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Apple iPad 2022 vs. iPad 2021: Should you upgrade?

The humble Apple iPad has been one of our favorite tablets for many, many years now — but it’s also been clear for years that it needs a design update. That’s no longer the case, as 2022’s Apple iPad has been revealed with a stunning new design that brings it into line with the rest of Apple’s iPad roster. A new design is only the start, though, as this year’s iPad also has a USB-C port and a brand-new version of the Magic Keyboard as well.

However, all these improvements mean the new iPad also comes with a new price tag of $449 — a large increase over the $329 iPad from last year. Thankfully, Apple has left last year’s iPad up for sale as an alternative, but which iPad should you buy? Is the shiny new iPad worth the extra dollars, or should you save money with an older iPad instead? Or, if you’re still using an older iPad, should you be trading it in for the new iPad? We compared the two to find out.

Specs

Apple iPad 2022 Apple iPad 2021
Size 248.6 by 179.5 by 7mm (9.79 by 7.07 by 0.28 inches) 250.6 by 174.1 by 7.5mm (9.8 by 6.8 by 0.30 inches)
Weight Wi-FI: 477 grams (1.05 pounds)

LTE: 481 grams (1.05 pounds)

Wi-Fi: 487 grams (1.07 pounds)

LTE: 498 grams (1.07 pounds)

Screen size 10.9 inches 10.2 inches
Screen resolution 2360 x 1640 pixels (264 pixels per inch) 2160 x 1620 pixels (264 pixels per inch)
Operating system iPadOS 16 iPadOS 15 (upgrades to iPadOS 16)
Storage space 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services No No
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Apple A13 Bionic
RAM 4GB 3GB
Camera Rear 12-megapixel, front 12MP ultrawide Rear 8MP, front 12MP ultrawide
Video 4K at 60 frames per second (fps), 1080p at 240 fps 1080p at 30 fps, 720p at 120 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 4.2
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, top-mounted Yes, front-mounted
Water resistance No No
Battery TBC 8,557mAh
App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support All major carriers (cellular version only) All major carriers (cellular version only)
Colors Silver, blue, pink, yellow Silver, Space Gray
Price $449 $329
Buy from Apple Apple
Review score News 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

The basic iPad has been due a design update for years, and it’s finally here. The new iPad sports a design akin to the iPad Air, with flat sides, a metal enclosure, and symmetrical bezels all the way around the display. Those reduced bezels mean the 2022 iPad has a larger 10.9-inch screen in a roughly similar footprint, and the selfie camera has been moved to the center of the landscape orientation rather than the portrait. The result is a cheaper device that doesn’t betray its budget origins, is clearly intended for more serious use with the Magic Keyboard Folio, and is less like a traditional tablet.

In contrast, the iPad 2021 is about as classic and traditional as you can get. The larger bezels and TouchID sensor at the bottom mean this is a device best used in portrait mode, although it can also be paired with the Apple Smart Keyboard for use as a laptop-like device too. There’s no getting away from how old it looks, though some may prefer this style. Both devices are likely to have similar durability due to their similar builds. Both have the same water resistance, which is to say: none at all.

Ultimately, both of these designs are useful for different people. If you want an iPad that will function as a laptop replacement, then the iPad 2022 is right for you. If it’s a traditional tablet that’s used for light browsing, then the thicker bezels of the iPad 2021 may appeal. But even with that in mind, we think that most people will gravitate toward the more modern-looking iPad 2022, which is why it’s won this round.

Winner: Apple iPad 2022

Performance, battery life, and charging

The TouchID sensor on the iPad 2021 is about the ame.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

Neither of these iPads is going to lead the pack where performance is concerned, but neither are they slow performers. Both are packing older generations of the Apple-built A-series processors: the A13 Bionic on the iPad 2021 and the A14 Bionic on the iPad 2022. Despite their age, both of these are still top-notch mobile processors, and you should be able to play the top games and handle multiple apps with ease. Sure, the iPad 2022 is the more powerful of the two, but the difference isn’t likely to be something you’d notice in real use.

Battery life is harder to gauge at this time since we haven’t had a chance to properly tackle the iPad 2022 yet. Also, since most tablets spend time near a sofa, battery life is generally less of a concern than with other mobile devices. Still, based on previous performance, the iPad has always had good battery life, and we don’t expect this to change. Charging speeds aren’t known yet, but we expect both to be fairly slow chargers, whether it’s running on a Lightning or a USB-C port.

