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Sep 30, 2020
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A better processor keeps the latest basic iPad as our go-to tablet pick.

The eighth-gen iPad feels familiar. It should be familiar: iPads don't change much. But the world certainly has. My whole family is trapped at home, working and going to school; remote connections are our whole lives. And iPads and Chromebooks are everywhere in our house.

My kids connect to their classes through devices: one on a Chromebook, the younger one on an iPad. iPads aren't ideal for school. They're convenient in a pinch, but not all apps work well, and not all input tools do, either.

The basic iPad has been the "good enough" iPad for forever, while the Pro and Air have offered fancier features and better performance. This year, the iPad Air is getting a major revamp with a new processor, big display and USB-C, making it look much like an iPad Pro for less. But that new iPad Air starts at $599 (£579, AU$899). The new eighth-gen iPad I've been using, in the meantime, starts at $329 (£329, AU$499). Most stores will probably drop that to $300, and holiday sales could even bring it down further, if past years are any indication.

So what about this new 2020 entry-level iPad? It's an iPad, just like the one before. But it's a bit faster now. Whether you get one is basically the same question as before.

There's not a lot to say about this new 10.2-inch iPad. It's the same device as last year with one key improvement: Now it has an A12 processor instead of last year's A10. That's a big difference, and makes this a great time to consider the upgrade if you have an iPad that's several years old. Last year's basic iPad increased screen size and added a smart connector on the side, but it didn't change the processor. Upgrading is a major overhaul.

But you should also know that this basic iPad is a lot like last year's 2019 iPad Air and iPad Mini. So much so that, really, they're variants on the same device. (That 2019 Air is gone from Apple's website, but the Mini remains.) Think of it as last year's Air for less, and it's a good deal. But it's also an older iPad design. It still has a Touch ID home button and a headphone jack. And it still uses Lightning to charge and connect accessories, even though the upcoming iPad Air and current Pros use USB-C.
Here are the key similarities and differences between this new iPad and last year's Air and Mini:

The new eighth-gen iPad has the same processor and RAM as those iPads.
It also comes with less base storage (32GB).
The front-facing camera is worse on the eighth-gen iPad: 1.2MP and 720p, versus 7MP and 1080p on last year's Air and Mini.
The eighth-gen iPad works with the first-gen Pencil, just like those older iPads. That means you'll have to stick it in your iPad's Lightning port to charge -- and lose track of the little pop-off Pencil cap on the end in the process.
It works with the same Apple Smart Keyboard as the 2019 iPad Air, but that's not true of every Air case. Logitech's Combo Touch, for instance, has the same keyboard base but has two models to fit the Air and iPad's different thicknesses.
The included charger is better and faster: It's 20 watts, and the is now Lightning-to-USB-C, allowing it to work better with recent MacBooks.
The 10.2-inch display is a bit smaller and a hair less vivid than the 2019 Air. But it's still more than good enough.
Now that the iPad supports trackpads and mice, it's also more versatile for web apps and tools.
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