With so many generations, models, and screen sizes, choosing the right iPad may be easier said than done. Like the iPhone family, the iPad line sprawls with four models, five screen-size options, and the features vary quite a bit between them.
The main thing to note is that you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest version to get some higher-end features. To help make your purchasing decision easier, we’ve done the heavy lifting and tested all of the following models for months to find out how they really function with day-to-day use.
Our Testing Models:
They all run iPadOS, but as part of our testing we tried out various apps, benchmarked performance, used the cameras, ran endurance tests to calculate battery life, and much more.
And without further ado, let’s break down the best iPad models and which is best for you.
Best Overall: 9th Gen iPad
The 9th Gen iPad sticks with a classic design that includes bezels around the frame and a home button, and it delivers unmatched value in the iPad line and the entire tablet market. Starting at just $329, you get an expansive 10.2-inch Retina display that will automatically adjust the tone to match your space and delivers a clear, vibrant picture. The frame around the screen lets you easily hold the iPad without having your thumbs and fingers block content as well.
You can browse the web, read a book, watch the latest episode of “The Kardashians” on Hulu, FaceTime, and bounce between apps in comfort.
You won’t find many slowdowns or hiccups when using apps or multitasking between them, and it’s thanks to the A13 Bionic inside. It’s not the most recent chip Apple’s produced, but it provides plenty of power for any task. It leverages iPadOS 15 and all the landmark features — like QuickNote and Universal Control — can be used fluidly. You can browse the web, stream content, split the screen between apps, draw or take notes with an Apple Pencil, and even play games. You won’t see slower load times unless you opt to edit intense video projects or embark on heavy, graphically intense apps.
For most of the general use cases for an iPad, the 9th Gen provides plenty of power and a runway for completing tasks. Apple’s also doubled the internal storage generation over generation, so you get 64GBs of storage out of the box. You’ll need to push hard to make this iPad slow down, and it should be supported by updates, like Apple’s next version of iPadOS, for many years to come.
For fans of FaceTime, or if you’re planning to use this iPad for video calls, you’ll get a kick out of the front facing ultrawide 12-megapixel lens. It’s not only a sharp lens that depicts whoever’s in view clearly, bit also supports CenterStage, an AI tool that will keep you in the frame while you’re on a video call. It’s a really neat feature that first premiered on the iPad Pro family in 2020, but has since trickled down to other generations. You also have a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera, and it performs fine.
We’d recommend pairing it with a Smart Keyboard or the Logitech Combo Touch Case with a keyboard and trackpad to get a computer-like experience here. The first generation Apple Pencil is supported, and is an excellent accessory for note-taking and drawing.
So whether you’re looking for an iPad for yourself, to give as a gift, or even to start an early teen’s technology journey, you can’t go wrong with the 9th Gen iPad.
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Most Power: 5th Gen iPad Air
If you asked us last year which iPad was the best for getting work done, we would have said the M1-powered 11-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro. But Apple changed that by introducing the fifth generation iPad Air, which features the impressive M1 Chip. It’s the same processor in the iPad Pro and that powers the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini. It really blows the competition away and in our testing makes iPadOS glide, and makes the iPad Air just as powerful as the iPad Pro.
The iPad Air aluminum build comes in five colors and includes a USB-C port. This design allows you to easily plug in an external hard drive or a microphone for tasks, but you can also easily recharge it with a universal power standard.
Unlike the iPad Pro, the iPad Air doesn’t have Face ID but instead has Touch ID built into the power button. The bezels around the 10.9-inch screen are slim, and the screen is sharper than the 9th Gen iPad. The front-facing 12-megapixel lens also supports the same CenterStage technology.
Final takeaway is that it’s a more modern build as a whole, and is fairly portable when traveling since it weighs just over 1 pound.
You can handle more expected iPad tasks like web browsing, watching a movie, and playing games, but the iPad Air can be a laptop replacement for many if all your apps are supported on the web or have iPad equivalents.
It can handle shooting, editing, and exporting a 4K film in iMovie or LumaFusion, intense photo edits in Photoshop or Pixelmator, and ultimately any creative task. You can even use Swift Playgrounds to create, build, and develop an iPad app on the iPad Air.
You can expect the iPad Air to last a full day of use, and about 10 hours with a constant video stream.
The fifth generation iPad Air supports the second generation Apple Pencil which magnetically attaches to the side. It’s ideal for note-taking, marking up various documents, and creative tasks like drawing. When it’s physically attached to the iPad, it will also wirelessly recharge.
