Which iPad should you buy? It’s a much more complicated decision than it used to be, with five models of iPad officially to buy from Apple and many older variants still available from third-party retailers – and that’s before we get into elements like colours, storage options, cellular connectivity and optional accessories.
But don’t fear! We at Tech Advisor are iPad experts, and here, we showcase our selection of the best iPads available to buy right now, along with expert buying advice on what to consider when on the hunt for an iPad. If you’re open to Android and Windows alternatives, why not take a look at our choice of the best tablets?
Bear in mind that this ranking was put together before Apple’s September 2021 event, when it unveiled updated versions of the 10.2in iPad and iPad Mini. We haven’t reviewed the new models yet, but will update our guide as soon as we do.
Best iPad 2021
iPad Air (2020) – Best overall
- Premium design
- Large display
- Great performance
- More expensive than predecessor
- No Face ID
- 60Hz display
The latest iPad Air brings about a complete redesign of the mid-range tablet, ditching the ageing iPad look for something akin to the iPad Pro and iPhone 12, complete with full-screen display and angled edges.
It’s bigger than last year at 10.9in, and although it doesn’t offer the 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate technology of the Pro range, it can make use of the Magic Keyboard and second-gen Apple Pencil. It’s also the first Apple product to feature a side-mounted Touch ID sensor built into the power button.
There’s a serious upgrade under the hood, sporting the same A14 Bionic chipset as the iPhone 12 range, and you should expect the same flagship performance. It’s a capable tablet that can handle just about anything you can throw at it, although pro-level users should still consider the more powerful A12X in the iPad Pro.
The only real downside is the increase in price, with this year’s iPad Air costing £100/$100 more. Still, with an updated design, upgraded chipset and a larger display, there’s a lot to like about the iPad Air.
Read our full Apple iPad Air (2020) review
iPad Pro 12.9in (2021) – Best for Pros
- Best-in-class display
- Mac-based M1 processor
- Upgraded front camera
- iPadOS can’t take advantage of power
- No true multiscreen
Apple’s 12.9in iPad Pro is the most powerful tablet on the market right now, with the Mac-based M1 chipset beating just about every competitor in benchmark tests, but it’s also the most expensive option in our chart. However, limitations of iPadOS – including screen mirroring, rather than screen extending – mean it can’t truly take advantage of all the power on offer.
The 120Hz micro-LED display (available on the 12.9in model exclusively) is perfect for graphics design, watching movies and browsing social media, and the upgraded front-facing camera with auto-tracking tech is ideal for those working remotely.
Paired with the Magic Keyboard it has the potential to be a true laptop replacement, but it’s a very pricey one, matching the asking price of a MacBook Pro at the top end.
It’s undoubtedly Apple’s best tablet, but if you’re not going to get full use out of the large display and powerful internals, you’d probably be better off with a different iPad.
Read our full iPad Pro 12.9in (2021, M1) review
iPad 10.2in (2020) – Best budget iPad
- Large display
- Great performance
- 32GB storage at entry-level
- 1.2Mp camera
- Downward-firing speakers
We haven’t yet reviewed the 2021 update to the iPad 10.2in, which features more storage along with an updated chipset and improved front camera. We’ll update this guide as soon as we’ve tested it.
It might not be hugely different from the previous entry-level iPad, but Apple has yet again created a tablet that’s very hard to complain about. If you’ve got the seventh-gen iPad from 2019, there might not be enough to tempt you, but there’s a lot to love here if you’re coming from an older device or want to dip your toe into the iPad experience.
Apple has made the 10.2in screen brighter this time around, made improvements to the software with iPadOS and most importantly, upgraded the ageing A10 to the A12 Bionic, offering significant performance gains compared to last year’s option.
The cheapest iPad in Apple’s doesn’t have a laminated display and ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate which you’ll find on Pro models. However, we can’t expect these things without a higher price and blurring the lines to those premium models.
