When the iPad first launched in 2010, there was only one model available. Now, there are five different iPad models to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks to consider.
What makes the iPad Pro different to the iPad Air? Which is the most affordable iPad? Which iPad should you buy? Let’s take a look at the lineup and help you find the best iPad for you.
Best iPad Overall: iPad Air
The iPad Air is the Apple tablet with the broadest appeal. The iPad Air provides the right balance between value and power to suit most users. It features a 10.5-inch display and is powered by Apple’s A12 Bionic chip which was first introduced alongside the iPhone XS and XR in late 2018.
That means the Air can handle most tasks you throw at it, including demanding 3D games and resource-intensive digital audio workstations. The 10.5-inch display is large enough to provide clear benefits over a smaller smartphone display, without being so large that it’s unwieldy.
Compatibility with Apple’s Smart Keyboard attachment is a bonus for students or anyone who anticipates using their tablet for writing purposes. There’s also support for the first generation of Apple Pencil which is perfect for handwritten notes, annotating PDFs, or doodling and sketching.
There are some limitations placed on the Air that defies its broad appeal. It uses a dated chassis that first appeared when the original iPad Air was released in 2013. You can unlock it with the slightly outmoded Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and it’s only available in capacities of up to 256GB.
Anyone considering the pricier iPad Pro should first look at the iPad Air. Its A12 Bionic chip doesn’t quite meet the dizzying heights of its more expensive counterparts, but overall the iPad Air provides a tremendous amount of bang for your buck in a neat little package.
By virtue of the larger screen, it’s hard not to recommend the iPad Pro 12.9-inch to anyone looking at using their tablet for artistic purposes. Coupled with the second-generation Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro is a force to be reckoned with for digital artists who want to sketch, paint, and refine their ideas on a tablet.
The 2020 edition of the iPad Pro is equipped with a 10MP Ultra Wide camera, 12MP Wide lens, studio-quality mics, and a LiDAR Scanner. The latter addition is an entirely new feature for Apple’s tablet lineup. The scanner measures the distance to surrounding objects up to five meters away. Coupled with the iPad Pro’s other sensors, this allows for a more professional video and photo editing workflow, as well as improved AR performance.
But for most other users, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will likely feel a bit big. It’s too large to hold with one hand comfortably, so it’s not ideal for browsing Facebook on the couch. Its size also makes it a little harder to transport in a small bag. One of the reasons consumers turn to tablets is for their superior portability, so this is worth keeping in mind.
The brains of the operation is Apple’s A12Z Bionic processor, making the device more powerful than many Windows computers. In essence, this means the iPad Pro will be able to handle more intensive processes, though much of the extra grunt is put to use simply driving the larger display. This includes capturing and editing 4K video, for example.
When you buy an iPad Pro, you’re paying for a flagship user experience. The redesigned iPad Pro features the smallest bezel on any Apple tablet ever and also incorporates Face ID biometrics first seen on the iPhone X.
The iPad Pro 11-inch might be able to replace your laptop when coupled with the Smart Keyboard Folio. While iPadOS isn’t as powerful as macOS or Windows, the vast selection of apps available helps make up for it. The iPad Pro costs as much as a mid-range laptop—a price that doesn’t include the optional keyboard or stylus accessories.
The latest iteration of the iPad Pro is designed with iPadOS 13.04 in mind. This revision of the iPad’s operating system brings with it the ability to use a trackpad with your Apple tablet. Not only has this feature been explicitly designed for the iPad, rather than directly importing the Mac experience, but there’ll also be a new detachable keyboard—the Magic Keyboard—to go alongside the update.
While your own experience may vary, typing on the Smart Keyboard Folio is a pleasant experience. Despite sitting almost flat against the desk, the keyboard is comfortable and allows you to type at speed as a comparably-sized MacBook would. This wasn’t the case with Apple’s original 9.7-inch iPad Pro folio, which felt cramped.
Furthermore, the A12Z Bionic chip found inside the iPad Pro outshines many laptops in terms of raw power and overall system performance. You’ll have no problems editing 4K videos in iMovie, playing intensive 3D games, or using two apps side-by-side with all that power at your disposal. Fortunately, aside from the size, both the 12.9-inch and 11-inch models of the iPad Pro come equipped with the same hardware and software.
The iPad Pro has a redesigned chassis and tiny bezel. It includes Face ID for unlocking your tablet with a glance, rather than a fingerprint. It also comes in sizes of up to 1TB, compared to the iPad Air’s 256GB.
Best iPad for Tight Budgets: iPad
Apple’s entry-level tablet is known simply as the iPad. The main attraction here is the iPad’s price; it is significantly cheaper than Apple’s other tablets. The iPad received a refresh in 2019, evolving the iconic device to its seventh generation.
The iPad comes with a 10.2-inch display and is powered by Apple’s A10 Fusion chip. This was first introduced in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7. However, despite not being a cutting edge device, the iPad is still a capable tablet for everyday tasks. It will give you no problems browsing the web, checking social media, responding to email, streaming videos and music, and even playing most games.
The seventh-generation iPad was also the first device to ship with Apple’s latest tablet-specific operating system, iPadOS. In many other respects, the iPad is similar to the iPad Air, albeit 0.07 pounds heavier. They both feature an eight-megapixel rear-facing camera and have up to 10-hour battery life. The iPad is somewhat lacking in the front-facing camera, taking 1.7-megapixel photos compared to the iPad Air’s 7-megapixel captures.
The tablet is compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil and also supports the Smart Keyboard, as well as third-party Bluetooth keyboards. While Face ID is available for iPhone and iPad Pro users, the iPad ships only with Touch ID. Like many Apple products, the iPad is available in a variety of storage capacities up to 128GB.
Best Portable iPad: iPad mini
In March 2019, Apple updated the iPad mini line which hadn’t seen a refresh since 2015. The updated tablets feature the same A12 Bionic chip found in the iPad Air and iPhone XS. That means they’ve got enough power under the hood to chew through most apps and processes.
But the main reason to choose the iPad mini is its form factor. With a 7.9-inch display, the iPad mini can fit into a small handbag or large pocket. Its width and height resemble many hardback books, and so it makes a compelling e-reader too.
Apple’s smallest tablet fits inside the same chassis as its predecessor. There’s also a Touch ID fingerprint scanner for unlocking and making purchases. You can get the iPad mini in sizes of up to 256GB. Ultimately, the main reason to pick up a Mini is that you want a very small tablet.
Which iPad Should You Buy?
You might think the best iPad would be the most expensive; the iPad Pro. However, the iPad Air is probably the best tablet on this list. Not only is it compatible with the first generation Pencil and Smart Keyboard folio, it’s decent value too.
Whatever you buy, make sure you buy with future use in mind because Apple tablets tend to last. By far one of the most important things to consider is how much storage you need. Chose the wrong size, and you’ll be locked into a battle of creating free space on iOS