iPad 9.7 (2017) review

Cheaper and better than an iPad Air 2

Editor's Choice

TechRadar Verdict

The 2017 iPad may not be the most innovative product Apple has ever created, but it's an upgrade on the iPad Air 2 and this version makes for a fantastic option at an even lower price than iPads of years past.


  • +

    Cheaper price

  • +

    Beautiful 9.7-inch screen

  • +

    Easy to hold design


  • -

    Thicker than the Air

  • -

    Only A9 chipset

  • -

    No 256GB version

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Update: Apple has unveiled iPadOS 14, the newest version of its operating system designed for iPads, and explicitly confirmed the entry-level iPad Pro 9.7 models will get it. So if you choose to buy this tablet, know that you'll get to download this software when it's released later in 2020. To know everything that's coming, visit our iPadOS 14 page here.

Innovating in the world of tablets is a difficult proposition, even for Apple. The iPad Pro brought about a new way of working, and a variety of accessories to complement your 12.9-inch or smaller slate – but what if you don’t want those features?

If that’s you, this budget iPad is the device designed for you. It offers a premium spec, a great-looking design and top-of-the-range features, but at a lower price without all the productivity extras tacked on.

It’s much like the iPad Air 2 – the device it replaces in Apple's lineup, which earned a five-star review here at TechRadar, and like that device it sits between the iPad Pro and the iPad 4 mini – but there are a few key upgrades that make this an all-round better tablet. 

iPad 9.7 price and release date

  • Out now directly from Apple and other retailers too
  • Cheaper than iPad Air 2 at $329 / £339 / AU$469
  • Price is even lower now too as we've seen it on sale for £279 / $300

The new iPad is cheaper than the iPad Air 2 was when it was on sale through Apple’s website. That's noteworthy, as affordable Apple products are hard to come by, especially when the iPhone only seems to rise in cost with each new generation.

This new version of the iPad has an RRP of $329/£339/AU$469 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, and goes all the way up to $559/£559/AU$799 if you want to get one with 128GB of storage and cellular connections – there’s no 256GB or 512GB version of this latest iPad.

We've seen the price of the 32GB version drop down to £279 / $300 during sales periods, but you may not be able to find it that low at all times of the year. The 128GB with cellular connectivity variant has kept its value a little more, but you may be able to find it a touch cheaper from some retailers.

Design and display

  • Similar design to previous iPads, but still looks great
  • Thicker and heavier than the iPad Air 2
  • Easy to hold and 9.7-inch screen, which is great for watching media

If you’ve used an iPad Air 2, you’ll be familiar with the design of the new iPad. This new version is a touch thicker than the Air 2, but that’s barely noticeable considering it’s still only 7.5mm thick, which makes it easy to hold in the hand.

It’s weighs just 469g, so if you plan to carry this device on your commute you should find it light enough to hold onto for extended periods. You may want to use two hands though, as at 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm it’s not particularly easy to grip with only one hand.

A lot of the headlines have focused on how this is a thicker iPad, but in real everyday usage we don’t think that matters. The iPad Air 2 was so incredibly thin and light that you won’t notice the slight padding here.

The back of the iPad has a metal body that feels smooth to the touch but is still easy enough to grip. There’s no denying the iPad is still the best-looking tablet you can buy, and the rounded corners makes this a gorgeous device to hold in the hand.

We’d recommend buying a case to ensure it won’t get scratched when putting it in your bag though. The metal on the back can easily get marked, and you may also find that greasy fingers will start to detract from the gorgeousness if you don’t rub it down often.

The new iPad is available in gold, silver or space grey – sadly Apple hasn’t seen fit to include a new red version of the iPad to match the new brightly colored iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

As on other recent iPads, just below the screen is a home button featuring Apple's Touch ID scanner that allows you to keep all of your data securely stored away behind a fingerprint lock. It’s not particularly easy to reach with your thumb though unless it’s lying down, so we’d usually just use a passcode instead.

The iPad has a 9.7-inch display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. That gives you 264 pixels per inch, which is the same as either of the iPad Pro models.

It’s a Retina display, which is Apple’s way of saying you won’t be able to notice the pixel quality as it’s so high. We’d agree with Apple on that fact, and during our time using the tablet we found that everything we watched looked beautiful.

The screen is particularly bright too – especially compared to, for example, the original iPad Air – and this gives it a great advantage over a lot of the tablet competition.

The screen size is particularly notable on the new iPad too. The iPad Pro 12.9 is just too big for comfortable everyday use, and Apple has got the size just right here – large enough to view content easily, small enough to use comfortably.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.