5 Reasons to Buy a $250 iPad (and 4 Reasons to Skip It)
Just recently I noticed that Apple’s latest generation iPad was on sale down to just $250. As of this writing, it still is. The latest generation iPad that I had previously was an iPad Air 2, so it’s been a while. I decided to go ahead and snap one up, and since then I’ve been evaluating my purchase through a reviewer’s eyes.
Full disclosure, I did not buy the $250 model, but rather the 128 GB version at $329. I also added on the Smart Keyboard cover and Apple Care because I’m a freaking klutz on my best days. It’s a nice machine for sure, but it’s not exactly the slam dunk I originally thought it was. I regret nothing, but I wanted to share my thoughts. So here are five reasons to grab a 7th generation iPad, and four reasons you might want to pass.
The Best Value for the Money
First and foremost, the iPad is really the only tablet worth considering. When I say that, I mean any kind of tablet – Android, Windows, iOS, or Kindle. There are a number of tablets available at the $250 price point but none of them can hold a candle to the power of an iPad. Amazon Kindle Fires are great examples of very nice value tablets, but even those struggle at some of the heavy lifting an iPad can accomplish. That leads me to Chromebooks.
I don’t have much experience with Chromebooks, but my limited experience has shown that Chromebooks are very good machines at performing tasks that can be performed in a browser. Meanwhile, iPads are very good at performing tasks for which native apps exist. Certainly each fills a niche, and I can’t definitively say that iPads are better than Chromebooks, but I can confidently say that if you are in the market for a tablet, you are in the market for an iPad. Full stop.
But What’s With Those Bezels?
While we have seen a number of design iterations on the iPhone, the latest iPad looks very, very much like the original iPad, giant bezels and all. I was legitimately surprised when I opened the box of my new iPad and saw an OG iPad starting back at me. Of course that’s head on. The device itself is demonstrably thinner and lighter than any other (non-Pro) iPad, but just from the front, it’s basically impossible to tell in what year this was built.
In 2020 it’s hard to recommend a device with almost an inch of wasted space on the top and bottom of the device. 2010 called, and it wants its design language back. Some will argue that a bezel on a larger device like a tablet gives you somewhere to comfortably hold it when reading, or otherwise consuming content. Maybe. But in the meantime, they’re just unwieldy.
Need a Second Screen?
Sidecar is one of the more neat features built into iPadOS. Using Sidecar, you can turn this tablet into a functional second screen for your MacBook. Of course, it has to be a newer MacBook (2016 of newer), and it’s only good for MacBooks. If you happen to have one, toting along a second screen that can also become a fully functional not-quite-a-laptop in its own right is particularly amazing.
Sidecar works wirelessly, or you can connect it with a cable to keep your iPad charged. Also, you can use your touch bar on the iPad and fully configurable.
And Speaking of the Cable…
It’s 2020 and the iPad is still using the lightning cable. Despite the fact that the iPad Pro switched to USB Type-C and despite the fact that EU regulations will very soon force Apple to adopt USB Type-C on the iPhone, the iPad 2019 is still using the lightning connector. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the lightning connector, except the rest of the world has moved on to a new connector that offers every benefit as the lightning connector. Plus, fortunately for Apple, OEMs are still making USB C cables proprietary to their own devices so Apple could even do the Apple thing which is to nerf its USB cables for non-Apple devices. We’ll get there, but in the meantime…damnit.
Apple Pencil Is Plugged In
Of course, if the iPad didn’t use the lightning connector, how would you charge the Apple Pencil that works with the iPad. That’s right, once an iPad Pro-only device, the Apple Pencil now works with the lowly iPad. The Apple Pencil is a pretty great writing experience with smooth writing and multiple levels of pressure detection. Of course, you still need to charge it by sticking it out the end of the iPad turning your tablet into something a protester would carry. But if you’re the stylus loving type, the Apple Pencil is right up there with the best of them.
It Doesn’t Stop at $250
If you want an Apple Pencil, and a Smart Keyboard cover, you’re not just spending $250. The Apple Pencil will run you another $90 and the Smart Keyboard will be another $150. Just like that, you’re into pretty good Chromebook territory. The accessories for the iPad are pretty pricey, especially given the fact that there are any number of less expensive keyboard covers for the iPad which could do a better job in many ways. We don’t have an official review out on those keyboard covers, but some of them offer RGB backlighting for less than ⅕ of the cost of the Smart Cover. That’s a good thing of course. But there aren’t a lot of alternatives out there to replace Apple Pencil functionality.
iPadOS: Designed for Tablets
Last year, Apple finally redesigned iOS to fit on an iPad. iPadOS is a very nice upgrade to the iPad, making multitasking simpler and more functional than just vanilla iOS. Slide over becomes a hovering window rather than the split screen it once was. Plus, you can still do the side-by-side windows thing for writing and researching. While the interface lacks some intuitiveness you might find on Android tablets, there are some good ideas here. Hopefully Apple can add to them and make the best tablet on the market even better.
It’s Still Apple’s World. We’re Just Living in It.
But while iPadOS is nice, it’s still a walled garden controlled by Apple for better or for worse. While Apple’s control of the hardware and software do have distinct advantages, there are disadvantages as well. You can’t sideload anything. Your choices are limited to iPad or iPad Pro and iPad Mini. One huge advantage Android and Windows has over Apple is the ability for OEMs to really sell a product on its design or features beyond the bitten apple sticker on the back.
When there’s a wide variety of 2-in-1’s, Chromebooks, and Android tablets out there to choose from, selecting the same tablet as everyone else seems a little weak. But, there’s also a reason why Apple owns this market. Maybe someday a competitor will give Apple a run for its money. But that day is not today.
All Day Battery
One of the benefits of owning the product from start to finish is battery optimization and Apple has done a great job here too. The battery on the iPad has a published run time of 10 hours which is a bit conservative compared to what I’ve seen on mine. I could easily see this tablet lasting upwards of 12 hours or more in some instances. Some laptops out there will boast similar battery life times, so this isn’t the home run it would have been even a year ago, but it’s still pretty great if you’re going to be out and about all day.
Wrapping It Up
With the iPad available now for just $250, it’s a pretty great deal, and despite the downsides I laid out, I still bought one complete with Smart Keyboard cover. I passed on the Apple Pencil for now, but I may pick one up in the future. For now it’s a great little writing box I can toss into an inside pocket on my coat and do pretty much 100% of my job. Speaking of writing, this entire article was written and published to the site using the iPad. In fact, this entire article was written and published to the site using an iPad.
When I go out of town, it will be my only companion. I don’t need to tote around a laptop any more for simple writing or surfing, and that’s a big deal. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t achieved #WhatsAComputer just yet; the iPad is not a laptop. Neither is the iPad Pro, so really Tim, just stop. But, a $250 iPad is a great deal…if you are in the market for a tablet.