With the iPad 9, Apple released the newest version of their cheapest tablet recently. Compared to its predecessor, not much has changed at first sight. But on the inside, there is an important change because now it’s faster than premium tablets from Samsung. However, starting at 329 Dollars we don’t just get top performance but also a couple of weaknesses. In this Apple iPad 9 review, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this tablet.
Hardware & Performance: Apple A13
Let’s start this review with the performance because that’s the biggest change with the iPad 9. The Apple A13 processor is running inside now together with 3GB of RAM and 64GB or 256GB internal storage. Yes, there’s no 32GB version anymore. You can get it with 4G LTE as well.
In both Geekbench 5 and the 3D Mark Wild Life Test the iPad 9 is more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7. That’s very impressive because this affordable mid-range tablet is more powerful than the fastest Android tablet on the market today. It’s quite a bit faster than the iPad 8 too, but the iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Pro remain more powerful.
Because of its A13 chipset, the iPad 9 is the best gaming tablet of this price class. No matter if it’s PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty, or other demanding games: All of them run super smooth, look great, and I was able to select the highest graphics settings on all of them.
There are no problems with other apps either. Lightroom, Photoshop, and LumaFusion run great and that’s the case with simpler apps too, of course. Multitasking works fantastic too. During my everyday use, I never noticed a difference but in direct comparison, apps do close faster in the background than on the iPad Pro. That’s because of the smaller RAM and to be expected of course.
Display: Not Laminated
The display of the iPad 9 is 10.2 inches in size and it’s an IPS screen with wide viewing angles and a brightness of 500 nits. That’s fantastic, especially for its price. It’s faster than almost every Android tablet. The colors look great and it’s great to watch movies with. Contrast and saturation are very good too.
With 2160 x 1620 pixels the resolution is high enough so that everything looks sharp.
But let’s stop with the praise and get to one major weakness. The display of the iPad 9 continues to not be laminated. That means there’s a visible air gap between the touchscreen and the IPS layer. You can especially see it when you know about it but also when working with the Apple Pencil.
This air gap is not a huge problem but it’s noticeable and it bothers me. I showed this iPad 9 and its predecessors often to “normal” people, who are not geeky and have nothing to do with tech, and they always said they love the screen. Even in a comparison with the iPad Pro. So… I guess it’s just a problem for us tech nerds.
The two speakers are not ideal either. They are placed on one of the shorter sides and they are stereo speakers, of course. But when watching a movie in landscape orientation, the sound comes from one side only so that you don’t really notice a real stereo separation. Well, that’s because the sound is coming from just one side.
Yes, this is not a major problem either but it’s something I always immediately notice. Besides that, the sound quality is fantastic. Not on the same level as the iPad Pro, but very good for its price class.
Apple Pencil 1
The tablet supports the same first-generation Apple Pencil as its predecessors. It means that it’s the only tablet left that works with the old stylus. All other recent tablets support the Apple Pencil 2.
However, there are no major feature differences. The first Apple Pencil is not charged inductively, instead you just plug it into the Lightning connector of the tablet.
The stylus reacts fast and is very precise. It’s not perfect, however, which is not because of the pen itself but because of the screen. As I said, the display is not laminated. And that’s why it looks like you’re not touching the screen directly with the tip of the pen.
It can also look like the writing is lagging behind the pen a bit because we’re getting a standard 60Hz screen instead of a 120Hz one. But that’s common with mid-range devices.
On the software side, the Pencil is well supported. I’m mentioning it in all my iPad reviews, but this Scribble feature is cool and useful. You can use handwriting in every standard text field. And the Apple Notes apps is great too and there are tons of apps inside the App Store that work well with the pen.
Design & Built Quality
Regarding the design and built quality, nothing has changed compared to the iPad 7 and 8. As usual, we’re getting a full metal body that’s well built and is 7.5mm thin. It weighs 487g.
Sadly, for 2021, the design looks pretty old. That’s because the basic design has almost not changed at all since the very first iPad. We get huge screen bezels, especially on the top and bottom. It continues to feature a physical home button with an integrated fingerprint scanner called Touch ID. That one works very well.
There’s no microSD card slot but we do get a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Sadly, Apple continues to use the old Lightning connector here. I guess that’s great if you’re an iPhone user and want to use the same accessories. But I would prefer the USB C port of all the other iPads because it allows you to connect more accessories.
On the back, there’s an 8-megapixel camera which is not outstanding but takes solid photos and videos. The 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera is a new one. It’s the same webcam Apple uses in the iPad Pro and iPad Mini. It’s very, very wide-angle and has a cool Center Stage feature. It means that when having a video chat it’s zoomed in a bit and follows you around if you move.
Apple Smart Keyboard
The iPad 9 supports the same Apple Smart Keyboard as its two processors and the very first iPad Pro. It’s a traditional keyboard cover that’s connected magnetically and folded up, it protects the screen. The back is not protected though.
Folded out, you can use the keyboard and prop it up at one angle. It’s a very slim and light keyboard and that’s why the keys don’t have a long travel. So, it’s not as comfortable as the Apple Magic Keyboard. But it’s fine for occasional use. I think it’s a good compromise between comfort and portability.
If you want to get lots of work done with the iPad, I suggest you get a standard desktop-class keyboard. Especially if you’re a student or so. These are well supported using Bluetooth and you can get great third-party keyboards from Logitech and others too.
Software: iPadOS 15
The iPad 9 ships with iPadOS 15, so that’s the newest version of Apple’s operating system. Regarding this, Apple is excellent. Even very old iPads get updated for a long time and that means they’re longer up-to-date than all Android tablets. I know someone who still uses the iPad 6 and sure, the battery life is not as long anymore, but it continues to be a solid iPad.
With iPadOS 15, Apple introduced a couple of new features. There’s a new multitasking button at the top now which allows you two open two apps in a split-screen view fast. You can put widgets everywhere on the Home Screen now and for the first time, there’s an App Library. That means you don’t have to put all apps onto the Home Screen anymore.
You can learn more about iPadOS 15 in my iPad Pro review.
In my battery test, the iPad 9 got a runtime of 6 hours, just like the iPad Mini. For this, I’m always looping an HD video at maximum brightness on YouTube.
Apple iPad 9 Review: My Verdict
So, that’s the end of my Apple iPad 9 review. Is it a good tablet? Well, it’s not perfect but for many, it can be a perfect choice. Especially if you want to save some money and want to get as much performance for your money as possible. The value here is excellent. I also think it’s the best gaming tablet in its price class.
In addition to a great performance, it offers good build quality, a great Apple Pencil, and up-to-date software. I also feel like iPads have a longer life than many Android tablets – mostly because of updates.
While the screen is good overall, I wish it would be laminated because this is a downside. Otherwise, it would have been unbeatable. The old design with its thick bezels is not ideal either but I think most could live with that.
Let’s look at some alternatives.
A very interesting alternative is the Xiaomi Pad 5. While its processing power is not as good, it features a modern design, great speakers with real stereo separation, and a fully laminated screen. We even get a 120Hz panel. However, I guess it won’t be updated as long.
If you want to stick with Apple, the iPad Air is the next best alternative. In real life, I don’t think you’ll notice much of a performance difference. However, the iPad Air offers a more modern design, a fully laminated screen, it supports the Apple Pencil 2, and the sound does come from two sides. I also love its USB C port.
- High-end built quality
- Very powerful
- Good screen
- Optional keyboard
- Stylus support
- Up-to-date software
- Fingerprint scanner
- Old design
- Display not laminated
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