Sunday, July 3, 2022

Only Those Worthy Can Win This Thor: Love And Thunder Xbox Series X

Microsoft, the company that brought us furry Sonic controllers and a Far Cry 6 console that resembled a bomb, has unveiled its latest kooky Xbox Series X sweepstakes, and it may be the coolest/dumbest one yet. Hot on the heels of the premier of Thor: Love and Thunder on July 8, the company is giving away a custom Series X modeled after Thor’s trusty hammer, Mjölnir. That means the console looks like a big, cracked slab of dwarven-crafted uru that still channels electricity and may or may not be liftable depending on if you’re worthy. It's hard to tell if that handle is real or simply edited into the photo for full effect, but you should probably assume the worst (best?) when considering making space for this thing.  The contest begins today and concludes on July 21. To enter, you just need to follow the Xbox Twitter account and retweet #ThorLoveandThunderXboxSweepstakes. You can read the full contest rules here.
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    The best gifts for new dads

    It's hard to be a new parent even during the most idyllic times. So what can you do to help? How about gifting a new dad something to make their lives a bit easier. Maybe they just need a breather from the hellstorm of diapers and sleep training. Or perhaps they want a better way to distract their screaming spawn. Here are a few options to consider.10.2-inch iPadAppleApple's entry-level iPad is one of the most useful devices for any new parent. It can be your child's gateway to video chatting with their grandparents (and with the new Center Stage cameras, they’ll always be in frame), or a life-saving distraction during long car rides. It could be a new dad's way to catch up on their favorite show while stuck dealing with mealtime. Or it could be a way for growing kids to read interactive stories and play games. The iPad can be whatever you want it to be. And paired with a decent case, it can be durable enough to survive life with tiny humans. (And if it does break, at least it's far cheaper to replace than an iPad Air, or a typical laptop.)Buy 10.2-inch iPad at Amazon - $329Jabra Elite 85t earbudsEngadgetThere's no question that we love Jabra's lineup of wireless earbuds. The Elite 85t delivers solid active noise canceling, a slim and light design, and excellent sound. And best of all, they cost around $200 and you can often find them for around $150. No matter which smartphone you have, the 85t are an excellent way to catch up on podcasts while trying to rock a baby to sleep. And they'll be even more useful during the rare bit of downtime for new parents. They're perfect for rocking out to your favorite tunes, or pair them to your TV or set-top box to enjoy late-night movies without making much noise.Buy Jabra Elite 85t at Amazon - $200SmartNoggin NogginstikSmartNogginThis relatively cheap rattle is deceptively useful. It has a light-up face to keep babies interested, multiple textures for them to explore, and a mirror on the bottom for them to learn their own faces. It was a secret weapon during my child's first-year tantrums, so much so that I've gifted it to every new parent I know. It's not high tech at all, but it's a reminder that they’re called classics for a reason.Buy Nogginstik at Amazon - $24Sonos RoamEngadgetSonos' most portable speaker is an excellent choice for new parents, especially if they’ve already bought into the Sonos ecosystem. It's small enough to throw in a bag, giving new parents a way to play some tunes during a picnic. It relies on Bluetooth, so pretty much any device can connect to it. But the best part is that it also works over Wi-Fi with an existing Sonos setup. So if you start playing some songs on your larger Sonos speakers, you can easily pipe that over to the Roam and bring it to your backyard. And since it's from a brand that's known for excellent sound quality, you can expect everything to be much richer than other cheap Bluetooth speakers.Buy Roam at Sonos - $179Apple Watch Series 7AppleThe Apple Watch is great for working out — but it can also be a handy tool for new parents. It's a simple way to keep tabs on texts and other notifications when your hands are full with a baby or baby-related ephemera. It lets you start and stop podcasts when you can't reach your phone. And — here's the kicker — it's also a perfect way to distract youngins and de-escalate shouting matches. It turns out, having a tiny screen on your wrist that can display photos is pretty useful! And it's also a relatively safe device for babies to fiddle with, thanks to its touchscreen. (Of course, you can take your pick of any competing smartwatch for Android users, but we'd recommend Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4.)Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Amazon - $250GoPro Hero10 BlackGoProAction cameras are great for vacations and high-impact sports, but they can be just as useful for new parents. It's the sort of thing you can strap onto a hat when you go out for a light hike with a little one, or just leave it running in your backyard to capture their first steps. Sure, we've all got smartphone cameras, but it's tough to leave those running for extended periods, and they're still a bit distracting if you're dealing with a child. A camera like the Hero10 Black, on the other hand, is something you can just set, forget and discover little video treasures later.Buy Hero10 Black at Amazon - $500Theragun MiniTheragunKeeping up with a new baby can lead to aches and pains in muscles that dad never knew he had. The Theragun Mini can give him the opportunity to get a massage without leaving the house. While there are much bigger and more powerful Theragun machines, the Mini is a good size for beginners and those who want to take its muscle relief