When someone mentions tablets, there's a good chance you think of the iPad.
While it wasn't the first tablet, the release of the original iPad in 2010 marked the debut of what would be the first truly consumer-accessible, popular tablet computer.
Since the initial model, Apple has continued to improve upon the original design and the history of the iPad now includes 17 releases.
Today, there are 5 models on sale new from Apple. So how do you know which one is best for you?
In this guide, we'll outline the different options available and compare the full iPad range to help you find the
best fit for your needs and budget.
Let's get started...
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2019.
The Current Apple iPad Line-Up
Apple currently offers 5 different models. While not officially split, they can be grouped into two lineups of sorts.
The consumer lineup includes their more basic iPad tablets, while the Pro lineup features higher-specs -- and higher price tags to match.
Current options include:
There are slight differences in each model's design -- especially between the Pro models and the rest. They also get larger -- and more expensive -- as you go down the list.
Recently updated, the iPad Mini (2019) is Apple's base model, offering the smallest screen size and lowest specs. New to the 2019 model is support for the 1st Generation Apple Pen and a serious boost in processing power.
It's perfectly capable of running most apps, playing games, and streaming HD video with no problems. It's
also the most affordable option in the lineup.
For many, we think the iPad 9.7-inch (2018) is the best iPad for most buyers.
It has a sharp screen, plenty of storage, supports the Apple Pencil, and has performance that will make most buyers happy. It's even capable of using heavier photo or video editing apps and playing the latest games at respectable settings.
While it doesn't have quite the detail and color accuracy of the Pro options, you get a very capable tablet at a much lower cost than the Pro lineup.
This tablet is a great middle option for those that want a taste of the performance of the iPad Pro lineup without the expense.
If you plan to use your tablet for graphics work, video editing, or other color-sensitive tasks, we'd recommend jumping for the iPad Pro 11 if you can afford it.
It offers ProMotion screen technology that dynamically adjusts the display's refresh rate to keep motion fluid and snappy alongside TrueTone color adjustments that alter the temperature and color of the display based on ambient lighting.
Both features give the screen a little bit of extra pop that sets it apart from the crowd and makes it perfect for video editing, photo editing, and other more graphics-intensive work.
But for the average person, they're not must-have features. So a lower-end model is likely a better value.
It also starts at nearly three times the price of the iPad 9.7 (2018).
So unless you're really going to use all that power -- or simply want the absolute best Apple has to offer -- the iPad Pro 12.9 probably isn't the best pick...
It's the top-shelf iPad -- and has the price point to match.
Want a deeper comparison of iPad models?
The table below will make it easy to see where each tablet stands:
|Price||Starting at $399||Starting at $329||Starting at $499||Starting at $799||Starting at $999|
|Screen||7.9-inch Retina display with TrueTone technologies||
9.7-inch Retina display
10.5-inch Retina display with True Tone technologies
||11-inch Liquid Retina display with ProMotion and True Tone technologies
||12.9-inch Liquid Retina display with ProMotion and True Tone technologies
|Storage||64GB, 256GB||32GB, 128GB||64GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
|Screen Clarity (Pixels-Per-Inch)||326 PPI||264 PPI||264 PPI
|Battery Life||Up to 10 hours||Up to 10 hours
||Up to 10 hours
||Up to 10 hours
||Up to 10 hours
|Connection Options||Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & LTE||Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & LTE
||Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & LTE
||Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & Gigabit-class LTE
||Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & Gigabit-class LTE
Wi-Fi & LTE: 308.2g
Wi-Fi & LTE: 478g
Wi-Fi & LTE: 464g
Wi-Fi & Gigabit-class LTE: 468g
Wi-Fi & Gigabit-class LTE: 633g
