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Best iPad 2021: is the iPad Air, Mini or Pro the best for you?

Best iPad
(Image credit: Apple)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

What is the best iPad? The answer can differ depending on what you need an iPad for. There are plenty of options out there in Apple's range, including standard iPads, mid-spec Air models, smaller mini editions and high-performing Pro iterations. It can be tricky to know what the best iPad for you is so we're here to help with a guide to the best Apple tablets. 

We regularly update the guide because the answer changes frequently with new iPads quite regularly launching. Recent arrivals including the iPad Air 4 (2020) are now included on our list. We're also expecting to see the iPad Pro 2020 feature on the list soon, once we've finished putting it through an in-depth review. For now, there are plenty of excellent options out there.

Our list includes everything from the compact iPad mini (2019) to the powerful iPad Pro 11 (2018), the massive iPad Pro 12.9 (2018), and the affordable iPad 10.2 (2019), among others.

We’ve ranked them from best to worst, and included a detailed overview of what makes each so good. So this should be the one and only resource you’ll need to find the best iPad for you – though we’ve also included links to our reviews of each model, so you can take an even closer look at them.

While there’s an iPad suited to most people, if you decide Apple’s slates aren’t for you then make sure to also check out our best tabletbest Android tablet, and best cheap tablet guides for other options.

Best iPads in 2021 at a glance:

  1. iPad Pro 11 (2018)
  2. iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)
  3. iPad Air 4 (2020)
  4. iPad 10.2 (2020)
  5. iPad Mini (2019)
  6. iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)
  7. iPad Air 3 (2019)
  8. iPad 10.2 (2019)
  9. iPad 9.7 (2018)
  10. iPad 9.7 (2017)

Best iPads 2020: which is the best iPad you can get right now?

iPad Pro 11

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPad Pro 11 (2018)

The best iPad you can buy right now

Specifications
Weight: 468g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 11-inch
Resolution: 2388 x 1668 pixels
CPU: A12X Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 7,812mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Pencil clips on, finally+Insane amount of power for a tablet
Reasons to avoid
-Software limits laptop experience-Pencil and keyboard expensive extras

The iPad Pro 11 is the best iPad you can buy right now. It may be expensive, but it's Apple's most powerful tablet and furthers the 2-in-1 design ethos if you spring for the pricey new keyboard cover folio. 

It has a laptop-like experience in design and performance, and the new Apple Pencil magnetically clips onto the frame of the new iPad Pro. With superb speakers and a great new screen-to-body ratio, it's hard not to fall in love with the finely crafted hardware design. 

And with the arrival of iPadOS its software has been transformed, making it even better than it was at launch.

However, it doesn't have a headphone jack. If you want the standard 3.5mm jack in a computer-like device, you'll spring for an actual computer.

Everything about the iPad Pro 11 makes it the best experience if you're looking for the best Apple tablet - you'll just need to swallow the high price - but it's no MacBook replacement.

Note however that the iPad Pro 11 covered here isn't the latest version. There's now an iPad Pro 11 (2020), but we haven't fully reviewed that yet.

Read the full review: iPad Pro 11 (2018)

(Image credit: Future)

iPad Pro 12.9

(Image credit: Apple)

2. iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)

The best big iPad around

Specifications
Weight: 632g
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels
CPU: A12X Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 9,720mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Massive display+Unrivalled music quality
Reasons to avoid
-Low battery life-Short range for Face ID

The iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) is a big monster – monster in the good kind of way, as it effortlessly crushes half the things you need in your life – goodbye mobile phone, laptop, coloring pad, music mixing table, games console. It's the ultimate creativity and workflow tool, with its huge screen, useful peripherals and snappy iOS.

It has the fastest processing power we've ever seen in a mobile device, four powerful speakers and a vibrant screen and, depending on which model you get, more storage power than you'd ever need.

It doesn't have the best battery life though, so it's not going to last you too long. You might not be able to use it for long periods of time watching films on a journey or mixing your music, and it charges rather slowly too.

All in all, the iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) is one of the best iPads you can buy right now, but if you don't need its huge display, the slighter cheaper iPad Pro 11 will save you a few bucks and be more portable.