power wherever they go. It has a single button that dad can use to change the massage gun’s speed and its ergonomic design makes it easy to reach different parts of the body. And arguably the best part is its 150-minute battery life — while that might not seem like a long time, it truly is when you consider the fact that you don’t need to use it for more than a few minutes each day to feel the results. With that schedule, dad could use the Theragun Mini every day for a month or more before needing to recharge it.Buy Mini at Theragun - $199ComixologyComixologyIt’s hard to keep up with comics when kids are around, but Comixology makes it easy to catch up on your favorite releases. If you know a comic nerd who’s eager to see what the X-Men are up to, or who just wants to catch up on long-running graphic novel series, it’s worth sending them an Amazon gift card that they can use with Comixology. It’s particularly useful for anyone who has an iPad or a decent Android tablet. Not surprisingly, bright and portable screens are one of the best ways to appreciate comic art!Buy Amazon gift cards for ComixologyFisher Price Laugh and Learn Game controllerFisher PriceA perfect gift for any gamer dads in your life, the Laugh and Learn Controller is basically a baby-proofed version of a modern gamepad. There's a joystick, directional pad, and array of buttons for kids to fiddle with. But like any good distracting toy, it also lights up and makes sounds to keep them entertained. It's not exactly complex, but it's inexpensive and effective. That's particularly true for parents of little ones who always gravitate to their expensive console controllers.Buy Laugh and Learn Controller at Amazon - $10Greens Steel insulated tumblerGreens SteelCoffee, tea or another caffeinated beverage is an essential for many new dads and Greens Steel’s insulated tumblers can keep their drink of choice hot or cold for hours. While we all appreciate that luxury, it’s especially important for parents who often find themselves sipping tepid coffee hours after they brewed their first cup because they got distracted with kid duties. These tumblers are made of 18/8 food grade steel and they have a double wall vacuum that maintains temperatures for up to 12 hours. And regardless of which size you get (20-, 30- or 40-ounce) they all fit into standard-sized cup holders, so dad can bring his drink with him when he runs out for an emergency diaper restock.Buy Greens Steel tumbler at Amazon - $29

    The best laptops and tablets to give as gifts

    If you’re thinking of getting a laptop or tablet as a gift, you’ve got a wealth of options. Thanks to the latest round of hardware from Intel, Apple, AMD and NVIDIA, all of our portable devices have gotten steadily faster and more efficient. Even the cheapest iPad can be a decent productivity machine, while gaming laptops now have almost all of the power of their desktop siblings. And with the arrival of Windows 11, it's a perfect time to give someone a nifty PC upgrade, especially since very old computers won’t be able to step up.Dell XPS 13DellNot to sound like a broken record, but the XPS 13 is still the best Windows ultraportable you can buy. The design hasn't changed much, but that's not a huge problem: It's still incredibly light and features extraordinarily thin screen bezels. And now you can also take advantage of Intel's latest 11th-generation processors. The XPS 13 can also be configured with an OLED screen, an ideal gift for someone who could use a bright and color accurate display. And if you’ve got someone in mind who could use even more power, the new XPS 15 has the same sleek design, but it has more room for a bigger display and better hardware.Buy XPS 13 at Dell starting at $950Apple MacBook AirWill Lipman Photography for EngadgetApple's MacBook Air hasn't been upgraded since last year's miraculous model — which gave it the winning combination of Apple's M1 processor, a fan-less design, and incredible battery life — but it's still one of the best laptops on the market. It's powerful enough to handle most productivity tasks and a few games, and whoever’s lucky enough to get it won’t have to worry about any fans spinning up, since it’s completely passively cooled. You can also find the M1-equipped MacBook Air on sale occasionally, making it one of the smarter gift purchases this season.Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999Apple iPadAppleKudos to Apple for continually improving its entry-level iPad. Once again, it's one of the best tablet gift options on the market. It's faster than ever, thanks to Apple's A13 Bionic processor, and it includes more storage. The $329 model now comes with 64GB, or you could bump up to 256GB for $479. That's more than enough space to save every episode of Bluey and several seasons of Sesame Street to survive long car trips. Sure, the design hasn't changed much since last year, but that doesn't matter much — it’s still a more than capable tablet.Buy iPad at Amazon - $329Amazon Fire HD 10Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetAmazon's Fire tablets are basically just video-first Android slates, but they also prove you don’t have to pay a ton to buy a useful tablet for someone. This year, the Fire HD 10 is a bit faster, has 50 percent more memory and features a slightly brighter screen. And, as a bonus, there's a Bluetooth keyboard accessory that can turn it into a cheap productivity tablet. But its core selling point is the same as always: it can tackle most tablet tasks easily, and it won’t cost too much. (There are also kid-centric Fire tablets worth considering, which come with a more durable case and two years worth of free replacements.)Buy Fire HD 10 at Amazon - $150Razer Blade 15RazerYou can take all of the praise we've given Razer's Blade 15 over the years and apply it to the latest