Includes new FaceID sign-in tech. The liquid Retina display makes the massive screen seem even bigger. Flawless performance when creating presentations and vector drawings with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil (not included).
Third-party apps like Excel are clunky on the iPad despite its improved performance.
The tablet’s AI2Z chip performs incredibly well, helping boost the brilliance of its sharp, detailed screen. Charges quickly, and works with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil.
Screen is just as vulnerable to drops as its predecessors. Pricey.
Has a clear, crisp Retina display and nice extras like split screen. Springy and responsive with improved WiFi signal detection. Up to 10 hours of battery life.
Unlike the latest Pro models, this iPad still has the home button.
It’s fast, has a speedy CPU, and it’s much easier to carry around. The A12 Bionic chip makes it peppy, and the 10-hour battery life make it a truly all-day tablet.
The built-in cameras are adequate for video conferencing, but aren’t great for photography.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Apple’s iPads are the best-known tablets in the world: they set the standard for other brands to aspire to, and they delight consumers with their utter simplicity. Included are apps for the basics like web browsing and streaming video, and you can download thousands of other apps from the App Store to do just about anything else.
But iPads aren’t just for play anymore; new models have some serious hardware under the hood, so they can handle any work you throw at them – from spreadsheets to video editing. In fact, there are multiple versions of iPad available, each with its own built-in conveniences. There really is an iPad for everyone.
Whether you need an iPad to complete your personal magnum opus or you just want a tablet for casual web surfing, there’s an iPad that’s perfect for you. Read on for everything you need to know to find your ideal iPad, then check out our favorites.
The first thing to know about the iPad is that there are four
different base models. Here’s how to tell the difference between them.
The iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch screen, making it the smallest tablet in the family. It’s got capable but not top-of-the-line internals, making it a great choice for casual use.
The iPad features a 9.7-inch screen, and it’s generally the most popular iPad because it strikes a balance between performance and price. It’s fast enough to satisfy the majority of users, the screen is vibrant and incredible, and the most current version supports the Apple Pencil, Apple’s unique stylus. If you just need a basic iPad for everyday use, you can’t go wrong with the standard model.
The iPad Air is designed to be a stepping-stone model between the standard iPad and the iPad Pro. It’s got a little bit more of everything: The 10.5-inch screen makes it slightly larger; the A12 Bionic chip makes it a little faster; and it only weighs 1 pound. If you’re looking for a better-than-average iPad, but the iPad Pro models all feel like too much, the iPad Air is perfect.
The iPad Pro is Apple’s supersize model. It comes in three different sizes, all bigger than the original: 10.5-, 11.0-, and 12.9-inch. The iPad Pro definitely blurs the line between computers and tablets – it’s got a powerful CPU, a gorgeous display, and top-notch cameras on board. It’s also designed to work with the Apple Pencil, a unique stylus that lets you write or draw on your tablet. If you’re a power user, or you simply want the biggest, baddest iPad on the block, get an iPad Pro.
If you’re not sure which iPad will best suit your needs, answer these questions first:
Will you be using your iPad for work or for personal use?
If you need an iPad for “lean forward” work like writing emails, drawing, or anything that involves a lot of typing, you’ll love the iPad Pro’s focus on productivity – the smaller models may not be fast enough for you. But if you’re a casual user, the smaller models may be perfect for you (and can save you a few bucks, too).
Will you need internet access on your iPad outside of your home?
All iPads come in two variations: WiFi and WiFi + Cellular. That means that if you get a WiFi iPad, it will only be able to use WiFi to connect to the internet, but if you buy a WiFi + Cellular iPad, you can get LTE internet access from anywhere. If you’re going to use your iPad in situations where you don’t get WiFi, you’ll want a WiFi + Cellular model. Just be forewarned that cellular data requires an add-on monthly charge to your existing smartphone’s data plan.
What size of tablet best fits your lifestyle?
The biggest difference between iPad models is the screen size, so picking the right size is pretty important. If you need a small model you can fit in any bag, an iPad mini might be your best bet; but if you need a giant screen with enough room to get work done, an iPad Pro may be a better choice.
The Goldilocks of iPads
Apple’s iPad Air is the sweet spot of the product line: The screen is closer to the size of a piece of paper, and it delivers a slick, responsive experience with the faster A12 chip on board. It’s not the fastest in the family — but it’s definitely one of the most affordable. If you’re looking for an iPad that can keep up with work or school, but doesn’t break the bank, this is the one to get.
So how do the different iPads stack up against one another? It all comes down to a few key specifications. Pay the closest attention to the following:
Apple has its own proprietary CPU line: iPads come with A10, A12, or A12Z chips inside. The A10 chip is adequate, and the A12 is ideal for most users. Power users will want to spring for an iPad with an A12Z CPU.
All iPads have multiple cameras, so you can use yours to take pictures or for video calls. Camera quality varies pretty greatly across iPad models: the iPad mini’s 8 megapixel (MP) camera is decent, but the iPad Pro’s 12MP camera can produce professional-quality images. If you plan on taking a lot of photos or video with your iPad, get one with solid cameras on board.
