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The iPad 9th generation: the best cheap iPad is back

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The iPad 9th generation: the best cheap iPad is back
Apple’s entry-level iPad seems to be a pretty successful device — Cupertino likes to refresh it every year, seemingly more often than it would upgrade the Pro series or Air series. So, in 2021 — we get the iPad 9th generation!

Apple iPad 10.2-inch

Base 64GB Wi-Fi model

$329
Buy at Apple

Apple iPad 10.2-inch

256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model

$609
Buy at Apple

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What’s new with the iPad 9th gen?


  • More storage on the base variant
  • Processor upgrade
  • True Tone display
  • Ultra-wide selfie camera with Center Stage

Yeah, that’s a pretty short list, but the base iPad arguably doesn’t need that much to stay relevant. It’s a pretty cheap entry-level Apple tablet that runs the very same software that the uber-expensive Pro series run. That’s huge. Anyway, let’s take a closer look:

iPad 9th generation price and release date


Alright, since the iPad 9 is the successor of — big surprise here — the iPad 8th gen, it also replaces it in the price slot. Meaning, the iPad 9 now starts at $329. Since Apple keeps pushing the base iPad as a tool for education, schools and students will be able to get it for $299. We also expect it to be discounted to $299 in every shopping event to come.

The iPad 9 pre-orders start today (14 September) and will ship "next week".

Apple iPad 10.2-inch

Base 64GB Wi-Fi model

$329
Buy at Apple

Apple iPad 10.2-inch

256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model

$609
Buy at Apple

iPad 9 design and display


The iPad 9 looks familiar — it’s the same design language the iPads have used since inception — big bezels (at least on the top and bottom), rounded Touch ID home button, arched corners around the back. It has a pretty hefty 10.2-inch display with enough real estate to read websites and books, enjoy a show, do some homework or gaming.

The screen on the front is an LCD panel and, of course, there’s no 120 Hz refresh rate here. But we do expect accurate colors and sharpness that is just enough, but not super-dense. To spoiled eyes, the screen will be noticeably inferior, due to the fact that it’s not laminated (there’s a perceived gap between the glass and the picture) and there’s no True Tone in the software.

The big deal here? The screen now gets True Tone display — the software feature, which allows the iPad to adjust the screen's temperature to match the ambient light around you. You won't get super-cold blues when trying to enjoy a read in the evening, for example.

iPad 9 hardware


The base level iPads always lag behind the upper-tier models in terms of processors. That is to say — Apple just puts older chips in them. The iPad 8th gen has an Apple A12 Bionic — a 2018 chip that powered the iPhone XS. Now, the iPad 9 has an Apple A13 Bionic — the iPhone 11 processor.


It’s still a great chipset. Not as powerful as the A14 in the iPad Air 4 and nowhere near the M1 in the new iPad Pros. But hey, the A13 still gets the job done — much better than the processors of a lot of competing tablets out there. For the starting price of the iPad 9th gen, it’s quite good.

The biggest deal with the new iPad 9 is the base storage — instead of 32 GB, it now starts at 64 GB. And that’s a much-welcome update, as the iPad 8th gen just felt ridiculously limiting and stingy at the 32 GB storage tier.

If you were hoping to get USB Type-C on the new iPad, though — nope. Sorry, it's still on Lightning, so cool accessories like external drives and audio interfaces are still going to be a bit tough to connect. The cheapest iPad with a USB Type-C right now is the freshly-announced iPad mini 6, starting at $499.

iPad 9 selfie camera upgrade



In a shocking turn of events, the base iPad got a feature from the iPad Pro (2021) — the 122-degree selfie camera! It's an ultra-wide lens with a 12 MP sensor underneath. The way Apple uses the wide angle of the lens is the Center Stage feature — it allows the software to "follow your face" as you move around, making video calls way less... awkward.

The main camera is still the 8 MP shooter of yore, which — you know — gets the job done. But it won't blow you away.

iPad 9 ships with iPadOS 15


It's pretty huge that you can run the same software on the cheapest $330 iPad as you can on the iPad Pro. We have been playing with the iPadOS 15 beta for some months now, and we can definitely say that it improves the iPad experience immensely. Multi-tasking is easier, more accessible, and faster than ever, and the widgets bring new ways to arrange once's homescreen to be both fun and informative.

iPad 9 keyboard and Apple Pencil


As before, the base level iPad supports the Apple Pencil 1st gen. That’s the one that charges through the Lightning port of the tablet and doesn’t have magnets inside.

The iPad 9th gen also supports an Apple Keyboard Folio — it’s not as great as the Magic Keyboard… in fact the keys are kind of soft and too rubbery. But it can get the job done.

iPad 9 expectations



So there we have it — a pretty good refresh to a pretty good cheap tablet. The biggest deal here is the new 64 GB base storage tier. If you have an older iPad with 32 GB and you are feeling stifled by it — maybe now’s the time to upgrade. If you are wondering if an iPad is the device for you, now is a great time to jump in. The iPad 10.5 is pretty good for the money and iPadOS 15 is super-charged with multi-tasking features and gestures.

New reasons to get excited every week

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