The best iPad isn't necessarily the latest, priciest, and most kitted-out model. Apple has four different lines in its tablet family, and each one is aimed at different types of users.
The original, simply named iPad, is the entry-level option, and a low-cost minimalist tablet that's packing all the core features ideal for families or seniors. The iPad Air, Apple's mid-range offering, comes with more processing power while keeping things fairly affordable and lightweight, making it a great option for remote workers and students.
Meanwhile, the top-tier iPad Pro family targets creatives and business professionals with their high-end performance that's on a par with MacBooks, along with high-end screens and plenty of storage space. Of course, let's not forget the iPad Mini, which is smaller so it's great for extra portability.
So, which iPad is best for you? We've put all iPad models through their paces so we're here to figure out what's best for you.
In this buying guide, we've offered some insight into each model, including pros, cons, a quick overview, and a link to a full review. The list may look similar to our ranking of the best tablets overall – although that one also features the best Android tablets on the market.
Remember - Apple devices play well together so the best iPhones are a great thing to have alongside an iPad. And, if you're hoping to save more money, take the time to check the best iPad deals before you hit buy.
The best iPads 2022
We've picked the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) as our favorite iPad because it ticks all the boxes you need for a professional tablet. The slate has a giant 2048 x 2732 Mini LED screen, an incredibly powerful Apple M1 chipset (also found in MacBooks and iMacs), compatibility with Apple's various keyboard folios and the Apple Pencil, and also up to 2TB storage.
What does this mean? Well, it's a versatile and powerful little machine that we found handles video editing, loads of writing, drawing and animation and gaming with aplomb. You won't find a more powerful tablet (well, apart from other iPads) - it handled everything we threw at it.
So why might you consider something else? Well, it's incredibly expensive - especially if you're considering 5G connectivity, or storage that goes anywhere near the max of 2TB. Plus, while it's great for professionals and creatives, not everyone will need the extras it provides - if that's you, the other iPads on this list are better for you.
Read the full iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) review
The iPad 10.2 (2021) is Apple’s entry-level tablet for 2021, and arguably also the best value iPad of the year. Sure, it’s not a huge upgrade on the previous model, but the new 12MP ultra-wide selfie camera makes it much better for video calls, while the True Tone display makes it more pleasant to use in a variety of environments, with the screen automatically adjusting based on the ambient light. This especially makes the iPad 10.2 (2021) a joy to use outdoors.
From testing all the iPads on this list, we found that the 10.2 provides the best value-for-money proposition. Sure, it's not as good for sketching and audio as the iPad Air, or as useful for high-performance tasks as the Pro, but it's also a lot cheaper.
And that's all relative too - compared to lots of non-iPad alternatives you might be considering, we found the iPad 10.2 feels smooth to use and has enough power for most tasks. So unless you're going to need all the bells and whistles of the Air or Pro, this is a great choice.
Read the full iPad 10.2 (2021) review
We'd recommend this iPad Air to people who were interested in the iPad Pro, but perhaps don't need all its bells and whistles. The tablet has the same Apple M1 chipset, so it's just as powerful - plus, it has a similar design, battery life and accessory compatibility.
Its two key differences are that it doesn't have as much storage space and its screen is smaller (and technically uses different technology, though we're not sure most people will notice). When we tested the devices we didn't mind these differences most of the time, and unless you're a power-user, you might find the Air a better device.
That's especially the case for students. Since the thing feels the same as the iPad Pro, but costs less, people on a budget might find it perfect. Although there are lots of devices lower on this list that are even cheaper.
Read the full iPad Air (2022) review
The iPad Pro 11 we've listed here is basically the exact same tablet as the 12.9-inch model listed right at the top of this guide. The key difference is the screen size - the iPad Pro 11 has an 11-inch screen, while the iPad Pro 12.9 has a... well, you can probably guess. There are a few knock-on effects from this - mainly, that the battery for this tablet is a little smaller, though that doesn't matter since the screen is drawing less charge.
One other downgrade is that it doesn't get a Mini LED screen, sticking with LCD instead - that's why it's here, lower in our list. In terms of chipset, charging speed and accessory compatibility, though, this is basically the same device, and it'll be great for people who need a powerful slate yet don't want to carry around a massive model.
And, most importantly, it feels exactly the same to use - so creatives and business users won't be disappointed here. It's a little cheaper than the 12.9 too.
Read the full iPad Pro 11 (2021) review
This iPad Air is the predecessor from the one listed higher in this ranking, and it came out two years prior. It's not a massive downgrade though - the two key differences are that it's not got 5G options, and it has a slightly weaker chipset.