model. Razer's flagship gaming notebook still has a sleek unibody aluminum case, and it packs in the latest CPUs and GPUs, including NVIDIA's top-end RTX 3080. And thanks to improved screen choices, you can also gift models with fast 1,440p displays, which are sharper than 1080p screens, and easier to run natively than 4K displays. If portability is a greater concern, take a look at the new Razer Blade 14, a sub-four-pound notebook sporting AMD's latest processors.Buy Blade 15 at Razer - $1,700ASUS Zephyrus G15Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetIf the gamer in your life wants something more flashy and a bit lighter than the Razer Blade, consider the Zephyrus G15. With the combined power of AMD's latest processors and NVIDIA's latest graphics cards, it'll handle practically any game thrown at it. And if you're on a budget, you can find lower-end models cheaper than the equivalent Razer's. Mostly, though, we love this laptop because it has pretty much everything we'd want in a mobile gaming rig — that includes an excellent keyboard, a speedy 165Hz 1440p screen and excellent battery life. The only downside is that there's no webcam, but any aspiring streamer would rather have a separate external camera anyway.Buy Zephyrus G15 at Best Buy - $1,550Acer Chromebook 512Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetThe best Chromebooks are cheap, sturdy and powerful enough to handle basic school and office work. Acer's Chromebook 512 is one of the best current options, especially if you're looking for something for a child. It has a spill resistant keyboard, a sturdy impact-resistant case, and anchored keys that are harder for kids to pull off. Its Intel Celeron N4000 chip isn't the fastest, but it's enough to work on Google Docs, Sheets and Presentations without breaking too much of a sweat.Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Amazon - $200Microsoft Surface Laptop 4Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetSometimes it seems like there are just too many PC ultraportables to choose from, but Microsoft's Surface Laptop line are always a solid option. They feature some of the best keyboards on the market, excellent displays and support for all of Microsoft's notebook accessories, like the Surface Stylus. But mostly, we appreciate them for their design simplicity. They're sturdy, attractive and built for productivity. The latest 15-inch model also packs in speedy AMD processors that are powerful enough to play a few rounds of Overwatch.Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft starting at $799

    The very best accessories for the new iPad

    This likely won’t come as a surprise, but the Apple Pencil is the best stylus you can get for the iPad. Both the first- and second-generation Pencils are designed to work specifically with iPads and it shows in their seamless writing performance. The second-gen stylus has a double-tap feature that you can customize to a certain degree, and pressure-sensitivity allows you to add as much or as little detail as you want to digital artwork. I highly recommend shelling out $100 or $130 for the Apple Pencil if you’re an artist — you won’t be disappointed. But there are other options, too. Logitech’s Crayon is more affordable at $70 and it has arguably a better grip than either Apple Pencil. It’s just as good in terms of latency and accuracy — drawing in Procreate was a lag-free experience and my strokes always ended up exactly where I wanted them to be. Buy Apple Pencil (1st gen) at Amazon - $95 Buy Apple Pencil (2nd gen) at Amazon - $125 Buy Logitech Crayon at Amazon - $70 Valentina Palladino / Engadget But as someone who primarily uses an Apple Pencil for digital art, I missed pressure sensitivity when using the Crayon. Aside from that, the other biggest annoyance is that you have to use a Lightning or USB-C cable to charge it (even the newest model for the iPad Pros doesn’t magnetically attach to the tablet for charging). While I wouldn’t recommend the Crayon for serious artists, I would recommend it for anyone who’s on a strict budget, especially digital journal-keepers, hardcore note-takers and the like. If you’re a heavy user of the Apple Pencil or some other stylus, you should consider getting a screen protector for your iPad. They pull double-duty: not only do they act as a first line of defense if your iPad goes careening onto the concrete, but they can also enhance the digital drawing and writing experience. Using a stylus on an iPad is strange at first because gliding the stylus nib over a glass surface feels nothing like “normal” writing. Matte screen protectors can get closer to replicating the pen-on-paper experience, and they also prevent the stylus nib from wearing down so quickly. Paperlike is the most popular in this space, but Bersem’s screen protectors are a great value at $14 for a pack of two. Not only does the matte finish help when you’re drawing or taking digital notes, but it also reduces screen glare and doesn’t interfere with FaceID on the newest iPads. Buy Paperlike screen protector starting at $40 Buy Bersem screen protectors (2 pack) at Amazon - $14 Hubs and adapters Valentina Palladino / Engadget If you plan on pushing your iPad Pro to its limits as a daily driver, you’ll probably need more than the tablet’s single USB-C port. Apple has provided little guidance to which USB-C hubs and adapters work best with the iPad Pros — there’s no MFi certification for accessories like this yet. Some hubs specifically advertise that they work with the newest iPad Pros, and if you want to be extra safe, I recommend buying one of those that comes from a reputable brand. A newcomer in this space is Satechi’s $100 aluminum stand and hub, a foldable rectangle that cradles your iPad and provides a bunch of useful ports and charging capabilities. The holder