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

A selection of the best iPads money can buy
iPad 10.2 (left), iPad Pro 2021 and iPad Air 4 are three of the best iPads (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, knowing 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.

The list has grown recently too, with the new iPad 10.2 (2021) and iPad mini (2021) having arrived.

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 best iPad

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. This impressed us greatly in our review.

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.

The iPad 10.2 (2021) from front and back

(Image credit: Apple)

2. iPad 10.2 (2021)

The best basic iPad

Specifications
Weight: 487g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 15
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 1620 x 2160 pixels
CPU: A13 Bionic
RAM: TBC
Storage: 64/256GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Upgraded selfie camera
Reasons to avoid
-Only iPad without Face ID-Doesn’t support newer accessories

The iPad 10.2 (2021) is Apple’s basic tablet for 2021, and arguably also the best value iPad of the year. 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.

We find the iPad Air 4 (2020) better for sketching and audio, but for all the tablet basics, the iPad 10.2 (2021) does an admirable job.

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

(Image credit: Apple)

3. iPad Pro 11 (2021)

The best 11-inch iPad

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.

iPad Air 4 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

4. iPad Air 4 (2020)

The best iPad for students

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.

The iPad mini (2021) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

5. iPad mini (2021)

The best small iPad

Specifications
Weight: 293g
Dimensions: 195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3mm
OS: iPadOS 15
Screen size: 8.3-inch
Resolution: 1488 x 2266 pixels
CPU: A15 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: Up to 10 hours
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 12MP
Reasons to buy
+Stylish compact design+Lots of power
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better-5G connectivity is limited

The iPad mini (2021) is an obvious choice if you want a smaller, lighter, more portable slate than most other iPads. But despite its small size the iPad mini (2021) doesn’t lack for power, leaving us thoroughly impressed by its performance. It has a modern, home button-less design too, and also supports 5G, which all make for good upgrades.

What we were slightly less impressed by was its battery life, which is still good but not up there with the best of Apple’s slates. Still, if you want a premium iPad in a small size, this is it.

iPad 10.2 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

6. iPad 10.2 (2020)

The best older affordable iPad

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 cameraiPad 10.2 (2020): 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 a strong 10.2-inch iPad - though no longer the latest or best.

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 didn’t impress us and storage starts low, but opt for a 128GB model and you’ll have an impressive and versatile tablet on your hands.

iPad Air 10.5

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPad Air 3 (2019)

The best budget choice 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 3, with a 10.5-inch screen, is a great compromise between the entry-level iPads and the more powerful, but more expensive iPad Pro range.

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, which is still very fast. Students will be able to take notes and respond to email on this tablet, but artists will hate the first-generation Apple Pencil.

iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

8. iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

The best older flagship

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.