Apple’s iPad is undoubtedly one of the most popular tablets on the market right now. There are several different models to choose from, but no matter which one you go with, you’ll be getting one of the best tablets out there. Still, Apple provides an abundance of choice here, and with so many different versions — and almost annual updates — it can be tricky to know which one is the best to get.
All of Apple’s iPads are pretty great, and they’re each designed with a slightly different audience in mind, so it’s hard to pick a single one as “the best.” That’s why we’ve broken this list down by categories; after all, there’s an ideal iPad for nearly every situation. Whether you’re looking for the best overall iPad, the best iPad on a budget, something in the middle of the pack, or even the best small iPad, we’ve got you covered.
Do keep in mind that it has been a while since Apple has updated any of the iPad lineup. There were no new iPads in 2023, but rumors are suggesting that there will be some big updates coming for the iPad lineup this year. While all of the iPads we mention here still have great performance and should be able to handle whatever you need, unless you need it right now, it may pay off to wait until Apple announces any new iPads this year.
iPad Air (2022)
The best iPad overall
- High-performance M1 processor
- Slim and light
- Software suitable for work or play
- Large, colorful, and sharp screen
- Wide array of quality accessories
- Center Stage works well
- 64GB storage isn’t enough
- Battery life disappoints
Why should you buy this? The iPad Air (2022) offers pro performance for less.
Who’s it for? Anyone who is looking for the best all-around tablet from Apple at a reasonable price.
The honor for best overall iPad goes to the iPad Air (2022). This is the sweet spot in the iPad lineup. It’s a fantastic choice that should satisfy the needs of most people, with a wealth of performance and features at a surprisingly affordable price.
Firstly, the iPad Air (2022) packs in Apple’s powerful M1 chip — the same one that debuted in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in 2020. Though Apple has moved on to the M2 now for the higher-end iPad Pro (2022), the M1 is still blazing fast in terms of performance, with an eight-core CPU split up into four performance cores and four efficiency cores. That means you get crazy power while also being power efficient. The eight-core GPU delivers incredible graphics, and the 16-core Neural Engine and 8GB of RAM equate to fast processing and rendering, which is noticeable when performing tasks like photo and video editing. It’s already arguably more power than most people need on a tablet, but it also means you’ll be able to enjoy top performance for years to come.
Though the iPad Air lacks Face ID, you still have a gorgeous 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that takes up the majority of the front due to thin bezels. Visually, it’s nearly indistinguishable from the more expensive iPad Pro. For biometric authentication, the iPad Air (2022) continues the trend of using a Touch ID sensor in the side button. The iPad Air also has the same Smart Connector and magnetic side charger as the iPad Pro, allowing for compatibility with the same accessories, such as the Magic Keyboard to turn your iPad into a pseudo-laptop, and the second-generation Apple Pencil to provide a fantastic digital canvas for artists.
While no iPad will ever hold a candle to the iPhone for taking pictures, the iPad Air (2022) is equipped with a high-quality 12MP main camera that gets the job done. More significantly, the front-facing 12MP camera provides great quality for video calls and also includes Apple’s Center Stage feature that keeps the focus on you when you’re moving around, and automatically expands the view when friends and family gather around.
The iPad Air uses USB-C for charging, which is also now on the entire iPhone 15 lineup. A full charge should last around 10 hours using Wi-Fi, or nine hours if using cellular data on the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. It’s not the best battery life ever, but it should last through a full workday.
The iPad Air (2022) starts at $600 for 64GB on the Wi-Fi model, but you’re likely better off taking the next step up to the 256GB version, which sells for $749. The iPad Air (2022) delivers great value since it offers all the performance features that most iPad users will ever need at a significantly lower price than the more premium — and power-user-focused — iPad Pro.
iPad Air (2022)
The best iPad overall
The best iPad on a budget
- Great battery life
- Powerful internals
- Big upgrade to the front-facing camera
- Amazing software support
- Base storage more acceptable at 64GB
- Display doesn’t get bright enough
- Lightning port in 2021
- Slow Touch ID sensor
Why you should buy this? The iPad (2021) may be the previous generation, but it still offers great performance with a very affordable price tag.
Who’s it for? Someone who wants one of the best tablets on the market from Apple without spending a lot of money.