itself rotates outward, revealing a hidden, attached USB-C cable and a rubber bumper that keeps the stand in place in your desk. On the back edge are a 4K HDMI socket, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, both SD and microSD card slots and a 60W USB-C connection for charging. I liked the versatility of Satechi’s hub. I could easily use it when I needed to prop my iPad up to watch a YouTube video, and by just plugging in the attached cable, I could switch to using my iPad as more of a work device with all of the necessary connectors in place. It’s also surprisingly light at 10 ounces. Combine that with its foldable design and you have a full-featured hub that can easily be stuffed in a bag. Buy Satechi stand and hub at Amazon - $100 Another popular option is HyperDrive’s USB-C adapter. I’ll admit I was skeptical about this one, mostly because so many Amazon reviewers and YouTube personalities have raved about it (and I have a hard time believing a six-port adapter the size of a lighter should cost $90). However, after testing it out, I can say it delivers on its promises: t’s a neat little adapter that’s just large enough to fit an HDMI socket, a USB-C port, a USB-A connection, micro- and regular SD card slots and a headphone jack on its edges. That should cover most things you’d need an adapter for, save for hardwired internet. However, what sets the HyperDrive USB-C adapter apart is that it comes with a tool kit that gives you more flexibility in how you use it. The default plate that surrounds the USB-C plug fits iPads without screen protectors, but there’s an included plate that accommodates screen protectors. HyperDrive even included a third plate with a dongle-like attachment so the adapter doesn’t have to sit right up against the iPad. All you need to do is use the tiny screwdriver that’s in the box to switch out the plates. I think that somewhat justifies its $90 asking price. So many adapters that hug the iPad Pro’s edges are slick but they become basically unusable if you have a case, skin or screen protector. Buy USB-C adapter at HyperDrive - $90 Valentina Palladino / Engadget But $90 for an adapter is still a lot of money and I’d only recommend spending that much if you plan on using the iPad Pro as your daily driver. A cheaper alternative is Anker’s 5-in-1 USB-C adapter: It works just as well as HyperDrive’s; has most of the same ports, with the exception of an extra USB-C port and a headphone jack; and costs only $26. You could use any of these adapters to connect an external drive to your iPad for more space. We’re fans of Samsung’s T7 series and SanDisk’s Extreme drives for those that want a good amount of extra storage in a fairly durable yet pocketable gadget. If you’d prefer something even more portable, SanDisk’s Dual Drive Luxe flash drive is a good option because it can plug right into your iPad’s USB-C port, it’s available in up to a 1TB capacity and it’s small enough to attach to your keys. Buy Anker 5-in-1 adapter at Amazon - $30 Buy Samsung T7 drive at Amazon - $80 Buy SanDisk Extreme drive at Amazon - $85 Buy SanDisk Dual Drive Luxe at Amazon - $50 Chargers and power Valentina Palladino / Engadget A battery pack or an extra charger is important to have in your bag regardless of where you’re going. RavPower’s 26,800mAh power bank can charge iPad Pros 1.5 times using its 30W USB-C PD port. It also works with the newest MacBook Pros and other USB-C laptops in addition to the Nintendo Switch — so it can be your one-stop-shop for all your charging needs. I also appreciate that it comes with its own USB-C to C cable, so you don’t need to remember to bring one with you, as well as the micro-USB cable used to charge the power bank itself. RavPower’s PD charger will set you back $60, but you can opt for the $50 Anker Powercore Essential PD charger if you want to spend a bit less. Its 20,000mAh capacity will provide at least 50 percent more juice to most iPads. It’s not ideal for larger devices like laptops, but it works well with smartphones and tablets. You also don't want to rely solely on the charging adapter that came with your iPad; it's handy to have a backup. Anker's new line of GaN II chargers has a couple of good options, and arguably the best for most people is the 45W Nano II. It's the midrange adapter in the lineup and it can power up a 2020 11-inch iPad Pro up to 30 percent faster than Apple's default adapter. In just a half hour of charging, I got about a 33 percent boost in battery life on my 11-inch iPad Pro. Anker's device is also smaller than Apple's and it has a foldable design, so it'll fit better in cramped spaces and it'll be easier to throw in a travel bag. Buy RavPower 26,800 power bank at RavPower - $60 Buy Anker 20,000 power bank at Amazon - $50 Buy Anker Nano II 45W GaN charger at Amazon - $36

    Apple releases 14 iOS.4.1 and 11 macOS.2.3 to handle a WebKit vulnerability

    Apple has released a set of updates it recommends all iPhone, iPad and Mac users download as soon as possible. No, iOS 14.5 and Big Sur 11.3 aren’t out yet. Instead, what we have are iOS 14.4.1 and macOS 11.2.3.  When you download them on your devices, all you’ll get is a terse explanation from Apple saying that they’re “important.” However, the support pages spotted by 9to5Mac provide more information. Both updates address a memory corruption issue within WebKit, the engine that powers Apple’s Safari browser. The vulnerability, which was discovered by security researchers from Google and Microsoft, may have allowed bad actors to execute code on your devices using “maliciously crafted” web content. On iOS, you can manually download an update to your iPhone or iPad by opening the Settings app, and then tapping “General” followed by “Software Update.” Meanwhile, on macOS, open the System Preferences menu and click on “Software Update.”

