I have been a loyal iPad user since 2017 and I swear by it as my second PC. There’s no other device in my collection that offers as much versatility and convenience as the iPad. It has a more-than-enough big screen, a more-than-enough PC-like performance for mobile computing, and more-than-enough battery life for a tablet device. I can do so many things on the iPad that I won’t dare do on either my phone or PC. Paired with my iPhone, it has helped ease my workloads during the work-from-home sessions.

Apple updates the base iPad every year and for 2020 and beyond, there’s the new 8th Gen iPad. It starts at Rs 29,900 and comes in two storage variants as well as three colors. Similar to the 7th Gen model, you can attach a Folio keyboard and use an Apple Pencil. In fact, it looks exactly the same as the old model. The new in the “new iPad” is the A12 Bionic chip that brings up the performance on par with expectations in 2020.

Expectations! This is what the iPad 8th Gen is set to deliver on. A new iPad in 2020 is supposed to offer a PC-like experience without losing out on its key specialties. It is more than just a hand-held big screen for letting the kids from affluent families watch YouTube or play Candy Crush. In my 3 weeks with the iPad 8th Gen, I have grown fond of the iPad’s concept even more, i.e. a sweet second PC-like handheld device.

Design: Classic iPad design makes another comeback

Apple iPad 8th Gen

The iPad has long looked like, erm…, an iPad, and being a loyal iPad user, I never had issues with it. Hence, the 8th Gen iPad not changing the design isn’t bothersome for me – especially for a person coming from the 5th Gen iPad. The bezels are slightly bigger on the 8th Gen model and the weight has gone up to 495 grams. For a handheld device, this is heavy by all means. In comparison, my 9.7-inch iPad (2017) and the 2018 iPad Air are significantly lighter in the hands.

Now, I got the LTE model of the iPad 8th Gen and that means there’s a big plastic chunk at the top to make room for the antennas. The Wi-Fi version will have a cleaner all-metal chassis. The power button and volume keys are in the classic iPad layout, and I was surprised to find a 3.5mm headphone jack still making it to this iPad. TouchID makes a return although it isn’t the faster sensor you find on the iPhone SE and the iPad Air. Yeah, it takes a second extra to unlock the iPad.

The stereo speakers are present and they remain unchanged too in terms of audio quality and volume. You get a Lightning port to charge it up and Apple is bundling the 20W USB-C power adapter in the box.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

The entire front is dominated by a massive slab of glass, in the center of the which sits a 10.2-inch Retina display. This is a big display by all means but it brings along those massive bezels. After experiencing the iPad Pro, this does feel old. In fact, last year’s iPad Air with a similar design had slightly slimmer bezels. While bezels are crucial to handling an iPad, I would have liked to see Apple trimming it down to the 2020 iPad Air levels. In fact, Samsung’s equivalent affordable tablets also offer slimmer bezels to offer bigger screens in compact bodies. Maybe an upgrade for next year’s model, Apple?

Display: Just right

The 10.2-inch Retina display has remained fundamentally unchanged on the base iPad so many years now. Similar to the last year’s model, the 8th Gen iPad uses an unlaminated LCD display. This makes it look like the actual display is sitting a few centimeters under the touch surface. Frankly, it does not look good and in 2020, feels rather obsolete. It somehow keeps pointing at the “affordable” tag, at least for a loyal iPad user like me.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

Keeping the rant about the unlaminated display aside, the Retina display is still a great way to look at the digital world. The display has a neutral tune of colors, i.e. everything appears natural. The color saturation is control and the white balance is just right. Brightness levels are high enough to make for good sunlight legibility while the viewing angles are wide for a family-sitdown of “The Office” rerun. For a work desk assistant, this is a very good display.

However, in comparison to my 9.7-inch iPad, the overall color tones appeared slightly dull. The lack of True Tone also hits your senses at times, especially if you use an iPhone. I understand that Apple is trying to keep the costs low but it is probably time they upgrade the old Retina display on the base iPad.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

The 8th Gen iPad supports Apple Pencil input, which is great for illustrators. Do note that you only get support for the 1st generation Pencil and that means, yes, charging it in the odd fashion of sticking it into the Lightning port. Now, I am no artist but I tried my hands at basic kindergarten-level drawing and the Pencil input was good and fairly precise. While note-taking at times, I did not find it lagging or missing my inputs.

Performance: Capable of new “iPad things” for the next few years

One of the main reasons the 8th Gen iPad exists is because Apple wants you to pull into the Apple ecosystem. What’s the Apple ecosystem in 2020? Well, Apple TV+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and more upcoming Apple services. In fact, the 8th Gen iPad and 2020 iPhone SE are the entry points into this new ecosystem that Apple wants us to embrace. Is it good or bad? That’s up to you to decide.

