With four different models in various sizes and prices ranging from $329 to nearly $2,000, there are plenty of iPad options to choose from. That’s a good thing, but how do you decide which one to buy?
Do you just want to watch videos and use a few apps or are you looking for something that can be a laptop replacement or a creative tool? Use our handy iPad buying guide to get the right Apple slate for your needs and budget.
The recently announced iPad Air 5 will introduce a few critical changes to the current model including the introduction of the M1 processor and optional 5G. It retains the price point and the other features of its predecessor, so if you can wait until the March 11 pre-order date or more importantly the March 18 release date you should hold out for the new model. On the other hand, if you can get a particularly enticing deal on the iPad Air 2020, the updates aren’t going to make a game-changing difference for most users.
iPad Pro vs. iPad Air vs. iPad mini vs. iPad: Compared
The iPad lineup is made up of four families: the iPad Pro, the iPad mini, the iPad Air and the regular, 10.2-inch iPad. But as you drill down to the individual models, you’ll find plenty of variety in specs, features and price. Here’s a quick breakdown.
|iPad Pro12.9-inch||iPad Pro11-inch||iPad Air (2020)||iPad (2021)||iPad mini (2021)|
|Best For||Laptop Replacement, Professional Artists||Laptop Replacement, Professional Artists||Productivity, Media Consumption, Gaming||Media Consumption, Gaming||Reading, Email, Social Media, Gaming|
|Screen||12.9 inches (2732 x 2048), Liquid Retina XDR||11 inches (2388 x 1688); Liquid Retina||10.9-inch (2360 x 1640)||10.2 inches (2160 x 1620)||8.3 inches Liquid Retina|
|Battery Life||10 hours (rated, web surfing); 9 hours (browsing)||10 hours (rated, web surfing); 9 hours (browsing)||10:29||11:59||TBD|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB||64GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB||64GB, TBD|
|Cameras(Rear / Front)||12MP and 10MP/7MP front||12MP and 10MP/7MP||12MP/7MP||8MP, 12MP||12MP, 12MP|
|Color Options||Silver, Space Gray||Silver, Space Gray||Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, Sky Blue||Silver, Space Gray||Space Gray, Pink, Purple, Gold|
|Touch ID||Face ID||Face ID||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Dimensions||11 x 8.5 x 0.25 inches||9.7 x 7 x 0.2 inches||9.7 x 7 x 0.2 inches||9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches||TBD|
|Weight||1.5 pounds||1 pound||1 pound||1.1 pounds||TBD|
All iPads provide access to more than 1 million apps optimized for the big screen, which is far more than what Android or Windows devices offer. You can also expect a high-quality aluminum unibody design and a bright and crisp display.
The tablets all come with iPadOS, the latest version of Apple’s tablet OS. You can learn all about the features available to the operating system here, and read our guide to learn how to download the developer beta.
Also note that all iPad models can be ordered with 4G LTE or 5G capability, which allows you to get online when you’re out of Wi-Fi range. You’ll pay $139 more than you would for the Wi-Fi-only version, plus the cost of whatever monthly data plan you sign up for.
Simply called the “iPad,” this 10.2-inch slate is the most affordable Apple tablet, with a starting price of just $329. Despite its lower price, the iPad has plenty of premium specs, including a 2160 x 1620-pixel Retina display, a speedy A13 Bionic processor, Apple Pencil support and dual 8-MP / 12-MP cameras. It comes in 64GB or 128GB capacity.
Best For: Because of its relatively low price and generous screen size, the iPad is a great choice for media consumption, gaming, social media and some light productivity. Although the iPad mini 4 is a better size for small hands, many parents will prefer the iPad’s lower price when choosing a slate for their kids. College students on a budget will also find this model appealing.
See our iPad (2021) coverage
The more portable, purse-friendly tablet in the iPad family, the iPad mini is a great handheld device. It features an 8.3-inch display and an A15 chip.
Best For: If you like to read on the couch, in bed, or on the go, the iPad mini is a great size for books, especially comic books. Its relatively small screen makes it easy to type quick social media posts or send off emails, during one-handed use or while standing up. The mini is the best size for kids, but parents may prefer to get the less-expensive iPad.
See our full iPad mini (2021) review
This $599 iPad Air looks to provide the best mix of pro and consumer features at a price that won’t hurt too much. With support for the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, it can be your next 2-in-1, acting as a laptop when you need to be productive.
The biggest differences between it and the entry-level $329 iPad are its larger 10.9-inch screen and faster A14 processor. The new iPad Air also has USB-C charging and the fingerprint sensor was moved to a side button to accommodate thinner display bezels, giving it a more modern appearance.
Best For: If you write a lot, edit photos, and want a large screen for watching videos and multitasking, but don’t run highly-demanding video editing apps. Overall, the iPad Air is a great option for most people who aren’t on such a tight budget but don’t need the niche features that make the iPad Pro so expensive.
See our iPad Air (2020) review
This is what happens when you take the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, increase its screen, shrink its bezels and swap its home button out for Face ID. Oh, and then there’s the Ferrari engine under the hood: Apple’s dropped its unbelievable M1 processor into the 2021 iPad Pros.
The iPad Pro 2021 is for the same crowd as the previous models: those without a budget who want the absolute best tablet on the market, as well as professionals and enthusiasts using intensive apps for content creation or editing. Unless Apple changes direction and turns the iPad Pro into a true laptop replacement, the market for this tablet will remain limited.
Best For: Creative pros who love their styluses, want a smaller device and push their iPad to the limits. Also, pros on a budget will go for this model, as it’s just as fast and capable, but starts at $200 less and its $179 Smart Keyboard Folio is $20 less than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s keyboard cover.
If you think bigger is better, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best. Not only does it have the speedy M1 that the 11-inch iPad Pro offers, but its 2732 x 2048-pixel mini-LED edge-to-edge panel is the largest digital canvas that apple offers. But that size doesn’t ruin its portability, as it’s a mere 0.4 pounds heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro and only slightly thicker at 0.25 inches compared to 0.23 inches.
And about that M1 processor, our tests showed that the new iPad Pro is faster at image editing than actual laptops. And with 10+ hours of battery life, it also outlasts most PCs.
The 2nd Generation Apple Pencil (sold separately for $129) packs gesture-based tricks in its barrel and a charging method that won’t feel like you’re breaking it, while the Magic Keyboard turns the iPad Pro into a laptop.
Best For: Those demanding creative pros who want the best iPad experience possible. Not only is it super-fast, but its larger screen — both in inches and pixels — provides the largest canvas for professional artists and video editors to do their work.
See our 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) review