    Apple iPad (2020) and iPadOS 14 review

    iPad 8th-gen (2020) Get more info Get more info 86 Scores Engadget 86   Critic 10 Reviews 8.2   Users Not yet scored   Key Specs Form factor  Tablet Operating system  IOS Screen size  10.2in Storage type  Internal storage Camera (integrated)  Yes Maximum battery life  Up to 10hr iPadOS 14 Get more info Get more info 85 Scores Engadget 85   Critic 3 Reviews 7.7   Users Not yet scored   Key Specs Type  Mobile / embedded OS Source model  Closed Architecture  64-bit Sponsored Links [embedded content] Ever since Apple released its first basic iPad in 2017, we've basically said the same thing every time a new one came along. Sure, you could always find cheaper tablets, but Apple's entry-level option offered the best blend of performance and value. After living with the 2020 model for a while — and at the risk of sounding repetitive — our verdict remains the same. Thanks for reading, we'll see you next time! Yeah, right. Like I could get away with that. Here's what you need to know: This year's cheap iPad might not have gotten a massive overhaul, but it is slightly better in some important respects. And more than anything, it's an excellent way for new tablet owners or people in need of an upgrade to get acquainted with all the work that was gone into iPadOS. That's why we're trying something a little different this time: Since Apple's new software is just as big a deal as its new(ish) hardware, think of this as an iPad and iPadOS review double feature.  Engadget Score Poor Uninspiring Good Excellent Key Apple iPad 8th-gen 86 Pros It’s cheap! Improved performance Battery life is still great Includes a fast new charger Cons Base model only has 32GB of storage Front-facing camera isn’t great Summary The 2020 iPad is basically the same solid tablet we got last year, except it runs and charges a little faster. That may not sound thrilling (because it isn’t) but this is an extremely competent device made more flexible by design changes and Pencil improvements in iPadOS 14. If you haven't upgraded your tablet in age, or if you're buying one for the first time, we still think this is your best all-around option. Be the first to review the iPad 8th-gen (2020)?Your ratings help us make the buyer’s guide better for everyone.Write a review iPad 8th-gen (2020) Get more info Get more info 86 Scores Engadget 86   Critic 10 Reviews 8.2   Users Not yet scored   Your rating Your comments (optional) Login to submit a review! Engadget Score Poor Uninspiring Good Excellent Key Apple iPadOS 85 Pros New designs make some apps easier to use The interface feels cleaner Lots of Pencil improvements Scribble is genuinely great Cons Limited widget placement No App Library! Summary While earlier iPadOS releases laid the groundwork to make Apple’s tablets more capable, iPadOS 14 is mostly concerned with design and polish. That’s not a bad thing: Some redesigned apps are easier to use because they function more like their desktop counterparts, and changes to search and Siri make the iPad experience noticeably cleaner. New feature additions also make the Apple Pencil much more valuable. iPadOS 14 might not be groundbreaking, and it has its issues, but it’s an important step toward better tablet experiences. Be the first to review the iPadOS 14?Your ratings help us make the buyer’s guide better for everyone.Write a review iPadOS 14 Get more info Get more info 85 Scores Engadget 85   Critic 3 Reviews 7.7   Users Not yet scored   Your rating Your comments (optional) Login to submit a review! Configurations If you're thinking of picking up a new tablet and don't want to drop loads of cash, the 8th-generation iPad is an excellent option. The first decision you'll need to make is how much storage you need. The base, $330 iPad comes with just 32GB of space, but if you're the type to hold onto your gadgets for years, the 128GB model ($430) might be the safer bet. You'll also need to make a decision about connectivity since the LTE models command a $130 premium before you start paying for wireless service. Chris Velazco/Engadget Image credit: Chris Velazco/Engadget Familiar hardware Let's start with the iPad since it's by far the most straightforward of Apple's big updates.  When it came time to design the 2019 iPad, Apple threw out its old game plan and gave it a surprising overhaul. The 9.7-inch displays that iPads used for years were gone, replaced by a 10.2-inch screen that also plays nice with the Apple Pencil. And just like the iPad Pros, Apple's redesigned budget model got a side-mounted Smart Connector, so you could magnetically attach keyboard cases and, uh, use this one Logitech charging dock. (Apple's plans of nourishing an ecosystem of Smart Connector accessories clearly never panned out.)  Meanwhile, other iPad design elements remained untouched. Apple left the home button where it was, which means, the Touch ID sensor stayed put, too. There's still a plastic "window" sitting high on the iPad's back, to let wireless signals pass through more easily. And yes, there's still a headphone jack. That Apple mixed and matched components for this updated iPad is the peak of supply chain pragmatism, but hey: It did succeed in bringing once-premium features to its most mainstream tablet.  