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The Price is (Now) Right

Ipad aAs Apple brings out the 2017 version of its iconic iPad tablet, the company concentrates on value with the best iPad for school uses yet. In most aspects, it resembles the now discontinued Air 2 model, except a very important one: price. The $299 price tag for schools (versus roughly $400 for the Air 2) makes it one of the best buys around.

At 0.3- by 6.6- by 9.4-inches and just over 1 pound, it may be a little heavier than the Air 2 model, but it’s still easy to carry around, hold in your hand or throw into a backpack. It has lost the size and weight edge over Samsung’s year-old Galaxy Tab S2 Android-based tablet, which weighs 13 ounces. If you want something smaller, both Apple and Samsung make mini-sized 8-inch pads.

Like two tablet peas in a pod, both have 9.7-inch displays that show the same 2,048 by 1,536 pixel resolution with sharp images as well as the ability to play smooth video. On the other hand, the Tab S2 uses OLED display technology to deliver a brighter image than the iPad’s traditional LCD display.

Unlike the iPad Pro, its younger iPad sister lacks a purpose-designed stylus for the slate, although it worked with a generic rubber dome pen. The response with fingers or stylus was quick, accurate and able to integrate up to 10 independent touch points, so the iPad can be the center of classroom collaboration.

Ipad school bUnder the skin, the iPad has an A9 processor that runs at 1.9Ghz and includes a coprocessor for video playback. The iPad comes with 2GB of RAM and either 32- or 128GB of storage space. Inside, it has a powerful 32 watt hour battery pack that was good for 8.5-hours of continuous video playback.

As expected, the new iPad can connect via WiFi with an 802.11ac radio as well as Bluetooth 4.2 for a keyboard or external speaker. There are versions with mobile data abilities that add about $150 to the price tag and require a monthly check to the mobile phone network.

In addition to its HD Web cam, the iPad’s front-facing 8-megapixel camera can create surprisingly detailed shots as well as 40-megapixel panorama images by panning the landscape; a nice art project is to use this abillty to have students create a Mobius strip image. It has precise exposure control, image stabilization and can even be used to burst a bunch of rapid fire shots.

All this adds up to a powerful tablet that scored an impressive 9,720 on the GeekBench 4.1 overall Compute test. That’s three-times the 2,656 score of the Tab S2, putting the iPad in its own class.  

Logitech rugged caseNeither the Tab S2 nor the current iPad have been designed for the abuse that is so often encountered in the classroom, but the iPad has the next best thing: Logitech’s $100 Rugged Combo Keyboard Case. The snap-on plastic cover can make the pad last and last, but adds to its bulk.

With the plastic case, the pad and keyboard add up to a 2.7-pound package that works both as a standalone tablet or a more conventional keyboard-centric notebook. Made of sturdy ABS plastic, the case has rounded corners and a soft fabric coating. While it protects the iPad from the shock of a 6-foot impact, the case can’t protect the pad against spills.

The iPad slips into the Logitech case in a matter of seconds. All the connections and cameras are available via port holes with one exception. The system’s main Lightning pug is covered, but the case has a pass-through connection to one next to it.

Pull out the back, and the case has a stand for holding the screen at between 20- and 60-degrees. On the downside, the rugged case tends to be top heavy and you can easily tip it over if you tap or swipe too vigorously.

Rather than using Bluetooth to connect the system with the keyboard, there’s a four-pin physical connection and is powered by the iPad’s battery. Its keyboard is a joy to use compared to the iPad’s on-screen keypad with specialty keys for multimedia, screen brightness and locking the screen. On the downside, there’s no touchpad so you’ll spend a lot of time reaching for the screen to tap and swipe.

Logitech rugged case bA strong magnet holds the pad to the keyboard base. Any first grader should be able to detach the two.

The bad news is that the case only fits the new 9.7-inch iPad. The good news is that it only adds $100 to the pad’s price tag and will be available through Apple’s education purchasing page. At less than $400, the two work like hand in glove and can make an ordinary iPad last and last.



iPad (2017) with Logitech Rugged Case

$299 plus $100

+ Value priced iPad for schools

+ Inexpensive

+ Powerful

+ Rugged with case

+ All ports and cameras are available for use

+ Mechanical keyboard with pull-away slate

- Thick and heavy package with case

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