Which iPad Model Should You Get?
If you are considering buying a new tablet or upgrading your iPad for the first time in several years, you may find that you have many more options than you did the last time. The current iPad Pro models differ in more than size, and the latest 9th-gen iPad and 6th-gen iPad Mini are interesting alternatives to the 4th-gen iPad Air.
Before we get to recommendations, and which tablet is best for you, the summary table below can give you a clear snapshot of how current generation Apple iPads can vary greatly in terms of price, processing power, accessory support, storage, and cellular options...
|Model||iPad||iPad Mini||iPad Air||iPad Pro 11"||iPad Pro 12.9"|
|Min / Max Storage||64GB / 256GB||64GB / 256GB||64GB / 256GB||128GB / 2TB||128GB / 2TB|
|Keyboard||Smart Keyboard||n/a||Magic &
|Cellular Option||4G||5G (sub-6GHz)||4G||5G||5G|
This guide will help you in choosing the right iPad for you by answering a few simple questions...
Should you get the base $300 iPad?
As recommended in our Best Tablets guide, if you just want a great tablet and don't have specific requirements, then you won't miss anything going with the basic and most affordable iPad, which starts at $329 and with luck you may be able to get it for $299 at places such as Walmart and Amazon.
Updated in late 2021, the 9th-gen iPad is powered by the A13 Bionic chip and 3GB of RAM. This tablet can easily handle iPadOS 15 and any app or game on the App Store. With a 2160x1620 resolution, its 10.2” display has the same 264ppi as the most expensive models, and uses True Tone technology to automatically adjust brightness and color temperature. The ultra-wide 12MP front camera is actually better than the iPad Air's 7MP one. It even supports the 1st-gen Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard.
We can think of a few reasons why the basic iPad may not be enough for you, though: it's the only iPad model whose display doesn't have an anti-reflective coating, so it's not ideal for use in direct sunlight.
If you use your iPad for drawing, you will appreciate the fully laminated display and wider color gamut of the more advanced models. Other features missing from the base iPad but that are available in the rest of Apple tablets include: Bluetooth 5.0 and simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi, and it doesn't support USB-C but keeps using the Lightning connector.
Another reason you may not like the basic iPad is the aesthetics: until this year, the basic iPad had at least one color option with white bezels, now it's only available with black bezels on either silver or space gray back. Black bezels are less distracting when viewing dark content, but show fingerprints more easily, and those are a given as soon as you pick the device up. With slimmer bezels, like those of the other iPad models, it's less of a problem.
The iPad starts at $329 for the Wi-Fi-only version with 64GB of storage, and an extra $150 bumps up your storage to 256GB.
Should you get the iPad Mini?
At 7.7" x 5.3" (L x W), the iPad Mini is one of the largest devices that most adults can comfortably hold in one hand. If you are planning to use your iPad while standing up, then it might be the most sensible choice for you.
Regardless of size, the Mini is one of the best tablets on the market: with a 2266x1488 resolution, its 8.3" display (with rounded corners) actually has the highest pixel density of all iPads (326ppi). It sports the A15 Bionic chip which is faster than the Air's A14, and it has the same 4GB of RAM. The Wi-Fi + Cellular version also supports sub-6GHz 5G speeds, unlike the basic iPad and iPad Air. It uses the same ultra-wide 12MP front camera as the basic iPad.
The Mini doesn't support the Smart Keyboard, but it supports the 2nd-gen Pencil. It also has 4 color options. It starts at $499 with 64GB of storage and Wi-Fi, and for $150 more you'll get the 256GB version.
Should you get the iPad Air?
The 4th-gen iPad Air is the true successor to the iPad Air 2 and one of the best tablets for media consumption, with its all-screen design and 10.9" display. With the A14 Bionic chip and 4GB of RAM, it's likely to remain relevant for many years.
For those who also want to use the Air for work, it is compatible with both the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio, as well as the 2nd-gen Pencil. Another reason to get it is if you prefer Touch ID over the FaceID (used in the Pro models). It's also the iPad with the most color options with 5.
The iPad Air starts at $599 for the Wi-Fi 64GB version, which we think is a bit too much for what it offers. If you need a fairly large display but not desktop-level processing power, the basic iPad will probably be a better value for you, unless you need the Magic Keyboard's trackpad. Once again, for $150 more you'll get 256GB of storage.
Should you get the 11" iPad Pro?
The latest 11" Pro is the best iPad for several types of professionals. If you are a graphic artist, drawing on a 120Hz display will be a different experience. If you are an indoor designer who wants to show your clients what their kitchen or office would look like, LiDAR is a must-have.
With the M1 chip, the iPad Pro has received more horsepower than you're probably going to need and its USB-C connector supports USB4/Thunderbolt speeds. The Wi-Fi + Cellular version also supports sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G.
The bezels in the iPad Pro are slimmer than in the Air, and it's compatible with the same accessories. You also get four speakers, and a TrueDepth ultra-wide 12MP front camera with Animoji and Memoji support.
The 11" Pro starts at $799 for the Wi-Fi only version with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. For $899 you can bump up the storage to 256GB, and for $1,099 you will get 512GB. If you want 1TB or 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM, you'll need to pay $1,499 or $1,899 respectively, which honestly sounds ridiculous.
Should you get the 12.9" iPad Pro?
If you are a video editor who works on the go, the 12.9'' Pro might be the device of your dreams. The Mini-LED display with its 1600 nits of peak brightness (1000 for the whole screen), only has some of the most expensive laptops out there as competitors.
It's also a great backup camera, with optical zoom out, extended dynamic range (up to 30fps), audio zoom and stereo recording. Of course, it has all of the advantages of the 11" Pro except for portability.
As for pricing, take the 11-inch Pro's prices and add $300 to each storage tier. It's $1,099 for the cheapest ($999 on Amazon), Wi-Fi only, 128GB version. The cheapest version with 16GB of RAM is $1,799, and the 2TB version is $2,199, or $2,399 with a cellular option.
Should you get a Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad?
Adding 4G to your iPad or iPad Air will make it $130 more expensive. Adding sub-6GHz 5G to your iPad Mini will make it $150 more expensive, and adding 5G connectivity to your iPad Pro will make it $200 more expensive. Sure, you can turn your smartphone into a hotspot, but doing so will drain the batteries of both devices.
The more expensive your iPad is, the more painful it'll be to replace it for the lack of cellular connectivity. If you are going to buy a Pro model with 1TB or more storage, those $200 shouldn't be a problem for you.