iPad (8th generation) review: It’s got a faster processor, and that’s all

When it comes to dedicated tablet devices, there’s the iPad and there’s everything else. The performance, features, and app ecosystem of Apple’s iPad line make it the tablet to own. The new 8th-generation iPad is still the best tablet you can buy for the price ($329), but it’s hard not to be disappointed by such a small upgrade.

The new 8th-gen tablet is exactly the same as the 7th-gen iPad introduced a year ago, except that the A10 processor has been swapped out for the A12. That’s it. That’s the update.

A12 versus A10

Last year, Apple updated the iPad with a slightly bigger 10.2-inch display (up from 9.7), making the bezels slimmer. It also added the smart connector to work with the Smart Keyboard. Those were welcome upgrades, though the System-on-Chip (SoC) inside didn’t change at all—it remained the A10—and Apple didn’t really make any other improvements.

This year’s update finally steps up the processor all the way to the A12 (not the A12X as found in the iPad Pro). What does that mean for performance? Quite a lot, actually.

ipad 8th gen benchmarks gb5 IDG

CPU performance is almost 60 percent better on single-threaded tasks and nearly double on multi-threaded tasks, in our GeekBench 5 benchmarks. GPU compute performance has a more sober improvement at around 15 percent.

Graphics performance in 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme test is on the order of 60 to 85 percent better. Note that 3DMark hasn’t been updated in years, and we had a lot of trouble getting it to run in a stable fashion.

That might explain why our 3D graphics benchmarks are lower than last year’s iPad Air, which has the same A12 SoC. It’s still close enough in performance—in both CPU and GPU—to the iPad Air that you’ll never really notice the difference in regular use.

The shift to the A12 has a big positive impact on battery life, too. Despite having the same battery capacity as the 7th-gen iPad (32.4Wh), our battery rundown test ran over 20 percent longer, nearly as long as the 2019 iPad Air at just over 8 hours.