For those looking for more power and for a full laptop replacement, the iPad Air is without a doubt the best option for you. You’ll want to pair it with a Magic Keyboard for the ultimate experience as well and just please pick a fun color for it. The Magic Keyboard is a keyboard and trackpad case that attaches to the iPad Air. It’s held floating securely with magnets, and allows you to control the iPadOS with a keyboard, trackpad, and your fingers.
Most Portable: iPad Mini
If you want a smaller, one-handed usable iPad, then the iPad Mini is for you. With just an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina HD display, it’s downright compact and perfect for two use-cases: Note-taking and e-reading. It’s really the perfect device for those things, but also for anyone who wants a smaller screened iPad.
The iPad Mini runs iPadOS 15 like the rest of the line and is just as smooth in terms of performance in our testing. And for those wondering, it’s powered by the A15 Bionic processor which is the chip that powers the iPhone 13 family.
The one downside is that while it supports the second generation Apple Pencil, there’s no official Magic Keyboard case for the mini and we desperately wish Apple would release one.
Most Luxurious: 12.9-inch iPad Pro
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro offers an incredible amount of details, vibrancy, and contrast points from a Mini-LED display. Yes, the same technology that is quite popular with TVs now is on the most expensive iPad.
Apple calls this a Liquid Retina XDR display and this 12.9-inch screen features 2596 full array local dimming zones. This gives it an insane amount of control for creating the right visuals — it looks damn good.
It runs iPadOS 15 and like the 11-inch iPad Pro or iPad Air, it’s powered by Apple’s M1 Chip. Basically all tasks fly here. The extra bells and whistles here are Face ID for easy unlocking and authentication, a 120hz refresh rate for the display, dual 12-megapixel lenses (wide and ultrawide) on the back with a LiDAR sensor, and four speakers for audio that can fill a room.
As you’d expect from the iPad Pro, you can get a 12.9-inch sized Magic Keyboard to use this iPad is a laptop like fashion. And it also supports the second generation Apple Pencil, which like on the iPad Air will magnetically attach to the side.
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 128GB Wi-Fi ($999, originally $1,099.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 256GB Wi-Fi ($1,099, originally $1,199.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 512GB Wi-Fi ($1,299, originally $1,399.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 1TB Wi-Fi ($1,749, originally $1,799.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 2TB Wi-Fi ($2,099, originally $2,199.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular ($1,249, originally $1,299.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular ($1,349, originally $1,399.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 512GB Wi-Fi + Cellular ($1,549, originally $1,599.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 1TB Wi-Fi + Cellular ($1,999.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 2TB Wi-Fi + Cellular ($2,299, originally $2,399.99; amazon.com or walmart.com)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is iPadOS?
iPadOS is Apple’s proprietary operating system for the iPad and is essentially a version of iOS designed for a bigger screen. It supports many of the same features that you’d find on the iPhone and is updated monthly with more minor updates. You can also expect a new generation of iPadOS to be unveiled each year in June at Apple’s annual WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) with a launch in the Fall.
Remember that the App Store works across Apple OS’s like iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS, which means if an app is compatible, it can be downloaded across devices. Additionally, Focus Mode (custom do not disturb and notification controls) will sync between devices.
Can an iPad replace my computer?
The answer is yes … kind of. It really depends on what you need a computer to do for you, and if there are equivalent apps for the iPad. If most of your tasks are web-based, you very likely can use an iPad as your primary device. We suggest you consider the screen size since some iPads are smaller than a typical laptop (i.e., 13-inches) and keep a close eye on the storage you select.
Where can I sell my old iPad or tablet?
If you’re getting a new iPad or just cleaning out your old tech, that older iPad or tablet could earn you some cash. Depending on your preference, you can trade in the iPad at Apple for a gift card or a carrier for a credit towards a new device.
But if you’re not ready to commit to a new device or would be happier with cash, there are a few other routes. With a service like Decluttr or Gazelle, you’ll answer some questions about the condition of your iPad, see an estimated trade-in value, and then send it via a prepaid shipping label they provide. The service will evaluate you and confirm the price with you. You can then get paid cash for your device.
Do iPads support wireless charging?
The short answer is no. 9th Gen, iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Pro don’t support wireless charging. You’ll need to hardwire the iPad to charge using a Lightning cable on the 9th Gen iPad or USB-C on the iPad Mini, Air, or Pro.
If your iPad supports the Second Generation Apple Pencil, when it’s attached magnetically to the side of your iPad, it will, in fact, wirelessly charge the accessory. Similarly, when a Smart Keyboard or Magic Keyboard is connected to the iPad, it will get power and automatically connect to the tablet.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.