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Apple iPad 8th Gen: The Quintessential Tablet – The Unbiased Review

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It was today, January 27, 2010, when Steve Jobs announced the first iPad. When I saw this tweet by my eternal mentor, Walt Mossberg. I was reminded of his first few words describing the iPad – “I have been testing a sleek, light, silver-and-black tablet computer called an iPad.” These lines, like many others by Walt Mossberg have been etched in my mind.

And for that very reason, I feel its best to share my review of the iPad 8th Gen today, after several months of usage. (Proceed only if you are a fan of long-form journalism and longterm reviews. For a quicker version of the review, you will have to wait for our video on The Unbiased Blog YouTube channel.)

When the first iPad came out in 2010, a lot of people did not see any purpose to it as a standalone device. Yes, it had a bigger screen, but it did not have many apps making use of that screen real estate. It did not even have cameras even though I still cannot imagine myself using an iPad to click pictures or shoot videos. Nevertheless, cameras are an integral part of most communication devices we used and the lack of it did not make any sense. But none of it mattered when Apple captured 53% market share in its first year and has till date remains number one.

But how many of you know that Apple made the iPad before the iPhone but only released it later as the world needed smarter phones before they needed a new category of a smart touch device called a tablet.

Here, in his own words, Jobs describes what happened, and what he did next:

“This guy badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software and eliminate all notebook computers, and Apple ought to license his Microsoft software. But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead. This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, “F**k this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.”

Jobs says he went to Apple the next day and asked for a multi-touch tablet with no keyboard or stylus. He got one six months later. Instead of making it a tablet, though, Apple shrank it and made the iPhone. Later, they released the iPad.

Well, that was a decade ago, and a lot has changed since the first iPad. Now, 10 years later, Apple has shipped 500,000,000 (500 million) iPads and remains to be the best-selling tablet in the world 10 years and counting. If you are wondering what’s the secret ingredient that makes them sell like hotcakes and keep the numero uno position forever, then let’s find that out in this review.

PS: How many of you know that the iPad was not the first tablet by Apple? The Message Pad is where it all began. Of course, it was way ahead of its time and didn’t succeed like the iPad in the 20th century. 

Apple Message Pad

Design

  • Iconic iPad design
  • 495 grams, 7.5mm thin
  • 5mm Headphone Jack
  • Home Button/TouchID sensor

Just like the iPhone if you don’t have an iPad then you don’t have an iPad. In simpler words, if you don’t own an iPad then you haven’t experienced how the world’s best tablet works. Like with all Apple products, the iPad benefits from the perfect amalgamation of software and hardware. And that seamless experience keeps getting better with each passing year. In 2020, the iPad has reached its 8th Generation and while it fundamentally remains the same in shape and size, it now packs the more recent Apple Silicon under the hood.

iPad 8th Gen Review

Whilst the iPhone has seen many design iterations in its illustrious years of existence. The iPad still looks more or less like the first-ever iPad that came out. Yes, of course, it is slimmer, longer, broader, comes in different colours and has aged perfectly with time but my point being you can’t mistake it with another tablet. Not even the iPad Mini (obviously), the iPad Air or the iPad Pro series. And that’s the beauty of it! It’s like the VW Beetle or the Porsche 911, that you can’t mistake it with another car no matter what year or make it is. In other words, it’s a classic design that will continue to get better but still remains to be the same.

With that, it’s obvious that the iPad 8th Gen comes with thick bezels (compared to iPad Air and iPad Pro series), a home button with an integrated fingerprint scanner, a 3.5mm headphone jack, sleep-wake button, volume rockers, and a lighting port. To be specific, upfront you get a 1.2 MP camera on the top bezel and the Home button with an integrated fingerprint scanner on the bottom bezel. The right edge top gets the volume rockers and below that is the Nano-SIM card tray (on cellular models).

The top edge gets the sleep/wake or power button on one side and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the other. On the bottom edge is the Lighting port right next to the speaker grille on either side. On the right is the smart connector for connecting accessories like smart keyboard, etc. The back houses the 8MP primary camera along with dual microphones.

So, what has changed in design? Well, nada as it remains to be a fairly thin and light device to use. In terms of dimension, they are basically the same as last year – 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm (9.87 x 6.85 x 0.30 inches) and so is the weight – Wi-Fi: 490 grams and LTE: 495 grams. Thanks to these impressive numbers, you can use the iPad for the entire day or night without tiring your arms. Honestly, the design has always been so ergonomic that hardly anyone ever complained of struggling with the iPad.

