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Apple is aiming at the educational market with the new 2018 sixth generation iPad, but the addition of Apple Pencil support has generated a lot of commercial interest in the device. It is obviously superior to the popular iPad 2, but will it replace your iPad Pro?
Apple announced the new 2018 iPad, officially called the sixth generation iPad, at its "Field Trip" event. Nearly immediately, the complaints about no Face ID and similar high-end features erupted in social media, with some of it spilling into our forums.
If you thought that an education-focused event was going to have a high-end and expensive iPad debut, we're not sure what to tell you. That just doesn't make any sense, and would have been profoundly tone-deaf.
Anyway, right off the top, Apple has delivered an iteration on the iPad that has the same build quality, solidity, and ease of use as the previous generations. It is not revelatory, but it wasn't ever realistically expected to be.
AppleInsider telling you about an iPad and what it can do for you is a waste of time, because the odds are pretty good you're reading this review on one. Instead, lets delve into what sets the new iPad apart from older gear.
Every other generation of iPad plus the iPad Air has a non-laminated screen, so upgraders will have the same screen that they've always had, assuming that they aren't coming from the non-Retina original iPad or iPad 2.
Apple decided in 2017 to use the non-laminated screen going forward with the lower-end of the product line, and keep the slimming laminated display on the Pro models. Given the educational focus, there is clearly an advantage to that — if the glass breaks on the new iPad, it no longer necessitates a multi-hundred-dollar whole-screen replacement.
There were some complaints in 2017 that the laminated screen in the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro can make some users feel closer to the interface. But, the non-laminated screen induces no lag or delay in icon movement — nor has it ever.
Also as with the 2017 iPad, the display is not not a Wide Color with True Tone display, like in the iPad Pro, nor should anyone have ever expected it to be. However, color fidelity is the same as the iPad has always had, prior to Apple's enhancements for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
Apple Pencil support
The 2018 sixth generation iPad is the first non-Pro model to support the Apple Pencil. That may be enough to kick-start an upgrade for some users, but it's not at all clear how many new users will buy into it.
Unmistakably, Apple Pencil support is a good addition. The artist crowd loves it on the iPad Pro, but Apple hasn't shared what percentage of users are sketching away on it.
Responsiveness from the Apple Pencil is about the same as it is on the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro — meaning pretty great. Our artists that we tapped to test it out still liked it just a hair better on the 2017 iPad Pro lineup, and far more than any Android equivalent that they had tried to that point.
The 2018 iPad is 240mm tall, 169.5mm wide, has a thickness of 7.5mm, and weighs 469 grams with Wi-Fi and 478 grams with LTE. The original iPad Air with A7 processor from October 2013 is dimensionally identical to the new iPad, including weight.
The iPad Air 2 with A8X processor was originally released in October 2014 and is also 240 mm tall, and 169.5mm wide but is thinner, at just 6.1mm thick. The iPad Air 2 weighs 437 grams with wi-fi and 444 grams with LTE.
For comparison, the original iPad is 242.8mm tall, 189.7mm wide, 13.4mm thick, and weighs 680 grams.
In no way is the new iPad a burden to hold or use. While the difference in thickness between the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the new iPad is barely noticeable, the difference in weight isn't really detectable between the two.
As with the 2017 model, the enclosure has an identical size and shape to the iPad Air. Also with the previous model, you'd think that cases from the iPad Air would be fine.
There's no physical lock/mute switch on the new iPad, and the speaker holes extend a bit further on the new iPad than most cases have holes for — but otherwise, even form-fitting protective cases like the Newer KX pictured here that were designed for the iPad Air work just fine to protect the iPad, even if the volume switches don't line up.
The 2018 iPad is in a better situation than when the 2017 launched. The case manufacturers have literally no work besides updating listings to add compatibility between the two models.
In short, unless you're replacing an iPad Air, plan on getting a new case.
Charitably, iPad speakers are adequate. Physics applies here, and the iPad simply lacks room for large speaker chambers. The 2018 iPad has two speakers, like last year's model — with the iPad Pro having four.
To test the speakers, we did a blind test with 10 participants of varying ages. Without telling the participants which hardware they were listening to, we played back an assortment of tracks on an iPad mini 2, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and the 2018 iPad including audio books purchased from iTunes, assorted selections from Apple Music, plus ALAC-encoded electronica, classic rock, rap, orchestra, and live rock performances ripped from CD using iTunes default settings. Listening ranges varied between three feet and eight feet behind the tester.
As with our 2017 iPad review, out of our 10 testers, at three feet, two identified the four speaker iPad Pro as having better quality, with the remainder calling the difference too close to tell between the four-speaker iPad Pro, the iPad Air 2, and the 2018 iPad. At eight feet, none of our testers could tell the difference.
We're only making a slight nod in this direction. The cameras are identical to those on the fifth generation iPad, and are functional. They aren't nearly as good as the cameras on the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, or iPhone X — but they aren't intended to be.
Picture quality between the 2018 iPad, the 2017 iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the iPad Air 2 are essentially indistinguishable.
This all said, don't be that person taking pictures at a concert or other public venue on an iPad.
As expected and predicted, the new iPad is quick. The benchmarks using Geekbench 4 that we, and other users, have obtained are a bit faster than expected.
