Apple iPad 2017 vs iPad Air 2: What's the difference?
Critics say the latest tablet can 'handle all the apps you want it to', but its design is 'nothing entirely new'
Apple surprised fans by quietly releasing a host of new hardware upgrades yesterday, avoiding the large press events it has previously favoured
Along with the release of a red iPhone 7, the company announced a new 9.7ins iPad to replace the ageing iPad Air 2.
On the surface, there's little to distinguish the new iPad from the Air 2, as it retains the outgoing model's physical home button and thick bezel at the top of the display. Apple has also retained the headphone port at the bottom, which was removed from the iPhone 7.
ArsTechnica reports that the updated iPad weighs 1.03lbs (469g) and is 0.29ins (7.5mm) thick, making it "almost identical to the original iPad Air". It's also 0.07lbs (32g) heavier and 0.05ins (1.4mm) thicker than the iPad Air 2.
The 9.7ins front panel is no longer "laminated to the display" as it is on the Air 2 and iPad Pro, the site adds. That could allow an air gap to develop between the display and glass panel. The new iPad also goes without the anti-glare coating of previous models.
Inside, Apple has swapped-out the A8X processor from the Air 2 and fitted a more powerful A9 unit, says MacWorld.
It's around 1.6 times faster than the outgoing model, but it will be "slower" than the A9X processor found in the iPad Pro.
The eight megapixel rear-facing camera from the Air 2 has been carried over to the new iPad, although the site adds that the iPad Pro's Live Photos and Retina Flash features will not be included.
Apple will offer the two storage capacities, a 32GB and a 128GB, that can be specced in either Space Grey, Gold or Silver.
Orders from the new iPad will open on Friday, with prices starting from £339 for a 32GB wi-fi model - around £40 cheaper than the Air 2.
While the new iPad is moderately thicker than the iPad Air 2, it's "still a slim device and rests easy in the hands thanks to weighing just under 470 grams [16oz]", Pocket-Lint says.
However, there's "nothing entirely new or exciting in the aesthetic department", although its tried and tested design are among its strongest features.
It doesn't feature the iPad Pro's smart connector, so users won't be able to attach Apple's magnetic keyboard or Pencil stylus, adds the site.
Regular Bluetooth accessories are still an option for those looking for a physical keyboard, while it retains the outgoing model's audio port for wired headphones and speakers.
According to TechRadar, Apple's decision to not include the Force Touch display from its iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 smartphones "is a bit of a disappointment" as it would be "interesting to see what third-party app developers could do with a larger touch-sensitive screen".
But the updated processor means the new iPad "will be able to handle all the apps you want it to", the site adds, although heavy multitasking may cause it to slow down or lag. Nevertheless, users will be impressed with the loading and processing speeds on the whole.