Apple iPad 10.2in (2020) full review
The new iPad was comprehensively outshone by the new iPad Air at Apple's Time Flies event on 15 September, offering only a dull (albeit significant) spec bump while its costlier sibling got a redesign and raft of new features. But the Air isn't ready to buy yet, so while we wait for the big show, here's the warm-up act.
What Apple is calling the eighth-generation iPad, and what we and most other media sites are calling iPad 10.2in (2020), is in almost every respect the same as the 10.2in iPad Apple launched in 2019. It differs only in having a processor that's two generations newer - thereby promising a handy boost in speed - and being very slightly heavier. Is that enough to justify the cost?
Almost certainly not if you're thinking of upgrading from the 2019 to 2020 models. But it's important to note that the things tech journalists find appealing (such as differences from the last generation) are not always the things that make a useful, value-for-money product for the average consumer - especially if they haven't bought a new iPad in years, if at all.
So I'm going to do my best to review this tablet as a thing in its own right, with only occasional mentions of the similar model released last year. Our review of the iPad 10.2in (2020) tests its speed and battery life, evaluates the design and feature set, and helps you decide if this is the right tablet for you.
Design & build quality
The eighth-gen iPad has the same design as last year's model. But to most people that doesn't matter: instead, we'll simply say that this is a slim, attractive tablet that's lightweight to pick up while offering a display comfortably big enough (10.2in, corner to corner) for gaming and watching films and TV. It's 490g (or 495g, if you go for the cellular model) and just 7.5mm thick.
Apple's engineers love to find contrast between gloss and matt surfaces, like the precise, angled brushed-metal chamfer around the edge of the glossy screen, or the shiny Apple logo in the middle of the matt back. You keep finding these kinds of small, thoughtful touches - details that are pleasing to the eye or finger.
These elements have been around a long time, but it's an elegant, one might say classic, design. The screen-to-body ratio, however, is starting to look a little dated: the inclusion of a Home button on the front, and comparatively thick bezels - about 8mm at left and right, and a positively chunky 20mm at the top and bottom - means you're not getting as much screen 'real estate' for the size of the chassis as you would with an all-screen design like on the last two generations of iPad Pro and the most recent iPad Air.
The back edges of the iPad are curved whereas the front ones are sharp; this has the same 'pick me up' effect, when the device is laid down with screen facing up, that Apple used on the iPad 2 back in 2011. Again, it's a well-worn design language, but I personally find it more welcoming, not to mention easier to pick up, than the uniformly squared-off edges of the newfangled Pro line.
We'll finish with two old-fashioned elements of the design that we think almost everyone will applaud. The eighth-gen iPad has a headphone port, and its rear-facing camera doesn't stick out from the main body at all: it's totally flush.
We've established that the iPad does not have an all-screen design. But the screen still dominates the front of the device, and will monopolise your use of it. Is it any good?
You get a 10.2in display with a resolution of 2160 x 1620 at 264ppi (pixels per inch). That's absolutely standard for Apple, roughly matching the iPad Air 1 from 2013 on the one hand, and the iPad Pro 11in (2020) on the other. But again, the lack of progress doesn't matter if it gets the job done, and it does.
It's a decent-quality screen, certainly good enough for most uses even if hardly envelope-pushing in terms of specs. It's sharp, bright and colourful, and while there are better tablets out there in those departments (the Pros offer 600 nits brightness to this device's 500, for instance, and a superior colour gamut), the iPad doesn't suffer much in comparison.
The size is in my opinion a good compromise point. iPad mini screens can be a touch cramped for movies and working on the go, while the largest Pro falls down on portability; this is the best of both worlds... although it would be better still if Apple could trim back those bezels.
The touchscreen function is slick and seamless. You don't get the higher refresh rate and ProMotion dynamic switching of the iPad Pro line, but in most situations you won't be conscious that you're getting a 'lesser' experience. The combination of the screen tech and iPadOS 14 are enough to preserve the fundamental illusion behind all tablets: that you're literally moving elements around on the screen with your finger.
It's unlaminated. Should you care?
The last thing to say about the screen is that it's unlaminated. What does that mean? There's a tiny gap between the glass and the display tech underneath, and this means that when you press down with a finger or stylus it 'gives' very slightly: it flexes downwards a microscopic amount. On a laminated screen (which you'll find on any iPad Pro, the iPad mini 4 and later, and all Airs except the first one) there's no gap, and consequently no give.
It's a subtle effect, so please don't imagine any kind of visible bending. Rather, the effect manifests itself in a slight sense of cheapness, of 'plastickyness'. It's not reassuring, when most iPad usage involves touching the screen, to have this sense, but it certainly isn't intolerable.
Indeed, we could go further and ask whether the average consumer will notice the effect at all.
I use and review iPads all the time; my most commonly used tablet is a 2018 Pro. I'm used to laminated screens. So when I pick up the iPad 10.2in, it feels weird. But will it feel weird to you? That depends on what you're used to.
