A FEW MINUTES after the Eurostar train pulled out of King’s Cross station in London and began its two-hour journey to Brussels, I grabbed my iPad out of my bag. I opened the Kindle app and read a few chapters of Call for the Dead, John le Carré’s first novel. Then I switched to Netflix and watched the new Louis CK special I’d downloaded. I flipped to the camera and took a photo, because I mean, the countryside, it’s so quaint. I played Typeshift, read the news, played FIFA, made a dent in my Instapaper queue, and jotted down a few notes about things I needed to get while we were in Belgium. As we rolled into Brussels, I’d barely knocked 10 percent off my iPad’s battery. So I flipped LTE on and tried to figure out how the heck to get to our Airbnb.

I’ve been carrying Apple’s new, cheaper 9.7-inch iPad around for the last couple of weeks, putting the $329 tablet through its paces. (In gold, because I’m fancy like that.) It was the only gadget with me on vacation, other than my phone, and proved more than adequate for everything I needed.

Apple likes to talk about the cheaper iPad as a device for schools and students, but I see it as Apple realizing most people don’t want a tablet that replaces their computer. They want a gadget for reading books, playing games, watching movies, aimlessly milling the internet, FaceTime-ing with the family back home. Hardly anyone needs an iPad, strictly speaking. But it’s a wonderful thing to have. And at $329, down from $499, it’s a much more palatable purchase.


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