FYI, the iPad 8th Gen comes in three colours – Silver, Golden and Space Grey. And you will be happy to know that case for the iPad is made from 100% recycled aluminium and most of its plastic components are made from 60% recycled plastic. And they are assembled with renewable energy. More details of the environmental impact can be found here – https://www.apple.com/euro/environment/pdf/a/generic/products/ipad/iPad_PER_sept2020.pdf

I’m sure there are a lot of questions in your head right now so let me try and answer them one by one –

Is the design archaic?

There is a thin line of distinction between classic and archaic. Whilst for most its a classic evergreen design that they love but for some, it might be archaic and not appealing. For me, it just works, and no matter how much I would have liked the iPad Air or a design like that being followed here but to bring the costs down you can’t expect everything. And don’t forget its an entry-level iPad that’s even cheaper than the entry-level iPhone (SE) that Apple sells. A tablet with more of everything is cheaper than the phone. Gulp that down!

But as the design is a subjective topic so its best to leave it to that. You either like it or you don’t.

How to use the home button again after all those years?

You may wonder is getting back to the Home button is tough for someone who has been using the gesture-based iOS navigation since iPhone X. Well honestly, it’s for a fist few hours due to the muscle memory but then you get used to toggling between your iPhone X/12 without a hassle. One thing I struggled with for a few days was to take screenshots as it had got really easier on the iPhone since the iPhone X. But the good thing is that there are far less accidental screenshots on the iPad as compared to the iPhone 😉

Should I buy the iPad 8th Gen, iPad Mini, iPad Air or the iPad Pro?

We recently did an article on which iPad is the best for you. So you can refer to it – https://www.theunbiasedblog.com/2021/01/which-ipad-is-the-best-for-you.html

Display

  • 10.2-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2160-by-1620-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (PPI)
  • 500 nits brightness
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating

The 10.2-inch Retina Display still leads from the front. The only thing better is the ProMotion display on the iPad Pro series. But not all need the Pro features of the iPad Pro and that’s the reason we have multiple options now. The 8th iPad gen comes with a 2160×1620 resolution, 500 nits of peak brightness and support for first-gen Apple Pencil.

My usage varied from reading newspapers and magazines early morning on Readly, followed by going through my emails and Twitter feed. Then during the day watching some content on Apple TV+, Netflix and other OTT apps. I also gamed a lot thanks to Apple Arcade games like – Overland, Mini Motorways, Assemble, Possesions and more. But that’s not all, since I got an Apple Pencil with my iPad, I took to colouring and drawing again thanks to apps like – Spring, Lake, Sketches and Callicreative.

Apple Pencil 1st Gen

From watching something as colourful and picturesque as Tiny World to something as dark and scary as The Servant. The display on the iPad 8th Gen never disappointed. It’s sharp, vivid and has good viewing angles. You also get options to use the interface in Light or Dark mode and in both modes it’s fantastic. There is no True Tone functionality that you get on the OLED displays powered devices by Apple, but you do get Night Shift (Blue Light) filter mode.

It remains to be a perfect display to watch content on, read magazines or books, play games and just about everything. But if you want more pixels or higher refresh rate then the iPad Pros with Liquid Retina Displays are the iPads you should get.

Software

  • iPadOS 14
  • Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, GarageBand, Clips content creation apps included
  • AppleTV+ premium service included (free for 365 days)
  • iMessage and FaceTime
  • Handoff across Apple Ecosystem

It’s safe to say that iOS now iPadOS on the iPad is primarily the reason why people buy the iPad in the first place. They don’t want to wait for the boot, they don’t want to wait for the uncalled for updates to complete the installation, they are done with installing drivers and troubleshooting errors. What they want is a no-nonsense, always-on machine that they can carry wherever they want to without lugging it around.

And the iPad offers exactly that and much more. It has pre-installed tools for someone who wants to work on spreadsheets (read Numbers), for a content creator who needs to edit photos or videos on the go, a musician who wants to create music (Garageband), millennial or Gen-Z influencers can use Clips, Podcasters and avid readers can rely on apps like Podcasts and Books app.

