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Which iPad Should I Buy?

December 10, 2018

1:12 pm

The Apple iPad became an icon the moment that it first hit shelves in 2010, and without a doubt, it’s the most recognizable tablet out there. This hasn’t happened by chance – Apple worked hard to ensure that its reputation for crafting powerful, intuitive devices continued with its iPad range, and the excitement generated by each new iteration shows that we’re still as passionate about the tablet as we’ve always been.

If you’re looking to pick up a new iPad, whether you’re buying for the first time or upgrading from an older model, there’s a good selection to choose from. Do you go for the all-singing, all-dancing iPad Pro, the classic 9.7-inch iPad, the tiny iPad Mini, or the brand new, lightweight iPad Air?

In this guide, we’ll talk you through the options and help you choose the iPad that suits you best.

Which iPad is Best for You?

There are three models in the current iPad range: iPad Mini, 9.7-inch iPad, and iPad Pro. None of them disappoint, although some are better suited to different types of users:

  1. 9.7-inch iPad: Best all-rounder 2018’s 9.7-inch iPad is the all-rounder of the line-up. Affordable, yet still powerful, it’s a great value prospect. It’s also now compatible with the Apple Pencil, although this is sold separately.
  2. iPad Mini 2019: Best for portability With a 7.9-inch screen, the Mini is the smallest iPad. In terms of tech, it was just updated this year, which makes it one of the more sleek options at Apple. If you like your tablets ultra-portable, and don’t already use a large-screen phone, you’ll love the new Mini.
  3. iPad Pro 2018: Best for creatives or professionals The most recent addition to the iPad line-up, the 2018 Pro is a beast of tablet, available in either 11-inch or 12.9-inch sizes. Incorporating Apple’s fastest iPad processor, the A12X, it runs fast, handling graphically intensive apps with ease. It’s the ideal designers’ tool.
  4. iPad Air: Best for professionals on the go With a beefier processor than the 9.7-inch iPad, the iPad Air brings the lightweight body to the heavy-duty iPad experience that Apple users have come to know and love.
  5. iPad Pro 2017: Best for creatives on a budget Smaller and with a less up-to-date processor than 2018’s Pro (10.5-inches and packing an A10X chip), the older Pro still packs a punch, and is worth considering for business professionals, or any designers or artists who can’t quite stretch to the 2018 model.

Scroll horizontally to view full table on mobile devices

9.7-inch iPadiPad Mini 2019iPad Pro 2018iPad AiriPad Pro 2017
iPad Mini 5iPad Air
VerdictThe best choice iPad for most peopleNew and portable, great for a quick tripThe most modern iPad, but expensive.

New and lightweight, great for on the go 

Still a great iPad for business users.
Price from$329$399$783$499$636
Screen size9.7-inch7.9-inch11-inch & 12.9-inch10.5-inch10.5-inch & 12.9 inch
Storage size32GB – 128 GB64GB – 256 GB64GB – 1TB64GB – 256 GB64GB-512GB
ProcessorA10A12A12xA12A10x
Face IDNoNoYesNoNo
Rear camera8Mp8Mp12Mp8Mp12Mp
Front camera1.2Mp7Mp7Mp7Mp7Mp
Buy

iPad 9.7-inch

The best all-round iPad to buy

The 9.7-inch iPad (actually referred to by Apple as just ‘iPad’), is the everyman of Apple’s line-up, but that’s not to say it’s lacking in power. Utilizing the A10 processor, the tablet is super snappy and quick to respond to commands.

It might not have the wow factor of the Pro series, but keep in mind that’s also half the price. Also, unless you’re a designer or someone who needs maximum performance from their iPad, the Pro is likely to be overkill for you.

With the 2018 launch of the latest iPad, Apple really went to town on marketing the tablet as a study aid, and it’s not too hard to see why. Yes, it’s powerful and has an excellent 10-hour battery life, but the new model also adopted a function previously reserved for the Pro – the ability to annotate on the screen with the Apple Pencil. It’s a practical addition that gives you one more reason to save money on the Pro and go with the iPad.