If you’re on a budget, the ninth-generation iPad (2021) is a great pick. While it’s the previous generation of the base model iPad, it’s still a very reliable and solid choice — and you get a lot of bang for your buck.
iPad (2021) has a spacious 10.2-inch Retina display that still looks beautiful when you use it. And if you still prefer having a home button for Touch ID, you get it with the classic design of the iPad (2021). It comes with the A13 Bionic chip, so though it’s a little dated (the A13 launched in the iPhone 11 in 2019), it’s still quite fast and capable when it comes to performance for the average user, thanks to iPadOS 17. It starts at 64GB of storage, which should be enough for most people who just want a basic iPad for doing things like checking email, sending messages, FaceTime calls, and perhaps some games.
While the rear camera is just a mere 8MP, the front-facing camera did get some upgrades over the previous iteration. It’s now 12MP instead of the paltry 1.2MP of its 2020 predecessor, and it also has Center Stage, so you’ll always be in the frame on video calls and look good doing so.
This is the last iPad that uses Apple’s Lightning connector, as all other iPad models — and even the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro — use USB-C. Once fully charged, the iPad (2021) should last around 10 hours on the Wi-Fi model or nine hours with the Wi-Fi + Cellular version. Still, for just $329, the iPad (2021) offers good power and performance for those who don’t need anything too fancy.
The best iPad on a budget
iPad mini (2021)
The best small iPad
- Big enough to perform most tasks
- Compact enough to travel easily
- Powerful performance
- Loud speakers
- Screen is not bright enough
- Too small for content creation
- No headphone jack
Why you should buy this? You want an iPad, but in a smaller, compact size.
Who’s it for? Anyone who prefers a smaller size tablet.
Apple’s iPad mini has traditionally gone a few years between updates. The latest 2021 refresh brought it back into line with iPad Air, which led the way with a big redesign in 2020.
The iPad mini (2021) gains a larger 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display and eliminates the home button found in its predecessor. Like its larger sibling, the iPad Air, it skips Face ID in favor of a Touch ID sensor in the side button. The Lightning connector has been replaced with USB-C for charging, and a full charge should last around 10 hours.
The iPad mini (2021) packs in an A15 Bionic chip, which is the same processor that powers the iPhone 13 lineup, as well as the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus. The A15 delivers plenty of power and fast performance, so the iPad mini will be able to handle whatever you may throw at it, including photo and video editing, as well as graphic-intensive games.
The best part about the iPad mini (2021), though, is the size. It’s the smallest iPad that Apple offers, so it’s much more compact and portable than its brethren. But even though it’s small, it’s still very much mighty. iPad mini (2021) supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, and you can always pair it up with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to turn it into a lightweight workhorse.
It is a little pricey at $500 for the smaller size, but if that’s what you’re going for, then you just can’t beat the iPad mini (2021).
While the iPad mini is still good, if you can hold out for it, the iPad mini 7 is rumored to be coming soon. Back in December 2022, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple was working on a new iPad mini that could possibly be released in 2024. The rumors indicate that the next-generation iPad mini would retain the same design as the current model, but it would come with a faster chip. It would be likely that the iPad mini 7 have the A16 Bionic, which launched in the iPhone 14 Pro and is currently in the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus.
iPad mini (2021)
The best small iPad
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2022)
The best big-screen iPad
- Sleek and modern design
- Bright, vivid, gorgeous display
- Wild performance from the M2 chip
- Apple Pencil hover feature
- iPadOS 16 is super robust
- Stage Manager needs more work
- Lackluster, awkward front camera
- Prohibitively expensive
Why should you buy this? The iPad Pro is extremely powerful and offers a huge screen.
Who’s it for? Gamers, power users, creatives. Anyone who wants a big screen to do their thing.
Few people are going to need it, but we know a lot of people are going to want it. The iPad Pro 12.9-inch is the iPad to get if you need the largest screen possible. The 12.9-inch display has a 2732 x 2048 resolution, but the real improvement in the display lies in the underlying tech. The bigger iPad Pro uses a mini-LED panel — what Apple calls a Liquid Retina XDR Display, whereas the 11-inch still uses a regular Liquid Retina display. With 10,000 custom-designed mini-LEDs grouped into 2,500 local dimming zones that can be individually controlled, it can output stronger colors and deeper blacks than any other tablet on the market. This means a display that not only looks gorgeous but can also meet the demanding needs of professional photo and video editors who need precision color accuracy.
