Apple iPad 9.7in (2018) full review

Rumour has it that Apple isn’t going to launch an iPad mini 5 and the mini 4 could be the last ‘small’ tablet that Apple ever sells. Whether or not that’s true, if you’re deciding between a 9.7in and 7.9in iPad today then your choice is really between the iPad mini 4 and the recently announced iPad 9.7.

Oddly enough, Apple has removed the low-capacity mini 4 and only sells a 128GB version with and without LTE. That means it’s more expensive than the entry-level 32GB iPad 9.7, but a bit cheaper than the 128GB model.

It’s crucial when you buy any iPad to get enough storage since you can’t add more via a microSD card as you can with many Android tablets. Apple has improved iOS in recent years to be more efficient with storage by offloading unused files to the cloud, but even so, you’ll need to decide if you can manage with 32GB or whether you should spend extra and get the 128GB model: those are the only two options with the iPad 9.7.

Price

iPad 9.7

In the UK, a 32GB iPad 9.7 costs £319. In the US it’s $329. Buy it here.

If you also want the LTE model (which unlike the Wi-Fi only version has GPS too) then it’s £130/US$130 more.

Prices for the 128GB version are £409 and £539 respectively. For those in the US, that’s $429 and $559.

iPad mini 4

The iPad mini 4 has had a small price cut, so the 128GB Wi-Fi only model costs £399 / US$399.

If you want LTE (and GPS) then those jump to £529 and $529. 

Features and design

Screen

Obviously, the main difference between these two tablets is their size. One has a 7.9in screen, the other 9.7in. However, their resolutions are the same, so the smaller tablet has the sharper-looking images.

Most people won’t notice the difference, mind. What you probably will notice is that the new 6th-gen iPad 9.7 doesn’t have a laminated screen, whereas the iPad mini 4 does.

A laminated screen removes the air gap between the cover glass and the LCD display itself. It helps when trying to read the screen outside and under bright indoor lighting, but it also makes the tip of the Apple Pencil look closer to what you’re drawing or writing on screen.

2018 iPad 9.7 vs iPad mini 4

Now, the iPad mini doesn’t work with the Pencil, but the non-laminated iPad 9.7 does. The lack of lamination won’t cause any lag or inaccuracy, so it isn’t really a problem. Some people dislike the hollow sound when you tap on a non-laminated iPad compared to a laminated one, though, so if you’re used to an iPad Pro or the iPad mini 4 itself, it could be an annoyance.

Importantly, there’s no major difference in picture quality between the two tablets in terms of brightness, colour accuracy and contrast.

Main tech specs

Here’s a handy table so you can see the differences between the two tablets:

 

iPad 9.7 (2018)

iPad mini 4

Screen size, resolution

9.7in, 2048x1536, 264ppi

7.9in, 2048x1536, 326ppi

Laminated screen

No

Yes

Processor

A10

A8

Storage options

32GB, 128GB

128GB

Colour options

Space Grey, Silver, Gold

Space Grey, Silver, Gold

3.5mm headphone jack

Yes

Yes

Stereo speakers

Yes

Yes

Apple Pencil support

Yes

No

Front, rear camera resolution

1.2Mp, 8Mp      

1.2Mp, 8Mp      

Max video recording

1080p, 120fps slo-mo

1080p, 120fps slo-mo

TouchID

Yes

Yes

Weight

469g (478g with LTE)

299g (304g with LTE)

Price (128GB model)

£409/US$429 (£539/US$559 with LTE)

£399/US$399 (£529/US$529 with LTE)

Processor

Another big difference between the mini 4 and 2018 iPad 9.7 is the processor. Apple has stuck with the A8 chip for the whole time the mini 4 has been on sale. But being the new model, the 2018 iPad gets the A10 Fusion which was first used in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

This is roughly twice as fast as the A8 so, for some buyers, this will be the main reason to opt for the bigger iPad and go for the 128GB version which is only an extra £10 over the 128GB iPad mini 4 for those in the UK. In the US it’s $30 more.

3D graphics are more powerful too, so if you like your mobile games or you plan to use 3D apps, it’s worth getting the iPad 9.7.

Apple Pencil support

The big new feature of the iPad 9.7 is support for the Pencil, Apple’s stylus. This was previously reserved for iPad Pro models, but now it’s available on a ‘cheap’ iPad.

At £89/US$99, you need a good reason to buy one. And if you do need one, it’s fairly obvious you need to buy an iPad 9.7 instead of an iPad mini 4.

And even if you don’t need a stylus, the mere fact the support is there in case you need it in the future might be enough of a reason – alongside the faster CPU - to go for the newer tablet.

Cameras

There’s no difference here: both tablets have the same cameras front and rear. They also support the same features: 1080p HD video with stabilisation, plus 120fps slo-mo.

Software

Both iPads are compatible with iOS 11, which is the latest version of Apple’s tablet software. They also support the same multitasking features including Split View which lets you use two apps on screen simultaneously.

Where the iPad 9.7 could hold an advantage is that it may receive iOS updates for longer than the iPad mini 4 thanks to its more powerful processor.

Specs

Apple iPad 9.7in (2018): Specs

  • A10 Fusion chip with 64bit architecture
  • Embedded M10 coprocessor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB or 128GB storage (plus 200GB iCloud storage offer for schools)
  • 9.7in screen (2048 x 1536 at 264ppi)
  • 8Mp rear-facing camera, f/2.4, Live Photos, no flash, no OIS, Panorama mode up to 43Mp, 1080p HD video, slo-mo video at 720p and 120 fps
  • 1.2Mp front-facing camera, Live Photos, Retina Flash, 720p HD video
  • Battery life up to 10 hours (video, music or web browsing via Wi-Fi) or 9 hours (web browsing over cellular)
  • Stereo speakers
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Touch ID
  • Digital compass
  • Accelerometer
  • Barometer
  • 240mm x 169.5mm x 7.5mm
  • 469g/478g