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Comparison: Apple iPad 10.2 vs. iPad 9.7 vs. iPad Air 2019

Apple’s extended iPad lineup may leave many overwhelmed with all the choices they now have. This comparison should clear the air and guide you while you come to a decision.

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iPad Air 2019 keyboard cover

The long-rumored iPad 10.2 was recently unveiled alongside the flashy-new iPhones but there isn’t a whole lot to talk about it. That’s because Apple chose to announce the 2019 iteration of the revered iPad 2018 by making exactly two changes. It still manages to raise the questions whether buying the 6th-gen iPad for $249 is wiser over the newer 7th-gen model at $329. Or, would you be considered whip-smart for picking up the 2019 iPad Air during the oncoming festive season when the prices are usually at their lowest?

Apple iPad 7 10.2-inch on* Amazon

This MyNextTablet comparison puts the latest iPad 10.2, iPad 9.7 (2018), and the iPad Air 2019 side-by-side to bring out their finer differentiating points and likenesses. Using these details, you should be able to make a sound decision and go for the one that meets your needs and fits in your budget. Having said that, it’s time to get started with our iPad 10.2 vs. iPad 9.7 vs. iPad Air 2019 comparison.

Read: The Best iPads In 2019: Which Apple Tablet Should You Get?

Design & Build Quality

On a single glance, it is hard to make out the exact model of these iPads, but things do get clearer on a closer look. The iPad 10.2 and the iPad Air have nearly the same footprint, barring their thickness, which is a deliberate step to ensure they share the same keyboard accessory. On the other hand, the 9.7-inch iPad from 2018 is a tad smaller and lacks the Smart Connector that is required for the keyboard attachment.

All the iPad models are aluminum-clad for giving that cold metal feel and avoiding any flex. Of the three, the iPad Air has the thinnest bezel while the 6th and 7th-gen iPads have similar side bezels. None of them have been blessed with the new iPad Pro-esque design with flat edges and Face ID. Instead, all the non-Pro iPad models use the good-old Touch ID for biometric authentications. All these tablets also didn’t graduate to USB Type-C ports while still lingering with Lightning ports.

Apple iPad 7 with Apple Pencil


Even though the actual display size differs on these three iPads, they bear a matching pixel density of 264 PPI. This number is the minimum requirement for an iPad display to be slapped with the Retina branding. The iPad Air 2019 has the biggest display of the three at 10.5 inches, while the newest iPad sits in the middle with a 10.2-inch panel. Finally, the 2018 iPad has a 9.7-inch display. These display sizes and resolutions have little to do with the actual screen quality.

Being a more premium offering, the iPad Air gets the best display among the three with its far superior features. Its 10.5-inch display is fully laminated with a negligible gap between the screen and the top glass. Plus, it also has an anti-reflective coating in place along with the support for P3 color gamut and True Tone. The other two cheaper tablets naturally lack all these features. Our Apple iPad 2018 review talks more about how the absence of these features affects the user experience.

Hardware & Performance

What’s inside these Apple slates makes for their key differentiating factor. The higher-end iPad Air model comes running the A12 Bionic chipset that also powered last year’s iPhones. It is paired with 3GB of RAM along with an internal storage of 64GB and 256GB. The other two basic iPads share a similar specs sheet with the iPhone 7-era A10 Fusion chipset running on the inside. They get a slimmer 2GB of RAM and storage options of 32GB and 128GB.

In our review of the iPad Air 3, nearly no difference between its day-to-day performance and that of the much pricier iPad Pro 11 running the A12X Bionic processor was noted. The tablet maintained its excellent performance across varied demanding tests. Despite deploying a rather old chip, the iPad 9.7 performed better than most of its Android rivals. We could even edit a 4K video on the tablet and our gaming experience was near flawless. Using the exact same hardware, the iPad 10.2 shouldn’t function any different.

Read: iPad Air 2019 vs. iPad Pro 11” Comparison: Should You Spend More?

iPad 2018 Review


Let’s first get the numbers out of our way. So, the 2018 iPad shipped with iOS 11 preinstalled while the iPad Air from 2019 came running iOS 12. The newest tablet of them all will ship with iPadOS which is a version of iOS 13 enhanced to suit the needs of tablet users. If Apple’s software support for its devices so far is anything to go by, the other two devices will get updated to iPadOS before this month ends.

The upcoming iPadOS takes advantage of all the extra screen estate of an iPad to allow some serious multitasking. Plus, it can now even read your external drives attached to the Lightning port using its full-fledged file manager. Safari has also been updated to open desktop pages by default. Once it’s rolled out to all supported iPad models, the user experience will pretty much be the same across the lineup, be it an iPad Pro or an entry-level iPad.

Speakers & Cameras

All these iPad models feature a pair of speakers but none of them can produce a stereo effect. The two speaker grills are placed only on one side of the tablet flanking the Lightning port, so all you get is a mono output. The audio performance of the iPad Air is audibly superior and richer than the iPad 9.7. However, the 6th-gen iPad isn’t bad either and worked well in our testing. All of them, thankfully, still have the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Just like almost every other thing, Apple didn’t update the speaker system on the 7th-gen iPad either to keep it the way last year’s model did. Coming to the camera, the three Apple tablets have indistinguishable rear imaging sensors. It is an 8MP camera that can also record 4K videos. The iPad Air sports a higher-res 7MP camera on the front as compared to the lowly 1.2MP sensor found on the 329-dollar iPad models.

iPad Air 2019 Apple Pencil

Read: Top 10: The Best Tablets with Keyboards in 2019

Battery Life

Without sharing any of the battery specifics, Apple claims 10 hours of running time for all its iPad models with mixed usage. Device teardowns by several online journals eventually reveal the actual battery capacities. In this case, the 2018 iPad was found holding the biggest battery at 8827mAh, which should also be housed inside the 10.2-inch model, while the iPad Air 2019 packs an 8134mAh unit.