My sense is that one laminated screen will ruin unlaminated ones for you, forever, and that you will always remember the way screens should feel. But I may be wrong about that, because I was wrong once before.
A few years back I reviewed the iPad 9.7in (2017) and criticised its use of an unlaminated screen, which I saw as a throwback to the iPad Air 1 from 2013 and called "an economy too far". And then everyone in the universe bought one, and I felt like a fool.
So you'll have to go your own way on this one, but try to get your hands on the new iPad before buying if you can. If you've ever used a laminated iPad, which means most of them and certainly all the expensive ones, then this one will feel strange and a little cheap. If you haven't, then you probably won't know what you're missing.
The iPad has an 8MP camera on the rear and 1.2MP on the front, with just a single lens in each case. Neither of these will challenge a good phone camera for quality, but photography tends not to be a priority for tablets.
Rear-facing camera performance was solid, with good colour reproduction and detail. I was particularly impressed by its ability to handle mixed-lighting conditions, with bright sun at the top of the shot (not overexposed) but more shady undergrowth at the bottom (crisp and colourful).
In the official specs list Apple says this model offers HDR rather than the exposure-blending Smart HDR of the iPad Pro or Next-Generation Smart HDR of current iPhones, but a glance in Settings shows that Smart HDR is enabled by default; regardless of the terminology, the A12 processor seems to be helping out behind the scenes in some capacity.
The front camera is more basic. A selfie in good lighting came out with slightly soft edges and noticeable pixellation when looked at closely.
I suspect that the front camera will primarily be used for FaceTime and other video calls, particularly given the state of the world as I write this. Your face would certainly be rendered more accurately by a higher-specced camera, but I (and the caller at the other end) actually found it fine for FaceTime.
The iPad has no flash on the rear camera, and only Retina Flash (a rudimentary and unflattering flash performed by lighting up the screen) on the front; you don't get Night Mode, either. It's therefore no use at all in very low light. There's also no Portrait Mode.
Specs & performance
Subjectively, the new iPad performed every task we threw at it with aplomb. It's easily fast enough for gaming, image editing and everyday tasks, and in real-world use we never managed to find a ceiling to its processing power.
But that's true of almost all brand-new iPads, and a more relevant question is this: how future-proof is it? Will it be able to run the most demanding apps of 2021, and 2022? To gauge that we need to look deeper.
The headline spec is the A12 Bionic processor, a big update on last year's A10. It won't surprise you to hear that the A12 is two generations newer than the A10; more specifically, Apple claims it's 40% faster for CPU performance and twice the speed for graphics. We'll test those claims in a moment.
Note that the A12, while new for the standard iPad line, is by no means the latest thing in Apple processor world. The 2020 iPad Pros, for instance, have the A12Z, a souped-version of the A12, while the new iPad Air for 2020 gets the A14.
You also get 3GB of RAM - that's the same allocation as last year, and at the low end of what you'd expect from even a budget tablet. Apple tends to achieve better performance than its devices' specs would lead you to expect, however, thanks to clever optimisation with iPadOS.
Sure enough, performance in our speed benchmarks was impressive.
The new iPad scored 2,588 in the multi-core segment of Geekbench 5, up 82% from last year's 1,424. Single-core performance was up a more modest 44%, from 771 to 1,114, suggesting that the biggest gains will be seen in the most demanding tasks.
Note too that the standard iPad still isn't close to rivalling the Pro models in multicore; even the 2018 Pro was able to score 4,521 in the same test.
Our US colleagues set the 2020 iPad against the 2019 iPad Air (which is also based on the A12) and found that as far as CPU performance goes the the two are essentially identical. They recorded scores of 1,109 and 2,634 (single and multi) with the 2020 iPad, and 1,110 and 2,673 with the 2019 Air.
Gains in graphical performance were similarly pleasing. The iPad managed a playable 25fps in even the most taxing of GFXBench's onscreen tests ('Aztec Open High'), a test where many tablets languish in the single digits. Macworld US, meanwhile, found year-on-year improvements of between 60% and 85% in 3DMark's Sling Shot Extreme test.
Full specs list
Here are the tech specs for the new iPad.
Aside from the performance-related specs discussed above, it's worth highlighting the storage options: 32GB remains the baseline, and that really isn't very much. If you take lots of photos, for instance, consider plumping for the costlier 128GB model (or paying for more iCloud storage).
- A12 Bionic chip with 64‑bit architecture, Neural Engine
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB or 128GB storage
- 10.2in LED-backlit Multi-Touch display, 2160 x 1620 at 264ppi, 500 nits brightness, unlaminated
- 8MP rear-facing camera, f/2.4, HDR, 1080p video at 30fps, slo‑mo video at 720p and 120fps
- 1.2MP front-facing camera, f/2.4, HDR, 720p video
- 3.5mm headphone port, Smart Connector, Lightning port
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz), HT80 with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2
- Stereo speakers, dual microphones
- Touch ID fingerprint sensor
- 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
- 490g (Wi-Fi) or 495g (cellular)
The iPad 2020 has the same battery capacity as last year's model, at 32.4Wh, but improvements in other areas - presumably the processor's greater efficiency - enable it to noticeably outperform its predecessor. This is despite Apple making the same claims for both devices: up to 10 hours of surﬁng the web on Wi‑Fi.