Gallery: Apple iPad (2020) and iPadOS 14 review | 11 Photos 11 +7 There's a tendency for people who love gadgets to want extremely visible improvements every time there's a new one, and you're not going to see many of those here. Still, when you consider the work that went into the last iPad, then, it's no surprise that Apple recycled that design for this year's model. And for the most part, that's fine with me. Its 10.2-inch screen features plenty of handsome colors and is bright enough for reading in the park (when you’re done binging Netflix on your couch). And while the display might not be dramatically bigger than before, the extra screen real estate gives websites and apps running side by side ample room to breathe. What else? Well, at about 1.08 pounds, this iPad is slightly heavier than its similarly sized siblings -- and I do mean slightly. Apple's cheap tablet is about one AA battery heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro, but it's still easy enough to hold for long stretches of time. And while sticking with a Touch ID sensor was almost certainly a cost-saving measure, I've come to prefer fingerprint sensors now that we live in an age of near-constant mask use.  This is still a completely workable design, and it’s going to feel familiar to a lot of people. But that doesn't mean there are things I wouldn't change.  Chris Velazco/Engadget For one, the $329 entry-level iPad comes with 32GB of storage, which already felt a little anemic last time. That's probably fine if you rely heavily on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Apple Music, but keep in mind that iPadOS 14 alone takes up a little over 6GB of space. Meanwhile, the 1.2-megapixel front camera can capture the occasional passable selfie, but it’s just not up to snuff in now that we have to be on Zoom all the time. (The 8-megapixel rear camera is considerably better for photos, but you're still better off whipping out your phone for those.) It also would've been nice if Apple had gone with a laminated screen this year, in which the display panel itself is fused to the glass layer that protects it. These kinds of screens don't just look better -- they feel and sound better too since you won't hear a hollow plonk every time you prod at the screen. Trust me, if you have fingernails, it'll happen more often than you think. The thing is, all of this is old news. The compromises Apple made to keep iPad cheap were acceptable last year, and they mostly remain acceptable now. Apple did make one notable change, though: It gave the 2020 iPad an A12 Bionic chipset. Yes, that's the same sliver of silicon that powered the company's 2018 flagship phones and yes, that's a big deal. Chris Velazco/Engadget Image credit: Chris Velazco/Engadget In use  My biggest issue with last year's iPad -- and I promise this is the last time I'll mention that thing -- is that it used a chipset that was almost too old for the job. The A10 Fusion made its debut in 2016's iPhone 7, and Apple squeezed it into a cheap iPad in 2018. The problem was, Apple used the A10 again last year. I don't care how good the company is at chipset design -- running modern, demanding apps on a three-year-old processor won’t always feel great. In fairness to Apple, the 7th-gen iPad never felt too slow -- it's just that you'd see little hiccups while playing games or while interacting with multiple apps in Split View mode sometimes. Thankfully, those hiccups are all but gone, courtesy of the A12 Bionic.  In case you were wondering (and since you're reading Engadget, I suspect you were), the A12 packs a six-core CPU: Two cores tackle high-performance tasks while the other four handle lower-priority tasks that don't need as much power. Throw in a quad-core GPU and we're looking at a significant power boost. This tablet has consistently handled everything I've thrown at it. Engadget But first, the basics. iPadOS offers a few ways to multitask: You can run two apps (or the same app twice) side by side in Split View mode, or you can summon one app to float in a smaller window on top of the other as needed. The iPad handles both situations with zero stutters. Of course, you're not always going to be using this thing for work, and I'm glad to report that even graphically lush games run well here. I spent longer than I care to admit poking around the sprawling worlds of Oceanhorn 2 and The Bradwell Conspiracy, and they both ran beautifully. To get a real sense of the power on offer here, I cobbled together a half-hour, nine-gigabyte supercut of 4K video in LumaFusion and Adobe Premiere Rush, and the iPad didn't falter as I chopped up footage and shifted clips around each app's timeline. (I would've tried to edit our review video on this iPad too, but since we prefer leaving that to our talented crew of non-goobers, that idea died on the vine pretty fast.)  The real test was transcoding and exporting those videos as 1080p video clips, and the results were pleasantly surprising. When rendering those files in LumaFusion, the $330 iPad finished within seconds of a $1,000, 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I was slightly confused by the photo finish, so I ran the test again in Premiere Rush and saw a more pronounced difference: The iPad Pro finished in just under five minutes, while the regular iPad took an extra minute and a half. When you consider the vast price difference, that's not shabby at all. Is this the sort of thing most people will wind up doing with their $330 tablets? Probably not — if it wasn’t already clear, this is a machine that’s best suited to the usual iPad things, like web browsing, watching movies and a bit of gaming here and there. Still, I'm pleased to say there’s a surprising amount of oomph here if you ever need it. Chris Velazco/Engadget Of course, none of this would matter if the iPad had lousy battery life, but it remains as solid as ever. Apple rates this model for 10 hours of use on a charge, but in my experience, they tend to lowball that number a bit. When it comes to putzing around on the internet, expect closer to 11.5 hours, depending on what other apps you might occasionally need. When I played a marathon of Double Shot at Love episodes purchased from iTunes, the iPad lasted for about 10.5 hours before needing a charge.  