However, things turned out to be contrasting in our standard battery test. The iPad Air 3 hit a runtime of 12 hours and 30 minutes with the 9.7-inch model settling for an hour less of awake time. We do not expect the results for the iPad 10.2 to vary too much from those of the 6th-gen iPad. A thorough review of the newest budget iPad is due and should help clear the air with its own battery test.

Accessories & Pricing

Since earlier this year, the entire Apple iPad lineup has supported the Apple Pencil, including the tablet models we’re comparing here. As with their outdated design, Apple stubbornly continues to ship the 1st-gen Apple Pencil with its cumbersome charging mechanism as the only stylus compatible with these tablets. The slicker 2nd-gen Pencil maintains its camaraderie only with the Pro models.

Of these three, only the iPad Air and the 7th-gen iPad have Smart Connectors to use the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio that doesn’t require pairing or charging. Of course, you could use a Bluetooth keyboard with all of them, but it wouldn’t be as elegant of a solution. The official keyboard itself costs $159 in the US which is almost half of the new iPad’s retail price.

iPad 2018 test

Speaking of the pricing, the iPad 10.2 has been priced at $329 for its 32GB variant, which matches the launch price of last year’s budget tablet. The iPad Air, on the other hand, officially starts at $499 for the base 64GB storage option, although it is usually found retailing for much lower. Apple has officially discontinued the 6th-gen iPad with 9.7-inch display, but you can find it selling for as low as $249.

Read: Best Budget Tablets Under $200 In 2019

Specifications: A Comparison

Apple iPad 10.2 Apple iPad 9.7 (2018) Apple iPad Air 2019
iPadOS iOS 12 (upgradable to iPadOS) iOS 12 (upgradable to iPadOS)
10.2-inch IPS LCD (2160 x 1620) 9.7-inch IPS LCD (2048 x 1536) 10.5-inch IPS LCD (2224 x 1668)
Quad-core Apple A10 Fusion Quad-core Apple A10 Fusion Hexa-core Apple A12 Bionic
32GB/128GB 32GB/128GB 64GB/256GB
No microSD slot No microSD slot No microSD slot
8 Megapixels 8 Megapixels 8 Megapixels
1.2 Megapixels 1.2 Megapixels 7 Megapixels
Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2, optional LTE Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2, optional LTE Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0, optional LTE
Lightning port, 3.5mm audio jack Lightning port, 3.5mm audio jack Lightning port, 3.5mm audio jack
Up to 10 hours 8827mAh (up to 10 hours) 8134mAh (up to 10 hours)
Touch ID Touch ID Touch ID
250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5 mm 240 x 169.5 x 7.5 mm 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm
483g/493g 469g/478g 456g/464g

Final Thoughts

Before deciding on getting one of the Apple tablets, there is a need to evaluate your specific needs. If all you need is an iPad for some casual gaming, watching a video before hitting the bed, or catching up with the day’s news then you’re better off with the 2018 iPad. As previously said, the budget tablet can be easily grabbed at a much lower price than its original price tag.

If your list of use cases needs adding extended writing sessions in addition to the aforesaid ones, then you can look at the iPad 10.2. With the Apple keyboard accessory, you can get some work done rather quickly using a host of keyboard shortcuts, although the accessory will alone set you back $159. Frankly, that half-an-inch of increased display area wouldn’t make that much of a difference especially since everything else about the tablet remains unchanged.

iPad Air 2019 gaming test

These 159 US dollars will be better spent if you upgrade to the iPad Air 2019 that offers a lot more for its slightly higher asking price. From its display quality to performance, the improvements will be apparent the moment you pick the device up. But make sure to factor in the additional cost of the Apple Pencil for all these iPads.

Go for the Air only if any of your specific apps can benefit from that headroom in performance while everybody else can pick up the good-old iPad 2018 (while it’s still available from third-party retailers). Finally, if you don’t particularly want the new iPad 10.2 for any reason mentioned previously, it’s recommended to avoid the awkward middle child at least until 9.7-inch iPad units are in stock.

Read: iPad Mini 2019 Review: How Good Is This Small Tablet Really?

Apple iPad 7 Keyboard
The Apple iPad 7 offers an excellent value for its price. It is the perfect tablet for many - especially if you don't want to spend more than 400 to 500 Dollars. Even though the Apple A10 Fusion processor is an older one, its performance continues to be very good. Yes, the 10.2-inch Retina display is not laminated but it is very sharp and bright. I also like that you can use the Apple Pencil and the official keyboard cover with the simple iPad now. In addition to that, iPadOS is a good operating system with great multitasking support.
  • Bright display
  • Solid performance
  • Full metal body
  • iPadOS with great multitasking
  • Apple Pencil support
  • Official keyboard cover support
  • Long battery life
  • Integrated fingerprint scanner
  • Old design
  • Display not laminated
  • No stereo separation
Buy on* Amazon
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Digitalguy

    September 18, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    So you compare the 3 tablets without actually having the 10.2??

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