The best iPad 2017: how to choose the right Apple tablet for you

The best iPad to buy in 2017 is a tricky answer for us because there are quite a few new Apple tablets on sale today through Cyber Monday and even more old ones in circulation.

The iPad Pro is certainly the most powerful, and that comes in two sizes, the massive iPad Pro 12.9-inch version and the flagship 10.5-inch edition. But neither are the best for average consumers looking to save money.

The New iPad 2017 is a better value and the best iPad for most people because it covers all of the basics you need from an iOS 11 tablet. Of course, the iPad Air 2 remains popular, even if Apple isn't selling it directly on its store anymore, and the same goes for the iPad mini 4 is probably on its way out eventually.

Whatever the case there's an iPad for you, and to make it easier to sift through them and find the right one we've highlighted all the choices, in a clear, concise way, so boot up your old tablet one last time, read through our rundown and get ready to upgrade.

And if you prefer to watch than read, we've also put four of the best options head to head in a video showdown.

For everyone else (or if four options aren't enough), you'll find a rundown of all the readily available iPads below, including the brand new iPad (2017) and second generation iPad Pro duo.

These come complete with full spec lists, their good and bad points and a look at what makes them tick, so you can make an informed purchase decision.

  • Looking for an Android tablet instead? Check out our best tablet ranking.

1. New iPad (2017)

The new iPad is shockingly cheap

Weight: 469g | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels | CPU: A9 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32/128GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Affordable
Great screen
Thicker than the Air
Only an A9 chipset

The best Apple iPad for most people isn't actually the most powerful – it's just the greatest value. The new iPad (2017) replaces the iPad Air 2 in Apple's lineup, slotting in below the Pro range.

As such it lacks their Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil support and misses out on some of their power, but its A9 chipset is still very speedy and the 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen is sharp, bright and high-quality.

It also has the same luxurious metal unibody as the rest of Apple's iPad range, though notably it's ever-so-slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro 9.7 at 7.5mm.

With the Touch ID fingerprint sensor included, iOS 11 under the hood and up to 10 hours of battery life when web browsing or watching videos, the new iPad (2017) is a great media player and a strong tablet choice if you're not planning to use it heavily for productivity.

It starts at just $329, £339, or AU$469, too, which is cheap, especially if you get it for a lower price on Black Friday. No, it's not a cheap tablet like the Amazon Fire HD 10 (you could buy three of those for this price), but Apple has the best tablet software experience, bar none.

Read the full iPad (2017) review

2. iPad Pro 10.5

The entry-level Pro gets a screen boost

Weight: 469g | Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 10.5-inch | Resolution: 1668 x 2224 pixels | CPU: A10X Fusion | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 8,134mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Great speakers
512GB version
Screen adds a lot of expense
iOS still isn't a good laptop replacement

It's a tough decision over whether the new iPad Pro is the best iPad, or the more recent (and more basic) iPad - but the new Pro is in second solely on its higher price.

If you can see past that, or you really need a tablet that can truly keep up with any app you want to throw at it while using a dedicated Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, this should be the device you look at.

The new ProMotion screen adds an impressive layer of fluidity to daily use - if not strictly necessary - and the smaller bezels means you're getting far more display in a footprint not much bigger than last year's 9.7.

It's an iPad for the professionals - but also one that media munchers will adore using.

Read the full review: iPad Pro 10.5

3. iPad Pro 12.9

The best really big iPad you can buy

Weight: 677g | Dimensions: 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 12.9-inch | Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels | CPU: A10X Fusion | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 10,875mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Great, large tablet screen
Tremendous power
Too expensive as a laptop replacement for some

We really like the iPad Pro for its size and it's the closest thing we have to a 2-in-1 touchscreen MacBook. It just happens to run iOS 11 instead of macOS. 

It's the best productivity and entertainment tablet around thanks to its large 12.9-inch screen, four speakers and iOS 11 dock and multitasking interface.

It's biggest weakness? The iPad Pro 12.9-inch price, and the size isn't a good fit for everyone. But If you can afford it and want the largest-sized iPad available, you're going to love this – it's a laptop-replacement for a lot people out there.

Read the hands on review: iPad Pro 12.9

iPad Pro 9 7

4. iPad Pro 9.7

The latest iPad Pro is one of the best tablets on the planet

Weight: 437g | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels | CPU: A9X | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32/128/256GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

Great speakers
Up to 256GB of storage
Expensive starting price
Lower power than larger version

For the average user the iPad Pro 9.7 is one of the best all-round options, or it is if money is no object anyway, as it starts at $599/£549/AU$849 and if you want more than 32GB of storage or cellular connectivity the price rises steeply.

But it does a good job of justifying that outlay, as the iPad Pro 9.7 is the greatest entry in Apple's 'main' line of slates.

The 9.7-inch screen strikes a great balance between being big enough to get far more out of than a phone screen and small enough to still be fairly portable.

And although Apple has ditched the Air moniker, at 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm and 437g the iPad Pro 9.7 is every bit as thin and light as the iPad Air 2.

But it lives up to the Pro name, with plenty of power afforded by its A9X chipset and 2GB of RAM, four speakers for serious media potential, a beautiful True Tone screen, which adapts the color and intensity to your environment, and of course the ability to use the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil with it, if you want to use the slate to actually get things done.

