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- Apple’s 2021 iPad is the tablet to buy if you want a decent, simple, budget-friendly tablet.
- It has fast, reliable performance and a slim screen that’s an excellent value at $330.
- This iPad is perfect for using popular apps and streaming videos, making it ideal for most people.
I could finish this review pretty quickly: Apple’s standard 10.2-inch iPad is the best iPad for the vast majority of people who want to use a tablet. But I’ll give you much more to get out of it.
It’s the cheapest iPad you can buy, and it doesn’t seem like it skimped on anything. For $330, it’s a worthy addition to your phone that gives you a bigger screen to run typical and common apps and even graphics-heavy games, whether you’re on the couch or on the go.
Specifications of the Apple iPad 2021
The standard iPad comes in the classic Apple iPad design with large top and bottom bezels, a Touch ID home button, and a metal casing. It also comes in classic Apple color combinations, including silver/white and space gray/black.
It’s a tried-and-true design, but the large bezels mean the iPad with a 10.2-inch screen is similar in overall size to the iPad Air, which has a larger 11-inch screen.
The standard Retina LCD display is Apple’s most basic display in the iPad lineup, but it comes with a True Tone feature that adjusts the screen’s colors and intensity to the ambient lighting in the room, making the viewing experience more enjoyable. be more natural and comfortable.
Everything on the screen looks crisp and sharp, and colors look bright too. The iPad Air’s Liquid Retina display offers slightly more vibrant colors, but it’s also almost twice as expensive.
Apple’s standard iPad is powered by the company’s mobile processors found in iPhones. The 2021 iPad is powered by the A13 Bionic processor from the iPhone 11 series. It’s an older processor compared to the A15 Bionic in the iPhone 13 series, and it’s not as powerful as the computer-grade M1 processor in the iPad Air, but it’s still perfectly capable of running all the apps and games you throw at it.
Benchmark scores with the Geekbench 5 app show that the iPad Air is more powerful, especially for tasks that use more than one of the eight M1 processor cores. The iPad scored 1,330 for single core and 3,470 for multi-core. For comparison, the 2022 iPad Air scored 1,721 points for single-core performance and 7,333 for multi-core performance, which is in line with our results for the M1-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro and iPad Pro 2021.
That said, there’s little noticeable difference between the standard iPad and the iPad Air when opening and running apps and games. The real performance difference would become apparent with power-hungry tasks like editing high-res video on your iPad compared to the iPad Air.
There’s also the argument that the iPad wouldn’t stay as fast and powerful as the iPad Air as more demanding apps and OS updates are released. While that may be true the verdict is still out as Apple’s M1 processor is still up to date and I haven’t seen how long it can last before it starts to feel sluggish which probably won’t be for another two or three years. .
You can read my review of the iPad Air 2022 here.
FaceTime camera improvements
Poor-quality front-facing FaceTime cameras on previous standard iPads used to be a pain, but the 2021 iPad got a major upgrade from just 1.2 megapixels (MP) to 12 MP, representing a 900% increase in fidelity.
The images produced are much sharper and clearer, and there’s also an ultra-wide camera with Apple’s Center Stage feature that follows your face as you move within the video frame. Between the increased megapixels and ultrawide capabilities, this is a significant improvement over the 2020 iPad.
In this regard, the standard iPad’s front-facing FaceTime camera is similar to the iPad Air’s, except for Apple’s Smart HDR 3 technology that improves lighting for photos, but not for FaceTime calls, just selfies.
The 2021 iPad lasted five hours and 25 minutes on our battery test, where I continuously streamed a YouTube video at the iPad’s maximum brightness at 1440p resolution, which is as close to the iPad’s 1620p resolution as possible.
That’s similar to the iPad Air’s result of four hours and 53 minutes in the same test.
The iPad continues to use Apple’s Lightning port instead of a
Port. That’s fine if you also have an iPhone, since you can charge the iPad with the same charger and cable your iPhone uses.
Still, it would be nice to have more cohesion within the Apple ecosystem. All other Apple iPads use USB-C, as do the company’s laptops.
What accessories can you use with the standard iPad?
The standard iPad is compatible with Apple’s first-generation Pencil, which is perfectly fine for taking notes and drawing, though the second-generation Pencil is more responsive and more pencil-like in design.
The iPad also supports mouse input for more precise and faster control, but Apple doesn’t make a keyboard cover with an integrated trackpad for the standard iPad. You can find third-party keyboard skins that offer that functionality, like the Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard with Trackpad.
What are your alternatives?
The first alternative that comes to mind is the $600 iPad Air. However, at nearly double the price of the standard iPad, I’d find it hard to look you in the eye and tell you that you should buy the iPad Air instead. Unless you need the computing performance of the iPad Air, you won’t regret buying the standard iPad for $330.
Otherwise, I highly recommend the latest iPad Mini. If the standard iPad is the “best” iPad, the iPad Mini is the “perfect” iPad, at least subjectively. Its small size means iPad Mini is lighter and more portable, while offering a larger screen than your phone. The only reason the iPad Mini isn’t the “best” iPad is because of its hefty $500 price tag. Still, the iPad Mini is powered by the A15 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 13 series, making it more powerful and durable than the standard iPad.
If you’re a Samsung phone user, it may make more sense to buy a Samsung tablet now that you can take calls and send texts on the company’s tablets. The Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is a beautiful, feature-rich tablet, but it costs $900. The $700 Galaxy Tab S8 is a viable alternative, but it’s also much more expensive than the standard iPad. You can read my review of the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus here.
There’s also Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A series of tablets that are more affordable and offer texting and calling, but I haven’t reviewed them yet so I can’t comment on them precisely.
The bottom line
For $330, you get a really great tablet that comes with a decent screen and effective performance.
If you plan to browse the web, stream videos, run common popular apps, and even play graphics-intensive games, there’s little reason to spend more on the iPad Air, let alone the iPad Pro series. In this case, the entry-level iPad holds its position as the best Apple tablet for most people.