Teardown finds Apple's new iPad largely similar to first-gen iPad Air

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Apple's new 9.7-inch budget iPad is in many respects the original iPad Air with a few key upgrades to keep it relevant in 2017, according to a teardown published on Thursday.

The tablet for instance uses the same screen as the Air, which is thicker and easier to repair since the LCD and digitizer aren't fused together, iFixit observed. The firm was in fact able to swap in the same parts from a genuine Air and make the connectors fit, although it has yet to test them.

The display also uses the same LCD timing controller from the Air, and is said to look the same in action. Apple is marketing the new tablet as being "brighter," but iFixit suggested that if the company is comparing against the iPad Air 2, an unfused display may explain the difference.

The new iPad even has the same 32.9 watt-hour battery as the Air 1, beating out the 27.6 watt-hour unit in the Air 2 and the 27.9 watt-hour supply in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

The key difference with the old tablet is an A9 processor paired with 2 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM, versus the Air's A7 chip and 1 gigabyte of DDR3. Apple has also boosted base storage to 32 gigabytes, and added a Touch ID sensor, notably linking it to a "real" button instead of the solid-state button introduced on the iPhone 7.

There is also no lock switch, and speaker holes have been reduced to a single row. Earlier microphone slots have been scaled down to holes, and Apple is using the same NFC controller and USB charging circuitry found on the iPhone 7.

AppleInsider will be giving first impressions of the new iPad on Thursday afternoon.

The first online orders of the new iPad should be shipping today. Prices start at $329, making it the cheapest iPad option outside of refurbished models.