPad 10.2in (32GB, cellular): £459/$459
  • iPad 10.2in (128GB, cellular): £559/$559

That’s cheaper than the likes of the Huawei MatePad Pro with an arguably better tablet experience, making it a great upgrade for those with an ageing iPad or students looking for a tablet to aid in their studies. There’s also a year of free Apple TV+ on offer, which is a nice bonus.

If you are interested, you can buy the iPad 10.2in (2020) directly from Apple, along with third-party retailers like Amazon in the UK and Best Buy in the US. 

For a good idea of what the iPad is up against, take a look at our pick of the best tablets, and we’ve got a ranked chart of the best iPad too.  

Verdict

The iPad 10.2in (2020) fixes my biggest complaint about last year’s iPad, the processor. Sporting the same A12 Bionic chipset as the iPhone XS, it’s not Apple’s latest and greatest, but it offers a significant boost in performance compared to 2019’s option. It brings new functionality to the tablet too, including Scribble, powered by the machine learning element within the A12.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual. It sports the exact same design as last year’s iPad (and just about every iPad since the Air 1) albeit with a brighter display this time around. You’ve also got compatibility with the first-gen Apple Pencil for drawing, and you’ve got the Smart Keyboard to improve typing on the tablet, making it just as versatile as any iPad in the range.

The only complaint about the iPad 10.2in? The 32GB storage of the entry-level model. It’s just not enough storage in 2020, considering the sprawling size of apps and games and the fact you’ll share that 32GB with iPadOS, leaving you with even less for your apps, files and photos.

Overall though, the iPad is a solid entry point to the iPad experience, and at a competitive price that many will appreciate.

Specs

Apple iPad 10.2in (2020): Specs

  • 10.2in Retina display, 2160 x 1620, 264ppi
  • A12 Bionic processor
  • 32Gb/128GB storage
  • 8MP Wide main camera, f/2.4, HDR, 1080p at 30fps, Slo-mo 720p at 120fps, video stabilisation, tap to focus for video
  • 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera, 720p video recording, HDR for photos
  • WiFi 5
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Gigabit LTE
  • GPS
  • Touch ID
  • 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 7.5mm
  • 490g (495g for cellular)
  • Available in Silver, Gold, and Space Grey

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