But that’s a point worth pausing on: USB-C. The new iPad uses a USB-C port instead of a Lightning port, which means the port can be used for much more than just charging. Indeed, it can now connect to a range of USB hubs, external storage, or external devices without needing to fork out for an expensive (and exclusive) Lightning connector instead. If you’re looking to use your iPad for anything other than usual day-to-day stuff, then this absolutely matters.

Winner: Apple iPad 2022

Camera

The front of the iPad 10th Gen.
Apple

OK, if you’re using an iPad to take pictures instead of your phone, then you’re doing it wrong — the cameras on these tablets have never been as good as those on similarly-priced phones. Still, they have their uses, and so while this category isn’t as important as it is with phones, it’s still important. The new iPad has an upgraded 12-megapixel lens around the front, and while we haven’t had the chance to test it out, we expect it’ll be a solid shooter, as Apple’s cameras always are. It’s an upgrade over the iPad 2021’s 8MP lens, but the rear cameras aren’t as important as what’s happened around the front.

While both tablets have a 12MP selfie lens, on the new iPad, it’s moved to above the screen in the landscape orientation. This may seem like a small change, but it puts the camera in a much better place for video calls in particular. Most iPad cases with a kickstand naturally rest the tablet in landscape, so it makes far more sense for the selfie camera to be placed where it’s more useful. For this small tweak, the new iPad wins.

Winner: Apple iPad 2022

Software and updates

An iPad and an external display using Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.

Apple’s excellent update record means both of these iPads will run iPadOS 16 from the launch day of that new operating system. Expect them both to get a high number of updates too, and don’t expect the iPad 2021 to be barred from any new features the iPad 2022 gets.

This is very much the shortest category here, and it’s because the two of these devices are in dead heat. The iPad 2022 may get more updates than the older iPad, but that’s probably so far down the line that you’ll have upgraded before then.

Winner: Tie

Special features

The 10th gen iPad.
Apple

Accessory support is the crux of most iPad special features, and that’s no different here. The new iPad comes with support for Apple’s new Magic Keyboard Folio, a variant of Apple’s popular Smart Keyboard, with an additional trackpad and function keys. This accessory alone boosts the iPad’s ability to masquerade as a laptop replacement, and while we’ve yet to have a proper play with it, we anticipate it’ll be almost as big a game-changer as the original Magic Keyboard was for the iPad Pro. The older iPad gets the Smart Keyboard, but it lacks a trackpad and a row of function keys, meaning it’s not as useful as the Magic Keyboard Folio.

Both iPads have access to the Apple Pencil as well, but oddly, Apple has opted to make the new iPad compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil rather than upgrading it to the second-generation Pencil. This disappointment has less to do with additional features and more to do with utility. Rather than using a wireless charging method, like the second Apple Pencil, the first-gen Apple Pencil charges through a Lightning connector that originally plugged into the Lightning port of its device. You can probably see where this is going — the new iPad’s USB-C port means the Pencil requires an adaptor to charge in the way it was intended to, and it makes it an extremely clunky accessory.

While the Magic Keyboard Folio looks like an excellent accessory, the implementation of the Apple Pencil means what should be a great drawing tablet may well be a disappointment. This is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price

The new iPad 2022 is currently up for preorder, and shipping starts on October 26. It’s seen a price increase from previous generations and now starts at $449. That’s a big step up and one of the key reasons you might want to consider the older iPad instead.

The iPad 2021 is currently available, and prices start at $329. You’ll be able to pick it up from most retailers, and you should keep a keen eye out during sales periods, as this is a commonly discounted device for Apple.

Overall winner: Apple iPad 2022

The winner here is the Apple iPad 2022. It had to be, really. When compared, the new iPad is undoubtedly the stronger of the two, with a more modern design, stronger specs, and new features that make it a budget productivity powerhouse. But this victory comes with a big caveat, and it’s the cost.

You may be happy to pay that cost, and you’ll be getting a great tablet with some great accessories if you do — but if that cost has made you pause, consider the iPad 2021. It might not look as good, and the selfie camera isn’t in as good a place, but it can still make a strong tablet, especially when paired with some good accessories. There are solid keyboard options for the old iPad, including the .

If you’re already using the iPad 2021, it’s not worth upgrading to the new iPad. The differences are clear, but the day-to-day differences aren’t enough to justify an upgrade. Instead, wait until the 2023 or 2024 iPad before you upgrade.

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