To ensure that you get at least 3-4 years of good experience of the Apple ecosystem, the geniuses at the Apple Park stuffed in the A12 Bionic chip. The A12 is what power the iPhone XR and even by 2020 standards, is a fairly powerful chipset. Compared to the A10 Fusion, you can see the performance gains with the A12.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

In day-to-day iPad stuff, the 8th Gen iPad handled things just fine. Apple loading times were short and I did not encounter a single app or game, keeping me waiting unusually long. Multitasking is smooth with up to three apps and switching between a few wasn’t a bother for the iPad. For instance, on a busy workday, I was constantly switching between Outlook, Word, Slack, Teams, Zoom, Gmail, and Chrome. The iPad kept chugging along with no signs of trouble.

Of course, the A12 is more than capable of these tasks. I tried Asphalt 9: Legend and Call of Duty: Mobile on the iPad. Guess what? They worked just fine. However, I did notice a few frame drops at times in COD Mobile. I also tried editing a few videos from the Photos app and it handled it like a charm. My 5th Gen iPad does show signs of struggle with basic 4K video edits.

Part of what makes the iPad 8th Gen an iPad is iPadOS 14. In its latest avatar, this is single-handedly the best tablet platform I have seen in years. iPadOS sticks to its core of simplicity and functionality but adds some necessary complications to make work easier. I love the iPadOS gestures to go around the interface and deal with apps. I love the new universal search bar interface that now supports Apple Pencil input. I love how it keeps everything managed. I love the variable keyboard size and how it aids single-hand useability. Unlike Android tablets, I did not have to worry about clearing cache files or moving around icons accidentally.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

While iPadOS is great in the world of tablets, it still falls behind the classic PC operating systems. Yes, you can use a mouse and keyboard for a desktop experience but I could not rely on it to get my work done. I can at most prepare a document and mail it to my boss, or edit a document from the mail. With a little bit of patience, you can edit presentations and even upload content to websites. Safari apes desktop browsers in many ways but the fact remains that so much of the internet is yet to be adapted and optimized for the iPad. iPadOS needs another evolution to let you do real office work on it.

If you are within the Apple ecosystem, the iPad is another great way to make the most out of your Apple subscriptions. I enjoyed watching a few Apple TV+ exclusives on the iPad, given its large canvas. Apple Music works as nicely as it does with my iPhone. If you have a subscription to Arcade, you can play those stunning games on the bigger display without a noticeable drop in performance. Additionally, transferring files via AirDrop from my iPhone to the iPad, and vice-versa, is always of big help during office hours.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

Where the iPad outshone my work computer was video conferencing. The 1.2-megapixel camera is still bad compared to my iPhone SE camera but it’s mightly better than the blurry webcams in most laptops. Video calls on Teams and Zoom was a joy with the iPad. The audio quality from the speakers is decent although I prefer the dual-sided speaker layout for the tablets. The speaker volume is decent and in my bedroom with a ceiling fan, I resorted to my headphones for a better experience.

There’s an 8-megapixel camera at the back and this is just enough for scanning documents or playing AR games. It even takes decent photos too but let’s be honest – you don’t use an iPad to take photos, you have your smartphone for that.

Battery: Can’t kill in a day

Apple iPad 8th Gen

iPads don’t die in a day – that’s a fact. With the iPad 8th Gen, Apple claims up to 10 hours of battery life relying on Wi-Fi alone. I did not keep a track of the exact stamina but in my generic usage patterns, I had to hunt for the charger after 5 days. As I said, I took my office video meetings on the iPad a lot, and even some calls routed from my iPhone. I also spent at least an hour binging YouTube videos and another hour on an average of social media browsing. My brother used it at times for catching up with his Prime Video shows. The 20W fast charger took close to three hours to charge. Hence, I left it on charging before retiring for the day once the battery depleted.

Apple iPad 8th Gen: Should you buy it?

Even with its starting price of Rs 29,900, the Apple iPad 8th Gen is still out of reach for many average Indian households. Maybe, if you hold on for festive sales, you can secure chunky discounts on the iPad, thereby making it splendid value. If you can stretch it to the base model, the iPad is a luxurious way to handle your secondary computing tasks at home. Compared to all similarly priced Android tablets, it is in a league of its own and will spoil you with its capabilities. Take video calls, manage emails, write documents, browse the web, or play games – this iPad can handle it all.

Apple iPad 8th Gen

For those who already have an iPad and want to upgrade, the 8th Gen iPad is still a great option for an entry-level tablet. It does all the tablet stuff well and then adds some PC-like versatility with the newest iPadOS. It is still not a laptop or PC replacement but it is surely an addition to your existing work setup you cannot dispose of, once you use it. If you already have an iPhone or MacBook, this becomes even better value.

If you just want an iPad and money is no bar, I suggest you get the new iPad Air. It is faster, looks nicer, has a better display, and delivers an overall better user experience. In comparison, the iPad 8th Gen is the default Apple tablet that will make everyone happy but won’t entice a particular type of customer. It “works” for everyone just fine.

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