Review: Apple iPad (Fifth-Generation) | iLounge

Review

Review: Apple iPad (Fifth-Generation)

A-
Highly Recommended

Company: Apple

Model: iPad (5th Generation)

Price: $329 – $559

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Jesse Hollington

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.

The most significant change in the fifth-generation iPad over its two-year-old predecessor is the step up to the A9 CPU, from the A8X found in the iPad Air 2. Further, although it retains the same 2GB of RAM as the prior model, it’s been bumped up to using LPDDR4 RAM. Basically, the same CPU and RAM specs of the 2015 iPhone 6s.

Geekbench scores showed a 40 percent increase in single-core performance over the iPad Air 2, and a less significant 10 percent boost in multi-core performance. While the 9.7” iPad Pro still comes in at about 15 percent faster in single-core performance with its A9X CPU, it’s not as significant of a difference. Compared to the original iPad Air, however, the fifth-generation iPad clocks in at about twice the speed.

How much this matters in practical terms is going to depend on what you’re doing with your iPad, of course, but we think most typical users won’t notice any performance difference between the iPad Air 2, 9.7” iPad Pro, and fifth-generation iPad. There’s certainly no discernible difference during normal UI use, but the bump over the iPad Air 2 will be more apparent with larger graphically intense games or video/photo processing apps. On the other hand, users of the original iPad Air will find that the fifth-generation iPad noticeably ups the performance game.

The screen on the new iPad remains largely unchanged other than the omission of the anti-reflective coating that was added on the iPad Air 2. While Apple promises a slightly brighter screen, the differences we could see were negligible — it’s perhaps a bit brighter than the iPad Air 2 and more on par with the iPad Air, but we suspect that’s a combination of the loss of the coating along with Apple’s choice to return to the separate digitizer and LCD construction of the original iPad Air, rather than the fused design of the iPad Air 2. While some users appreciated the anti-reflective coating on the iPad Air 2, there was little doubt that it retained fingerprint smudges far more than the other iPad screens, and unless you’re regularly using your iPad outdoors or in other bright direct light, we don’t think it will be missed.

Not surprisingly, the new iPad also doesn’t support the Apple Pencil — as we’d expected, that remains the exclusive domain of the Pro lineup. Another interesting observation is that the untethered Hey Siri feature that came to the 9.7” iPad Pro is also conspicuously absent here — Hey Siri is still available, but like the 12.9” iPad Pro and iPhone 6 series, you’ll need to have the iPad plugged in to take advantage of it. While it’s a small omission, it was still somewhat surprising considering that it was the same A9/M9 processor combination that brought untethered Hey Siri to the iPhone 6s models, but it’s probably more surprising that that 12.9” iPad Pro doesn’t support the feature either.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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