Seven days with the iPad: Is it good enough?

For most people, the iPad 8th-gen is 'good enough'. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
For most people, the iPad 8th-gen is 'good enough'. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — “Is it good enough?” That, in the end, is the question a tech reviewer must try to answer and it was one that needed addressing when the latest iPad arrived on my doorstep.

The iPad as a product line turned 10 years old on April 3 and this latest, or 8th-gen, as they call it, is the baseline model.

I could bore you with the specs but let's be frank here. If you, dear reader, just wanted the specs, the Apple Store is but one click away. A Google Search would tell you the RAM, the colours, the pricing and availability.

Seven days with the iPad. Seven days of doing many different things and wondering if I could truly be happy with just this iPad and no other.

You can also skip right to the end where I promise the pricing and general device spec summary will be.

Here goes.

Day One

It seemed fitting to start my iPad week on the first day of a semi-lockdown in the Klang Valley.

The first thing I did of course was to update the iPad to the latest version, which is 14.1. Update OS first, apps later. Doing it the other way around risks breaking apps and probably your patience.

Apps and games I downloaded to see how they performed: Lumafusion, Procreate, Planescape: Torment, Civilisation VI, Strip Designer, JUMP Paint, Amazon Kindle, Scrivener, Filmic Pro, Twitch, Streamlabs, and Genshin Impact.

Content creation, multimedia and gaming were all a go.

Download speeds were fine and the update process was seamless.

Actually using it had to wait for my day off which serendipitously was the next day.

Day Two

Alas! Malaysia's telenovella-like politics kept me too busy for the essential event of modern pop culture - the latest BlackPink music videos.

The Retina IPS display is bright enough and 10.2-inches is, I think the sweet spot for tablets. Not everyone wants the pocketability of an iPad mini or the gargantuan 12-inches of the largest iPad Pro.

Stereo sound was adequate but not earth-shattering  but hey, at least you still have a 3.5mm iPhone jack.

As a multimedia consumption device or “thing I stare at while lying around snacking on my off-day” the iPad does the job.

What about battery life? Apple claims you can get “up to” 10 hours but realistically I found you could eke about eight hours, less if you crank up the brightness settings and volume.

One thing the device does have over the others is that it's a lot lighter than either the new Air or iPad Pro. Still some might prefer higher specs over lighter weight.

Day Three

I decided to start playing the current “in” game, Genshin Impact.

The game has now taken over my life and it's a miracle this article got finished.

Moving on, I've played the game on an iPhone and the iPad handles the graphics adequately while crashing ever so often.

Still, gaming on the iPad isn't too bad but I would say it performs better with simpler, less demanding mobile games and not so much newer, more resource-intensive ones like Genshin Impact.

Day Four

I put down the iPad 8th generation and switched to the latest iPad Pro to see how much differently it felt to use the both of them.

Crashes were rare on the iPad Pro but then with the memory and processor (and price!) you would expect more performance.

It was, I had to admit, still a lot more fun to play the heavier games on the iPad Pro and the popular graphics app Procreate was more stable

The maximum storage you can get on the iPad is 128GB which feels rather limiting ― it would have been nice to see at least 256GB as an option, but it's likely because Apple wanted to keep costs reasonable.

128GB would fill up quickly if you used it to edit video or photos or you download a lot of games.

Day Five

Having read that some people use the iPad as a movie/videomaking device, I procured a stand for my tripod and tried taking pictures with the iPad.

The setup was not fun. With the added weight I was worried about whether the iPad would hold up long enough ― using it on a tripod is not for the faint-hearted and only recommended if you spend the extra money to get a metal adapter. Plastic just cannot hold the iPad up adequately.

As for the picture quality, comparing what you get with the iPhone and iPad, the iPad has improved a lot since its early days with pictures that are “adequate” and not grainy.

I wouldn't recommend making the iPad your preferred photography device, however, as the size is a hindrance.

After failed attempts to manoeuvre the iPad for taking shots of some review products, I conceded defeat. Using an iPhone was still a lot easier but I can see the iPad being a decent FaceTime device or for taking fun, casual photos at parties.

Day Six

I kept getting vaguely threatening reminder emails to keep up with my online course schedule so hello again, iPad. It was adequate for the purpose of watching video lectures and making notes.

One good thing about this iPad is that it's compatible with the first-gen Apple Pencil that is cheaper than the newer second-gen compatible with the new iPad Air and iPad Pro.

For casual sketching and artwork that doesn't require too many layers, the iPad works well enough so I can see kids in particular getting their start in digital art on them.

If you have younger children, I'd say this iPad is the better model for them as either an individually owned or family-shared device.

Just make sure to budget extra for the Pencil. As to the keyboard, it's a nice but not essential accessory and Apple's Smart Keyboard covers are not necessary buys ― you can easily hook up any wireless Bluetooth keyboard and even a mouse, as the latest version of iOS supports them.

Day Seven

My final day of checking out the iPad, I pondered who would actually buy it. For what the iPad does best ― surfing the Internet, reading digital files, watching videos ― the iPad performed admirably.

Trying to stream games onto the iPad with the Steam Link app took a bit longer than with the iPad Pro, but was adequate.

Why would I do that instead of play the game on a Mac? Well, Apple's MacBooks these days get too warm too fast and it's nice gaming on the iPad without fans droning in your ear.

Compared to the various “basic” iPads of the last few years, this iPad doesn't feel as sluggish though you will only really feel the bottleneck in performance in more resource-intensive apps.

For everything else? The iPad was zippy and responsive and while my experience wasn't particularly memorable it didn't leave me annoyed or particularly unhappy.

Conclusion (and specs)

If you're just looking for a fun, supplementary device for multimedia use and casual gaming, the iPad offers a great performance-to-value ratio.

However if you plan to rely on it to make digital art, game intensively with graphics-heavy games or occasionally use it as a laptop replacement, this is not the device for you.

Specs-wise, the 32GB entry-level storage feels too small so best you just get the 128GB version for futureproofing. With the A12 Bionic Chip and 3GB RAM this will run pretty much anything though you will only see the iPad's limitations when you try to run up a lot of layers in Photoshop/Procreate or any other graphics app.

For the camera, the 8MP rear camera comes with Full HD recording, autofocus and auto image stabilisation, though the 1.2MP front camera seems a little basic in this age of video conferencing.

As for the 10.2-inch 2160x1620 pixel resolution LED Retina display, it's decent and fairly bright at 500 nits. Colour options? Space Grey, Silver and Gold are your choices and they're frankly not terrible.

The iPad 8th-gen is already available at retail stores and online for the following prices:

32GB: RM 1,449.00 (Wi-Fi) and RM1,999 (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

128GB: RM1,849 (Wi-Fi) and RM2,399 (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

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