Apple has been pretty consistent in updating its entry-level iPad every year. The update typically consists of a minor spec bump while maintaining the same price.
However, with the 10th-generation iPad, Apple has changed its tune with an updated design and, more importantly, a new price.
So, let’s take a close look at how the redesigned 10th-gen iPad compares to the previous model to help you decide which one you should buy.
One of the more controversial changes to the 10th-generation iPad is how it handles accessories. Despite the iPad’s design update with an all-screen display and flat edges, the 10th-generation iPad does not support the second-generation Apple Pencil or the same Magic Keyboard compatible with the iPad Air and 11-inch iPad Pro.
Until this point, it was pretty obvious to figure out which Apple Pencil your iPad supports. If it had a flat-edged design, it would support the second-generation Apple Pencil. The 10th-gen iPad, with its flat-edged design, changes that, as it only supports the first-generation Apple Pencil. It also has a new Magic Keyboard Folio to make things more confusing.
But because the first-gen Apple Pencil charges via Lightning and the 10th-gen iPad features a USB-C port, Apple had to create a new adapter that converts your Apple Pencil’s Lightning port into a USB-C port to charge and pair. The good news is that if you’re coming from the 9th generation iPad, you can continue using the same Apple Pencil, so long as you have the adapter.
And instead of supporting the same Magic Keyboard found on the iPad Air and iPad Pro 11-inch, the iPad (10th generation) gets its own Magic Keyboard Folio. This new keyboard accessory is not compatible with the iPad Air, iPad Pro 11-inch, or the 9th generation iPad.
It’s a two-piece design that allows you to have a kickstand on the back for near-infinite adjustment, and the keyboard is detachable, so you can use the kickstand independently.
Charging and Connectivity
The most notable change to the 10th-generation iPad is that it now features a USB-C port for charging and connectivity. Thankfully, you’ll still get both the USB-C charging cable and power adapter in the box. So, even if you’ve never owned a USB-C device before, you’ll be all set.
But not so fast—it’s worth noting that the USB-C port on the 10th generation iPad is still the same USB 2.0 speeds found on the 9th generation iPad. That’s fine for charging, but if you were hoping for a faster port for data transfer, think again.
If you opt for a cellular iPad, you’ll see a notable speed boost while connected to a cellular network. That’s because the 10th generation iPad supports the same 5G connectivity found on the iPad Air and iPad mini.
The 9th generation iPad, on the other hand, supports all of the latest LTE bands and still offers high-speed cellular connectivity, but you won’t be getting the absolute best.
It’s worth noting that you don’t have to activate cellular on your iPad; you can always use Wi-Fi. But there are many reasons to choose a cellular iPad. For example, only cellular iPads have built-in GPS.
Both the 9th and 10th-gen iPads use Touch ID for biometric authentication. Touch ID lets you quickly unlock your iPad, purchase apps on the App Store, or make purchases online via Apple Pay.
On the 9th generation iPad, the Touch ID sensor is built into the familiar Home button. You press the Home button with a registered fingerprint to authenticate and get to your Home screen in one gesture.
But with the all-screen design on the 10th-gen iPad, Apple has removed the Home button entirely and has now relocated the Touch ID sensor to the Top/Lock button. This is similar to the latest generation iPad Air and iPad mini. It still works the same way, but it just has a new home.
Design and Display
The design is the most obvious difference between the 10th-gen iPad and the outgoing model. The 9th-gen iPad sports a recycled design with a big chin and forehead to house the Home button that dates all the way back to the original iPad Air.
The 10th generation iPad adopts the more modern design found on the latest iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad mini models. If anything, the 10th-gen iPad looks in line with the rest of the iPad lineup.
At this point, does processing power really matter? Especially on the baseline iPad? Not really. But having a newer processor means you’ll likely get more years of iPadOS updates, even if it’s only a one to two-year difference.
That said, the 9th-gen iPad boasts the A13 Bionic chip, and the 10th-generation iPad comes with the relatively newer A14 Bionic chip. It’s hard to notice the difference in performance between the two under real-world use, but you can expect apps to open slightly quicker and games to perform better on the 10th-gen iPad.
When comparing the camera hardware of the two iPads, there are two things you need to know. The 10th-generation iPad gets a new 12MP camera on the back, which is considerably better than the outgoing model’s 8MP primary camera.
Thanks to the new camera hardware, you can finally shoot 4K videos up to 60FPS on the rear camera with the 10th-generation iPad, compared to a maximum of 1080p at 30FPS on the 9th-generation iPad.
And while the front-facing camera remains largely the same between both models, the 10th-generation iPad relocates the front-facing camera from the top of the iPad to the right edge of the iPad. Apple calls this change the Landscape Ultra Wide front camera, which is perfect for video calls, especially when it’s attached to the Magic Keyboard Folio.
This might be the deciding factor for most users, as Apple targets the budget market with both these models. The redesigned 10th-gen iPad costs $120 more than the outgoing model and starts at $449, whereas you can get the 9th-gen iPad for $329. Note that both prices are for the Wi-Fi-only 64GB storage models.
But if you’re looking for cellular, the 9th-generation iPad starts at $459, whereas the newer one starts at $599. Again, both prices assume you want 64GB of storage. At this point, you just need to ask yourself: is the redesigned iPad worth the premium over the outgoing model?
Do You Need the Newest iPad?
If you already own the 9th generation iPad, the 10th generation iPad is a tough sell, especially if you already own a Smart Keyboard Folio. You’d need to trade in your 9th generation iPad, and your Smart Keyboard Folio becomes virtually useless as you’ll need to shell out more money for a new Magic Keyboard Folio.
Yes, your Apple Pencil will continue to work with the 10th-generation iPad, but it’s a bit more inconvenient to use as you’ll need to make sure you have the adapter, which you paid extra for, with you to charge it.
So, unless you absolutely want USB-C for charging, 5G connectivity, a slightly faster chip, or the all-screen design, it’s hard to recommend the 10th-generation iPad to potential buyers.