Apple TV+ Free

And these are just a few of the preinstalled apps, then there are millions of iPad apps on the Apple App Store. thousands of games on the Apple Arcade, hundreds of movies, series, cartoons and other content on the Apple TV+

Apple Arcade

But you know what’s the real beauty if the iPadOS? It’s the fact that I started typing the review on the iPad, clicked and added photos and a few paragraphs on the iPhone and now completing it on my MacBook Pro. 

Tell me one company other than Apple that makes both the hardware and software and lets you do that. And don’t give me the Evernote, OneNote or Google Drive example. I’m asking about a company that offers both the software and hardware with seamless sync like – iOS, iPadOS and MacOS.

Add the seamless connectivity of Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard, AirPods, HomePod, Apple TV and it keeps getting better.

Apple Ecosystem 2021

To be honest, I can write 10,000+ words on the Apple Ecosystem alone and still I would miss some slick feature. It’s that deep and well done!

Apple’s iPadOS 14 is the best tablet software available. Period. The fact that you can expect at least 5 years of software updates instantly makes it triumph over the competition if they ever had a chance.

With the iPadOS 14, there is a new UI/UX on offer with new home-screen widgets, universal search (spotlight like experience from the Mac), new toolbars/sidebars controls and even Siri gets a new minimal interface that doesn’t block the whole screen.

iPadOS 14

If you have the Apple Pencil (If you don’t then get one) now lets you scribble anywhere. The on-device handwriting recognition is one of the best in the world. Trust me, even I can’t understand my own handwriting but the iPad manages to. And, no I did not want to be a doctor, I just got handwriting like I got my MBBS degree. In simpler words, you will be jotting down notes as fast as you would with a pen and paper. And the ability to delete any word or character by just scribbling on it is phenomenal. I wish it was as easy with a pen and paper 😀

Oh then there is shape recognition, draw a circle or a box and it will automatically be drawn as a perfect circle or square. Oh, dear iPad where was thou during my geometry classes?

But most importantly, the updated OS takes User Privacy to another level with greater control over access, location, tracking and use of microphone or cameras. Users can now also see which app is using Mic or Cameras in realtime. And even before installing an app, you can see what all data, services or hardware is being used by the app. The App Store details out all the parameters, surely a headache for app developers (read Facebook) and Advertisers (read Google) but for Apple, it has always been the user first.

I candidly remember seeing this hoarding a few years ago in Las Vegas during CES (I feel proud being an Apple user and the fact that Apple hasn’t bowed down to anyone) –

Apple iPhone Privacy Vegas

The only thing that is still missing on the iPadOS is the multi-user support. With the advent of iPadOS, I really thought that day we have a multi-user access system on the iPad isn’t far but here we are still waiting for it. The fact that most families don’t have multiple iPads makes it an imperative feature that Apple should seriously add as soon as possible. It’s not like an iPhone that every member will have his own, it’s a device for one and all.

Performance

  • A12 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture
  • Neural Engine

The A12 Bionic might be a few generations old according to the iPhone standards but it’s still a potent chip for this iPad. It’s 40% faster than the last year’s iPad 7th Gen. It is also twice as powerful in terms of graphics letting you edit 4K video clips with no hiccups. And thanks to the new Neural Engine or AI capabilities the machine learning is super fast and it evident with the on-device handwriting recognition.

Video Editing on Apple iPad

The fact that I can edit 4K videos faster than most of the PC’s out there gives me a sense of contentment. After all its a piece of tech that is thinner than the case of those hefty gaming or editing machines that creators have to lug around. Isn’t that a commendable feat?

In terms of battery life too, it beats any laptop/notebook black and blue (barring the M1 MacBooks). On a single charge, I could easily churn out more than 10 hours and the standby as always has been jaw-dropping. The iPad 8th gen ships with a 20 watts USB-C Charger and a USB Type-C to a Lightning cable in the box. With the supplied charger, it takes about 3 hours to charge it fully.

Audio is also great but sounds much better in Portrait mode as opposed to Landscape mode due to the placement of stereo speakers on the bottom. While the stereo speakers are aligned perfectly for portrait mode, as soon as you turn the iPad in landscape mode you can feel the lack of studio sound. But thank god for the spatial audio experience on the Apple AirPods Pro.

The lack of Bluetooth 5 and WiFi 6 is not evident if you don’t have other devices that support these standards.