It's worth noting that the iPad Pro 12.9 above isn't the latest model though, that's the iPad Pro 12.9 (2020). We haven't fully reviewed that yet, but keep an eye on this list to see where it ranks.

Read the full review: iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)

iPad Air 4 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

3. iPad Air 4 (2020)

Why go Pro when the Air is this good?

Specifications
Weight: 458g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 10.9-inch
Resolution: 1640 x 2360 pixels
CPU: A14 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+All-screen design+Lots of power
Reasons to avoid
-64GB storage is limited-Higher price than last-gen

The iPad Air 4 (2020) is almost an iPad Pro, yet it’s a whole lot cheaper than any recent Pro model, making it a very tempting buy for all but the most demanding of users.

It looks a lot like an iPad Pro for one, with its all-screen front, and like an iPad Pro it supports both the second-gen Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard.

It also has an enormous amount of power thanks to its A14 Bionic chipset – that’s the same as you’ll find in the iPhone 12 range, and actually newer than the chipset in the iPad Pro (2020) range. Plus there are four powerful speakers, a decent (albeit 60Hz) 10.9-inch screen, and good battery life.

The iPad Air 4 also comes in a wide range of colors, which isn’t something you can say about other recent Apple tablets.

Read the full review: iPad Air 4 (2020)

iPad 10.2 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

4. iPad 10.2 (2020)

Apple's newest basic iPad is more of the same, but that's okay

Specifications
Weight: 490g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 1620 x 2160 pixels
CPU: A12 Bionic
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 32/128GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Strong performance
Reasons to avoid
-Very little change-Only 1.2MP selfie camera

The iPad 10.2 (2020) isn’t the most thrilling of updates, as it’s really only a modest improvement on 2019’s iPad 10.2, but it’s still an improvement, and that makes it the best 10.2-inch iPad you can buy, and also arguably the best cheap iPad.

Its A12 Bionic chipset is faster than its predecessor’s processor, and the 20W charger in the box ensures you can also juice it up more quickly.

Plus, the iPad 10.2 (2020) has all the great features you’d expect, including support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, plus strong battery life. The selfie camera doesn’t impress and storage starts low, but opt for a 128GB model and you’ll have an impressive and versatile tablet on your hands.

Read the full review: iPad 10.2 (2020)

iPad Mini (2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

5. iPad Mini (2019)

The only small tablet you should consider

Specifications
Weight: 304g
Dimensions: 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 7.9-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
CPU: A12 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 5,124mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Perfect portable size+Surprisingly powerful specs
Reasons to avoid
-Bezel-heavy design-Uses the older Apple Pencil

Sometimes with a tablet you just want a slightly plus-sized phone, and the iPad Mini (2019) fits that bill. It's a dinky device with some impressive specs, boasting Apple's most recent processor and a decent battery life.

What makes the iPad Mini (2019) great is the fact you can use the Apple Pencil alongside it, turning the iPad Mini into a tiny notebook in your pocket.

The iPad Mini is one of the best small tablets you can get at its price point, so if you're looking for an easily totable pocket powerhouse, you can't get much better than this little monster.

Read the full review: iPad Mini (2019)

iPad Pro 10.5

(Image credit: Apple)

6. iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)

An iPad Pro experience at a now-lower price

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
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
Reasons to buy
+Great speakers+512GB version
Reasons to avoid
-Screen adds a lot of expense-Still not quite a laptop replacement

The iPad Pro 10.5-inch version is an all-star tablet which has since been superseded by the iPad Pro 11. There's good news for the Pro 10.5 though, as this means it's now cheaper - though it's also no longer sold direct from Apple.

Its bright ProMotion Retina HD screen is its best selling point. It 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 2016's 9.7. 

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

It takes advantage of the Apple Pencil and several tablet-focused features like the dock, Control Center and Instant Markup with the stylus. If you invest in the recommended Smart Keyboard, you can attach it to a Pro-level iPad without jumping through all of the hoops of Bluetooth.

