Apple 9.7 Inch iPad (2017) Review: Inexpensive Full-Size Tablet

by Reads (5,209)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 9
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 5
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Features
      • 7
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 7.71
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Low Price
    • Great screen
    • Very good performance
    • Very long battery life
  • Cons

    • No microSD card slot
    • Lightning port instead of USB-C

Quick Take

With a beautiful screen, good performance, and long battery life, the 9.7-inch iPad (2017) should appeal to anyone looking for great deal on a very capable tablet.

The standout feature of Apple’s latest tablet is the cost. It’s the first 9.7-inch iPad to debut at a mid-range price: $329. That’s 34% less than any previous full-size iOS tablet, which will increase its appeal with not just cost-conscious buyers but also the education market.

And the iPad (2017) isn’t not a bare-bones product, as is sports a processor from Apple’s latest generation of chips, there’s a least 32 GB of storage, and the display boasts 264 pixels per inch.

iPad (2017) Build & Design

9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

Apple’s Newest Full-Size iPad

If this model appears familiar, that’s because on the outside it’s nearly identical to the first-generation iPad Air. At 9.4 by 6.6 x 0.29 inches and 1.0 lbs. it can use some cases and keyboards designed for that Apple tablet which came out in 2013, although the location of the buttons and camera causes problems for others.

The bad news is that the iPad Air 2 from 2014 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro are slightly thinner, so most cases created for them can not be used in the 2017 version of the iPad. We tested the new model with the ZAGG Slim Book Pro, and confirmed that this particular accessory from last year can’t be used with the latest iOS device–it’s just slightly too thick.

To be clear, the similarity in design doesn’t mean Apple just re-released the original Air under a new name. We’ll discuss the significant internal changes later in the Performance section of this iPad (2017) review.

The entire exterior of this product is either glass or aluminum, not the plastic one generally sees in mid-range models like this one. The build quality is excellent, and the device strongly resisted our efforts to bend or flex it.

Casing color options are space grey, silver, and gold. Only the space grey version has black bezels around the display; the others have white.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs felt that tablets of this size are the right combination of portability and functionality. His company accepted later that there are also roles for the 7.9-inch iPad mini and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but many people still believe that a device built around a 9.7-inch screen hits the “sweet spot”.


9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

9.7 Inch iPad (2017)

The iPad (2017)’s display uses the 2048 by 1536 pixel resolution that Apple has built into all its 9.7-inch models for many years. This gives the screen a very high pixel density, leading to very crisp-looking text.

Colors are extremely vivid; actually more more so than in real life, but this is a feature most people like about computer screens. Together with the high number of pixels per inch, photos look extremely good.

Traditional LCDs like this one aren’t designed to be used in direct sunlight. Still, it’s bright enough that it can be used in the shade.

A difference in the screen in new iPad and the ones in the Pro series is the LCD isn’t laminated, and there’s no anti-reflective coating. The result is a display that will show reflections more than Apple’s higher-price models. This is mainly distracting only if the user starts looking for them, though.

Still, the display has an oleophobic coating, so it resists picking up fingerprints… mostly.

Ports, Buttons, Camera, and Speakers

Apple continues to use the proprietary Lightning port in its tablets and phones, not adopting the industry-standard USB Type-C. That said, there’s a lot of functionality in the Lightning port, as it can be used for much more than just charging the  9.7 Inch iPad (2017), and syncing it with a PC. There are a wide range of Lightning accessories, including flash drives, microSD card readers, and HDMI video adapters. With another adapter, USB Type-A accessories like keyboards and Ethernet ports can be added.

9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

iPad Home Button, Lightning Port and Speakers

The ability to add removable storage via the Lightning port is welcome, as no iOS device has a built-in memory card reader… unfortunately.

Apple surprised many people by including a headset jack in this new tablet, after announcing last year that it’s moving away from this standard. The company hasn’t explained why, but the prevailing theory is that this computer is primarily intended for the eduction market where inexpensive headphones are a requirement.

The Home button remains a fixture, as it is with all iOS devices. And in another surprising move, this does double duty as an Apple ID fingerprint scanner. Leaving biometric security out would seem to be an easy way to save money when producing this lower-cost tablet. In our tests, this scanner performed quite well, except that it can’t recognize wet fingers.

9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

iPad Power Button, Volume Controls, and Camera

The Power button is on the top, and the Volume Up and Down buttons are on the right-hand side. All of these are aluminum rather than plastic, and are easy to press.