The iPad Pro 9.7 also comes with up to 256GB of storage if you're prepared to pay, so you needn't feel limited by the lack of a microSD card slot, and it's likely to remain a powerful and versatile tablet for years to come, so while it's expensive you might not feel the need to upgrade for a long time.

Read the full iPad Pro 9.7 review

iPad mini 4

5. iPad Mini 4

The latest 7-inch iPad is a big step up from the previous version

Weight: 299g | Dimensions: 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 7.9-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels | CPU: A8 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16/32/64/128GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 5124mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Great screen
Sleek design
Dated chipset
No 3D Touch

Big screens aren't for everyone, and that's where the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4 comes in. The screen size means it's far more portable than Apple's larger tablets, especially as it's light at 299g. It's not quite small enough that you can use it one handed, but you can comfortably hold it for a lot longer than most of Apple's slates, or throw it in a bag and forget about it.

It's also big enough to enjoyably browse the net or watch videos on when you're away from home and bigger screens, but it's obviously not quite as strong an experience for most visual media as Apple's larger 9.7 and 12.9-inch slates.

The small size and lack of Smart Connector also makes it worse for productivity than the iPad Pro range, but this isn't designed as a laptop replacement.

It's still fairly powerful thanks to 2GB of RAM and the aging but still impressive Apple A8 chip, while the screen is sharp, rich and easy to see even in bright sunlight.

The iPad Mini 4 is also a fraction of the price of Apple's Pro range, starting as it does at $399/£379/AU$569 and with up to 128GB of storage you needn't be terribly limited in that area – though it's no match for the 256GB you can get in the iPad Pro.

Read the full iPad Mini 4 review

iPad Pro

6. iPad Pro 12.9

It's big, it's powerful and it's absolutely stunning

Weight: 713g | Dimensions: 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 12.9-inch | Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels | CPU: A9X | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32/128/256GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 10,307mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Hugely powerful
Big screen
Powerfully huge
Battery life could be longer

The iPad Pro 12.9, or simply the iPad Pro as it's sometimes known, is in many ways a bigger and better version of the iPad Pro 9.7.

It matches that slate's four powerful speakers, accessory options and storage capacity, but at 12.9 inches the screen is significantly larger, while its 2048 x 2732 resolution ensures it retains the same 264ppi pixel density. It's also more powerful than its smaller sibling, combining the same Apple A9X chipset with a massive 4GB of RAM.

That power is undeniably a good thing, but the screen size will be more divisive, as while all that space is great if you plan to use it as a real laptop replacement, for running apps in split screen, or for watching a lot of movies, it leaves it a little unwieldy in other ways, especially as it makes the slate a hefty 713g. If you want the ultimate in portability this isn't it.

But if you can afford the high price and want the very biggest and most powerful tablet Apple has to offer there can be no other choice than the iPad Pro 12.9.

Read the full iPad Pro 12.9 review

iPad Air 2

7. iPad Air 2

Still a brilliant tablet and now far cheaper than ever before

Weight: 437g | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels | CPU: A8X | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16/32/64/128GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Powerful
Lovely screen
Volume silencer gone
16GB is too little storage

The iPad Air 2 is the predecessor to the iPad Pro 9.7 and the difference in name gives a hint of what it's lacking – namely compatibility with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, along with the four powerful speakers found on the Pro range.

It's not as strong for productivity then, but in many other ways the iPad Air 2 can almost match up to the iPad Pro 9.7 and all for a much lower price.

For one thing it has the same premium metal body, along with the same weight and dimensions, leaving it a slim and light 6.1mm thick and 437g.

It also has the same size and resolution 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen, though behind the scenes more vivid colors and the True Tone tech (for dynamically adjusted white balance) in the iPad Pro 9.7 make the display altogether more impressive.

But when the screen is already so good on the iPad Air 2 you might not miss those things, especially if you've not seen them in action.

The slate sports plenty of power too, matching the iPad Pro 9.7 for 2GB of RAM and finding a middle ground between that and the iPad mini 4 with its A8X chipset. In short, if you don't need the productivity potential of the iPad Pro and can live with slightly dated but still solid specs, the iPad Air 2 is a strong choice.

Read the full iPad Air 2 review

iPad mini 2

8. iPad Mini 2

The cheapest iPad out there is still a fantastic 7-inch tablet

Weight: 331g | Dimensions: 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 7.9-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels | CPU: A7 | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16/32/64/128GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 6470mAh | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Brilliant design
Good CPU
Costs a little too much
16GB of storage is too low

Apple no longer sells the iPad Mini 2, but it was only discontinued recently and it's still available from some retailers.

And it's easy to see why. The iPad Mini 3 (which has also been discontinued) offered little that the Mini 2 didn't, only really adding Touch ID, and in being so conservative secured a mediocre 3-star review from us.

The iPad Mini 2 though was and is impressive. It's every bit as powerful as the iPad Air and has a compact 7.9-inch display, with the same resolution as the iPad Mini 4. The overall quality isn't quite as high, but it's still a strong tablet screen.

At 7.5mm thick and 331g it's not quite as slim and light as Apple's latest Mini, but it's still compact enough to comfortably cart around with you and it sports a similarly premium design.

It has an older chipset and half as much RAM, which combined with its age means you might feel the need to upgrade sooner rather than later if you do invest in the iPad Mini 2.

But right now it still offers a quality experience and is an ideal option if you want a highly portable and low cost tablet, just as long as you can live without the secure convenience of Touch ID.

Read the full iPad Mini 2 review