Verdict: In most cases, anyone looking to buy an iPad should choose this model. The price tag represents excellent value for what you actually get (are we really saying that about an Apple product?), and even though there are more powerful options in the Pro range, the 9.7-inch model really holds its own. The 2018 update introducing pencil support is the icing on the cake (although you have to purchase that separately, natch).

Pros

  • Powerful enough for most
  • Cheapest iPad
  • Compatible with Pencil

Cons

  • Starts with just 32GB storage
  • Bezels still quite thick

iPad Mini 2019

The Best Portable iPad, particularly with the update

The iPad Mini is aimed at people who want the iPad experience, but in a smaller form than the standard 9.7-inch model can offer. Enter then, the diminutive 7.9-inch model, which offers a more portable solution.

After ignoring the iPad Mini for nearly four years, Apple finally decided to upgrade the portable option this year. The A12 processor puts it firmly ahead of some of Apple’s older models and the 8Mp rear and 7Mp front cameras give it the update look everyone has been waiting for.

This new iteration is a charming tablet that’s intuitive to use, and will run your apps with ease. Plus, the new attention by Apple makes it easy to recommend, especially when the 9.7-inch iPad is looking older and older by the day.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a small, portable, affordable iPad, the Mini might be your best best. The updated version has all the bells and whistles you’d expect, albeit in a smaller package.

Pros

  • Smallest iPad
  • Easy to hold for long periods
  • Powerful enough for all users

Cons

  • Feels less relevant as phones get larger and foldable

iPad Pro 2018

A stunning iPad, best for creatives

Want the biggest, most powerful iPad on the market? Then you want a Pro.

Apple’s newest addition to the line-up is also arguably the best looking. Gone are the trademark thick bezels, thanks to the home button getting the boot. You now unlock your Pro with Face ID, just like the iPhone X. It means that the Pro has been able to receive a remodeling, and is now arguably the sleekest looking tablet Apple makes.

Size wise, you’re looking at either 11-inches or 12.9-inches, both with stunningly vivid displays that really impress. The older, 2017 Pro started at 10.5-inches, which didn’t feel too much larger than the standard model, but here you definitely notice the increase. Despite this, Apple have managed to ensure that the Pro stays light and easy to hold for extended periods.

Then there’s the processor. Under the hood, you’ll find the A12x chip, which is incredibly fast and powerful. The tablet doesn’t show any signs of stopping when faced with intensive graphical apps, which is why it’s so appealing to designers and creatives. If you’re simply browsing the internet and watching Netflix, then this iPad is overkill (although Stranger Things would look incredible on that 12.9-inch display, admittedly).

Verdict: Large, powerful and expensive, the Pro is a status symbol and the pinnacle of Apple’s tablet design to date. For the average surfer, its abilities are wasted, but for those that can push it – and have the budget – the Pro is likely to be a faithful companion for years to come.

See our full iPad Pro (2018) review for more

Pros

  • Most powerful iPad yet
  • Large, stunning screen
  • Pencil compatible

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Specs overkill for most
  • Accessories (pencil/keyboard) cost extra

iPad Air

Great for professionals in need of lightweight portability 

Bigger than the iPad Mini, cheaper than the iPad Pro. The iPad Air sounds like a slam-dunk device to go for – Apple struck gold last year with the 2018 MacBook Air, arguably its best consumer laptop. But, there’s a major caveat with the iPad Air – for most people, it may be too expensive to recommend over the 9.7-inch iPad.

The $499 iPad Air comes with a 10.5 inch, putting it firmly ahead of all other models outside of the decidedly more expensive (an extra $300) iPad Pro. It’s also compatible with the Apple Pen and Smart Keyboard, which makes it a viable alternative to your laptop for a fraction of the price.

There are reasons why the iPad Air isn’t a true iPad Pro contender, though. The lightning port keeps it from being easily compatible with other devices, and the 2224×1668 resolution could certainly be more impressive, given the upgrades of recent technology.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a fairly affordable, lightweight model that can still take advantage of some of Apple’s more luxurious features, the iPad Air is great. The shortcomings are hardly dealbreakers. But, for everyday browsing and typical apps, you may be better off getting the cheaper 9.7-inch iPad.