The new iPad hits 3254 in the Geekbench single-core performance metric, climbing to 5857 in multi-core. For comparison, the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 from 2014 has a Geekbench single-core score of 1782 and a multi-core rating of 3992, with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro having a single core score of 2944 and a multi-core 4786.
Looking at benchmarks for the Mac, the late 2015 i5-6600 iMac 27-inch Retina Display has a single-core score of 4840 with a multi-core score of 13,082. The mid-2017 MacBook with Core i5-7Y54 processor at 1.2 GHz base frequency with a "turbo" frequency of 3.2GHz has a single-core score of 3612, with a multicore benchmark of 6977..
The new iPad isn't just fast by the numbers, it's quick in every day use. We've done a wide array of comparison pieces already with the benchmarks, and the long and the short of it is, unless you have an iPad Pro from 2017, the new one is faster, and not necessarily by a lot.
It's still not quite clear what software on the iPad can fully utilize multiple processors, and processors before the A11 Bionic don't handle symmetric multiprocessing all that well — this iPad included. But, in all of our real-world use, confirming the benchmarks, the new dual-core iPad handily beat the triple-core A8X in the iPad Air 2, as well as the now two-year-old 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
As far as internet use goes, if you're not loading the data as fast as the processor can take it, there's no point in a faster processor. The new iPad has faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi according to Apple, but it's not quite clear what they mean, or what they're comparing it to, as pages loaded at basically the same speed on the fifth generation also with 802.11ac as they do on the sixth.
Once more, with feeling
Stop us if you've heard any of this before. This year's iPad review isn't hugely different than last year's. But, like the technology itself, things change more when looked at in a two or three year window, rather than only one year.
The new iPad follows in the footsteps of the the 2017 iPad. Both are the closest thing we've seen from Apple that approaches the lower end of the tablet market.
But, it isn't going to revolutionize education. It isn't cheap enough to really draw in administrators already dealing with tight education budgets, but more importantly, it isn't making educational content any cheaper. Although this is a complex conversation and one we will have another day, the addition of an Apple Pencil to the device won't be enough to break the hold that cheap Chromebooks have on education, despite the iPad having a technological advantage.
What we do have, though, is a tablet specifically aimed at people with older iPads, in an effort to convince them to get a new device. The 2018 sixth generation iPad splits the arrow in the bullseye of the target that the 2017 iPad hit last year at about this time of year.
If you have the iPad Air 2 or older, or the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and are looking to upgrade, the 2018 sixth generation iPad is unquestionably a good buy. Realize, though, that if you have Air 2 or 9.7-inch iPad Pro, you'll lose the laminated display, but the better performance may be worth it.
But, those looking for Apple's mightiest iPad regardless of cost just need to sit this one out. It's a lot closer this year, though.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
Where to buy
Apple's brand-new 2018 iPad can be purchased from Apple authorized resellers with tax incentives for many shoppers. Both Adorama and B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ (B&H may report sales in CO and VT*, however), potentially saving customers up to $45 compared to buying direct. Shipping is also free to the contiguous U.S. For a full list of deals and product availability, please visit our 2018 iPad Price Guide.
2018 iPad (Wi-Fi Only) deals
- 32GB Silver Wi-Fi Only for $329.00 @Adorama * ($26 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Silver Wi-Fi Only for $329.00 @B&H * ($26 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Space Gray Wi-Fi Only for $329.00 @Adorama * ($26 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Space Gray Wi-Fi Only for $329.00 @B&H * ($26 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Gold Wi-Fi Only for $329.00 @Adorama * ($26 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Gold Wi-Fi Only for $329.00 @B&H * ($26 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Silver Wi-Fi Only for $429.00 @Adorama * ($34 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Silver Wi-Fi Only for $429.00 @B&H * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Space Gray Wi-Fi Only for $429.00 @Adorama * ($34 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Space Gray Wi-Fi Only for $429.00 @B&H * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Gold Wi-Fi Only for $429.00 @Adorama * ($34 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Gold Wi-Fi Only for $429.00 @B&H * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
2018 iPad (Wi-Fi + Cellular) deals
- 32GB Silver Wi-Fi + Cellular for $459.00 @Adorama * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Silver Wi-Fi + Cellular for $459.00 @B&H * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Space Gray Wi-Fi + Cellular for $459.00 @Adorama * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Space Gray Wi-Fi + Cellular for $459.00 @B&H * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Gold Wi-Fi + Cellular for $459.00 @Adorama * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 32GB Gold Wi-Fi + Cellular for $459.00 @B&H * ($37 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Silver Wi-Fi + Cellular for $559.00 @Adorama * ($45 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Silver Wi-Fi + Cellular for $559.00 @B&H * ($45 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Space Gray Wi-Fi + Cellular for $559.00 @Adorama * ($45 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Space Gray Wi-Fi + Cellular for $559.00 @B&H * ($45 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Gold Wi-Fi + Cellular for $559.00 @Adorama * ($45 off in tax outside NY and NJ)
- 128GB Gold Wi-Fi + Cellular for $559.00 @B&H * ($45 off in tax outside NY and NJ) *B&H and Adorama will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY & NJ. CO and VT residents, see here.
Apple Pencil deals