The 8-megapixel rear camera has an ƒ/2.4 aperture, and all the features one expects from a modern device: a panorama mode, image stabilization, HDR, burst mode, and more. It also has an LED flash for use in low light. Our tests showed that this camera takes brilliant pictures in great light, and decent ones in dimmer light.

On the front is the FaceTime camera, which has been so dubbed because it’s there for video conferencing. That’s why it’s just 1.2 MP. Still, that’s quite enough, especially as the resolution of such chats are generally determined by how much bandwidth is available, not the cameras involved.

9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review 9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

A difference between Apple’s regular iPad and the Pro models is the number of speakers. This tablet has two, half as many as the more expensive products. Still, these put out enough sound to hear a video playing several feet away in a moderately noisy environment. Because both spears are near each other on one of the short edges of this device, sound is definitely off center.

iPad (2017) Performance

The 9.7-inch iPad (2017) is constructed with a 1.84 GHz dual-core Apple A9 64-bit processor at its heart. Naturally, this isn’t as powerful a chip as is in last year’s 9.7 Inch iPad Pro, which runs at 2.16 GHz.

When we ran this tablet through the Geekbench app, it scored a 4282 on the multi-core benchmarking test. Here is how the latest iPad stacks up to other tablets:

9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

This puts it exactly where one would expect: below the iPad Pro models, but above the iPad Air 2. Despite the outward similarity to the original iPad Air, Geekbench indicates that the new iPad is about twice as fast.

In real-world terms, the 2017 iPad is fast enough to handle just about anything it’s asked to do. However, it’s going to become obsolete a bit sooner than the more expensive Pro models.

Apple included 2 GB of RAM in this computer, the same as in the smaller iPad Pro. This is plenty for an iOS model, and something of a surprise, as Apple could have saved money by putting in just 1 GB.

The base model includes 32GB of storage, as Apple wisely decided to not hobble this computer with just 16 GB. As it is, most users will find that 32 GB is plenty for a mid-range iOS model like this one. Those who want to store numerous elaborate games, videos, and music files should consider upgrading to 128 GB for an additional $100. Or getting a Lightning-enabled flash drive.


9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

Back Panel

The Apple iPad (2017) unit we reviewed has the following specifications:

  • 9.4 by 6.6 x 0.29 inches and 1.03 lbs.
  • 9.7-inch display with 2048 by 1536 pixel resolution (264 ppi)
  • 1.84 GHz dual-core Apple A9 64-bit processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of Storage
  • iOS 10.3.1
  • 8-megapixel rear camera
  • 1.2-megapixel front camera
  • Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac); dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz); HT80 with MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • Lighting port
  • 32.4-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery


This iPad debuts running iOS 10.3, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for tablets and phones. And owners can count on several years of free system software upgrades, which is nice to know with iOS 11 expected in a few months.

9.7 Inch iPad 2017 Review

Apple News App

Anyone familiar with an iPhone is already up to speed on using an iPad. Even better, Apple has been adding extra features that take advantage of the larger display. For example, support for split screen multitasking is built into this tablet, allowing users to view and work on two applications simultaneously.

For productivity, Apple’s iWork suite is bundled with this computer, plus Microsoft Office is also available. And these are a mere handful of the million+ iPad applications available in the iOS App Store.

Battery Life

Apple promises up to 10 hours of battery life for the 2017 version of the 9.7-inch iPad. We tested this claim by continuously streaming video over Wi-Fi until the battery was completely drained. As it turns out, Apple’s claim was a bit conservative, as the device lasted 13 hours 27 minutes in this torture last.

This is easily enough for heavy use an entire workday — or school day — plus hours of personal use afterward. That’s something very few mid-rage tablets can offer.

iPad (2017) Final Thoughts

There’s nothing physically innovative about Apple’s latest, but it breaks new ground by being a high-end iOS tablet at a mid-range price. With a great screen, good performance, and lo-o-ong battery life, the 9.7-inch iPad (2017) is going to appeal to everyone looking for a bargain on a replacement for an elderly iPad 2 or a similar model from a few years ago. Quite a few schools and businesses are going to be interested as well.

It would be a better product if Apple would adopt some industry standards, but even so it still might be the best tablet in this price range.


  • Low Price
  • Great screen
  • Very good performance
  • Very long battery life


  • No microSD card slot
  • Lightning port instead of USB-C



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