Compared to last year’s iPad, the screen here is noticeably bigger, but not measurably better. It’s the same 10.9in as the iPad Air (instead of 10.2in), which makes working with multiple apps a little less cramped. And a bigger screen in a package that’s essentially the same size is always a nice improvement. But, this display still lacks many of the niceties you’ll find on the Air. Specifically, the screen isn’t laminated to the front glass, it lacks an anti-reflective coating, and it doesn’t support the P3 wide color gamut.
Those missing features were easier to overlook when they cost $329, but this new iPad is only $150 less than the Air. That’s not to say this screen is bad, but it’s clearly the worst in the iPad range – and its flaws are much more glaring at a higher price. I noticed that the air gap between the screen and the protective glass was less than I expected, but it was much more noticeable when I held the iPad in my hands and moved compared to its use with the Magic Keyboard Folio.
Speaking of the keyboard, the new iPad has its own redesigned accessory here. The Magic Keyboard Folio is made up of two separate pieces: a back that attaches magnetically and has a kickstand, and a keyboard that attaches to the side of the iPad. It then uses the Smart Connector located on its edge to synchronize and power the keyboard.
The folio design has one big flaw compared to the Magic Keyboard for iPad Air and Pro. This keyboard is much better for lap typing. The folio, on the other hand, is not as stable on your lap. Thankfully, the typing experience itself is much better than the old Smart Keyboard Cover that works with last year’s iPad. Those keys have 1mm of travel, there’s a 14-key function row at the top (the first Apple-made iPad keyboard to offer them) and the trackpad is large and responsive. It’s even bigger than the more expensive Magic Keyboard’s trackpad.
While I don’t mind using a folio-style keyboard on my lap, it was totally fine for long typing sessions at my desk. And the larger trackpad and function keys are major improvements that I hope to see implemented on other iPad keyboards soon.
The elephant in the room is that this keyboard costs a really painful $250; that means the base iPad with 64GB of storage and this Magic Keyboard Folio would cost $700. That’s a crazy amount of money, and you can get an iPad Air and the second-generation Apple Pencil for a bit more, or buy a solid Windows laptop if you’re going to type a lot.
Apple has also made significant improvements to the camera system on the new iPad. It now has the same 12-megapixel rear camera as the Air. It’s not the best camera out there; Like I always say, there’s a good chance the camera on the phone in your pocket is better. But for anyone who wants to shoot video, it now offers 4K capture where last year’s model maxed out at 1080p.
More important is the front camera. Oddly enough, it’s exactly the same as last year – with one notable exception. Apple has finally placed the front-facing camera on the landscape edge of the iPad, which means your face will actually be centered if you’re taking a video call with the iPad in its keyboard folio (or just propped up with the kickstand). Surprisingly, this iPad is the only one with this feature. The iPad Pro, the best tablet sold by Apple, still has its camera on the portrait edge. Basic iPad buyers win here.