Artist Review: iPad 6th Gen (2018) with Apple Pencil

Update 22 April 2018: Video review added

It was inevitable that Apple would release a normal iPad, an iPad non-Pro, with Apple Pencil support eventually. So here we have it, the 6th generation iPad that was released in March 2018.

Before I go on, I've to thank my patrons on Patreon for making this review possible. I bought the iPad with money from Patreon to make some reviews. After this, I'm going to sell the iPad away, at a loss again, since I already have the iPad Pro.

This review is for artists and designers who want to know if this new iPad can fit in their workflow, and if it's any good when compared to the iPad Pro.

Selling point

The main selling point of this iPad is the Apple Pencil support. If you're not going to use the Apple Pencil, maybe you can find earlier models and see if they are selling at cheaper prices. The performance difference between the previous A9 processor and the new A10 is not going to be significant. If you're thinking of upgrading, ask yourself if you need the Apple Pencil support.

Having Apple Pencil support in the iPad 6 is exciting for artists and designers because this iPad is more affordable than the iPad Pro. For those without a big budget, it's now worth taking another look at the iPad. Let's take a look at the pricing of various iPads with Apple Pencil support:

  • iPad (2018) 32GB - US $329 wifi / $459 cellular
  • iPad (2018) 128GB - US $429 wifi / $559 cellular
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (2016) 32GB - $469 (refurbished)
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (2016) 128GB - $529 (refurbished)
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (2016) 256GB - $589 (refurbished)
  • iPad Pro 10.5 (2017) 64GB - $649 new / $549 refurbished
  • iPad Pro 10.5 (2017) 256GB - $799 new / $679 refurbished
  • iPad Pro 10.5 (2017) 512GB - $999 new / $849 refurbished
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2015) 32GB - $589 (refurbished)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2015) 32GB - $659 refurbished
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2017) 64GB - $799 new / $679 refurbished
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2017) 256GB - $949 new / $809 refurbished
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2017) 512GB - $1149 new / $979 refurbished

All the iPad Pros listed above are wifi models. Wifi+cellular models usually cost $100 or more.

There are so many price tiers for the various iPads and iPad Pros. The main thing to note is, iPad Pros, even refurbished ones, are still significantly more expensive compared to iPad 6. For example, the iPad 32GB is priced at US $329 while the refurbished iPad Pro 9.7 (2015) 32GB is $469. That's a $140 difference. With the new iPad Pros from 2017, the price difference is even more significant. And remember to add another US $99 because Apple Pencil is sold separately.

Design and build quality


Design and build quality of the iPad 6 is excellent. It's also similar to the iPad 5 (2017) so all the previous cases can still be used.

The screen is still an IPS panel which I prefer over the unnaturally over-saturated look of OLEDs. Colours on IPS panels more pleasing to me.


The screen is extremely reflective. I've already applied a matte screen protector on mine. Having a screen protector on removes the reflection and also provides a much nicer tactile drawing experience when using Apple Pencil on it. It feels real good drawing on a matte surface. But the downside of the matte screen protector is it affects the sharpness slightly, which to me is a minor compromise.

Having a non-reflective screen when drawing outdoors makes it much more enjoyable experience. If the screen is reflective, the reflection can block off what you see.


The IPS display uses 2,048 × 1,536 resolution which makes everything look sharp. You can even see the details of small icons inside the icon folders. The screen brightness is adequate for drawing outdoors.


iPad 6 uses the 1st generation TouchID technology. It's slightly slower compared to iPad Pro when unlocking but it's not sluggish by any means.


iPad 6 only has speakers on the bottom side while the iPad Pro has speakers at the top and bottom. If you're someone who consumes a lot of audio or video content, the 4 speakers from the iPad Pro just sounds fuller because the audio is coming from both sides.


The charging port is the same port used to charge the Apple Pencil. When the Apple Pencil is inserted, the bottom part of the iPad lifts off slightly because the Apple Pencil is thicker than the iPad. If you have a case on, it may be the Apple Pencil that lifts off the table.

Apple Pencil


This is still the same Apple Pencil that was released with the first iPad Pro. It still works great and is the best stylus for the iPad Pro. The tapered point allows one to see the lines beneath the tip while you're drawing.


Apple Pencil takes 15 minutes for a full charge. And you can charge it with the iPad so you don't have to bring any other charging accessories.


Apple Pencil has a nice weight and feels good in hand.

iPad 6 vs iPad Pro

Here are the main differences between the iPad 6 and iPad Pro.

Size
iPad Pro is available in larger sizes 10.5 and 12.9 inches. Drawing on iPad 6's 9.7-inch feels like drawing on an A5 sketchbook (5.8 x 8.3 in).

The 10.5-inch is not only larger but has more resolution: 2224×1668 vs 2048×1536. The 0.6 inch diagonal difference isn't really large. The extra resolution of the 10.5-inch is very useful though because it allows more space for user interface such as tool bars and palettes. That in effect makes the 10.5-inch feels more spacious to draw on, even though the physical drawing area isn't that much larger.

The 12.9-inch is significantly larger in size compared to the 9.7-inch. The 12.9-inch drawing area is two times that of the 9.7-inch. The downside of the 12.9-inch is it's not as portable compared to the 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch.