Read the full review: iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)

iPad Air 10.5

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPad Air 3 (2019)

The best compromise for students

Specifications
Weight: 456g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 10.5-inch
Resolution: 1668 x 2224 pixels
CPU: A12 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
microSD slot: No
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant-looking laminated screen+Cheapest Smart Keyboard iPad
Reasons to avoid
-Uses the 1st Gen Apple Pencil-Traditional design doesn't wow

The iPad Air, with a 10.5-inch screen, is the ultimate compromise between the entry-level iPads and the more powerful, but more expensive iPad Pro 11. It sits at the original iPad price in most countries, so it's cheaper than the iPad Pro 10.5 (2017) that it replaces, and although it isn't a 'Pro' tablet in name, it has several high-end features that make it a convincing laptop supplement.

It's one of the cheaper iPad models that's compatible with Apple's Smart Keyboard Cover, meaning you don't need to deal with tricky Bluetooth keyboard connections to get real work done on this thing.

It also has Apple's A12 chipset, borrowed from the iPhone XS. It's incredibly fast. Students will be able to take notes and respond to email on this tablet, but artists will hate the first-generation Apple Pencil.

Read the full review: iPad Air 3 (2019)

iPad 10.2

(Image credit: Apple)

8. iPad 10.2 (2019)

Apple’s basic iPad gets a slightly bigger screen

Specifications
Weight: 483g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 1620 x 2160 pixels
CPU: A10 Fusion
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 32/128GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 8,827mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Slightly bigger screen+Works with the Smart Keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Marginally better than iPad 9.7-iPad Air is superior for sketching

The iPad 10.2 (2019) brings Apple’s basic tablet range a step closer to the iPad Pro line – or at least the latest iPad Air - with the addition of Smart Keyboard support and a slightly larger screen, growing from 9.7 inches to 10.2 inches.

The iPad 10.2 also got a power boost, with an extra gigabyte of RAM compared to the iPad 9.7 (2018), though it’s stuck with the same A10 chipset.

It also has broadly the same design, meaning big bezels and a home button. So if you want one of Apple’s sleekest slates, this isn’t it.

But with strong battery life, decent performance, and a fairly low price – at least by Apple standards – there’s a lot to like here, especially if you want some of Apple’s best iPad features on a more limited budget.

Read the full review: iPad 10.2 (2019)

iPad 9.7

(Image credit: Apple)

9. iPad 9.7 (2018)

A great Apple iPad for the typical consumer

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 9.7-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
CPU: A10 Fusion
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32/128GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Works with Apple Pencil
Reasons to avoid
-Its education ambitions are overhyped-Smart Keyboard Cover incompatible

This is a good Apple iPad for the average consumer and for education, even if it isn't the most powerful one available. It's still great value. That said, the newer iPad 10.2 has it beat for most users, and has the advantage of still being sold direct from Apple, which this model isn't.

The iPad (2018) replaces the very similar 2017 model, slotting in below the Pro and Air ranges with a dependable tablet that hasn't changed much in years - but Apple clearly feels it doesn't need to mess with success.

The basic iPad works with the Apple Pencil, offering you the cheapest way to doodle on the 9.7-inch glass - though you can't get the Smart Keyboard with this non-Pro model, for that you'll need the newer 10.2-inch one.

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 at 7.5mm.

With the Touch ID fingerprint sensor included, iPadOS 13 under the hood and up to 10 hours of battery life when web browsing or watching videos, it's a great media player and a strong tablet choice if you're not planning to use it heavily for productivity.

Read the full review: iPad 9.7 (2018)

iPad 9.7 (2017)

(Image credit: Apple)

10. iPad 9.7 (2017)

Old but still good

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 9.7-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
CPU: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32/128GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 8,827mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Cheaper price+Good 9.7-inch screen
Reasons to avoid
-Only A9 chipset-No 256GB version

The iPad 9.7 (2017) is getting on a bit now, but it has aged with dignity, as it continues to support the latest iPad software at the time of writing, and it has a screen that holds up surprisingly well.

You also get decent speakers on the iPad 9.7 (2017), and the battery life is similar to more recent models, while the price – if you can find it – will be a lot lower.

The design and chipset are both a bit dated now, and it doesn’t support all the accessories of more recent models, so the iPad 9.7 (2017) is sure to start showing its age soon. But for now, if you’re on a tight budget it remains worth considering – especially if you mostly just want a tablet for media, basic apps and web browsing.

Read the full review: iPad 9.7 (2017)