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Apple has used its educational Field Trip event to launch a new 9.7-inch iPad, the first outside the iPad Pro range to support the Apple Pencil.
Succeeding the 2017 iPad launched just over one year ago, the 2018 edition sports the familiar form factor and size of display, as well as retaining Touch ID instead of switching to the iPhone X's Face ID authentication.
The new model will start from $329 for the 32-gigabyte Wi-Fi model, but schools will be able to get hold of it at the lower cost of $299 each. A second Wi-Fi + Cellular model with the same 32-gigabyte storage capacity will cost $459. The 128-gigabyte variants cost $429 for the Wi-Fi version, $559 with cellular.
A major change to the line is support for the Apple Pencil, making it the first device outside of the iPad Pro range to be compatible with the peripheral. Just as with the iPad Pro line, the Apple Pencil allows for users to draw on the iPad with pressure and tilt sensitivity, making it extremely useful for writing and drawing in a similar way to using pens and pencils.
The ability to use the Apple Pencil makes the new iPad a more viable device for use in education compared to an iPad Pro. The lower price of the iPad compared to the cheapest iPad Pro equivalent makes it a more attractive proposition in cases where the extra processing power offered by the iPad Pro range isn't needed, but the ability to use the Apple Pencil is desired.
The Apple Pencil will still remain as an add-on purchase instead of being included with the iPad, and costs $99.
Apple last refreshed the iPad Pro range during WWDC 2017, introducing the 10.5-inch model with thinner bezels alongside the second-generation 12.9-inch model.
Inside the new iPad, the processor is upgraded from the A9 in the previous model to the A10 Fusion, previously used in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus. The 64-bit chip is said to provide 40-percent better processor performance and 50 percent graphics performance in this year's release.
The cameras are the same as last year's release, consisting of a rear 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video and a FaceTime HD camera. Battery life is said to last for around 10 hours, matching last year's model and the iPad Pro range.
The new iPad is available to order today in a choice of silver, space gray, and gold finishes, and is expected to start being delivered to customers and arriving in stores later this week in more than 25 countries and regions. Apple authorized reseller B&H is also accepting pre-orders for the 2018 iPad line with no tax collected in most states*.
The initial wave includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the US.
It will be released in India, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and some other markets in April, with South Korea and remaining regions due to follow in May.