Logitech is making a more affordable stylus, called the , for $49. It's made to be easier to hold for kids and not roll off tables, but it's not the same as the Pencil. It has no pressure sensitivity, which is the Pencil's biggest advantage. I haven't reviewed or tried the Crayon yet, but since it's only available in the education market, it's not really an option for the masses.
Despite how good the Pencil is, it's the iPad accessory I use least. For me, the iPad's still best at being a finger-touch device. I thought I'd put the Pencil to use on a family vacation with the new iPad, and we ended up barely using it. That's not because the Pencil isn't great -- it's because, for most family use cases, you're probably going to end up using your finger instead. And the Pencil's slightly delicate build made me less likely to let my littler kid use it.
But for anyone who marks up documents or just likes to sketch, the Pencil is an awesome add-on. I have one colleague whose daughter is a budding artist, thanks to her iPad Pro and Pencil. And now the entry point for that sort of combo is half price. I'd suggest taking the Pencil for a spin in the Apple Store before plunking down the hundred bucks, though.
What you're still missing by not going Pro
In many ways, this iPad seems like the return of my favorite model, the Bluetooth. It's not a huge problem to lose it, since Apple never did much with it, and more affordable, good Bluetooth keyboard cases are everywhere.. But it's not exactly the same: there are some small but key differences. First, there's no side Smart Connector. iPad Pros benefit from that side port, which works with keyboards and a few docks. The big advantage is that Smart Connector accessories don't need connect via
This iPad's display and speakers are the same as last year's entry-level iPad. That means it's not as good as the, which has louder quad speakers and a larger 10.5-inch screen, with a faster 120Hz refresh rate TrueMotion display. This iPad also lacks TrueTone, the color tone-adjusting tech that's in iPad Pros and last year's iPhones, and doesn't have as , if you're a display nut.
The speakers ended up bothering me more than I thought: maybe I'm spoiled by the Pro's really good quad speakers for TV and movie viewing. The one-sided speakers on this iPad make it sound like one speaker's gone out. But guess what? You can always wear headphones. In vertical portrait mode, it's less noticeable.
Plus, the display is not as closely laminated to the glass as on newer iPad models. It's not terrible, but if you're using the Pencil to draw, the extra gap creates some distance and makes the writing feel slightly less immediate. But... to everyday eyes, this display still looks really good.
Also keep in mind that the step-up iPad Pros have better Pencil responsiveness, too. I think it's good enough on this iPad for just about anyone, but graphics pros should weigh that up. It didn't bother me, though.
The cameras are the same as the 2017 entry-level iPad, and while the 8-megapixel stills and 1080p video recording look far better than what most laptops and tablets can produce, it's several steps behind what the newest iPhones or iPad Pros can handle. And you can't shoot in 4K (but, oddly, you could edit 4K video if you somehow imported it, which I haven't tried). I still think this iPad's camera quality, for a tablet, ends up impressing.
The case design is identical to last year's model. So while it needs to have the space for the Touch ID home button, the larger bezels on the top and bottom are starting to feel old. But you could use last year's iPad 9.7 cases and accessories with this, which is a plus.
Using it back and forth with a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, I prefer the Pro: its faster display, smoother scrolling, more tuned colors, better speakers, and better screen-to-body ratio is really nice, and I like using Smart Connector keyboard covers to type with. But is it spend-up-to-buy nice? I think, unless you're a professional who has a use case in mind, it's difficult to justify the spending what's effectively twice the price.
A superior tablet at a great price
Apple is expecting this iPad to be the best-selling tablet for everyone. And it probably will be. If you've been waiting for a tablet, didn't want to spend too much and have been coveting an iPad, this is basically an iPad Pro at a junior price. It's a great buy.
But it's still not a true full computer replacement, for me. And I doubt whether it'll be the answer for cash-strapped schools that might be looking for something more affordable, or something that could be more like a standard laptop computer. Bargain hunters outside of a school environment should still check out the, which delivers a good set of tablet basics -- web browser, video viewing and plenty of apps and games -- at half the price.
That said, I can't imagine recommending any other iPad right now over this one. For its price, and its features, this is everything you want in a tablet. The Pros are better for creatives and designers, but I'd wait on those, too: We could see new iPad Pros that may even fold in iPhone X-style designs as soon as Apple's June WWDC event. And that's the only caveat I can issue here: this is one shoe dropping in Apple's yearly iPad deployment. You might want to wait to see what the entire lineup brings.
But for budget shoppers, your iPad journey stops here.
|Apple iPad (9.7-inch, 2018)||Apple iOS 11.3; 2.3GHz A10; 2GB RAM; Wi-Fi/LTE; 128GB Storage|
|Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch, 2017)||Apple iOS 11.2.6; 2.3GHz A10X; 4GB RAM; Wi-Fi/LTE; 512GB Storage|
|Apple iPad (9.7-inch, 2017)||Apple iOS 10.3; 1.85GHz Apple A9; 2GB RAM; Wi-Fi/LTE; 128GB Storage|
|Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-7600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640; 512GB SSD|
|Samsung Chromebook Pro||Google Chrome OS; 900MHz Intel Core m3-6y30; 4GB RAM; Intel HD Graphics 515; 32GB storage|