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 iPad has always had an interesting lifecycle compared to Apple’s other mobile devices. The iPhone still gets annual upgrades that you can almost mark your calendar by, and Apple’s iPods were on the same track until they sort of fell off a few years ago. On the other hand, Apple’s iPad product line has been punctuated by continued long-term availability of older models, two new product releases six months apart, and naming conventions that have mixed things up even further. When Apple released the 9.7” iPad Pro last year, most of us didn’t expect to see a new “iPad” — if anything, perhaps there could be an iPad Air 3, but the shift in the “Pro” lineup definitely gave us the feeling that this was the new direction Apple was going in.

Of course, in terms of specs and features, Apple’s iPad Pro models are clearly at the leading edge of the company’s iPad lineup — the products to get for consumers who have the money and want or need those features — but much as it did with the iPhone SE, Apple has clearly conceded that there’s still a need for an entry-level iPad in the marketplace, and that simply continuing to sell a two-year-old model won’t suffice.

Ultimately, this is the lens through which the fifth-generation iPad needs to be viewed. It’s essentially a “modernized” replacement for the iPad Air 2 at an even lower price point — $329 now gets you a current model 32GB A9-based iPad with great battery life, whereas two weeks ago you would have paid $70 more for a two-year-old 16GB model with around half the runtime. In fact, the most expensive model of the new iPad comes in at $559 — still $40 less than the base 32GB Wi-Fi 9.7” iPad Pro. This new ipad is actually the most inexpensive full-sized iPad that Apple has ever sold — even the three-year-old 16GB iPad 2 sold for $399 in the days before it was discontinued.

Of course, if you’re already an iPad Air 2 user, there’s almost nothing here that will encourage you to upgrade unless you’re unhappy with your battery life. However, a number of recent market analyses suggest that most consumers don’t upgrade their tablets nearly as often as they do their phones, so there’s surely an untapped market of users on older iPad models. iPad Air users will find a significant performance boost in this new iPad without sacrificing battery life, as well as gaining the higher-quality cameras and of course if you’re still on an even older iPad model, this becomes an even more worthwhile upgrade.

In other words, Apple’s fifth-generation iPad is a good, solid product at a great price for those who want a full-sized iPad but have no desire to pay twice the price for “Pro” camera and audio features. The performance is more than fast enough, and it provides the longest battery life of any iPad we’ve ever tested. While some would suggest that this iPad is targeted primarily at the education and business markets, we feel there’s also a considerable group of iPad users who have eschewed the iPad Pro simply because of its higher price tag, and truly have no need for the higher-end features that the Pro models offer. While there’s little new here, a great many tablet users are simply looking for a device on which to surf the web, watch videos, read, and play games; for those folks, the new fifth-generation iPad will be more than capable, and it’s also impossible to ignore its considerably lower price tag.

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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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