Our best iPad guide has recently had a new addition in the form of the super-powerful iPad Pro 12.9 (2021). This incredible slate tops our list, but it won’t be the best Apple iPad for everyone.
Choosing the right slate for you means knowing not just your budget but also what you want from a tablet. Do you want something compact and portable like the iPad mini (2019)? Something powerful enough for work and high-end gaming, like the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)? Or something affordable like the iPad 10.2 (2020)?
For each entry you'll find a specs list, a brief overview, and the main highlights and low points of the slate, so you can quickly see which ones are right for you.
But while there’s an iPad suited to most people, if you decide Apple’s devices aren’t for you then make sure to also check out our best tablet, best Android tablet, and best cheap tablet guides for other options.
Best iPads 2021: which iPad should you buy?
The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) is a very big, very powerful, and very expensive tablet. That’s true of all the 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, but on the power front this one takes things to a whole new level, swapping out a mobile chipset for the Apple M1, which is found in top-end MacBooks and iMacs.
This means it’s a tremendously high-powered device, ideal for demanding tasks like video editing, graphic design, and top-tier games.
On top of that, the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) also has a superb 2048 x 2732 Mini LED screen. This is the first iPad to use that display technology, and it allows for a seriously bright screen with great contrast.
Elsewhere you get 10 hours of battery life, a typically premium aluminum shell, up to 2TB of storage, and support for the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2, allowing you to take this beyond a mere productivity device.
Note: we’re only talking about the 12.9-inch model here. There’s also an iPad Pro 11 (2021), but we haven’t reviewed that yet. On paper it’s largely similar, but with a less impressive screen that doesn’t use Mini LED.
Read the full review: iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) is one of the biggest, best and most powerful tablets you can buy – but not quite the best, as it’s been superseded by the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021).
While that slate has far more power and an even better screen, it also costs even more, and the iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) comes close in most areas.
It has a powerful A12Z Bionic chipset, a sharp 2048 x 2732 screen, excellent speakers, a sleek design, decent battery life, and support for accessories like the Magic Keyboard and the Apple Pencil 2.
It’s a top productivity choice, and while it’s arguably overkill for mobile gaming and media, it will excel for those things too. Really the only mark against it other than the high price is the fact that it’s no longer quite the newest or best in the range, but in real world use you might struggle to tell much difference between this and the latest model.
Read the full review: iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)
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)
The iPad Pro 11 (2018) is getting on a bit but remains impressive. It may be expensive, but it's very powerful and furthers the 2-in-1 design ethos if you spring for the pricey keyboard cover folio.
It has a laptop-like experience in design and performance, and the Apple Pencil magnetically clips onto the frame of the 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 at great tablet experience - you'll just need to swallow the high price - but it's no MacBook replacement.
Read the full review: iPad Pro 11 (2018)
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 a fast processor, 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 better iPads you can buy right now, but if you don't need its huge display, the slighter cheaper iPad Pro 11 (2018) will save you a few bucks and be more portable.
Read the full review: iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)
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)
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