Apple iPad 8th-gen two months later: Does it still serve a purpose?

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It would be an understatement to say that tablets in 2020 took on a whole new meaning in our life. They became the centerpiece of our work meetings, a classroom for students and a crucial tool to stay connected with friends and family at a time when we lived through a global lockdown. With a tablet’s increasing potential realised more each day; the launch of the Apple iPad 8th gen was highly awaited, not just by the tech world, but by the everyday consumer that is looking, above all, for value for money to seamlessly transition in and out of the lockdown lifestyle. And that is one promise that the iPad 8th gen aims to live up to.

Apple iPad 8th-gen

Look and feel

If you thought 2020 was going to be the year that Apple threw all their cards up in the air with a new slick design and hardware (like the iPhone 12), you were probably disappointed when the launch in September this year revealed that the latest iPad 8th gen looks exactly the same as the year before (and the same as my iPad Air 2 does).

It comes with its usual 10.2 inch display, a Touch ID home screen button and a headphone jack. It also still uses the lightning cable to charge. It cements Apple’s decision of keeping up the differentiation between this basic version of the device and the Pro and Air lines which come with a heftier price tag and have already discarded older design elements like the Touch ID home screen button and the lightning cable as the overall product range gradually shifts to USB-C.

Apple iPad 8th-gen

Display

The iPad 8th-gen comes with the same 10.2” Retina display with a 2160×1620 resolution and a 264ppi pixel density. The display doesn’t really pop the way you would expect an Apple display to but it serves it’s purpose well.

So what has changed?

A New Processor

The biggest difference between the 8th-gen iPad and last year’s iPad is that this device is faster. It comes with ​an A12 processor instead of last year’s A10. This significantly adds to the overall speed and performance of the device, and with our lives increasingly depending on these free screens (multiple of them), scattered around the house, an extremely useful one.

This upgrade is well timed especially since last year’s update consisted only of minor design changes and vanity changes wouldn’t have made the cut in a year as unprecedented as 2020. Performance had to be taken up a notch and that is exactly what you get with the iPad 8th gen. Running something like LumaFusion (one of the best video editing softwares in the iPad ecosystem right now) was in fact quite smooth. It wasn’t the easiest on the smaller display but it worked well.

Whether for work or play, the iPad 8th generation stands its ground as far as being a workhorse is concerned.

Lumafusion on iPad 8th-gen
LumaFusion works pretty well on the Apple iPad 8th-gen

Trackpad-Support

Another important upgrade, like most iPads that have come out recently is that now your device can be connected to a mouse or trackpad which is a huge help when it comes to editing and navigating especially in a work from home situation where at least I moved around multiple workstations to freshen up throughout the day.

iPadOS 14

My favourite update from iPadOS 14 was Scribble. The ability to you use your Apple pencil to directly enter written text into smaller fields was awesome. It’s great only for shorter text but as a keen user of Apple notes which has a fantastic handwriting recognition system, I wasn’t even bothered to use it for much else.

The rest of the OS update doesn’t seem to have much of a change to the way I used the iPad. I really hoped for widgets to be customizable (as far as positioning is concerned) like the iPhones but I guess we’re waiting for that.

The Flaws?

While the iPad 8th gen might be a faster device and stays true to its entry level promise of efficient tablet function, some much needed upgrades were truly missed in 2020.

Storage

For starters, the base price iPad 8th gen still has a starting capacity of 32GB, which let’s face it, sounds like nothing even when it comes to our phone. With most smartphones now playing around in the 128GB+ range, to think that a device meant to facilitate larger files, editing and function still comes with a capacity that was normal in 2013 is definitely a let down. While there are more versions available at increased price points, anyone that opts to take the leap with the base version will have to deal with managing storage a lot more.

Touch ID on iPad 8th-gen
Good’ol Touch ID on the Apple iPad 8th-gen

Camera

I understand that physical upgrades were not high on the list for the iPad 8th gen this year, but I don’t understand why the front facing camera placement failed to make the cut. We lived 2020 on Zoom with meetings and virtual social gatherings all happening on this one screen, I personally found it extremely difficult to live my virtual life in landscape when the camera’s placement never centers me in the frame. That being said, the camera quality is still better than most tablets in the market. I just wish that this very key detail of life in 2020 had been taken into account when it came to placement.

That being said Apple just doesn’t update front-facing cameras on any of its devices (I’m looking at you MacBooks) so this isn’t really surprising, is it?

Pencil

The iPad 8th gen is still only compatible with the first generation Apple pencil which means you still have to awkwardly plug in the pencil into the lightning port for a charge. Not a downgrade, but will definitely trigger a sense of FOMO when you hang around those that conveniently attach the newer Apple pencil to the sides of their iPad Pros and Airs.

What still works?

Battery Life

The iPad 8th gen lives up to the quintessential promise of battery life which would easily get me through multiple video calls, videos and other tasks for a few hours before I even had to think about a recharge. It was a little funny because as a frequent traveller I always valued this feature so much more and almost took it for granted during a year where, no matter where I stood or sat, a power socket was no more than 10 steps away.

Should you buy it?

The basic iPad 8th gen, delivers on the most important need of 2020: value for money. This year has been about survival. It has been about keeping your head down and getting the work done without aspiring to any major upgrades in life.

Starting at Dh1349, the iPad 8th gen with its new A12 processor decent value for money. No vanity. Just better performance, a reliable device at a price tag that doesn’t break the bank. An excellent purchase if you are looking to buy your very first tablet or to upgrade from an older device. I would highly recommend to spend just a little more money and go one step up for the 128GB to make sure that value for money does not leave you scrapping for storage space. The extra amount is worth it.

If you’re looking for a device for your kids to study on or for you to get quick work done on the move, the iPad 8th-gen is awesome. If you’re looking to get a little more out of the device, I would suggest you shell out a bit more for the new iPad Air. With a brand new design, a much better display and a 2020 processor, it might be the one for the Prosumers out there.