That big screen is also backed up by some serious power. Like its smaller sibling, the 11-inch iPad Pro, the 12.9-inch model is running Apple’s M2 chip, the same laptop-grade processor that powers Apple’s latest MacBook Air lineup. All of this extra power and the large screen means the iPad Pro 12.9-inch can handle nearly anything a modern laptop can do, up to and including some hefty video editing. And when that’s all over, you can use that power to play some pretty great iPad games as well.
The iPad Pro 12.9-inch is the iPad to grab if a big screen and top performance are what you need out of your iPad. The larger size means it won’t be as portable or easily stowed away as the 11-inch model, but if you need room to breathe, you’ll welcome those extra 1.9 inches. The same warnings apply as with the smaller iPad Pro, though, and adding the extra (and desirable) accessories will push up the price of the already expensive 12.9-inch iPad Pro into MacBook territory. However, even with that in mind, this iPad is undoubtedly the best iPad if you want a tablet that will heighten your enjoyment of games, movies, and more.
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2022)
The best big-screen iPad
The best mid-range iPad
- Updated, modern design
- Wonderfully vibrant colors
- Larger display is fantastic
- A14 chip is plenty powerful
- Strong battery life
- USB-C is finally here
- The headphone jack is gone
- Non-laminated screen
- Apple Pencil situation is a mess
- Huge price increase
Why should you buy this? The iPad (2022) is Apple’s latest entry-level tablet, offering a nice bridge between last year’s iPad (2021) and the pricier iPad Air (2022).
Who’s it for? Someone looking for an affordable tablet for everyday use that offers good bang for the buck.
If you’re looking to spend a bit more on an iPad that’s still easy on the wallet, Apple’s iPad (2022) is worth considering. It’s a great option for folks who like the newer iPad design with an edge-to-edge screen but don’t need all of the bells and whistles that the iPad Air (2022) has to offer.
It packs in Apple’s A14 chip — the same one used in the iPhone 12 — which offers more than enough performance for all but the most demanding power users, and most folks will be hard-pressed to find a speed difference between this and the latest M2-equipped iPad Pro. Like the iPad Air (2022), it features a more expansive 10.9-inch screen and a Touch ID sensor in the side button.
While the iPad (2022) is no slouch in the performance department, it’s a bit more basic when it comes to the display and accessory support. You don’t get the higher-quality, anti-reflective laminated display found on the higher-end models, but it also offers a unique landscape camera that’s great for video calling, with the same Center Stage feature found on the rest of Apple’s iPad lineup to make sure that your video calls stay focused on you.
There’s also support for the first-generation Apple Pencil and a Magic Keyboard Folio, but these differ from the more advanced versions made for the iPad Air and iPad Pro. That won’t be a problem for most folks, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re planning to do any serious drawing or looking for a more full-featured laptop replacement.
The 10th-generation iPad also eliminates Lighting from the 9th-generation that we mentioned earlier and replaces it with USB-C, making it equal with the rest of the iPad lineup. This is also the new universal connector that has made its way to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models.
The iPad (2022) starts at $449 for a 64GB version, making it an affordable and well-rounded tablet for families and everyday casual use.
The best mid-range iPad
Frequently Asked Questions
What should you remember when buying an iPad?
When it comes to tablets, buying an iPad is one of the best choices you can make. That’s because Apple supports them with software updates for years to come, similar to how it does with the iPhone lineup. An iPad that you buy today will probably last you around five years, at least.
That’s why it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you buy an iPad, especially if this is your first one. If you’ve used an iPhone before, then the iPad works pretty much the same way, except iPadOS is made for larger screens with multitasking capabilities.
With Split View and Slide Over, it’s possible to have several apps on the iPad screen at once. And Stage Manager, which was introduced in iPadOS 16, is a new way to group specific apps together. And these windows can be repositioned, resized, and overlapped as you see fit.
The iPad is also considered “desktop class” in some regards, like with Safari. That means you can use web apps, like Google Docs, on Safari on iPadOS instead of just on your iPhone. The larger screen space also helps out a ton with that. To make your productivity levels soar, iPadOS lets you connect a trackpad or mouse to your iPad too, on top of the usual Bluetooth keyboard or even keyboard case.
Though all of these iPads are good, there are some things to remember about certain models.
