iPad 2021 Review (9th Gen): Upgrades That Matter

iPad 2021 Review 9th Gen 10.2
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Apple says iPad 10.2 is the most popular iPad in the entire lineup. And this year, the company has introduced some big upgrades to make the 9th gen iPad an even more enticing deal. I know it still doesn’t bring all the bells and whistles that we look out for on a 2021 gear—but you can’t expect that from a “budget” device in the first place. More on this review of the Apple iPad 2021 (9th gen).

Here, the entry-level configuration of this iPad bears the same price tag as its predecessor—USD 329. But it’s important to note that Apple has been generous enough to bump the base storage from 32GB to 64GB this year.

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Likewise, its 256GB variant retails for USD 479. By the way, these prices are for the WiFi-only variant and it’s gonna cost an additional USD 130 if you want the cellular model instead.

iPad 2021 (9th Gen) Specifications:

  • Body: 9.8H x 6.8W x 0.29D-inches, 487gm (WiFi), 498gm (Cellular)
  • Display: 10.2-inches LED-backlit IPS Retina, 500 nits, Fingerprint resistant
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1620 pixels, 264 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Apple A13 Bionic (7nm+)
  • Memory: 3GB RAM, 64/256GB storage
  • Software: iPadOS 15
  • Rear Camera: 8MP, f/2.4 sensor
  • Front Camera: 12MP, f/2.4, 122º FOV, Center Stage
  • Audio: Stereo speakers (down-firing), 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Accessory: Apple Pencil (1st gen), Smart Keyboard
  • Sensors: Touch ID, 3-axis Gyro, Accelerometer, Barometer, Ambient light sensor
  • Battery: 32.4Wh non-removable, 20W power adapter in the box
  • Power Connector: Lightning port
  • Color Options: Silver, Space Gray
  • Price in Nepal: 
64GB, Wi-Fi only 64GB, Wi-Fi + Cellular 256GB, Wi-Fi only 256GB, Wi-Fi + Cellular
Rs. 58,500 Rs. 77,500 Rs. 79,500 Rs. 99,500

iPad 2021 Review (9th Gen): 

Design & Build

  • 9.8H x 6.8W x 0.29D-inches
  • 487gm (WiFi), 498gm (Cellular)
  • Aluminum unibody design

If you were hoping for a design overhaul this time—I’m sorry to say there’s nothing down that road since it retains the same visual aesthetics as the 2018 model.

This means the same-old thick bezels on the sides and curved edges at the back. On the other hand, weighing 487 grams, I didn’t find it that heavy for single-handed use. Nonetheless, these chunky bezels do come in handy to avoid accidental touches on the screen.

Plus, the Touch ID-infused home button on the chin is convenient to unlock the device, approve purchases, and such. Moving on, this iPad comes with a unibody design made of recycled aluminum—and is available in either Silver or Space Gray colors.

On the other hand, the input options include volume rockers on the right, a power button, and thankfully, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. There’s also a POGO connector on the left to attach the keyboard accessory. Similarly, we have two speakers at the bottom and still an embarrassingly archaic lightning port.

Overall, the hands-on feel and build quality of iPad 9th gen are really good. The curved edges further aid in a comfortable grip while its matte finish ensures that you won’t have to struggle with excessive fingerprints or smudges either.

Display

  • 10.2-inches LED-backlit IPS Retina panel
  • 500 nits brightness, TrueTone support
  • Apple Pencil (1st gen) support

On the front, there’s a 10.2-inch Retina IPS LCD screen with QHD resolution and 500 nits of brightness. As those numbers suggest, this display gets plenty bright for indoor, while also staying visible enough outdoors. Even though it’s not an OLED panel, I find it decent enough for casual media consumption.

iPad 10.2 (2021) Display

Yet, keep in mind that this screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio, which means movies or YouTube videos don’t particularly cover up the entire display. And you’ll have to put up with huge black borders above and below the picture, and the iPad doesn’t even let you pinch-to-zoom videos on YouTube.

On the other hand, Netflix does offer pinch-to-zoom which causes inevitable cropping and usually does more harm than good. 

And while the display size and resolution have remained the same as the last year’s iPad 10.2, Apple has brought True Tone support here. Essentially, this enables the screen to automatically switch the color temperature based on the ambient lighting.

Ease of work

Nevertheless, the 9th gen iPad is still sticking with 1st gen Apple Pencil support like its predecessor. Although this stylus is admittedly pretty fun to use, I would’ve liked to move past its ridiculous charging and storage mechanism.

And one more thing. This display isn’t laminated either—which means there’s an air gap between the actual touchscreen and the display. It doesn’t matter much for regular usage but when using the stylus, there’s some noticeable delay and a loud “tuk” noise. But to reiterate, the Apple Pencil is still a fun accessory for the iPad.

iPad 10.2 (2021) Display -1

Moreover, if you want to get the most out of this iPad, I recommend getting a good keyboard and mouse. Here Apple sells its smart keyboard for USD 160, which is quite overpriced considering the price of the entire tablet.