Cameras

  • 8MP Rear camera with an ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • 1.2MP Front/FaceTime HD camera with an ƒ/2.4 aperture

From no cameras to 2 cameras, the iPad has come a long way! And now it’s not just a pro in capturing stuff but also a pro in editing those photos and videos.

Editing 8th Gen iPad

The rear camera has got a spec bump and now features an 8MP camera sensor. The camera is capable of recording 1080p (30fps) videos, clicking HDR Photos and has a lot of modes like – Live Photos, Panorama, Slo-Mo, Timelapse etc. You also get features like Exposure Control, Burst Mode, Auto-Image stabilisation, geo-tagging, face and body detection to name a few.

The 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera is better than what you get on laptops/notebooks but still needs a good amount of light to do a presentable FaceTime or Zoom call.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, you will never see me clicking pictures or recording videos on the iPad. I only use the cameras to take video calls, play some AR games or scan QR codes.

Accessories

Like most Apple products, the market is flooded with 3rd party cases and accessories even before an Apple product is launched. I got two accessories for my iPad – the Apple Pencil (1st Generation) and a 3rd Party case that holds the Apple Pencil, its cap and the charging connector for the Pencil in place. I have talked about my experience of the Apple Pencil at length in the software part of the review if you missed it.

Next thing I want to invest in is the Smart Keyboard by Apple which acts like a cover and a keyboard that magically connects to the smart connector. It’s available for INR 13,900 and works with iPad (7th, 8th Gen), iPad Air (3rd Gen) and iPad Pro 10.5″. The reason, I want to invest in the Smart Keyboard is then I’ll truly be able to use the iPad to its full potential and experience a legitimate laptop/notebook replacement.

Apple iPad Smart Keyboard

The Unbiased Verdict

A decade ago, the iPad was created with a vision to replace traditional PCs in the future. But to say that the iPad has replaced laptops/notebooks still doesn’t hold true even a decade later. But what holds true is the fact that it’s now closest it has ever been to do that. The iPad with its accessories like Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard can do a lot more than PCs in many ways. And not just more but faster too! There is still no PC that has zero lag, zero boot time, is as light and handy as the iPad.

Yes, PC makers are playing catch-up for the past 10 years but what they all lack is the perfect amalgamation of hardware and software that only Apple has. And the fact that Apple has now evolved its Hardware-Software prowess to the Mac’s makes me grin. Yes, I’m elated about the evolution and at the same time really excited to use the M1 based Mac’s as mine is arriving soon 🙂

A lot of you would laugh at me but I have to admit that this is the first time I have upgraded my iPad since I got the 2nd gen iPad a decade ago. While you may call me outdated and the tech community may even outcast me for this but it is a testimony of how Apple devices are built for longevity. Yes, it stopped receiving OS updates a few years ago but I only used it to read, watch content and use it as a surveillance device for my CCTV app. And it still does that perfectly albeit it has to be plugged in all-time as the battery has depleted over the years.

Back to the iPad 8th Gen, the iPad still remains to be a marvel it was on day one. It’s still that magical tablet with a shiny silver (gold or space grey) back. It’s perfect for students, teachers, doctors, pilots, engineers, content creators, trainers, kids, grandparents or just about anyone. You get the point! It’s a device for all, a device that starts for 29,990 is a must-have for all. You should not treat it as a luxury device or an alternative device. The iPad has earned its place at homes, offices, coffee shops, cars, aeroplanes and even space shuttles.

Apple 8th Gen iPad

With the power of A12 Bionic, all-day battery life and a plethora of apps for anything and everything – the iPad is an investment that one and all should make.

I’d like to end this review with a brilliant photograph of Steve Jobs with the first iPad by Jon Fortt (most probably the first photo of the iPad to be released in public.)

Disclaimer: We tested Apple iPad 8th Generation (WiFi+Cellular, Space Grey, 128GB) with Apple Pencil for a few months before writing this review. All our reviews are unbiased and are published without the brand or anyone getting to read it before you guys. We don’t change our reviews on pressure from brands and that’s the reason we are not sent review units from companies like Samsung, OnePlus and a few more.

Social Media Evangelist | Gadget Guru | Model | Photographer | Ex- BlackBerry Boy - Now iOS | WP8 | Droid. Founder and Chief at ‘The Unbiased Blog’. I breathe in WiFi zone, prefer LTE over LIT. Ex MSFT, MCP, A+ and coder. I like news to be served to me on twitter.