How is the budget 2019 iPad holding up in 2020, still worth it?
Most recently, the Cupertino company released the 2020 iPhone SE to great reception due to its powerful hardware and good price. But before that, in 2019 Apple released the 10.2-inch iPad, also known as the 7th generation iPad.
Despite running on a 2016 iPhone 7 chip, and boasting an old design, the 7th gen iPad is still arguably the best tablet you can buy for its price range and even beyond. It has a large, vibrant screen, professional-grade apps not seen on Android tablets, and enough power to run them sufficiently. It also now sports what were once flagship features, such as Apple Pencil support (first generation) and a keyboard connector.
I'm a tablet power user, often going through flagship and budget Android tablets and iPads to see if they've reached the point of actual PC replacements, with my most recent experience on Android's side being the 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab A (2019). It disappointed me with extreme lag and barely-functioning multi-tasking, so now I've moved on to Apple's budget offering of a similar size - the aforementioned 10.2-inch iPad. And I bought it with an Apple Pencil to experience the "education market" aspect of it.
As rumors of a more powerful, bigger-screen new version of this iPad trickle in, let's see if this 2019 one is still a great purchase today, and what it can do.
Look and feel
In order to keep the iPad 7 price down, Apple chose to reuse a design that's almost a decade old, but it still feels good and premium. An actual noticeable downside is its weight, 483 grams, heavier than the 11-inch 2019 iPad Pro, making it uncomfortable to hold up for long periods of time. In addition, its top and bottom bezels are significantly larger than any we've seen in recent years. It also doesn't have a laminated screen, showing a rather large air gap between the glass and the display below, visible when seen from an angle.
Now, arguably those large bezels do make for a good gripping area, especially when watching landscape content, and I personally think the air gap is an overblown non-issue that's barely noticeable, at least on the black version of the iPad. Writing and drawing has been fine, with only the slight hollow feel when tapping the screen being a bit bothersome. Looking at the screen head-on, the air gap is invisible.
Work and play
If you don't need fancy magnetic pencil charging, symmetrical thin bezels and true stereo sound, the iPad 7 is perfectly adequate for gaming, watching Netflix, school work, and light professional work.
Watching YouTube and Netflix has been a blast on this model, with only the fact that both of its speakers are on its right side being an issue, preventing from a true stereo sound experience. Despite this, the speakers are loud and have a rich, balanced sound, with even some bass.
A minor issue for some may be the screen's aspect ratio, which is great for work and browsing the internet, but not for watching widescreen videos. They normally show with large top and bottom black bars instead of filling up the screen, resulting in a surprisingly small image for such a large tablet. While Netflix allows pinch-to-zoom, a feature that makes most videos fill the screen nicely, YouTube does not. For exclusively watching YouTube videos, a widescreen tablet may be the better choice.
Gaming on this iPad is just like it would be on a flagship tablet - big, trendy games such as Call of Duty: Mobile load reasonably fast and run perfectly at mid-to-high settings. Newer iPads such as this one also have gamepad support, and can connect with certain Xbox and PlayStation wireless controllers. That can essentially turn the iPad into a fantastic mini-console, so long as the games you want to play actually support anything beyond touch-screen controls. I've been playing Grand Theft Auto III and Max Payne, which are a blast on this large, vibrant screen.
Storage is very important to consider before buying this iPad, because quite ridiculously, the only options are either a tiny 32GB or the more expensive 128GB. If you're taking an optimistic outlook on the 32GB option like I did, thinking it should be enough, you should know it's really not. Some music, very few games and one or two seasons of your favorite show will fill that up very fast, before you even get a chance to download all of your apps.
School work on this iPad can be done in one of two ways - either using a keyboard or an Apple Pencil. Both options feel nice and fun, but are costly and occasionally cumbersome if you're used to writing on a laptop.
The iPad 7 has a keyboard connector as we previously mentioned, and supports Apple's quite expensive $159 Smart Keyboard, but it can also connect to any cheap Bluetooth keyboard wirelessly. For school use, you may want to consider getting an Apple Pencil instead. It too feels way too expensive for what it is, at $99, but comes with palm rejection support and pressure sensitivity. It also feels much more solid and premium than I thought it would.
Though as fun as it is writing with the Apple Pencil, I've had some issues. First of all, writing with such a hard-tip pencil doesn't feel good at all. Jabbing it at the hollow-feeling glass screen makes noticeable noise and is quite less satisfying than writing on paper. Investing in a screen protector like Paperlike may improve the experience, but that's yet another thing you have to buy.
Buy Paperlike for iPad 7 on Amazon
Speaking of extra things you may need to buy, the free Notes app Apple provides may be good enough for some, but can't really compare to more feature-rich note taking apps such as Notability and GoodNotes, which cost $8.99 and $7.99 respectively. I recently made a list of the best note taking apps with Apple Pencil support I've come across, and they are all solid.
Video editing on the iPad 7 is well possible, even for professionals. Using the LumaFusion app, I've been able to edit 1080p and 4K video with no hiccups whatsoever. No other budget device comes even close to this level of video editing capabilities on the go. As an added bonus, Apple provides the free iMovie app, which is pretty short on features, but can do basic clip cutting and arrangement for, say, YouTube use.
Music production on this iPad is not only fun, but at this point, it's entirely possible to produce complete, professional songs with it. I've been able to produce and publish two songs on this tablet using the FL Studio Mobile app. Also, my colleague Preslav recently made a video on doing a song on the iPad Pro, using other apps. What this budget iPad lacks in this use case is only its non-studio quality microphones, which Apple claims the iPad Pro has.
Photo editing and drawing is as good as it gets on a consumer tablet. You have professional apps such as Adobe Photoshop now ported to iPad, running just swell on this model.
I use ProCreate, which is a painting app, to create graphics assets for a game I'm working on. That app now even supports the making of animated sprites, and with its highly customizable brush creation tool, I've been able to create my own pixel art brush, needed for my use case.
Unlike when writing with the Apple Pencil, drawing with it on the iPad 7 has been a perfect experience for me. The Apple Pencil is precise, and palm rejection has been almost perfect throughout. The air gap hasn't been a problem even once. The Apple Pencil's battery life of 10-12 hours outlasts the iPad itself, so that's impressive too, as well as its quick charging. The only ungraceful part is how it charges, sticking out of the iPad's Lightning connector.
This reminds me to add that the iPad's battery life is pretty good, usually lasting me between 10 and 10.5 hours even under heavy usage. Charging it however is very slow, so I usually just let it charge overnight.
Can it replace your computer?
A major thing to consider with this iPad is how non-future proof it appears to be. Due to its old chip, it's likely that Apple will not be supporting it with updates for as long as it does with most other iPads. The good news is that iPads are always easy to sell for a good price when the time comes to upgrade, and Apple has trade in options.
Hopefully this look at the iPad 7 has been helpful in your decision on whether or not to get it. Even if its next iteration comes out this year, featuring a leap in specs and design, this one is, and will remain, well capable of satisfying most people's creative and entertainment needs, and is likely to stay relevant and up-to-date for at least another 1-2 years.
Buy the Apple iPad 7 (2019) on Walmart
Want to look into other tablets? We have our picks for the best tablets for kids, best Android tablets to buy in 2020, and best Samsung tablets.