Hence, I got this Bluetooth keyboard and mouse setup from Rapoo for less than 30 bucks. And, with this, I can effortlessly scroll through my regular apps, or take notes, or document things in a more convenient way.

Performance

  • Apple A13 Bionic chip
  • 3GB RAM, 64/256GB storage
  • iPadOS 15 (upgradable)

Moving on, even though Apple has borrowed the same design, there’s some commendable upgrade inside. This iPad runs on the A13 Bionic chip, which is the same silicon in 2019’s iPhone 11 lineup. So, one could easily expect a top-notch performance here.

On the storage front, as I said earlier, Apple has upped the base storage from 32 to 64GB here. However, instead of a direct jump to 256GB, there should have been a 128GB option as well.

Anyway, complementing this powerful chipset is the iPadOS 15. With this setup, I got a consistently reliable performance throughout my usage that consists of web browsing, checking my Twitter feeds, attending online meetings, and so on.

Gaming

Likewise, the two-year-old A13 Bionic has enough GPU power to handle most games you can find on the App Store. I played Genshin Impact at 60fps with little-to-no stutters throughout the gameplay.

Similarly, PUGB Mobile is playable at Ultra HD graphics and Ultra frame rate whereas Call of Duty: Mobile can be played at High graphics and Max frame settings without any issues.

Besides casual gaming, I also tested it for photo and video editing. And trust me, the 9th gen iPad is up for those tasks too. In addition, I’m glad to report that there is no severe heating issue here either.

Software

With that out of the way, allow me to discuss the software side of things now. From its unmatched software support, excellent optimization, to the deep integration with other Apple products, iPadOS is simply streets ahead of Android.

iPadOS 15

And the new iPadOS 15 further widens the gap between these two platforms. It brings a simple multitasking option with three dots on top of each app to let you easily position apps on either side of the screen.

What’s even more intriguing about this is that you can have as many floating apps as you’d like to the right, and then open up the multi-window screen again.

Likewise, I like how a simple swipe from the bottom right corner lets you access the Notes app. Moving on, iPadOS 15 enables FaceTime video calls for Android users too. But despite all this, there are a few things I’d like to nitpick on.

Consider Snapchat for instance. It appears to be a regular small-screen app, while Facebook and Instagram have these broad borders on the sides. Despite this, I’d pick iPadOS over Android any day of the week.

Battery

  • 32.4Wh battery, 20W charger
  • Lightning connector

iPad 10.2 (2021) Charger

Besides performance, the battery is another reliable aspect of this iPad. Even under the heavy workload that I mentioned earlier, it comfortably lasted me through the day.

On a normal lightweight use case, you can expect up to three days of battery life as well. And, what’s commendable is, Apple still includes a 20W adapter in the box. It takes almost 2 hours 50 minutes to completely juice up the battery.

Camera

  • Rear: 8MP, f/2.4 sensor
  • Front: 12MP, f/2.4, 122º FOV, Center Stage

Moving on to the cameras, Apple has gone with a 12MP ultra-wide lens on its forehead with a 122º field of view. This stuff is actually quite interesting, especially when complemented with the Center-Stage feature that locks focus to you—to keep you at the center during video calls even when you’re moving around.

Plus, it is compatible with the majority of video-conferencing apps like FaceTime, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and such. 

Likewise, there’s an 8MP camera at the back that delivers decent results when taking videos or pictures of notes and such.

Audio

  • Stereo speakers (down-firing)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Last but not least, the audio department has me wanting more as well. Although it has a set of stereo speakers at the bottom, this configuration doesn’t really provide a true stereo experience. Despite this, the audio gets fairly loud enough with impressive lows and clear vocals.

iPad 2021 Review (9th Gen): Conclusion

Wrapping up this review, the 2021 iteration of the iPad is a solid entry-level tablet for most productivity and entertainment tasks—with an unmatched price-to-performance ratio. It has a fairly premium feel, superb performance, and a long battery life that won’t give up on you in the middle of the day.

Furthermore, iPadOS works wonder to elevate the big-screen experience. But, the dated lightning port remains a major caveat here, and I hope Apple replaces it with a Type-C connection in its next iteration—as it did on the new iPad mini.

Still and all, I can easily recommend this iPad to any student or professional looking for a reliable tablet that maintains its level even after 2-3 years of usage. 

iPad 2021 Review (9th Gen): Pros and Cons

  • Sturdy build quality
  • Great performance
  • Center-stage compatibility
  • Optimized iPadOS 15
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Reliable battery endurance

Cons:

  • Non-laminated display
  • Chunky bezels all around
  • Average cameras
  • Weak stereo speakers
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
8.5
Display
7.5
Performance
9
Apple Pencil
9
Back Camera
7.5
Front Camera
7.5
Software & UI
9
Battery
8.5
Audio
7.5
Value for Money
10