The best iPad: Which iPad model should you buy?

The best iPad: Which iPad model should you buy?

Apple’s iPad lineup is arguably something that’s unmatched by any other platform or device maker. The tablets all consistently turn out top performance and have 10 hours of battery life, clear and crisp displays, and access to thousands of apps in the App Store. 

And with Apple’s announcement of
iPadOS last year

, followed by updates that have
added trackpad support

and more Mac-like features, the company has slowly and methodically released updates with features that differentiate it from the iPhone and push it closer to being more like a Mac. 

Below, you’ll find Apple’s iPad lineup and details about what differentiates each model.

10.2-inch display | A12 Bionic chip | Up to 128GB storage | Touch ID

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Apple

Apple’s tried-and-true tablet, the base model iPad, is arguably the best value out of the group. You get all of the same features as the more expensive Pro and Air models, including a larger 10.2-inch display.

Inside is the Apple A12 Bionic processor, either 32GB or 128GB of storage, and either standalone Wi-Fi support or Wi-Fi and Cellular connectivity.

Apple hasn’t expanded its facial recognition hardware beyond the iPad Pro, so the iPad still has a home button with Touch ID. There is, however, a Smart Connector to add Apple’s Smart Keyboard, turning the iPad into more of a laptop than a tablet. And, of course, it supports the Apple Pencil.

Better yet? The iPad starts at $329. It’s incredibly powerful and even more affordable. 

$429 at Best Buy

10.9-inch | A14 Bionic | Up to 256GB of storage | Touch ID

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Image: Apple

Apple announced the completely redesigned the iPad Air in September, alongside new Apple Watch models. The fourth-generation Air features the same design as the iPad Pro lineup, as well as the new iPhone 12 models, bringing back the flat-edge design Apple first used in the iPhone 4. 

The Air sits confidently between the base iPad and the iPad Pro in terms of performance and price, with a 10.9-inch display, a Touch ID sensor that’s been moved to the power button (so long, home button), and it works with the Magic Keyboard for iPad and second-generation Apple Pencil. 

Starting at $599, the iPad Air comes with 64GB or 256GB of storage. You can add cellular to it for an extra $130.

For (almost) everyone, this is the iPad to get if you have the cash to spend. 

$599 at Best Buy

11- or 12.9-inch | A12Z | Up to 1TB of storage | Face ID

iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The iPad Pro is the most expensive, and the most capable tablet in the lineup. It boasts a completely different design when compared to the standard iPad or iPad Air. Instead of a Lightning port for charging, syncing and accessories, you’ll find a USB-C port.

The Home button is gone, replaced by Apple’s Face ID facial recognition tech. And, unlike on the iPhone, you can use Face ID with the iPad in either portrait or landscape orientation.

There are two sizes: 11-inch or 12.9-inch, with storage ranging from 128GB all the way up to 1TB. Pricing also has a wide range, of $799 for the 11-inch 1218GB model, up to $1,499 for the 1TB 12.9-inch model. Add cellular connectivity to either model for $150 more. The Pro uses Apple’s A12Z processor, making it the most powerful iPad currently available.

The Pro also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, with a magnetic spot on the side to charge it. The Smart Connector is on the back of the iPad Pro, giving you the option to use it with the recently launched Magic Keyboard that includes backlit keys and trackpad, or Apple’s Smart Keyboard.

The iPad Pro, combined with iPadOS, is as close as you can get to a laptop without actually buying a laptop. 

$999 at Best Buy

7.9-inch | A12 Bionic | Up to 256GB of storage | Touch ID

ipad-mini.jpg

Image: Apple

If you want something smaller and more manageable, the iPad Mini fits the bill. Powered by the A12 Bionic processor, the 7.9-inch tablet comes with all the same bells and whistles as the rest of Apple’s tablet line thanks to a fairly recent update.

The Mini will work with the first-generation Apple Pencil, so you can draw or jot notes in supported apps. With the upcoming release of iPadOS 14, Apple Pencil support is expanding thanks to a new Scribbles feature that lets you write in text boxes, with the tablet converting your handwriting into actual text.

You have the option of 64GB or 256GB of storage, with the former priced at $399 and the latter $549 for the Wi-Fi-only models. If you want to add cellular connectivity, you’re looking at a $130 increase. 

$399 at Best Buy

9.7-inch | A10 Fusion | Up to 128GB | Touch ID | LTE

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Apple

For those who still have one of the original 9.7-inch iPad models, with cases and accessories aplenty, then check out Apple’s refurbished store, where you’ll find the sixth-generation iPad still on sale. It was first released in March 2018, but don’t let that fool you, it can still run the latest OS and do all you’d need a tablet to do.

Inventory in Apple’s Refurbished store fluctuates all the time, but as of right now, the 128GB model with Wi-Fi and Cellular is available in silver, space gray, and gold for $419, marked down from the standard prices of $529.

Apple will support the sixth-generation iPad with iPadOS 14, so you’ll be able to take advantage of all of its new features, and some of the more recently added features like mouse and trackpad support.

Some of the nerdier specs about the sixth-generation model is an Apple A10 Fusion processor, with 10-hour battery life, a Touch ID sensor, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 2048×1536 resolution display. 

$329 at Walmart

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