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Best iPad in 2021: Which of Apple’s tablets is best for you?

July 20th, 2021 at 11:49 AM
Best iPad

The humble iPad has come a long way over the years. Gone are the days when the iPad was essentially just a big-screen iPhone. These days, the tablet has its own operating system in iPadOS. It’s also compatible with tons of accessories that arguably make it a laptop replacement. Apple does, however, offer a number of models — and as a result, it can be hard to find the best iPad for your needs.

Should you go the ultra-pricey iPad Pro? Or stick with the entry-level iPad? Or perhaps get something in between?

We’ve used all of Apple’s iPad models, and have a good idea of who should buy which model. Here’s everything you need to know.

Best iPad overall: iPad Air (2020)

iPad AirImage source: Apple Inc.

Pros: Modern and colorful design, Touch ID sensor, excellent performance

Cons: No Face ID, battery is only fine

Apple gave the iPad Air a major revamp last year, giving it most of the best features on offer by the Pro model, in a much more affordable product. The device offers a nice 10.9-inch edge-to-edge display, comes in a range of great colors, and has the performance to handle pretty much anything that you can throw at it.

While the new Pro offers Apple’s ultra-powerful M1 chip, the Air instead comes with an Apple A14 Bionic processor. Don’t worry though — the A14 is still an incredibly powerful chip, and the iPad Air will still perform incredibly well. Along with the A14 Bionic, you’ll also get either 64 or 256GB of storage.

The iPad Air offers a new flat-edged design that supports charging the Apple Pencil, plus there’s a Touch ID sensor built right into the power button, making it easy to get into your device. The tablet also supports the same Magic Keyboard as the 11-inch Pro, meaning you can essentially use it as a laptop replacement. On the bottom, there’s a USB-C port, so you can use the tablet with a range of accessories.

Apple iPad Air (2020) List Price:$599.00 Price:$569.99 You Save:$29.01 (5%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Best cheap iPad: 10.2-inch iPad (2019)

Apple iPad 10.2Image source: Apple

Pros: Inexpensive, same software as more expensive models

Cons: Only 32GB of storage in base model, dated design

Not everyone wants to spend more than $500 on a tablet — and thankfully, you don’t have to. The entry-level iPad may not offer the same design and performance as the more expensive models, but it still has Apple’s great iPadOS software and works with all your favorite apps.

The design of the entry-level 10.2-inch iPad is slightly dated, but it still looks pretty good. The device has a larger forehead and chin, with a Touch ID sensor at the bottom. On the bottom, there’s a Lightning port — not USB-C.

Under the hood, the tablet is still pretty powerful. The device offers an Apple A10 Fusion chip, which isn’t quite as impressive as some of the other models, but can still easily handle things like video-streaming, social media, and basic mobile gaming. The entry-level model has 32GB of storage, but it can be upgraded to offer 128GB.

The entry-level iPad starts at $329, and comes in Silver, Gold, or Space Gray.

Apple iPad 10.2-inch (2020) List Price:$329.00 Price:$299.00 You Save:$30.00 (9%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Best iPad for pros: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Apple iPad ProImage source: Apple

Pros: Incredible performance, Face ID, Center Stage works great

Cons: Mini-LED is reserved for the larger model, expensive

If you want a little more oomph, but don’t need a huge screen, then the 11-inch model may well be the way to go. The iPad Pro was recently given a massive update by Apple to include the same M1 chip that you can find in the iMac and MacBook Air, meaning that it basically performs as well. In other words, if you need a device for work, the iPad Pro should definitely do the trick.

Of course, there are other features on offer by the iPad Pro too, and they all come together to make for a premium experience. The device offers Face ID for quick login, and a USB 4 port on the bottom, so it’ll support many of the latest and greatest peripherals and accessories. The device also has an ultrawide front-facing camera with Apple’s new Center Stage feature, which can follow you around a room. It works great.

Rest assured, the display on the device is awesome. No, it’s not the Mini-LED display on offer by the larger iPad Pro model, but it still offers beautifully vivid colors, and a 120Hz refresh rate for a responsive feel. As you would expect the iPad Pro supports the second-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard.

So what are the downsides? Well, perhaps the biggest one is that the 11-inch iPad Pro isn’t cheap, with a starting price of $800.

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) List Price:$799.00 Price:$749.00 You Save:$50.00 (6%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Best big iPad: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

Magic Keyboard FrontImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Pros: Stunning display, incredible performance, Face ID, Center Stage works great

Cons: Very expensive, huge

Want the biggest iPad you can get, and don’t mind spending some cash to get it? The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the tablet for you. It’s big, incredibly powerful, and very expensive.

Of course, there are some advantages to shelling out that cash. You’ll get all the excellent performance and features on offer by the smaller model, plus a Mini-LED display. Now, as mentioned, the display on the 11-inch iPad Pro is already incredible. But the Mini-LED tech on the larger device takes things to the next level. Mini-LED essentially allows the iPad to turn off areas of the screen to achieve deeper blacks and higher contrast. Basically, it looks more natural.

Apart from the stunning display, you’ll still get the awesome M1 chip, support for features like Center Stage, and the ability to use the iPad with the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil. It’s actually a viable laptop replacement for many users.

As mentioned, the tablet is expensive. The base model comes in at a hefty $1,100, and you’ll pay extra for the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil if you want them. But the trade-off is an incredibly impressive experience as a whole.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021) List Price:$1,099.00 Price:$999.00 You Save:$100.00 (9%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Best small iPad: iPad Mini (2019)

Apple iPad MiniImage source: Apple

Pros: Portable, relatively powerful

Cons: Aging design, no Face ID, not overly cheap

Maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum — prefer the smallest iPad you can get your hands on. In that case, the iPad Mini is the tablet to get. The device may not be the most high-tech device out there, but it’s very portable, and still more than powerful enough for most use-cases.

It’s important to note that we are expecting a refresh to the iPad Mini some point relatively soon. There have been plenty of rumors about an iPad Mini that looks like the current-generation iPad Air. So, it may be worth waiting a few months until the next-generation device comes out.

If you don’t really want to wait, then you’ll still get a great device. The device sports a slightly older design, with a Touch ID button on the bottom to make it easy to get into your device. The display sits in at 7.9 inches.

Under the hood, the iPad Mini is pretty powerful. It’s got an Apple A12 Bionic processor, with storage amounts including either 64GB or 256GB. The device does support the Apple Pencil, but only the first-generation model — so you’ll need to be comfortable with it sticking out the bottom of your device for charging.

Apple iPad Mini (2019) Price: Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

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