We put the Air through a punishing day of Netflix, gaming, speed benchmarks and photography - far more demanding than a typical day's usage - and it died after 7 hours and 45 minutes. Macworld US, under similarly taxing conditions, managed just over 8 hours.
These numbers might sound disappointing, given the published claims. But bear in mind a) that this is an improvement of around a fifth on the 2019 model and b) the average consumer, mixing video, email and web surfing with the occasional break, will get far longer life than this.
Indeed, in the Geekbench 4 battery test, which we'd still rate as a more taxing assignment than everyday tablet life, the iPad managed 10 hours and 34 minutes.
If you're looking for the consummate surround-sound multimedia experience, this is not the tablet for you. It has twin speakers but they are close together on the Home button edge so you don't get a stereo effect. For that you should be looking at quad-speaker iPads, such as the Pro.
Sound is fairly warm and detailed at lower volumes but can get a little tinny as you push close to maximum - which isn't massively powerful in any case.
The iPad 10.2in comes with iPadOS 14 preinstalled (it will also be able to install future iPadOS updates for free for around five or six years). You can read about the new features and interface tweaks in our iPadOS 14 guide; suffice it to say here that we're still finding it a touch buggy in its present iteration but we expect it to settle down once Apple has a chance to roll out a few point updates.
As a brand-new device the eighth-gen iPad gets access to pretty much all of the upgrades in iPadOS 14. It doesn't have a LiDAR scanner, however, so misses out on some augmented-reality features.
iPadOS is in general a very slick, secure and easy-to-use operating system, and you can download a huge number of reasonably well-vetted apps tailored to the iPad screen size(s) from the App Store, one of the biggest software ecosystems on the planet.
The rival Android OS has even more apps available, granted, as well as offering more customisation options. But the apps are less well vetted and the overall experience weaker: indeed there are no Android tablets on the market right now that come close to the quality of an iPad.
Price & Availability
The new iPad is available to buy right now, having hit the shops on 18 September 2020. It starts at £329/$329. Here's the full price list:
- iPad 10.2in (2020, 32GB): £329/$329/AUD$499
- iPad 10.2in (2020, 128GB): £429/$429/AUD$649
- iPad 10.2in (2020, 32GB, cellular): £459/$459/AUD$699
- iPad 10.2in (2020, 128GB, cellular): £559/$559/AUD$849
Prices have remained flat since last year in the US, and UK prices are actually slightly lower than for the 2019 model.
If the above prices leave room in your budget, you can supplement your purchase with an accessory or two. The new iPad is compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil stylus (which adds £89/$99 to the cost), and the Smart Keyboard (£159 for the UK version or $159 for US - make sure you get the right one).
If you've never owned an iPad before, or you own an iPad from a few years back - the iPad Air 2, say, or the fifth-gen iPad from 2017 - then this is a great tablet to pick up for general use. It's light, portable, comfortably quick enough for any app you throw at it right now and affordably priced. And you still get a headphone port, which is a dying luxury these days.
Just bear in mind that this is very much at the bargain-basement end of what Apple's iPads have to offer, and there are inevitably compromises.
Storage, for a start: it's disappointing that Apple continues to offer just 32GB at the entry level, which will prove restrictive for those who want to store lots of music, photos and videos on their device, or intend to run a large library of games and other bulky apps. Cloud-based services such as Apple Music and iCloud Drive may help in some of these areas.
In terms of performance, if you can stretch to the new Air or one of the Pros then you'll have a device that's faster still - which might not matter much right now but will ensure it's able to tackle the most demanding apps years into the future.
The design too, while a classic for a reason - it's attractive and feels good in the hand - is starting to look dated in comparison with the models Apple sells without a Home button. By removing that detail those devices are able to offer more screen space for the chassis size and a generally more modern-looking appearance.
Finally, do try to get your hands on the screen before making a decision. The unlaminated screen may not bother you at all, but if you've tried a laminated version in the past it's likely to feel plasticky and cheap.
Apple iPad 10.2in (2020): Specs
- 10.2in Retina display, 2160 x 1620, 264ppi
- A12 Bionic processor
- 32Gb/128GB storage
- 8MP Wide main camera, f/2.4, HDR, 1080p at 30fps, Slo-mo 720p at 120fps, video stabilisation, tap to focus for video
- 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera, 720p video recording, HDR for photos
- WiFi 5
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Gigabit LTE
- Touch ID
- 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 7.5mm
- 490g (495g for cellular)
- Available in Silver, Gold, and Space Grey