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 iPad 10th Gen in all of its new colors.
The iPad 2021 is a pretty great tablet for the budget concious.

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.

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