Review: Apple iPad (Fifth-Generation)
Pros: The least expensive full-sized iPad that Apple has ever sold. Great entry-level option with modern capabilities. Best battery life we’ve ever seen on an iPad. Modest performance boost puts it closer to the 9.7” iPad Pro. Adds support for taking Live Photos. Should appeal to users with simple tablet needs that are new to the iPad or those looking to upgrade from the iPad Air or older models. Price makes it well suited for educational and business markets.
Cons: Essentially a hybrid of the 2013 iPad Air and 2014 iPad Air 2, offering little new beyond the upgraded CPU. A return to the size and weight of the original 2013 iPad Air. No camera or audio improvements. No anti-reflective screen coating. Available only in 32GB and 128GB capacities.
Apple’s naming convention for its 9.7” tablets has been far less consistent than with its other iOS-powered devices; the iPhone fell into a fairly standard routine when the second-generation iPhone 3G was released in 2008, and the iPad mini has been even more consistent, simply numbering its four models one after the other. On the other hand, following the 2011 debut of the “iPad 2” — a model that remained on sale for longer than any other iPad to date — Apple decided to dub the very short-lived third-generation version simply “The new iPad,” only to follow it up with another “new iPad” only six months later. By the following year, it looked like Apple had moved away from the simple name “iPad” with the introduction of the iPad Air, followed by the iPad Air 2 and then the iPad Pro.
So it’s understandably a bit confusing to see Apple return back to its original five-year-old naming convention with the release of a new 9.7” entry-level iPad that the company is once again simply dubbing “iPad” for marketing purposes and perhaps even more interesting that Apple is calling it the “iPad (5th generation)” in its support documents, despite the fact that it’s actually the seventh iPad model of its design and form factor. On the other hand, it may not be entirely inappropriate, considering how much of a hybrid this new iPad is. It has the size and weight of the original 2013 iPad Air which came right after the fourth-generation iPad, while the specs put it much closer to a slightly upgraded version of the 2014 iPad Air 2. It’s almost as if Apple wants us to pretend that this is what would have come next had neither of the iPad Air models ever existed.
Perhaps most significantly, the new iPad comes in at a price unheard of for a full-sized iPad. At $329 for the 32GB Wi-Fi version, the new iPad is $70 less than the price at which Apple has previously sold near-discontinued two and three year old iPad models — at twice the capacity as well. It’s clear by this price that Apple is trying to bring back a mainstream iPad model, although it’s anybody’s guess whether this is simply a result of the natural evolution of the product line, or something that’s resulted from flagging sales of more expensive iPad Pro models.