iPad 9.7 (2018) review

The most affordable iPad ever brings brilliant upgrades

iPad 9.7 (2018) review
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It's hard to decide how to score this tablet, simply because Apple hasn't done much to last year's design. The package is largely (depending on which country you're in) the same price as 2017's iPad, and the only upgrades are Apple Pencil support and the faster A10 Fusion chipset at the core.

The rest of the features, like the slick operating system or colorful screen, won't impress instantly because they've been seen multiple times before on an iPad, but they’re still a crucial part of the Apple tablet experience that appeals to so many.

New iPad 2018 review

If you’re not bothered about Apple Pencil support and more power, you could get an older iPad, but those stocks are selling out now, and you'll not be saving a huge amount anyway by the looks of things.

We do like the Apple Pencil support on this device, as it turns your iPad into a rather nice sketchbook. We just wish the Pencil came free with the iPad, as that would be a massive reason to go for this cheaper device – right now, you need to spend a lot more to just unlock one of its key features.

Who's it for?

New iPad 2018 review

Apple knows its tablets aren't going to become laggy and unusable soon, and as such it needs to create a tablet that anyone using an iPad Air or older will instantly want to try it out.

Those tablet owners will love the new iPad for the improved screen and the extra power under the hood, and – if they're willing to dig out the cash for the Apple Pencil – as a great digital sketchbook they want to get a bit more creative here and there.

Should I buy it?

Well, that depends entirely on whether you want a new iPad, or you really need one. And whether you're willing to pay the $329 (£319, AU$469) base price that it commands – because while that's reasonable for an iPad, it's still a lot of money.

It sounds obvious, but you'll need to know what you want the new iPad for before you can decide if it's for you. 

If you're someone who's never owned an iPad before, or you're buying it for a relative who's always wanted a tablet, then you've come to the right place, and you should buy this one without question. You'll / they'll love it to pieces.

However, if you've got an iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7 or last year's iPad, you already know that this isn't going to be something for you. 

There's not enough of an upgrade to make it worth purchasing... it's more of a hygiene upgrade for Apple to keep its latest offering at the sharp end of the tablet game, and a chance to get more people using the Apple Pencil (and bring more money into its coffers).

Hopefully Pencil support will mean more app developers start coding their wares to make use of the digital stylus – as a raft of Pencil-enabled apps will make the new iPad a lot more attractive to those still unsure about a purchase.

In our eyes, the new iPad 9.7 might not be that much of an exciting upgrade, and we'd question how many people would get excited about the Pencil, but for anyone who's looking to enter the world of the tablet, or who just wants something that slips nicely into a bag for entertainment on the go, the new iPad is the perfect solution.

Not convinced? Take a look at these alternatives instead

iPad Mini 4

New iPad 2018 review

The little brother to the new iPad is older, but it’s actually more expensive due to the fact that the diminutive tablet only comes in the 128GB flavor. It’s also a lot less powerful and obviously smaller, but if you’re okay with that it’s still pretty impressive.

We’ll always be fans of the smaller tablet, but it seems the form factor’s days are numbered… this is probably the last teeny model we’ll ever see from Apple.

iPad (2017)

New iPad 2018 review

If you can still find the older iPad from 2017, then it’s worth checking out. But there are few caveats here: you might not be able to buy it for much longer, and it doesn’t appear that the price has dropped hugely.

It's a good option if remaining stock is sold off in any forthcoming sales – but the new, improved iPad is a good jump in functionality, and a better upgrade.

iPad Pro 10.5

New iPad 2018 review

The iPad Pro is obviously better in a number of ways than the cheaper iPad: it has a much, much better screen, a Smart Connector for a keyboard, and more power than pretty much any other tablet around (depending on your metric).

However, both tablets are compatible with the Apple Pencil, so if that’s all you care about then the newer, cheaper tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard will do you just fine.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Let’s say you’re just after a tablet – any tablet – and you’re not wedded to the iPad. The Galaxy Tab S4 has a great HDR screen, a decent amount of power, and isn’t that much more expensive… it’s the best Android tablet out there, and has some useful accessories too if you want to do more.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.