Pros

  • Compatible with Apple Pen and Smart Keyboard
  • 10.5 inch screen
  • Cheaper than the iPad Pro

Cons

  • Pricier than the similar 9.7-inch iPad
  • Poor display resolution
  • No additional ports

iPad Pro 2017

A great iPad for business users, though not the most up-to-date

The 2017 iPad Pro may have been surpassed by the 2018 model, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked – especially if you can get it at a discount.

Coming in 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch sizes, the older Pro still has that vibrant screen that is the selling point of the series, and although it may not have the A12x processor of its successor, the A10x it has under the hood is nothing to sniff at – and still packs more of a punch than the standard iPad.

It doesn’t have Face ID like the 2018 version, but this is hardly essential. However, it does mean that the older model retains the larger bezel and the home button, so it’s not quite as sleek as the 2018 Pro.

Verdict: For those who need a high-powered tablet but can’t quite stretch to the cost of the 2018 Pro, the 2017 model is worth consideration.

Pros

  • Cheapest way to buy a Pro
  • Still packs a powerful processor
  • Pencil compatible

Cons

  • 2018 model not much more expensive
  • Accessories (pencil/keyboard) cost extra

iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro

The iPad 9.7-inch and Pro have a lot in common. Both offer ten-hour battery life, and thanks to the 2018 update, both are now compatible with the Apple Pencil, meaning that you can make annotations on the screen.

The Pro is available in bigger sizes – either 11-inch or 12.9-inch, compared to the standard 9.7-inch iPad. The Pro also has a faster processor, ideal for intense graphical work and demanding apps. It has also scrapped the home button that we’re so used to seeing on the iPad, and instead uses face recognition to automatically unlock the screen.

While it’s the fastest iPad on the market, that’s not to say that the standard 9.7-inch iPad is lacking in power. With the A10 processor running the show, it still offers a lot of bang for your buck – especially considering that it’s half the price of the Pro.

Verdict: Want the ultimate iPad? Get the Pro. However, be aware that you’ll need to pay a premium for it, and if you’re not looking to stretch its capabilities, you probably won’t get your money’s worth. For most, the 9.7-inch iPad offers the best mix of power and value in Apple’s line-up.

iPad 9.7-inch
  • iPad 9.7
  • 9.7-inch screen
  • A10 processor
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • 32GB or 128GB
  • 1.03 pounds
  • From $329

iPad Pro 2018
  • iPad Pro 
  • 11-inch & 12.9 inch
  • A12x
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 64GB – 1TB
  • 1.03/1.4 pounds
  • From $783

iPad 9.7 vs iPad Mini

If you’re looking for a portable, everyday tablet, then you won’t go far wrong with the 9.7-inch iPad or the latest Mini. Both offer a smooth experience, and are light and slim enough to pop into a bag.

Because the Mini has just received a 2019 update, whereas the flagship 9.7 is still waiting for an update, the smaller option could be your best one as well. With a much better camera and a comparable processor, it’s hard to argue that the updated Mini gives the 9.7 a run for its money.

Of course, screen size is nothing to scoff at either. The iPad 9.7 screen is almost a full two inches larger than its tiny compatriot, and that can matter significantly, particularly when your phone is already on the larger side. In short, if you already use a large phone (6-inches or over) then you may not benefit from choosing the iPad Mini – it’s not that much bigger. For a screen-size upgrade, the 9.7-inch iPad is a smarter choice.

Verdict: At this point, the Mini 5 offers more in terms of power, but if you’re looking for the full-on tablet experience, the iPad 9.7 has enough screen to make it actually worth it to have two different devices.

iPad 9.7-inch
  • iPad 9.7
  • 9.7-inch screen
  • A10 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 32GB or 128GB
  • 1.03 pounds
  • From $329

ipadmini4
  • Mini 5
  • 7.9-inch
  • A12 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 64GB or 256GB
  • 0.66 pounds
  • From $399
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Jack is the Content Manager for Tech.co. He has been writing about a broad variety of technology subjects for over a decade, both in print and online, including laptops and tablets, gaming, and tech scams. As well as years of experience reviewing the latest tech devices, Jack has also conducted investigative research into a number of tech-related issues, including privacy and fraud.