|Dimensions||8 x 5.3 x 0.24 inches (203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1 mm)||9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches (240 x 169.5 x 7.5 mm)||9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches (250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm)||9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches (247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm)||11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches (280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm)|
|Processor||A12 Bionic processor with Neural Engine and M12 coprocessor||4th gen A10 Fusion processor with M10 coprocessor
||A12 Bionic processor with Neural Engine and M12 coprocessor
||A12X Bionic processor with Neural Engine and M12 coprocessor
||A12X Bionic processor with Neural Engine and M12 coprocessor
|Cameras||8MP rear camera with 7MP front-facing FaceTime HD Camera||8MP rear camera with 1.2MP front-facing FaceTime HD camera
||8MP rear camera with 7MP front-facing FaceTime HD Camera
||12MP rear camera with 7MP front-facing TrueDepth camera
||12MP rear camera with 7MP front-facing TrueDepth camera
|Video Recording||1080p with 720p slo-mo||1080p with 720p slo-mo||1080p with 720p slo-mo||4K at 60FPS with 1080p and 720p slo-mo||4K at 60FPS with 1080p and 720p slo-mo
|Audio||Two Speakers||Two Speakers||Two Speakers||Four Speakers||Four Speakers|
|Security||Touch ID||Touch ID||Touch ID||Face ID||Face ID|
|Apple Pencil Support||Apple Pencil (1st Gen)
||Apple Pencil (1st Gen)||Apple Pencil (1st Gen)||Apple Pencil (2nd Gen)
||Apple Pencil (2nd Gen)
|Apple Smart Keyboard Support||No||No||Yes (Smart Keyboard)||Yes (Smart Keyboard Folio)||Yes (Smart Keyboard Folio)
Factors to Consider When Choosing an iPad
Now that you know the options available, you need to figure out which iPad model fits your needs best. There are a
few things to consider when comparing Apple's iPad series of tablets.
So take a look at how much you want to spend to start limiting your choices. Then you can see which features are important to you and narrow things down accordingly.
Apple has created an interesting situation in their latest iPad line-up...
While iPad Pros are certainly some the most powerful and refined tablets ever created, many reviewers argue that they are actually overkill for the average consumer.
Most reviewers recommend the iPad Pro 11, and iPad Pro 12.9 for graphic designers or business professionals that need a tablet for work and plan to use their tablet often. They offer powerful performance for resource-intensive tasks and an accurate display for those doing color-sensitive work -- such as photo editing or design.
Otherwise, both the iPad Mini 4 (2019) and iPad 9.7 (2018) offer more than enough performance for playing the latest games, surfing the web, watching video, streaming music, or just about anything you might want to do.
The iPad Air (2019) runs a line between both offering a bit more flexibility in terms of accessories and a larger display perfect for getting things done.
And the lower-end tablets still offer Retina displays -- there's just no ProMotion. However, Apple is known for the quality of its displays.
So while the screens on the iPad Mini 4 (2019) and iPad 9.7 (2018) aren't the best that Apple has to offer, they're still better than a large portion of Android tablet displays and are excellent in terms of brightness, detail, and colors.
If you're looking for an ultra-portable option, the iPad Mini (2019) is hard to beat.
It's large enough to read and operate with ease, but small enough to slip in a bag and use one-handed -- something that can't be said for the iPad Pro 12.9.
Choosing an iPad model with LTE connectivity will add to both the purchase cost and the lifetime cost as you pay each month to keep your data plan connected.
But is it worth the added price?
The answer will depend on where you live and how you plan to use your iPad.
With free Wi-Fi available in more places, you might not need LTE support as much as you'd think.
But if you want the convenience of being able to connect virtually anywhere regardless of Wi-Fi access, you'll need to make room in your budget accordingly.
Since you cannot expand the storage in an iPad, it's important to choose a good amount before you buy.
Thankfully, all iPads offer at least 32GB of storage and most models start with more generous 64GB.
This is probably enough storage space for casual use, but if you want to install a lot of apps or plan to store music or video on your tablet, choosing a model with more storage will offer added flexibility and keep you from having to rely on cloud storage or constantly uninstall apps to make room for new ones.
