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?
Best iPads 2020
1. iPad Air (2019)
The iPad Air is a fast machine with a large and well-specced screen, long battery life and attractive (if old-fashioned) design - the old familiar Home button and particularly the headphone port will be seen as plus points by many. The front-facing camera provides high-quality FaceTime video and selfies, and while the rear camera is less impressive this is a sensible area for a mid-size tablet to cut costs.
Talking of which, £479/$499 (for the perfectly adequate base storage allocation) is good value for all the goodies just mentioned. The Pro model is probably better for a creative professional, but for most people, this is the best iPad on the market.
Read our full Apple iPad Air (2019) review
2. iPad Pro 12.9in (2020)
Apple’s new 12.9in iPad Pro is among the most powerful on the market right now, with the new A12Z chipset beating just about every competitor in benchmark tests, but it’s also one of the most expensive options in our chart. The huge 120Hz 12.9in display is great for graphics design, watching movies and browsing social media, but it’s not until you pair it with the Magic Keyboard that the potential becomes clear.
It has the potential to be a laptop replacement, but it’s a very pricey one. It’s 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 standard iPad.
Read our full iPad Pro 12.9in (2020) review
3. iPad Pro 11in (2018)
The 11in iPad Pro is the best Pro, and probably the best iPad ever, but it comes at a price. And unless you really need the features afforded by the Smart Keyboard and 120Hz display then you'd be better off with the regular iPad.
But for creatives or those who want to use the iPad Pro as a laptop then this is the best option, it just comes at a high price. It has Face ID, amazing build quality, great battery life and a new Apple Pencil that's better than ever.
Read our full Apple iPad Pro 11in (2018) review
4. iPad mini (2019)
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, Apple’s smallest tablet is a tiny powerhouse of a computer.
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
5. iPad 10.2in (2019)
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. There's no big need to upgrade if you have the older 9.7in model but if you don't then there's a lot to love here.
Apple has made the screen is larger, added a Smart Connector, made improvements to the software with iPadOS and more.
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.
This is a great all-rounder tablet and a particularly good buy if you want to make the most of Apple Arcade.
Read our full Apple iPad 10.2in (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: 10.2in
- iPad Air: 10.5in
- 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 641g - over double the weight - although the iPad Air strikes a nice balance with a 10.5in display and a weight of only 456g. It really does depend on your preferences and how you intend to use the iPad.
It’s also worth noting that the iPad Pro range features 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 10.2in featuring the ageing A10 Fusion chipset while the latest models of iPad Pro feature the incredibly powerful A12Z Bionic chipset. The iPad mini and iPad Air sport the A12 Bionic, offering the sweet spot in terms of performance.
What does that mean? If you’re looking to use your iPad for work and intend on editing videos, creating graphics and playing high-end AAA games, you’ll benefit from the A12Z Bionic chipset of the iPad Pro range. If you’re only looking for an iPad to browse the web, use your favourite apps and play simple games, the iPad mini or Air should suffice.
Though the A10 Fusion of the 10.2in iPad still provides decent performance depending on what you’re doing, it’ll likely stop receiving software updates long before any other iPad currently on sale, so we’d avoid it where possible.
Consider the accessories available for each iPad, as it’s not a uniform offering: the high-end iPad Pro range, for example, features an exclusive Magic Keyboard with a built-in trackpad and innovative cantilever hinge that turns the tablet into a true laptop competitor, and it’s compatible with the second-gen Apple Pencil too.
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.
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 £349/$329, and it goes all the way up to £1,619/$1,649 for the 1TB variant of 12.9in iPad Pro, and although that is still incredibly expensive, it’s actually £200/$200 cheaper than the same version from 2018.
Though you may be tempted to go for the 10.2in iPad if you’re on the hunt for a bargain, we’d advise spending a little more on the iPad Air or iPad mini - with the 10.2in model’s ageing A10 Bionic chipset, it’s likely that it’ll stop receiving software updates much sooner than any other iPad Apple sells right now.