Thinking of Buying an iPad? Read This First

Stefan Vazharov
·8 min read
Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

From Best Products

There's a reason that no matter which iPad you choose, it'll be the best tablet in its respective category. You can expect an elegant design, excellent craftsmanship, and a high-quality Retina display, as well as effortless performance from every product in this list — which makes the iPad price tag worth it, in our opinion.

Today's iPad Lineup

Apple's selection of tablet-friendly apps and games is the best in the industry. They range from apps for streaming your favorite content to immersive augmented reality offerings. In this instance, tablet rivals that use Android, Chrome OS, and Windows 10 are so far behind that there’s no point in comparing them.

You'll get Apple's iPadOS, too. The platform is based on Apple iOS, but it's packed with unique features that take advantage of the tablet's big screen. It has baked-in support for a mouse and a trackpad, making the iPad an even more exciting laptop alternative.

Every iPad is also backed by an industry-leading selection of original and third-party accessories. This is another major reason to choose Apple's products over their product category's rivals.

When shopping for an iPad, always consider spending a bit extra for a variant with more storage. It won’t take long before you find the additional expense to be well worth it. Every variant of the product is also available with optional cellular connectivity for $130 extra.

Here's a breakdown of what each iPad offers so you can pick the best one to suit your needs.

Best for Most Consumers

Key Specs

Apple A14 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• 10.9-inch Retina display with True Tone technology
• 64/256GB of available storage
• 12MP camera with 4K video recording
• Built-in stereo speakers
• Compatible with Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil

The all-new iPad Air is the best option for most buyers. It offers iPad Pro-like design and features at a more reasonable price point. Available in five colors (silver, space gray, rose gold, sky blue, green), the lightweight and super thin slate is also Apple's most colorful iPad to date.

The fourth-generation iPad Air is Apple's first tablet with Touch ID fingerprint sensor that's embedded into the power button. Making the move has allowed the tech giant to equip the device with a noticeably larger display, while maintaining the same footprint as its predecessor.

Equipped with the same A14 Bionic chip as the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPad Air is the most powerful tablet in its price range and beyond. While testing it, I discovered that there is literally no work- or entertainment-related task that it isn’t up for.

Compared to the pricier iPad Pro, the new iPad Air lacks a ProMotion Retina display with a high refresh rate, a dual camera with a LiDAR sensor, and Face ID. The iPad Pro also has an edge in graphics power, as well as built-in storage in entry-level guise (128 vs 64GB). But unless you plan to utilize the Pro's aforementioned hardware features on a regular basis, there's probably no need to spend extra $200 to get one.

I like the large and vibrant Retina display of the iPad Air. It has thin bezels, as well as True Tone tech — a handy feature that reduces eye strain by automatically adjusting the white balance and color temperature, depending on your lighting conditions.

The new Air, like the iPad Pro, is compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil, as well as the outstanding Magic Keyboard. The accessories are well worth the investment, as they transform the slate into a do-it-all mini laptop alternative. There are many iPad Air cases to choose from, too.

The Starter Pick

Key Specs

Apple A12 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• 10.2-inch Retina display
• 32/128GB of available storage
• Built-in bottom/side-facing stereo speakers
• Compatible with first-generation Apple Pencil

Apple's refreshed iPad made its debut alongside the latest iPad Air. It has the same design and display as its predecessor, but a more capable A12 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine, while retaining the same price point. The upgrade brings significant improvements in CPU performance and graphics power, making the iPad even better at multitasking, creative work, gaming, and augmented reality experiences, among others.

The 10.2-inch Retina display of the iPad is sharp and ideal for productivity and entertainment. Compared to the Retina displays of pricier iPad models, the panel of the entry-level iPad lacks True Tone tech, as well as the ability to cover the P3 color gamut. The last bit means that the screen lacks the same color range as its pricier relatives.

Equipped with the Apple Smart Keyboard, the new iPad is also an excellent tool for cranking out work. If you are looking for an even more laptop-like experience, consider this Logitech keyboard cover with a build in trackpad instead.

Overall, this iPad delivers a phenomenal Apple tablet experience that’s the best not only in its price range, but well beyond. The product is available in silver, gold, and space gray.

The Power User's Pick

Key Specs

Apple A12Z Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• 11- or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina display with ProMotion and True Tone technology
• 128/256/512GB; 1 TB of available storage
• Dual camera (12MP and 10MP), built-in LiDAR scanner, Face ID
• Built-in USB-C connector
• Four built-in stereo speakers, five built-in microphones
• Compatible with second-generation Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard

Apple’s latest iPad Pro is the iPad to get if your new tablet budget has no restrictions. It brings meaningful improvements to the tech giant’s most capable iPad to date, including a more powerful chip, a dual camera with a LiDar scanner, and five built-in microphones for a pro-grade audio experience. It's the best tablet money can buy — by an insurmountable margin.

The A12Z Bionic chip has an even more powerful graphics processor. In terms of sheer hardware and graphics performance, just like the outgoing model, the fourth generation is not only the most powerful iPad available today, but also more capable than most desktop and laptop computers out there.

Once again, you can order the iPad Pro with an 11- or a 12.9-inch Liquid Retina display. The screen is nothing short of spectacular, and a joy to interact with. In addition to True Tone, it has ProMotion tech with a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. The feature makes all onscreen experiences with apps and games more fluid and immersive.

Combined with its big screen and high-quality microphones, the dual-camera setup of the new iPad Pro, makes it a powerful tool for creative personalities. The LiDAR scanner on the other hand is legit space-age technology, which will make the tablet’s already amazing augmented-reality capabilities even more immersive.

Announced alongside the new iPad Pro, the Magic Keyboard is an exciting new accessory that will make the tablet an even mightier productivity tool. You can also use the second-generation Apple Pencil, as well as a more reasonably priced Smart Keyboard Cover with your new Pro.

The Compact Pick

Key Specs

Apple A12 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• 7.9-inch Retina display with True Tone technology
• 64/256 GB of available storage
• Built-in bottom/side-facing stereo speakers
• Compatible with first-generation Apple Pencil

The iPad mini has the same powerful hardware as the iPad Air, but tucked into a smaller body that can fit into a large jacket pocket. When it comes to sheer portability, the iPad mini is truly in a league of its own. The most compact iPad is also hands-down the best small tablet worth your attention today.

Packing the same A12 Bionic chip, the iPad mini delivers a fast and fluid performance. It will help you work or stay entertained with equally impressive results.

The mini is the first small tablet by Apple to have a Retina display with True Tone technology and compatibility with the P3 color gamut. The 7.9-inch display panel is a vast improvement over the one found in the device’s predecessors. It’s also compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

Being a small tablet, the iPad mini does not have a built-in Smart Connector for attaching a keyboard cover; you can pair the slate with a Bluetooth keyboard instead. If you're looking for an iPad that you’ll use for productivity work, we suggest that you opt for a model with a bigger screen.

Read More:

Essential iPad Accessories for Your New Gadget

The Most Coveted Gadgets of the Year

Shop Our Favorite Tablets of the Year

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