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Apple’s iPad lineup is more interesting and sophisticated than ever. Following the October launch of the 10th-generation iPad and the M2-powered iPad Pro, Apple now sells three tablets in the 11-inch range, which share broadly similar designs but with key differences when it comes to internal components and accessory support. Last year’s 10.2-inch iPad is still on sale, but aimed at a different market than its “next-generation” successor of the same name. The iPad mini is still doing its thing.
If you’re not sure which one to buy, you’re not alone. The decision isn’t as cut and dry as it used to be, so we’re here to break down the pros and cons, how they compare, and make your decision a little easier.
Best for most: iPad Air
Of the six iPad models currently on sale, the iPad Air is the closest to universal appeal. We rated it 90 earlier this year: it has the same elegant and comfortable design language as the iPad Pro, but for less, with a bright, sharp and clear 10.9-inch display surrounded by thin bezels and flat edges. It comes with a USB-C port, which you’ll find on MacBooks and many other non-iPhone devices, and although it doesn’t have a Thunderbolt connection like the iPad Pro, it can charge the Air with a single cable. Usability with your other gadgets is a plus.
Apple updated the Air earlier this year with its own M1 system on a chip, the same silicon found in the entry-level MacBook Air. It’s not Apple’s newest SoC, but it’s still powerful enough for all the tasks you throw at it, and the number of iPadOS features is unique to M-series chips.
iPad Air is also compatible with some of Apple’s best accessories, including the second-generation Pencil stylus and the same (excellent) Magic Keyboard as the 11-inch iPad Pro. These add a bit of cost to the bottom line, but for digital artists or frequent typists, they’re there.
There’s a bit of congestion in the middle of Apple’s iPad lineup. If you need more space than the Air’s default 64GB of storage, you can upgrade to the 11-inch iPad Pro, which starts at 128GB and includes a 120Hz display and an M2 chip. . (On the display 2021 The iPad Pro is better, too.) The new 10.9-inch iPad isn’t bad either, but its laminated display and lack of accessory support make it a harder sell unless you see it at a deep discount. Still, while it’s not cheap, the iPad Air is for many Apple’s best value and performance.
Best Budget: iPad (9th Gen)
If you can’t afford Air or don’t use your tablet often enough to warrant that expense, it’s perfectly safe to get a 9th generation iPad instead. Starting at $329 for the 64GB model, and regularly available for less than $300, this is the most wallet-friendly way to iPadOS. While its hardware is clearly a step down from the models above, it’s still capable of the essentials.
We gave the 9th generation iPad an 86 rating last year. It’s the only “current” iPad to stick to Apple’s old design language: slightly thicker and heavier than the 10th-generation iPad and iPad Air, but its wide bezels mean there’s only room for a 10.2-inch display. Like the 10th generation iPad, that screen isn’t laminated and is closer to glossy, but just as sharp. There’s a Home button on the bottom, which also houses the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and the device charges via a Lightning port rather than USB-C. Its speakers aren’t nearly as good either, but it’s still the only iPad with a headphone jack, and its 12MP front-facing camera is decent (though not as landscape-focused as the 10th-gen iPad).
The 9th generation iPad is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic, the same SoC used in 2019’s iPhone 11 series. It won’t be as fluid or future-proof as the M1, but it’s plenty quick for simple tasks. In terms of first-party accessories, the tablet supports Apple’s Smart Keyboard and the first-generation Pencil stylus. These are less comfortable than the company’s newer options, but at least they are there.
In the end, it all comes down to price. The 9th-generation iPad is Apple’s cheapest model, and those savings go a long way toward papering over its issues.
Best for one-handed use: iPad mini
The iPad mini is exactly what it sounds like: a tiny iPad. It’s the shortest (7.69×5.3×0.25 inches) and lightest (0.65 pounds for the WiFi model) of any current iPad, with an 8.3-inch display that’s easy to use with one hand.
We gave the iPad mini an 89 last year. Its design follows the iPad Air: squared-off edges, slim bezels, no Home button, Touch ID sensor on the power button, stereo speakers, solid cameras, and a USB-C port. Its display is technically sharper, but otherwise gives you the same maximum brightness, lamination, anti-reflective coating and wide color gamut. It doesn’t have a Smart Connector for connecting Apple-made keyboards, but it does support the second-generation Apple Pencil.
The Mini is powered by Apple’s A15 Bionic SoC, the same as the 2021 iPhone 13 phones. It’s technically faster and more powerful for most tasks than the chip inside the 10th-generation iPad, but it’s a step behind the laptop-class M1 or M2.
The Mini costs $499 for the 64GB model and $649 for the 256GB model. That’s a lot, but in recent months we’ve seen both SKUs drop as low as $100 online. If you specifically want a smaller tablet—whether you want it to fit easily in a bag, use it with one hand, or treat it like a high-end e-reader—this is the only option Apple sells, and it’s the best tablet in its size range. .
Best for power users: iPad Pro 12.9-inch
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has its own niche in Apple’s tablet lineup. It starts at $1,099 for 128GB of storage, which is $100 more than the M1 MacBook Air. That’s a lot more than what someone would have to pay to make the vast majority of iPad stuff, and quite a chunk of change for a platform that has problems with laptop-style performance. But the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the cleanest tablet device Apple has ever made.
In November, we reviewed the latest iPad Pro 87. The display here can be brighter than the Air, and it has a 120Hz refresh rate (the Air is limited to 60Hz). 12.9 inch Pro display is more It’s an upgrade over the 11-inch model, but it’s the only iPad to use mini-LED backlighting, allowing for higher peak brightness, improved contrast, and overall more realistic images. In addition, the Pro runs on Apple’s new M2 SoC, which isn’t a huge upgrade over the real-life M1, but offers more performance up front. The iPad Pro has the same 12MP rear camera as the Air, but adds a 10MP ultra-wide lens and LED flash (plus a LIDAR scanner for AR applications). And the 12 MP front cameras can take pictures in portrait mode.
In addition, the Pro has a faster Thunderbolt USB-C port, powerful speakers, and Face ID support. With the latest update, the Apple Pencil can recognize when it’s hovering over the display and predict upcoming inputs. The 1TB and 2TB models double the RAM from 8GB to 16GB (at a hefty price). And it works with all of Apple’s best accessories.
This power, and if you do it If you want to use the iPad more for work, the wide display on the 12.9-inch Pro should make it the most comfortable option for all-day, laptop-style use. You’ll want to add a keyboard to get the most out of it, but if you’re spending that much for an iPad, it’s not a big deal.
Like the iPad mini, it’s a very handy device. It’s very expensive, and its large size makes it less portable than other iPads. Some creatives have touted it as a laptop replacement, but for many, iPadOS still makes multitasking and other computing tasks more difficult than a similarly priced MacBook. It’s a slight upgrade over last year’s model. However, a tabletThe 12.9-inch Pro is very powerful.