The humble iPad has come a long way over the past 10 years or so. 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, like Apple’s own Magic Keyboard. 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?
There are a number of things to consider before buying an iPad. For starters, you’ll want to consider what you plan on using it for. If you just want it for browsing the web, using social media, and watching videos, then you could probably get by with the entry-level iPad perfectly fine. If, however, you want to use your iPad for some work, some gaming, and anything else that requires processing power, it’s worth upgrading. You’ll also want to consider how much you can spend. The Air is more expensive than the entry-level model. It’s also a whole lot nicer, with a much more modern design.
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 (2022)
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 in 2021, 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.
It even got Pro-like performance. Now, both the iPad Pro and iPad Air have Apple’s M1 chip, making the tablet incredibly powerful, and able to handle everything you’ll throw at it. That includes using video and image editing apps. You’ll also get either 64GB or 256GB of storage.
The iPad Air offers a 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. And, the tablet supports the same Magic Keyboard as the 11-inch Pro, meaning you can arguably 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.
Best cheap iPad: 10.2-inch iPad (2021)
Pros: Inexpensive, same software as more expensive models
Cons: Dated design, only first-gen Apple Pencil support
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. The dated design does, however, mean that the device is only compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil.
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 64GB of storage, but it can be upgraded to offer 256GB.
The entry-level iPad starts at $329, and comes in Silver or Space Gray.
Best iPad for pros: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)
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.
Best big iPad: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)
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.
Best small iPad: iPad Mini (2021)
Pros: Portable, very powerful, modern design, Touch ID in power button
Cons: A little expensive
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. Apple refreshed the tablet for 2021, giving it a modern new design, and adding the same ultra-powerful A15 Bionic chip that’s found in the iPhone 13 series. In other words, the iPad Mini is an absolute powerhouse.
The design is similar to the current generation of the iPad Air, just a little smaller. It supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, which takes up most of the side of the tablet when charging. And, it’s available in a range of cool colors. On the top, there’s a Touch ID enabled power button, which makes it easy to access your tablet.
The display is pretty nice too. While it isn’t a fast refresh rate OLED display, it still gets bright, and offers vibrant colors. You won’t get as much screen as a larger tablet, but you’ll still love watching movies and playing video games on the iPad Mini.
The device is available in a range of colors, storage amounts of either 64GB and 256GB, and in a cellular model.