Thankfully, charging happens faster now because Apple ditched its old 12W power adapter for a tiny 20W brick that uses a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. Practically speaking, that means taking this iPad from bone-dry to completely charged now takes about three hours, instead of four or five. Life with iPadOS 14 Too often over the years, software built by both Apple and third-party developers treated iPads like giant iPhones, rather than canvases for specialized kinds of experiences. We knew they could do better, and the initial release of iPadOS 13 seemed like Apple’s acknowledgment that they knew it too. Among other things, that first release included more information-rich home screens, actual on-device file management, desktop-class web browsing in Safari, multitouch gestures for editing text, and the ability to run multiple instances of the same app. Later updates added support for mice and trackpads, narrowing the productivity gap between iPads and more conventional PCs. And now, iPadOS 14 is here to give Apple's tablets an even more distinct identity. There are a few things I should mention up front, though. We’re working on a separate deep dive into iOS 14, and since there’s so much overlap between update and iPadOS 14, I’m just going focus on tablet-specific updates here. Also, as I sort of mentioned earlier, Apple already laid a lot of functional groundwork — the means the changes found in iPadOS 14 can come off a little less substantial. They certainly seemed that way to me at first. Over time I came to appreciate all of the update's disparate bits more, but anyone expecting the kind of dramatic overhaul we got last year is just asking to be disappointed. Engadget One of the first things you'll notice about iPadOS 14 is how much more informative it can be at a glance thanks to expanded support for widgets. (And let me stop you right there -- yes, Android had these first. Google was right.)  Anyway, iPadOS comes with several widgets pre-installed for Apple's own apps, and they really run the gamut. Some, like the battery and weather widgets, are must-haves. Others offer a steady stream of depressing headlines or a curated selection of photos. And then there are the select few that just don't make much sense. Look at Apple's Podcast app widget, for instance. You'd think it would offer media controls or something helpful, but all it ever shows is what podcast you're listening to or what new episode just dropped. Um, great? Engadget That said, there are some frustrating limits to how thoroughly you can tweak the way the iPad looks. You might have seen people on Twitter sharing their ornate iOS 14 home screens, festooned with widgets placed meticulously across multiple windows. Sorry! That's just not possible here. Widgets can only be placed in the small "Today View" window that sits on the left of your home screen, and even if you make sure that panel remains visible, it'll still vanish the moment you hold the iPad upright. (You can technically swipe to open Today View again, but that essentially just replicates how widgets used to be displayed in iOS.) I should also point out that one of the iPhone's best new features, an overflow area for rarely used software called the App Library, isn't part of iPadOS. I’ve heard that the team's main focus was making sure the App Library worked as intended on iOS, and while that's certainly their prerogative, I can't help but miss it here. Bigger screens mean more app icons, more folders, and (for me, at least) more disorganization. Here's hoping Apple sorts this out soon.  Engadget Image credit: Engadget Meanwhile, Apple made other design changes that further blur the line between the iPad and Mac. Some of Apple's apps, for example, have been redesigned with disappearing sidebars that offer faster access to options and controls you'd normally have to hunt around for. Calendar, Notes, Files, Music -- all of them are a little easier to interact with thanks to those sidebars, whether you're using your finger or a mouse. And in those rare cases where a user has more experience with Macs than iPads, it helps that the updated designs make these apps look like dead ringers for the desktop counterparts. Ideally, Apple would require (or at least strongly suggest) developers use more sidebars in their apps because they're so damned convenient, but I'm not holding my breath. Other interface changes have been equally satisfying, like Apple's revamped approach to search. It used to be that if you searched for, say, Gmail, iPadOS would throw a whole screen of results at you. You might get a shortcut to the app if it was installed, along with a link to its settings, some Siri-suggested websites, and maybe a few links to similar software in the App Store. I'm sure some people appreciated getting a full wall of results to skim through, but there’s a better way. What's nice about Apple's new search feature is that it looks and runs almost exactly the way Spotlight does on a Mac. You’ll still get the same results; Search just doesn’t fill your entire screen with them anymore. Theoretically, that might mean a few extra taps to get exactly the hit you were looking for. But, more often than not, the first search result was what I was looking for. Having fewer results to scan made the whole process feel a bit faster.  Engadget So yeah, it would appear the convergence of Apple's Mac and iPad software is well underway. There's one more thing we need to talk about, though: the Apple Pencil. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bummed this iPad uses Apple's first-gen stylus from five years ago, but at least iPadOS 14 gives you more ways to use it. The most notable Pencil-focused addition is Scribble, which lets you just start writing in any text field. From there, iPadOS does its best to render your chicken scratch into machine-readable text. You don’t have to get your pen strokes smack in the middle of the field either! As long as you're close, iPadOS will figure out where you actually meant to write and take it from there.  Engadget Now, I'll be the first to admit my penmanship ranges from pretty good to doctor-level illegible depending on how fast I'm going, but I've been surprised by how accurate the results have been. Of course, mistakes happen, and thankfully it's easy enough to fix errors with a cluster of on-screen controls that appear at the bottom of the screen. This is my one quibble with Scribble: If you flub a URL or a Google search term, having to move your hand down to those controls can get you out of a groove pretty quickly. I know how minor this sounds, but if you're like me and make back-to-back typos all the time, the back-and-forth gets old fast.  The smart move would've been for iPadOS to dynamically place that "palette" on screen depending on where the text field you're writing is. I'm adding that to my wishlist for iPadOS 14.1. Still, if you're the type of person who uses the Pencil frequently anyway, I can't overstate how helpful Scribble is; it means you don't have to put the Pencil down to use all your other software.  Speaking of other software, the Notes app has been revamped with a slew of new Pencil features. If you deal with diagrams frequently, Notes will "quantize" your doodled polygons, arrows, and hearts, turning them into geometrically precise figures. If marking up flowcharts isn't your thing, you can double-tap anything you’ve written to select it -- from there, you can select as much of your scrawl as needed and paste it as plain text, or just rearrange it on the page. Perhaps best of all, the Notes app is constantly processing what you write as soon as you write it, so it knows to treat some snippets differently than others.  Engadget Did you just get someone's number? In a pandemic? Nice. If you jot it down in Notes, iPadOS will recognize it as someone's digits and underline it. After that, you can tap it to get shortcuts for adding them to your contacts, sending them a message or just calling them immediately. (Don't be too eager.) The same trick works for dates, addresses and hastily written URLs, and honestly, this might be enough to lure away from organization apps like Notion. Unfortunately, it's impossible to get a feel for some of the update's features because a) they aren't being widely used yet; and b) life in the COVID era means some of the most obvious use cases aren't as feasible as they used to be. App Clips might be the best example. Apple pitches them as miniature versions of apps that perform just one or two tasks, like unlocking a Lyft scooter or ordering a turkey sandwich from Panera Bread. It's a potentially neat shift in software design that could trim some friction out of infrequent interactions, but we'll have to wait until more developers adopt it to know for sure.  Samsung The competition Ironically, the 2020 iPad's biggest competitor might just be another iPad. Just moments after Apple revealed its cheap and cheerful refresh, it showed off a new iPad Air with a colorful Pro-inspired design and the same A14 Bionic chipset that will soon power the company's new iPhones. If you can afford $600, you'll get a tablet that outguns this model in just about every way, and I suspect quite a few people itching for a new tablet may just wait for that instead. (Considering the chipset it uses, we expect the new Air to go on sale alongside the iPhone 12 in October.)  But that's not to say this year's iPad doesn't face competition elsewhere. Earlier this year, Samsung released the $350 Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which packs a cleaner design, a 10.4-inch TFT display, a microSD card for extra storage space and an included S Pen. Its looks are appealing, as is the fact you don't have to pay extra for one of its most valuable accessories. That said, its screen runs at a slightly lower resolution than the iPad, and is a smidge dimmer too.  Beyond that, its octa-core Exynos 9611 chipset -- while perfectly adequate during testing -- can't quite stack up to the iPad's A12 Bionic. (In fact, as far as Geekbench results go, the 2020 iPad's two-year-old chipset scores closer to the new Galaxy Tab S7 and its Snapdragon 865 Plus.) It's a great Android tablet option, but the iPad's better performance and stronger tablet app ecosystem give it a considerable edge. Chris Velazco/Engadget Wrap-up There will be some people who wanted Apple to do more with the cheap iPad this time, and I can’t say I disagree. Since it got such a noticeable redesign last year, the 2020 model was always going to be more... straightforward by comparison. Ultimately Apple delivered a well-rounded package for the price, and what it lacks in flashy thrills it makes up for with more consistently competent performance. Meanwhile, iPadOS 14 packs plenty of design tweaks, and gives this basic tablet some of the software tools it needs to shine as an inexpensive productivity machine. Taken together, they're enough to -- once again -- make this year's cheap iPad the best tablet deal you'll find out there. In this article: ipad 2020, iPadOS, tablet, iPadOS 14, ipad, Software, apple, review, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 97 Shares Share Tweet Share

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