On top of the base tablet costs, you should also consider the added cost of any accessories you might need.
Most models support the Apple Pen -- an active stylus that allows you to use the tablet for graphics work, hand-write notes, and general expands the functionality of the tablet.
There is also a keyboard folio case and stand that allows you to type without dealing with a touchscreen.
If your budget is limited, it would likely be a better deal to spend less on the tablet and bundle in a few accessories than buy the highest-end tablet but go without them.
They can really make a big impact on how you use your iPad.
So Which iPad Should I Buy?
Picking the ideal option for your needs will depend on your budget and how you plan to use your new tablet.
If you're not sure where to start, consider these picks.
Pros: Good all-around size, affordable price, Apple Pen support, Smart Keyboard support, headphone jack
Cons: No expandable storage
For most people, the iPad 9.7 (2018) will be the best option. For a fair price, you get excellent performance, a good display, and the rock-solid iPad experience that has made these tablets so popular.
Sure, it's a little behind the iPad Pro series, but the price is significantly lower and the specs of the iPad 9.7 (2018) are still more than enough to handle most tasks with ease.
The screen is large enough to make games and media pop while remaining comfortable enough for extended use without a kickstand or shifting it from hand to hand as well.
Though if you want a bit more room and performance, you can spring for the iPad Air (2019) for a slight price increase before hitting the bigger price tags of Pro series lineup.
If you plan to use your tablet for graphic design, video editing, or other color-sensitive work, we might recommend upgrading to an iPad Pro 11 or 12.9. Otherwise, the iPad 9.7 (2018) is likely to cover all of your needs with ease.
The iPad 9.7 (2018) strikes the perfect balance for most. It's great for everything from playing games and checking email to streaming video and chatting with friends. All at a price toward the lower end of the iPad lineup.
Best iPad for Kids, Traveling, Casual Use
Pros: Affordable, super portable, highest pixel density in the iPad lineup, great for one-handed use
Cons: No expandable storage, no storage capacity options
The iPad Mini (2019) is a great choice for the budget-conscious buyer (or when buying a tablet for kids that might be a little rough with their toys). It's also affordable enough for those that only want a tablet for occasional use.
Its smaller display makes it perfect for tossing in your back, reading on the plane, and generally bringing it along with you on your adventures unlike some of the larger options in the iPad lineup.
Despite being the entry-level option in Apple's selection, it is no slouch in terms of performance and still features the same upscale iPad design for which its pricier siblings are known.
The latest updates to the tablet also bring in support for the popular 1st Generation Apple Pen and boost performance substantially -- adding even more value to this entry-level pick.
The iPad Mini 2019 is proof that low-end options don't have to feel cheap. It brings an excellent balance of affordability and portability that keep it one of the most popular options in Apple's lineup.
Best iPad for Productivity, Media Enthusiasts
Pros: Larger screen, ProMotion, True Tone, Apple Pen 2nd Gen support, quad-speaker audio, fastest iPad processor available
Cons: No storage expansion options, not as portable as smaller models, no headphone jack
The Apple iPad Pro 11 is the cheapest option for buying into the latest generation of Apple's premiere tablet series.
The screen isn't just larger than the iPad 9.7 (2018) but it also includes ProMotion and TrueTone -- two technologies designed to improve the smoothness of motion on the screen and optimize the color based on your surroundings.
The A12X Bionic processor offers enough power to handle anything you throw at the tablet with ease while the larger display makes it ideal for doing more productivity-oriented tasks, such as word processing, image editing, and checking large amounts of email.
Of course, the tablet can play just as hard as it works, so if you're looking to play the latest mobile games at full settings, the iPad Pro 11 has you covered there as well.
And the four-speaker audio array offers a listening experience for music and video that you won't find on any other tablet -- except for the larger iPad Pro 12.9 which features the same speakers.
The iPad Pro 11 is the sweet spot in Apple's 2018 iPad Pro lineup. It offers a larger screen with the best tech that Apple has on offer at a price less than the even larger Apple iPad Pro 12.9.
