The 128GB Wi-Fi only 9.7-inch iPad provides a great entry point to iOS tablet computing. It's not as fancy as the more-expensive iPad Pro, but it's the most affordable iPad in the lineup, and with Apple Pencil support, this is the perfect iPad for most people.
Whether you're looking to purchase your first iPad or upgrade from a previous model, the 128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad (2018) provides a great entry point into iOS tablet computing. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the iPad Pro line, but an affordable price point, great specs, and Apple Pencil compatibility make this iPad a no-brainer for anyone looking to jump into tablet computing.
Who should buy the 9.7-inch iPad
If you're an average consumer of technology — not a pro looking for a second piece of equipment to add to your list — the 9.7-inch iPad is practically perfect in every way. It's got a super fast processor, a beautiful Retina display, and support for Apple Pencil. This, and the iPad starts at just $329. It's the most advanced tablet you can get at this price and is the perfect fit for most people.
Is it a good time to buy this iPad?
Apple launched the 9.7-inch iPad in March of 2018 so it's currently in what might be called the mid-point of its cycle. However, Apple doesn't follow a strict refresh guideline, and we may not see another update for a year or more. Right now is still a good time to buy the 9.7-inch iPad.
Reasons to buy
- Fast processor
- Comes in gold
- Apple Pencil support
Reasons not to buy
- Only 2GB of memory
- Not as powerful as the Pro line
The 9.7-inch iPad bridges the gap between mobile computing and cost
The beauty of tablet computing is just how well it fits into a multitude of different situations. You can use an iPad to draw or take notes, create presentations for your class, play games, film or snap photos with the iSight camera, read novels, correct term papers, chat with your faraway family, or any other number of activities suited to a multi-touch computer.
As such, the perfect iPad for most people has to fit into a lot of use cases: It needs to be fast. It needs to have enough storage. It needs to work with accessories that make it a better computer, like Bluetooth and Apple Pencil. It should have a solid screen for both text and photographs, and stereo speakers for watching video or playing music.
Apple's 2018 9.7-inch iPad fits the bill — all in a compact 1.03-pound package and ten hours of battery life. Previous 9.7-inch iPad models were either too pricey (as with the 2016 9.7-inch iPad Pro) or too feature-limited (like the 2017 base-model iPad), but this 2018 base model is the best of both worlds: It offers enough advanced features to satisfy any entrant into tablet computing — including full Apple Pencil support — without an outrageous price point.
Apple's 2018 9.7-inch iPad fits the bill — all in a compact 1.03-pound package and ten hours of battery life.
And let's highlight Apple Pencil for a moment. Even though the 9.7-inch iPad doesn't have the iPad Pro's advanced screen refresh technology, writing and drawing on it with Apple Pencil is still an excellent experience. Combine that with Apple's recently-updated iWork suite and a gigantic array of third-party apps, and you can plan, draw, write, sketch, or color to your heart's content. Using Apple Pencil still doesn't feel exactly like drawing on paper, but the company is inching ever-closer to that goal.
The 2018 9.7-inch iPad also gets a super-powered processor in the form of the A10: It's the processor from the iPhone 7 lineup, and it blasts the base-model iPad line into the present. It's also paired with Apple's M10 motion co-processor and 2GB of RAM — not as much memory as iPad Pro, but enough to get the job done.
Though the iPad's minimum storage size is 32GB, we're still reticent to recommend the baseline option unless you're really pinching pennies. Between apps, drawing creations, offline music, photo libraries, and downloading video, 128GB is a much more reasonable storage tier for most users — though this may also open you up to paying for more iCloud storage to back up said iPad.
You can get a top-of-the-line 2018 iPad and Apple Pencil for just over $500 (U.S.). Given that the iPad Pro's 64GB base model starts at almost $300 more — without accessories — it's an easy recommendation to make for most anyone interested in tablet computing.
Alternatives to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro
If you need something with more power, you should absolutely consider an upgrade to the iPad Pro lineup. The 2018 model sports an edge-to-edge display, Face ID, and a True Depth front-facing camera for Portrait Mode selfies.
It's got all of the advanced features you could possibly need in a tablet and is slim enough to slip into your bag alongside a full laptop. With USB-C support for a second screen, along with a lot of other peripherals, the 11-inch iPad Pro is all the goods, squeezed into a small package.
Best pro tablet
If you want a high-powered drawing tablet to tote around in lieu of your Mac, go for broke with the Wi-Fi + Cellular 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has all the internal power of its 11-inch sibling but combines it with some truly massive screen real estate. It's the biggest tablet in Apple's lineup and uses that to great effect when paired with a hardware keyboard.
Split-screen apps in iOS each have a pane as big as the base-model 9.7-inch iPad in portrait mode, giving you ample space to work. Add an Apple Pencil 2, and you have a top-tier drawing tablet; add third-party software like Astropad or Astropad Studio, and you can turn that tablet into a Wacom Cintiq-style second screen workspace with your Mac.
The 9.7-inch iPad is the Baby Bear of tablets. It's just right. Whether you're getting your first iPad or are upgrading from an earlier model, the 9.7-inch iPad has the most features for the least price. With Apple Pencil support, it's the biggest bang for your buck.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Lory Gil is the Managing Editor of iMore and has owned every single model iPad since the very first one and even still has the Apple micro cloth that came with it. She uses her iPad every single day and knows what's important for portability, reliability, and performance when it comes to the iPad.
Rene Ritchie is the foremost authority on all things Apple and has insider knowledge about the goings on at the biggest tech company in the world. He knows everything, literally everything, there is to know about the iPad.
Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this guide. She was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click.
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