For example, ProMotion is only available on the iPad Pro versions. This makes for a 120Hz refresh rate on the display — giving you much smoother scrolling, animations, and even better responsiveness.
It’s also important to note that some models of iPad run on Apple’s new M-Series chip, which is Apple’s own silicon. That includes the iPad Air (M1) and iPad Pro (M2). The standard iPad and iPad mini still use the older A-Series chips. Equipped with the M-Series chips, the iPad Pro and iPad Air are capable of much faster performance and speed, while also being power efficient. Tasks you do will happen faster on an iPad with an M-Series chip versus one with the previous A-Series, especially when it comes to photo and video editing and processing.
If you are coming from an Android tablet, then iPadOS may be very different than what you’re used to. But overall, iPadOS is streamlined and simple to use. It’s also much more cohesive and secure compared to the competition, which is one of the major reasons why an iPad appeals to many.
Keep in mind that if you are coming from Android, you should be able to bring over most of your data to the iPad, like contacts, calendars, and email. However, for other things like photos and video, you may not be able to unless you use something like Google Photos.
Another thing to remember when looking at an iPad are the accessories. These can really make or break the overall iPad experience, and are an additional cost to consider when purchasing. For example, if you want the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro or iPad Air, it will cost an extra $299, and the second-generation Apple Pencil is $129. These are hefty chunks of change, and once you commit to an iPad and its accessories, they’ll only work with certain models.
Of course, these are first-party iPad accessories that Apple makes and sells. There are also a plethora of third-party options for Bluetooth keyboards, keyboard cases, and even styluses that have more universal compatibility.
Can you print from an iPad?
Yes, you can indeed print from an iPad. Check out our guides on how to print from an iPhone for everything you need to know. It works the same way on an iPad.
Can you make phone calls on an iPad?
They may not be smartphones, but you can make phone calls with iPads — just not directly. Even though Apple offers iPad models with cellular support, this is used solely for transferred data when you’re away from Wi-Fi. It can’t be used for calling or texting. Instead, you can make use of Wi-Fi calling, which involves routing Wi-Fi calls through your iPhone — if your carrier supports it, that is.
You can also use FaceTime on an iPad to make video or audio calls, and there are also a wealth of third-party apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom, that can be used to call folks who also use these services. Most voice-over-IP apps on the App Store can also be used with the iPad, so if you really want to use your tablet to make calls to traditional phone numbers, it may be worth considering one of the best VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services.
Can you text on an iPad?
The iPad includes Apple’s Messages app, which can be used to send iMessage to other Apple devices over your Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. You can also send and receive standard SMS/MMS text messages on your iPad, but only if you also have an iPhone. Even the cellular-capable iPad models don’t offer SMS/MMS capabilities — iPad cellular service is for data only — so traditional text messages are routed through your iPhone via iCloud, and they’ll use the phone number from your iPhone.
Of course, there’s also the usual assortment of third-party messaging apps that you can use with your iPad, from Facebook Messenger to WhatsApp.
How do we test?
We rigorously test all the iPads we receive, living with them for extended periods of time to learn just how they perform in real-world settings. This means working on them, playing games, watching TV and movies, reading e-books, taking photos, capturing video, and using all of the latest and most demanding apps. In other words, we use them exactly as you would use them, and while we naturally value innovative and quirky features, we also love tablets that simply get the basics right. Using them regularly also means we learn the particularities of each iPad we test, including their weakness and strengths, allowing us to make informed recommendations.
As you can see, there’s not really a “one-size-fits-all” iPad since Apple split it up into multiple models. However, the iPad Air comes closest to the best all-around iPad, so we recommend that one for those who want pro power for less. Otherwise, those on a tight budget should consider the iPad (2021), and those who want a small or big iPad should go for the iPad mini (2021) or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, respectively.
No matter which model you go with though, an iPad is one of the best tablets on the market. Apple will continue to provide support for these through iPadOS software updates for at least several years after your purchase. So whether you pick up a base-level iPad or go big with the Pro, it’ll be a great choice either way. The model you want to buy just depends on your needs.
And again, while all of the iPad models that we’ve mentioned here are still great devices, it has been over a year since Apple last updated them. We expect new iPads this year, so unless you are in an urgent need for a new iPad right now, it may be best to wait and see what Apple has to offer later this year.