Why the new iPad is the best (non-Pro) model you can buy

If you look past the (same old) exterior, the new iPad offers a great budget alternative to the iPad Pro.
If you look past the (same old) exterior, the new iPad offers a great budget alternative to the iPad Pro.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — Apple’s biggest problem with its iPad range is that the tablets are so good it’s hard to find a truly compelling reason to upgrade with each new iteration.

Until this year.

The latest iPad was unveiled at an event in Chicago recently and was touted as a great tool for creativity as well as the classroom.

This time, though, it comes with some major upgrades that finally make replacing your more-than-two-years-old iPad a good idea.

1. A lot of power, thanks to a new chip

The new iPad uses the A10 Fusion chip — the same as in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. While it’s not as powerful as the A10X Fusion on the iPad Pro, it does make it fairly more capable than last year’s model even if it only comes with 2GB of RAM.

Apple claims it’s 50 per cent more powerful than last year’s iPad. This extra boost means the iPad is capable of supporting the new iOS 11 multitasking features... to an extent.

You can now have two apps (if they support it) run side-by-side. By using the Slide Over feature, you can even pull in a third app on top — but you won’t be able to use all three at the same time, unlike on the iPad Pro.

Still, considering the price difference that’s not bad at all.

Using more processor-intensive apps I did experience the iPad getting a bit warm but not to the point it got too hot to touch.

2. Apple Pencil support is a gamechanger

You’ll have to pay extra for it (RM419) but the new iPad lets you use the Apple Pencil which previously only worked on iPad Pros.

It works just as well on the new iPad in apps I tested such as the popular Procreate painting app, Apple’s Notes and Pages as well as making annotations on PDF.

It doesn’t connect as quickly as it does with the iPad Pro but I felt no latency or slow response while I was sketching or writing.

It’s a great alternative to those who are only starting out in digital art and would rather an all-in-one device than buying a dedicated drawing tablet. In households where iPads are shared, it adds further utility to the device — making it more than just a media consumption tool.

3. A lot more for the ringgit

The new iPad starts from RM1,449 for the Wi-Fi-only, 32GB version and with its more powerful chip and Apple Pencil support, offers an affordable alternative to the iPad Pro, which costs nearly twice as much (RM2,999) for the base model.

For power users who use the iPad Pro as their primary device, the iPad Pro will still be the better choice. But for everyone else, the iPad offers a lot of utility for the lower price.

Now, what’s not so great about this iPad?

Form factor-wise, nothing’s changed about the iPad. You can’t tell from a glance that it’s any different from last year’s model.

The 9.7-inch, IPS LCD touchscreen doesn’t exactly pop and the cameras seem more like an afterthought than anything. 8MP in the back and 1.2MP in the front, with Full HD video recording.

You can understand that Apple’s probably thinking, if it’s not broke, why fix it but a design refresh would be nice, to be honest.

App recommendations

Want to get the most out of creating on the iPad? Try these apps on for size:

For casual sketching or notes, try Paper.

More used to Adobe’s interfaces? Then try Photoshop Sketch. (Mobile Photoshop and Lightroom versions are also available)

Procreate (RM39.90) is one of the most popular digital illustration apps in the App Store, and for good reason — it offers a ton of features as well as great support and plenty of user-made tutorials available online.

Also worth trying is the powerful Affinity Photo editing app (RM79.90) which supports editing photos in RAW as well as LumaFusion (RM79.90) a mulitrack video editor that works fluidly on both the iPhone and the iPad.