The Apple Pencil is a game-changer for tablets. It functions as a normal stylus, but includes key conveniences: You can tap a button on it to change pen styles, and it even charges just by being connected to your iPad. If you’re interested in writing or drawing by hand, get an iPad that supports the Apple Pencil.
Protect your iPad and extend the experience with these essential peripherals.
Stylus - Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)
If your iPad supports the Apple Pencil, it’s definitely a worthy companion piece — it’s the best solution available for precise writing, and the second generation brings some worthy upgrades like wireless charging. It’s definitely the most expensive stylus available, but no other model comes close. Whether you’re a digital artist or you just need to take a lot of notes, the Apple Pencil is your best bet.
There are hundreds of iPad cases out there, ranging from super thin sleeves to rugged shells and everything in between. Our favorite is the BookBook series from Twelve South: it’s a case that’s designed to look like an encyclopedia-style book. It’s got the bells and whistles you’ll want from a case, like an adjustable kickstand, easy storage for an Apple Pencil, and full access to the front camera, but when you’re not using it, your iPad stays safely hidden as an ordinary book. (Make sure the one you buy matches the size of iPad you own.)
Screen protector - JETech Screen Protector for iPad Pro 12.9”
We’re big believers in screen protectors for smartphones and tablets — they keep our screens free of scratches, smudges, and dents, all the while protecting the resale value of our gear. When it comes to the iPad, there are plenty of options. We like JETech’s screen protectors because they’re made of durable glass, they’re easy to apply, and they don’t disrupt using the iPad at all. (Make sure the one you buy matches the size of iPad you own.)
Older iPads have a physical home button at the bottom of the screen that can be used with Touch ID to unlock your iPad with a fingerprint. Newer iPads replace the physical home button with a virtual onscreen one. Instead of using your fingerprint, you can use your face to unlock your iPad with Face ID.
If you’re planning on using your iPad for video calls, you can use Apple’s native FaceTime service for connecting with other Apple devices, or you can download apps for a third-party service like Skype or Google Hangouts.
Inexpensive: The starting price for iPads is between $400 and $650, depending on the upgrades you opt for. In this price range, you’ll find both standard iPads and the iPad mini. If you’re looking for an iPad that’s reasonably fast, and you can live with an 8.0- or 9.7-inch screen, you don’t need to spend more than this.
Mid-range: Between $650 and $1,100 you’ll find standard iPads with some nice storage upgrades and base model iPad Pros. The iPads in this price range are all heavy hitters, so it’s hard to go wrong, but if you need upgrades like LTE data connectivity, you’ll have to look at the high end.
Expensive: Between $1,100 and $1,900 you’ll find iPad Pros with every spec maxed out. iPad Pros in this price range are incredibly fast, and you can even find storage options up to 1 terabyte (1,024 gigabytes). While it can sometimes be hard to justify spending more than a grand on a tablet, when it comes to the iPad Pro, the money is definitely worth it.
Use iTunes to create backups for your iPad. Accidents happen, so it’s important to plan ahead so you’ll know what to do in case of a problem and you don’t lose access to your data. The best way to keep your data safe is to use iTunes from a desktop or laptop computer to create backups that can be used to restore your iPad later. Apple offers cloud storage for your backups, but it’s pretty pricey, so local backups are your most cost-efficient option.
Buy the latest version of the Apple Pencil. If you’re considering buying a stylus to go with your new iPad, get the latest version. Most, but not all, iPads support the Apple Pencil, which lets you write on your iPad the same way you would on paper. And like all Apple products, subsequent generations offer improvements, and in the case of the Apple Pencil, those improvements have been substantial. If you’re serious about getting an Apple Pencil, go for the latest, greatest model. The improvements will be well worth it.
Q. Which iPad is most suitable for children?
A. While Apple doesn’t make any official kids’ versions of their tablets (like Amazon does), younger users can get plenty of enjoyment from an iPad. We recommend going with a smaller model like the iPad mini, so it will fit in their hands a little easier. If your iPad will get used a lot by minors, make sure you enable Parental Controls from the Settings app.
Q. Is an iPad still a good purchase if I don’t own any other Apple products?
A. Yes. While the iPad can offer some extended functionality when paired with other Apple products – like being able to answer an incoming phone call on your Apple Watch, tablet, or phone – they still shine as standalone devices. You don’t need to own any other Apple gear to enjoy apps, music, or movies on your iPad. If you’re not sure if an iPad is the best long-term fit for you, you can buy a smaller model like an iPad mini to minimize your financial risk.
Q. Do iPads have headphone jacks?
A. Some older models do, but most new models don’t. Apple has been slowly migrating away from traditional headphone jacks — instead, some iPads only have Lightning ports (so you can buy Lightning headphones or use a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter), while others only have USB-C ports (and USB-C headphones are still pretty rare, so Bluetooth headphones are a must).
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