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Compared: 2021 entry-level iPad 9 versus 2020 iPad 8

Credit: Apple

Apple has released a new 10.2-inch iPad model with a few updates to its camera, display, performance, and storage capacities. Here's what you should know about whether it's enough to upgrade.

The company's entry-level tablet has remained a solid low- to mid-range device for years, packing some modern capabilities in an affordable and familiar device. The ninth-generation iPad released in 2021 is no different.

While there are few changes between the 2021 iPad and the 2020 iPad, they're still noteworthy. Here's how the two models stack up.

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Specifications

 iPad (8th Gen, 2020)iPad (9th Gen, 2021)
Launch price$329$329
Capacities32GB, 128GB64GB, 256GB
Screen size10.2-inch10.2-inch
Screen resolution (pixels)2160x1620 at 264 ppi2160x1620 at 264 ppi
Screen max brightness (nits)500500
True Tone
ProcessorA12 Bionic
A13 Bionic
Apple Pencil SupportYes, First GenerationYes, First Generation
Smart ConnectorYesYes
Dimensions (inches)9.8 x 6.8 x 0.299.8 x 6.8 x 0.29
Weight (lbs)1.081.07
Battery (hours)Up to 10Up to 10
Rear Camera8MP8MP
Front Camera1.2MP12MP
Center Stage
Video1080p at 30 fps (rear)
720p (front)
1080p at 25 or 30 fps (rear)
1080p at 25, 30, or 60 fps (front)
BiometricTouch IDTouch ID

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Design, Size & Weight

The 2021 iPad retains the same physical dimensions as its predecessor.
The 2021 iPad retains the same physical dimensions as its predecessor.

Apple hasn't changed the physical design of its entry-level tablet in some years, and when it has, the changes have been minor. In 2021, however, there are essentially no updates to the device.

The 2021 ninth-generation iPad retains the same basic footprint as its eighth-generation predecessor. It's 9.8 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide, and 0.29 inches thick.

When it comes to weight, there is a minor difference — but it's negligible. The Wi-Fi only 2021 iPad weighs 1.07 pounds, slightly lighter than the 1.08 pounds of the 2020 Wi-Fi model.

On the Wi-Fi + Cellular variants, the 2021 iPad weighs 498 grams (1.09 pounds). The 2020 model weighs 495 grams (1.09 pounds).

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Display

When it comes to display size and technology, Apple has left the 2021 iPad model virtually unchanged — with a couple of differences.

Both iPad models sport a 10.2-inch Retina display based on LED technology. They also have the same 2160 x 1620 resolution at 264 pixels-per-inch. The two models also max out at 500 nits of brightness.

The main difference between the 2021 and 2020 models is the presence of True Tone on the latest generation. The feature adjusts the color temperature of the screen based on the ambient environment for more comfortable viewing.

The 2021 iPad model supports sRGB color gamut, a small feature that the 2020 model lacked.

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Processor & Performance

The ninth-generation iPad from 2021 sports an A13 Bionic processor, which is a step above the eighth-generation iPad's A12 Bionic chip.

Practically speaking, Apple says that the A13 Bionic provides a 20% performance boost over the previous generation.

Compared to rival tablets and computers, the iPad is also quite a bit speedier. It's up to three times faster than the best-selling Chromebook, and up to six times faster than the best-selling Android tablet.

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Cameras

The front-facing camera on the 2021 iPad has received a major upgrade.
The front-facing camera on the 2021 iPad has received a major upgrade.

Besides the processor, the biggest upgrade to the 2021 iPad comes in the form of its camera. And no, it's not the rear-facing camera.

The 2021 iPad has a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front-facing "selfie" camera. That's a significant upgrade over the previous camera, which barely rated over one megapixel.

The intention, of course, is to allow for better video quality when on Zoom or FaceTime calls, live-streaming, or uploading clips to social media. To that end, Apple has also added the Center Stage feature to the 2021 iPad, allowing the camera to automatically pan around a scene to keep a subject in view.

When it comes to actual video quality, that has obviously improved on the front-facing camera. The 2021 iPad now supports 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps. Previously, iPads topped out at 720p HD recording.

On the other hand, the rear camera hasn't changed at all. Apple says it's still an 8-megapixel Wide camera with a f/2.4 aperture and digital zoom up to 5x.

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Tidbits

The battery life hasn't changed between the generations. Apple says both the 2020 and 2021 iPad models can last up to 10 hours while surfing the web on Wi-Fi, or up to nine hours while surfing on cellular data.

Both models also support the first-generation Apple Pencil. Since the design of the 2021 model hasn't changed, it will also be compatible with any and all of the accessories made for the 2020 iPad generation — including Apple's Smart Keyboard.

The 2021 iPad retains the Lightning port and Smart Connector of its predecessor, and Touch ID in the Home button.

Additionally, they feature the same wireless connectivity technology across the board: Wi-Fi 802.11a a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO, and Bluetooth 4.2.

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Colors, Capacity & Pricing

The 2021 iPad is a minor update, but its camera features might be enough to sway those who use the tablet frequently for FaceTime or Zoom calls.
The 2021 iPad is a minor update, but its camera features might be enough to sway those who use the tablet frequently for FaceTime or Zoom calls.

As with some of its other 2021 products, Apple has bumped up the storage capacities on the ninth-generation iPad.

The 2021 iPad comes in 64GB and 256GB storage variants, higher across the board than the previous model's 32GB and 128GB options.

Importantly, the pricing is the same despite the higher storage. The 2021 iPad starts at $329 for the base model and $479 for the 256GB model. If you add cellular compatibility, that jumps to $459 for the 64GB variant and $609 for the 256GB variant.

When it comes to colors, Apple has culled the options a bit. The 2021 iPad is only available in Silver and Space Gray — there's no gold variant to be found.

Lastly, the company has made a small but noticeable change to the color options. The Silver 2021 iPad no longer has white bezels around the screen. Now, both the Space Gray and Silver models have a black bezel.

2021 versus 2020 iPad - Which One to Buy?

Whether or not you buy the 2021 iPad really comes down to how often you use the front-facing camera for FaceTime calls, remote education, or work meetings.

While True Tone, better performance, and increased storage are nice features, none of them really justify upgrading from a 2020 iPad model.

However, the 1.2MP camera on the 2020 iPad is rough, and that's being generous. The 12MP camera on the 2021 iPad is such a significant upgrade that we'd highly recommend it if you use your iPad for front-facing videos.

Given the affordability of the entry-level iPads, it probably wouldn't break the bank to resell, recycle, or pass down your older iPad and get a new model.

On the other hand, if you hardly ever use your iPad's front-facing camera for calls or videos, then we'd recommend sticking with the model that you have.