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

A selection of the best iPads including the iPad Air 4, iPad Mini 2019 and the iPad Pro (2021)
The iPad Air 4 (left), iPad Mini (2019) and iPad Pro (2021) (Image credit: Apple)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

With so many of them out there, know the best iPad for you can be a tough call - do you go for an entry-level, Air, Mini or Pro device? And which size? And which generation? There are lots of different tablets to get your head around.

There will likely be even more soon, as Apple has confirmed the date of its September event, and we'd expect to see the new iPad (2021) and maybe iPad Mini 6 there.

To find the best iPad for you, it's important to know your budget, as well as what you need the tablet for. Are you wanting to buy something super powerful for work or play like the iPad Pro 11? Or would you rather pick up something compact and portable like the iPad mini (2019)?

This list ranks all the top options available to you, with a specs list and brief overview for each entry, so you can quickly see which of the listed iPads is the one you should opt for.

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 tabletbest Android tablet, and best cheap tablet guides for other options.

Best iPads 2021: which iPad should you buy?

iPad Pro 12.9 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)

The biggest upgrade to the iPad Pro since its inception

Specifications
Weight: 682g
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels
CPU: Apple M1
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 12MP + 10MP + LiDAR
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Phenomenal power+Fantastic display
Reasons to avoid
-An almighty price-Lackluster color options

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)

iPad 10.2 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

2. 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)

The iPad Pro 11 (2021) from the front, with the back also half visible

(Image credit: Apple)

3. iPad Pro 11 (2021)

M1 power in a portable form

Specifications
Weight: 466g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 11-inch
Resolution: 1668 x 2388 pixels
CPU: Apple M1
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 12MP + 10MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Desktop PC-level performance+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-iPadOS doesn't utilize the power of M1-Doesn’t feature a Mini LED display

The iPad Pro 11 (2021) is a powerful, expensive slate, and a great choice for anyone who wants the best specs possible in a relatively compact and portable size. That said, it lacks the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)’s Mini LED screen, making it a significant step down from that slate.

That disappointment and our ongoing issues with Apple’s restrictive iPad software aside though, the iPad Pro 11 (2021) is an excellent tablet, with a big, sharp, smooth screen, and an enormous amount of power, thanks to its desktop-class M1 chipset.

It also has around 10 hours of battery life, which is fairly typical for Apple tablets but good nonetheless, and it comes with up to 2TB of storage – a mammoth amount that should be more than enough for almost anyone.

With a sleek, stylish design too plus a selection of optional accessories, such as the Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard, this is a tablet that should suit almost anyone – though it’s likely to be overkill for many.

Read the full review: iPad Pro 11 (2021)

iPad Air 4 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

4. 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 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 Air 10.5

(Image credit: Apple)

6. 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 Pro 12.9 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

Still a powerful tablet, but no longer the best

Specifications
Weight: 641g
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels
CPU: Apple A12Z Bionic
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 12MP + 10MP + LiDAR
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Lovely sleek design+Powerful performance
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No longer the fastest for its price

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)

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 Pro 11

(Image credit: Apple)

9. iPad Pro 11 (2018)

A powerful Pro slate

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 (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)

iPad 9.7

(Image credit: Apple)

10. 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)

James Peckham

James is Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He has also worked on other leading tech brands, such as T3 and Gizmodo UK, as well as appearing as an expert on TV and radio for the BBC and other publications. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all the latest smartphone news.