Some people prefer portability, some the size.

True Tone display

iPad Pros come with True Tone technology which measures ambient light and colour correct the display so that it displays accurate colour. The iPad 6 does not come with True Tone. It's not really a deal breaker for me. True Tone is nice to have, but it's not critical.

True Tone is helpful when you're working in environments with unpredictable lighting or coloured lights. For example, if you have a warm light bulb casting warm light on the iPad Pro, True Tone will adjust and make the display's colour temperature cooler so that the white will appear white instead of slight yellowish.

The photo above was taken in a room with tinted blue windows. You can click on the picture get view it larger and see if you can notice any difference.

Colour accuracy
iPad Pro supports wide colour display (P3). iPad 6's colours look great too.

Laminated display
The iPad Pro's glass surface is extremely close to the actual screen. There's a bit more gap between the glass and screen with the iPad 6.

When drawing on the iPad Pro, it really feels like the lines are on the surface of the glass. The experience of drawing on the iPad 6 is not too bad either and is something I consider satisfactory.

When there's that gap, there's usually parallax. But parallax affects larger screens more than smaller screen so it's not really a problem here. On iPad 6, the lines still look like they appear directly beneath the tip while drawing.

The iPad 6's gap, which is an air gap, produces a hollow sound when the surface is being tapped on. iPad Pro produces a more dampened sound.

iPad Pro's display is good, but iPad 6 display is quite good too.

ProMotion display with 120 Hz
The 120Hz frame rates makes animation effects look really smooth and sleek on the iPad Pro. Scrolling, fade ins and outs are all so smooth. Note that this is only noticeable if you compare the iPad Pro and iPad 6 side by side. If you have nothing to compare against, then you may not even know the difference because a lot of displays we use are running at 60Hz, e.g. monitors, phones.

When it comes to drawing, the difference isn't that noticeable. When drawing, the lines still appear very responsive.

RAM and storage

iPad 6 only has 2GB of RAM.

While it's great to have the 4GB RAM on the iPad Pro, the difference can only be felt when you use a lot of layers for your work, and I mean A LOT of layers. When I tried to create the same custom size canvas on Procreate using iPad Pro and iPad 6, the limit to number of layers is the same.

As for storage, iPad 6 tops out at 128GB while with the iPad Pro you can go up to 512GB.

32GB storage is enough if you're only creating art and graphic files. If you want to download the occasional video, store huge files, then storage on the 32GB model will run out very quickly. iOS also takes up storage space too. And if you install a lot of apps, those can take up space quickly too. If you use cloud services, then having 32GB may not be too bad. But if you have the budget, I do recommend getting the 128GB model. Who knows, maybe you have to store some videos to watch on a long commute or travel.

Other things
iPad Pro has 4 speakers, two on each side. iPad 6 only has 2 speaks at the bottom.

iPad Pro has Smart Connector where you can connect smart keyboard cases.

Battery life for both are 10 hours.

Drawing performance


I'm extremely satisfied with drawing on the iPad 6 with the Apple Pencil.

Because of the price and lack of features with the iPad 6, I had in mind that this is going to be an inferior product compared to the iPad Pro. I was so wrong.

When I first drew on the iPad 6, I was thinking of the missing features but after a while I was completely absorbed by what I was drawing. Other than the hollow tapping sound which is easy to get used to, the drawing experience is similar to that of drawing on the iPad Pro. The drawing process was enjoyable and felt natural.

Pressure sensitivity works really well

Palm rejection is almost flawless. And this is where the Apple Pencil support really shines.


Apple Pencil has tilt sensitivity and that's a joy to work with too. And the tilt responds well to pressure also. The app above is Paper by FiftyThree. Click for a larger view.


Apple Pencil was able to capture my handwriting very accurately. Apple wants this to be an educational tool where students can take notes and I think the implementation is really good.


This was drawn with Procreate. Click for a larger view.

The larger areas were coloured by tilting Apple Pencil. I guess you can colour large areas by changing the brush size but with the Apple Pencil, you have the option of choosing thin by not tilting and choosing wide by tilting -- no changes in settings required. This little detail is what separates Apple Pencil with other styluses.

Video review

Conclusion

Here's the bottom line. iPad 6 is the best portable digital drawing tablet at the current price point. iPad Pro is better, sure, but more expensive. Wacom MobileStudio Pro is better, but more expensive. It's even cheaper than the Samsung Tab S3 which is not as good although the S Pen is included.

If you're looking for a wonderful digital sketchpad at an affordable price (relatively speaking), the iPad 6 gets my recommendation.

The main advantage the iPad Pro has over the iPad 6 is really the size. The drawing experience is so similar despite the lack of so many features that it may not be wise to spend the extra hundreds of dollars to get the Pro, unless you need a larger area to draw on.

Availability

Check out more reviews on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.es | Amazon.it | Amazon.co.jp

Make sure to read the reviews properly to find out if it's the 2018 iPad.

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6 Comments

Thanks very much for this. I

Thanks very much for this. I already purchased the iPad 6 and Pencil earlier this week. But it's good to know you think it's a decent choice. I've just done my very first Procreate sketch! Now I have lots of tutorials, both the Procreate manual and some on YouTube to use to learn.

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