iPad 9.7 review

Now in its eighth year, the iPad is more laptop-like and art-friendly than ever before.

5 Star Rating
iPad 9.7

Our Verdict

The best tablet on the market, without the price tag of the iPad Pro.


  • Great battery life
  • All the power you need
  • Even better with an Apple Pencil


  • Same old design as previous iPads

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Steve Jobs only had one word to describe styluses in relation to his pioneering products: "Yuck". His idea was that no one would ever need them so long as they had fingers to use, and it was a mantra that persevered at the company he founded for a little while after he died. 

When Apple finally did release an accompanying Pencil to use with its iPad, the world referred back to Jobs' now infamous put-down of the pen. But perhaps not even Jobs could have foreseen how touch screens would evolve into the new decade. 

The new iPad 9.7 for 2018 promises to deliver the power of Apple's most ambitious products, with the price of some of its most popular. It's good news for digital artists. For a start, the Apple Pencil is fully compatible, so you needn't fork out for the top iPad model

New features

The new chip makes it quicker and split-screening makes it easier for multi-tasking, but the first impressions of the new iPad aren't exactly breathtaking: same resolution, same old design, same rigid iOS that you can't completely customise to your tastes. The Pencil certainly makes it a bit more interesting, but then you have to pay separately for that ($99/£89).

Despite these irks, which admittedly come from most customers on new Apple releases, this is the most solid effort from the company yet when it comes to its tablet. It's got a decent 10-hour battery life and the camera, although barely improved from previous models, still boasts eight megapixels. That's more than enough for an artist or designer to take reference photographs with.

iPad 9.7 and Apple Pencil: a powerful combination

Apple Pencil and iPad 9.7

Apple Pencil: no longer reserved for iPad Pro users

The power is phenomenal in comparison to previous models, especially when combined with the best drawing apps for iPad. It handles sketching, for example, with absolutely no trouble whatsoever, and switching between apps is faultless. 

The Apple Pencil is simply light years ahead of most styluses in the market too, with details easy to create with the tip, and shading possible by drawing at an angle. The pressure sensitivity is superb, too; this is good enough to rival many graphics tablets. This is the elite combination for digital drawing on the go, and at a fairly reasonable price, it's a serious option for the beginner or a professional.

This is still the best tablet on the market. With the rate that touch screens are evolving, it's becoming ever more essential for digital artists to own an iPad to use on the go, and all things considered, this latest iPad is the best fit for the job. It's quicker and stronger and will last far longer than any iPad before; the Pencil too is superb in quality and well worth the money. If Steve Jobs were here today, even he would be impressed.

This article was originally published in issue 162 of ImagineFX, the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists. Buy issue 162 here or subscribe to ImagineFX here.

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The Verdict

out of 10

iPad 9.7 review

The best tablet on the market, without the price tag of the iPad Pro.

Mark is the techniques editor at Photoshop Creative magazine. He uses Photoshop almost exclusively, and has been using the software for over a decade.