The only complaint? The 32GB of storage on the entry-level option – we’d recommend going for the larger 128GB variant if possible.
Storage aside, this is a great entry point into the iPad range that won’t break the bank.
Read our full Apple iPad 10.2in (2020) review
iPad mini (2019) – Best portable iPad
- Portable design
- Apple Pencil support
- Old form factor
- Last updated in 2019
- Chunky bezels
We haven’t yet reviewed the 2021 update to the iPad mini, which features a larger display along with an updated chipset, USB-C port, and 5G. We’ll update this guide as soon as we’ve tested it.
The iPad mini proves that this form factor is still desirable and useful even in an age of larger smartphones. With the A12 processor at an affordable base price, the iPad mini proves that size isn’t everything.
Yes, the design is seven years old but with the addition of Apple Pencil support and with decent battery life, Apple has breathed new life back into the iPad mini. Not everyone wants or needs to spend £1,000 on an iPad Pro.
Read our full Apple iPad mini (2019) review
What should I look for when buying an iPad?
There are several factors to consider when on the market for an iPad.
iPads come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s more of a question of preference than simply going for the biggest tablet you can get your hands on. Bigger isn’t always necessarily better, especially if you’re looking for a portable tablet you can use on the go.
In terms of screen size, you’ve got five options available:
- iPad mini: 7.9in
- iPad mini (2021): 8.3in
- iPad: 10.2in
- iPad Air: 10.9in
- iPad Pro 11: 11in
- iPad Pro 12.9: 12.9in
Of course, a larger screen is going to provide a more immersive entertainment experience, whether you’re watching movies on Netflix or playing Call of Duty: Mobile, but as the screen size increases, so does the weight. While the iPad mini weighs only 301g, the iPad Pro 12.9 weighs a whopping 682g – over double the weight – although the iPad Air strikes a nice balance with a 10.9in display and a weight of only 458g. It really does depend on your preferences and how you intend to use the iPad.
It’s also worth noting that the iPad Pro and iPad Air feature the best screen-to-body ratio in the current collection, ditching the chin and forehead present on the rest of the iPad range, but whether that’s worth paying a premium for is up to you.
The level of performance varies amongst the current iPad offering, with the iPad 10.2infeaturing the A13 Bionic chipset while the latest models of iPad Pro feature the incredibly powerful Mac-based M1 chipset. The iPad Air sports the A14 Bionic, like the iPhone 12, while the 2021 iPad mini used the same A15 Bionic as the iPhone 13 range.
What does that mean? If you’re looking to use your iPad for work and intend on editing videos and creating graphics, you’ll benefit from the M1 chipset of the iPad Pro range. If you’re only looking for an iPad to browse the web, use your favourite apps and play games, the iPad 10.2in, mini or Air should suffice.
5G or 4G
All of the iPads come with a choice of Wi-Fi-only or LTE models, but only some offer 5G support.
If you want to use the fastest networking speeds, you’ll need to buy one of the 2021 iPad Pro or iPad mini models – the 10.2in iPad and Air are limited to 4G.
Consider the accessories available for each iPad, as it’s not a uniform offering: the Magic Keyboard with a built-in trackpad and innovative cantilever hinge that turns the tablet into a true laptop competitor is only compatible with the iPad Pro and iPad Air. It’s a similar story with the second-gen Apple Pencil too, though that’s also supported by the 2021 iPad mini.
You do have a Smart Keyboard and first-gen Apple Pencil available for other iPads, but it’s not the same experience as what you’ll get from Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil. If using Apple’s high-end accessories is a key part of what you’ll be doing with the iPad, you should consider an iPad Pro or Air.
Most importantly of all, you’ve got to decide just how much you want to spend on a new iPad. The good news is that Apple has expanded the iPad portfolio in recent years, with options to suit every budget.
The 10.2in iPad is the cheapest in the range at only £319/$329, and it goes all the way up to £1,999/$1,999 for the 2TB variant of 12.9in iPad Pro.
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