Julian Chokkattu/Digital TrendsApple’s special event on September 10 wasn’t just about the iPhone 11. Apple also unveiled a revamped iPad costing $329, which now boasts a higher resolution 10.2-inch display and Smart Connector support, so you can attach Apple’s Smart Keyboard and use it like a laptop.
In typical Apple form, it even compared the new iPad favorably to a clunky-looking, “best-selling Windows laptop” on stage. We don’t know exactly what laptop was used in the comparison, but we had a feeling Apple was being a little disingenuous.
So, we wanted to know: How much laptop can you actually get for the price of an iPad right now? And can the new iPad really outshine a similarly priced PC laptop?
A diamond in the rough
$329 isn’t a lot of money to spend on a laptop — Apple’s right about that much. There’s an absolute ocean of clunky laptops at this price range with an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor and 4GB of memory. That doesn’t, however, mean you have to resort to whatever laptop Apple was flexing against in its keynote.
After a lot of searching, we came upon a great deal for the Lenovo IdeaPad S340, which is currently on sale for $319. That bags you a 15.6-inch 1080p display, a dual-core Intel Core i3-8145U processor, 8GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD.
That’s a lot of laptop for just over $300. It doesn’t even consider the extra price of the Smart Keyboard Folio, of course, which would add some significant cost to your new iPad when comparing it directly to this laptop.
Let’s start with the display. The new iPad has a 10.2-inch 2,160 x 1,620-pixel resolution screen, giving you 264 pixels per inch. The Lenovo gives you a much more spacious 15.6-inch display, but its resolution is only 1080p, so you get a much lower pixels-per-inch rating of 141.
You’ll generally be further from a laptop than you will be from a tablet, so that PPI difference isn’t as huge as it first appears, but it’s clear the iPad will have the crisper screen. The iPad also has an IPS display, whereas the Lenovo relies on the weaker TN technology, giving it inferior color reproduction and viewing angles.
Comparing the processors is a much trickier affair. Apple keeps its mobile processor specs pretty well-hidden, and comparing iPad’s A10 Fusion mobile chip to an Intel Core i3 isn’t apples-to-apples. Still, there are some points to consider. The A10 Fusion debuted in 2016’s iPhone 7, whereas the i3-8145U is from 2018. You may think that’s an auto-victory for the Lenovo, then.
Well, hold your horses. The i3 is a dual-core processor running at 2.1GHz. The A10 Fusion, on the other hand, has four cores: Two running at 2.34GHz, and two (apparently) running at 1.1GHz. Although these specs have been prized from Apple’s cold fingers via benchmarks (and thus are not official), they suggest the A10 has much more power at its disposal that you might assume. But without being able to directly compare the two devices until the new iPad is out, it’s tough to make a conclusive call.
Like its processors, Apple is also very protective over the details of the memory in its iPads. However, the iPad 10.2 may come with 2GB of memory, as that’s what 2018’s iPad 9.7 had. Lenovo’s IdeaPad S340, meanwhile, has 8GB of memory, suggesting it will be way faster at things like multi-tasking.
But again, this isn’t as clear cut as it first appears, as Apple’s mobile operating systems (like iPadOS) are extremely efficient at managing memory. People also often look at memory the wrong way, arguing that because the iPad has 2GB of memory, it’s therefore slow. Actually, it doesn’t have much RAM because it simply doesn’t need it. iPadOS is a fast and responsive OS that excels at multitasking. Even so, 8GB is a lot more than 2GB, and in heavier tasks you’re likely to really appreciate the extra memory in the Lenovo.
The last obvious point of comparison is the storage. For $329 you get an iPad 10.2 with 32GB of SSD storage. That simply can’t compete with the 128GB loaded into the Lenovo. It’s a clear win for the IdeaPad here.
Can the iPad replace your laptop?
Julian Chokkattu/Digital TrendsOverall, it’s a weird comparison to make. It’s not one we would have put together on our own, yet, Apple is the one that keeps insisting its iPad can replace a laptop.
The Lenovo laptop is more comfortable if you want to use your laptop on your lap; trying to use the iPad with Apple’s Smart Keyboard all perched precariously on your laptop is going to be an exercise in frustration. Then again, the iPad is considerably lighter and easier to toss in your bag or bring on a trip.
The Lenovo laptop, of course, runs a desktop operating system, whereas the iPad’s iPadOS is more of a mobile OS with some desktop features added in.
There’s no doubting iPadOS is an accomplished and enjoyable OS, but trying to compare the two directly is more about what exactly you need the device for. For some people it surely can.
But if you’re seriously comparing the two, you should know how far your money can actually go.