For the vast majority of people, those 'downgrades' aren't really considerations, and using that two-year-old tablet now, you'd be forgiven for not knowing it's old. It still runs just fine and supports all the apps you need. That makes you've got the same chic design, the same good-looking screen and the same decent battery life.
In addition, two years of sales and price cuts makes the iPad Air (2020) a really tempting option for people who need a more affordable mid-range tablet. Something we really like about this tablet is that it comes in a broad range of colors - you've got more options than most the other devices on this list.
Read the full iPad Air 4 (2020) review
The iPad mini (2021) is arguably a more niche offering than Apple's other tablets. That's why you're finding the first mention of this range so far down on the list.
On paper, the iPad mini is a smaller, lightweight alternative to the other slates, so if you want a device you can easily slip into your bag (or a big pocket), it's useful for you. We found it powerful, and really liked its modern design and easy portability.
However at a higher price than the entry-level tablet, and underwhelming us in several departments like the battery life and accessory compatibility, this isn't the slate you should consider first when you're looking for a new iPad. There's definitely a market for the iPad Mini, but we imagine it's a more select one than for the Pro or Air iPads.
Read the full iPad mini (2021) review
If you've got this far down on the list, you've clearly not found anything you're tempted by just yet. With that in mind, the iPad 10.2 from 2020 is probably the oldest member of Apple's entry-level line you should still consider, and works well as the company's most affordable iPad that's still worth buying.
This is very similar to the 2021 model of iPad 10.2 listed higher in this buying guide, as this line of slates only sees incremental upgrades each year. So the 2020 has a slightly weaker processor, less storage, and lacks some smart screen tweaks that the 2021 model get, but nothing there should put you off (well, except the storage, maybe).
At its core, this gives you the real iPad experience, and it's a cheap way of getting an iPadOS slate in the well-supported Apple ecosystem. It works with the original Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard (though you have to buy them separately).
Read the full iPad 10.2 (2020) review
This iPad Air has now been replaced by not one, but two newer versions. Both pack upgrades in terms of design, display and processing power, and you should definitely check them out first.
But it's possible you'll find the iPad Air 3 in a sale, or greatly reduced from its recommended retail price for some other reason. And, those are the only times you should consider picking up this aging slate.
When we tested the tablet upon launch, we found it a great compromise between the lower-cost entry-level iPads, and the big-screen Pro models - it has a relatively large display, so it's great for streaming movies or playing games, and also is compatible with the Smart Keyboard cover for typing. It also works with the original Apple Pencil.
Read the full iPad Air 3 (2019) review
There aren't many reasons why you'd consider this iPad Pro over the newer one, which currently sits at the top spot of this list. They cost the same, but the older model misses out on the top-end processing or screen tech of the newer one. You might find this one tempting if you can find it at a great discount from its newer alternative - which is possible, since it's older too.
This tablet has the same 12.9-inch sized screen, a design that's identical and also compatibility with all the same peripherals like the Magic Keyboard and second-gen Apple Pencil. So it's great for creativity, note-taking and intensive tasks, though while its chipset is powerful, it's not quite Apple M1 powerful.
Read the full iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) review
How we test iPads
Every iPad in this list has been put through a full review, so we've used them all for an extended period to see exactly how good they are. Armed with that knowledge we've compared and ranked them, factoring in price and value as well as performance and specs.
What should I look for when buying an iPad?
Consider your needs - do you need a big screen and lots of power for productivity tasks? If so an iPad Pro could be a good fit. Something portable? Take a look at the iPad mini range. A basic slate? The iPad 10.2 (2021) is the top choice there.
Which iPad is the best for students?
The iPad Air range is the best pick from most students. It strikes a balance between price and performance, and has all you should need to work and study.
Depending on your course and budget, you might want to consider the newer powerful ones, or an older iPad Air that's available at a discount.
There might be a few exceptions - some particular courses might require apps that will run best on an iPad Pro. And certain courses won't require much word processing at all, in which case the entry-level model will do.
Which iPad is the best for creatives?
All iPads are compatible with the Apple Pencil, but there are actually two different versions of the stylus.
The original, available for entry-level and older iPads, gives you basic functionality, but it's quite a pain to charge. The second-gen version charges wirelessly and gives you control over what you write with improved pressure sensitivity.
People who need to draw, write notes or sketch might prefer a tablet that works with the Apple Pencil 2.
Depending on your creative profession, you might need lots of processing power, in which case an iPad Pro will be great for you. If not, a lightweight option will let you go around coffee shops or parks to work.