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New $329 Apple iPad is a slightly upgraded Air 2 for less

Apple's new entry-level model gets a faster processor, but not much else.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
2 min read
Watch this: All of Apple's new hardware announcements

It's the iPad -- again.

Apple quietly shook up its iPad lineup today, dropping the iPad Mini 2 and iPad Air 2, while adding the new iPad. Just iPad. The 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablets -- from late 2015 and early 2016, respectively -- stay in the lineup as does the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4.

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Falling in between the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and Mini 4, the new iPad is basically the Air 2 from October 2014, but with a faster processor and a lower price: $329 (£339) for the 32GB Wi-Fi only model and $459 (£469) for the 32GB Wi-Fi/LTE version. It also comes in a 128GB version starting at $429; there is no 64GB option.

For the new iPad, the Air 2's A8X processor is swapped with a newer Apple A9 system-on-a-chip (found in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus). It's also just a tad heavier and thicker than the Air 2.

Otherwise, almost everything about the Air 2 seems to carry over to the new iPad.

  • 9.7-inch 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution display
  • f2.4 8-megapixel camera
  • 1080p HD video capture with 720p/120fps slo-mo video
  • 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera
  • two-speaker audio
  • Touch ID Home button
  • Siri and Apple Pay support
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, LTE
  • Lightning Connector
  • Up to 10 hours battery life

The new iPad's display isn't fully laminated and doesn't have an antireflective coating -- two things found on all other the other current models as well as the old Air 2. This makes the iPad a little thicker than the Air 2 -- 7.5 mm to 6.1 mm, respectively -- and you'll struggle a bit more to see past reflections, particularly outdoors. Apple did increase screen brightness and says the color accuracy is comparable to its Pro models.


How does the new iPad compare to the iPad Pro and Mini 4?

The existing iPad Pro models remain unchanged for now. While there is a sizable starting price difference between the 9.7-inch Pro and new iPad -- $270, to be precise -- you gain a lot for the money including:

  • Apple's True Tone display with a wide color gamut
  • Faster A9x processor
  • Smart Connector for keyboard support
  • Apple Pencil support
  • f2.2 12-megapixel camera with True Tone flash
  • 4K video capture with cinematic video stabilization
  • 5-megapixel FaceTime camera
  • Four-speaker audio
  • LTE Advanced support

Likewise, stepping down to the iPad Mini 4, which now comes in just a 128GB version for $399 or $529 with Wi-Fi and cellular, you lose some screen size, of course, but you also lose some processing power: The Mini has an older Apple A8 processor. Otherwise they're pretty much the same.

The iPad Air 2 was a favorite -- even after more than two years -- and a lower price and potentially faster performance is unlikely to change that opinion. If you have a Pro model, there's nothing new to see here and you're still ahead when it comes to performance. The new iPad just gives the lineup a better entry point and an updated option for education use. However, looking at the new models, it definitely seems like Apple is getting away from simple tablets and steering people toward its Pro models.