Best Luxury iPad, Best iPad for Graphics and Video Work
Pros: Massive display, 2nd Gen Apple Pen support, quad-speaker audio, TrueTone color, ProMotion
Cons: No storage expansion option, no headphone jack, not pocket or bag friendly
The Apple iPad 12.9 is the pinnacle of Apple's 2018 models and has a price tag to suit it's standing.
However, if you're looking for a tablet specifically for graphics or video work -- or simply want the best that Apple has to offer -- the tablet delivers an experience unavailable anywhere else.
The 12.9-inch display offers plenty of room to work on complex tasks, such as graphic design or video editing, while the TrueTone technology delivers accurate colors suitable for professional work.
The A12X Bionic processor keeps load times snappy and ensures plenty of power for everything from gaming to encoding.
There's even a four-speaker audio array to keep tunes pumping while you work or let you enjoy a movie or gaming session after work.
And, with up to 1TB of storage available, you can ensure all of your work files are always at hand. Though there's always cloud storage should you need more space or want to backup your work or data.
The iPad Pro 12.9 really can replace your laptop as Apple claims -- as long as you don't mind the limitations of iOS on your daily work or play device.
If you've never used an iPad, you probably have a few questions -- or at least expectations -- of how things work and which iPad to buy.
We'll cover a few of the most common questions here.
While many Android tablets will let you add microSD cards or even connect USB hard drives to expand storage or transfer files, iPads limit you to the internal storage of the tablet.
This means it's very important to choose a model that will store everything you need unless you want to spend time uploading and downloading files from cloud storage or uninstalling apps to make room for new ones.
Yes and no.
While you can unlock your iPad and hand it to your friend or child, iPads only officially support a single account per tablet. This means you cannot give your kids access to your apps or let your friend check their Facebook feed without also possibly allowing them to access your apps and personal information.
Yes... even if you buy a model with LTE support, you'll still need a tablet or data-only plan to use the feature.
Fortunately, most of these plans are cheaper than the monthly plans you use on your phone. However, some providers will require you to have a mobile phone plan along side your tablet or data-only plan before you can access the cheaper tablet data rates.
While this is partly a matter of preference, there are a few reason to consider the various color options in the iPad lineup.
Some reviewers note that the white bezels of the lighter colors make it easier on the eyes for frequent web browsing or reading while the black bezel of darker colors make the screen feel larger when viewing movies or tv shows and playing games.
Of course, if you get an iPad Pro with it's tiny bezels, this is less important.
Lighter iPad colors -- such as white or silver -- are more prone to smudges and scuffs but darker iPad colors -- such as black and space gray -- are more prone to scratches and fingerprints.
Finally, darker iPad colors tend to have higher resell values as they're more popular. So if you plan to upgrade in a year or two and want to maximize your trade-in or sell your old tablet to fund your new one, black and space gray are best.
Used and refurbished iPads are a great way to save money as long as you buy from a reputable vendor.
Apple even offers refurbished iPads on their website. While they're one of the higher-priced options, you can count on solid support and high-quality refurbishing.
For a full list of options, check our used phone buying guide. While it's geared toward phones instead of tablets, many of the sites listed there also sell tablets and other electronics and have a reputation you can trust.
Yes. However, they will need an email account -- or will need to set up a new email account -- to setup the tablet once they receive your gift.
There is currently no way to buy an iPad as a gift and have it arrive from Apple setup for another person. However, most people will still appreciate your generosity, even if it still needs a bit of setup when they unwrap it.
All Apple devices offer a comprehensive suite of parental control options to help you manage usage if you're giving an iPad to a younger member of your family.
Specific options include:
- Screen time controls
- Content and privacy restrictions
- App Store and iTunes purchase controls
- Allowing or denying built-in app access
- Explicit content blocks and content rating blocks
- Web content filters
- Preventing changes to settings
- and more...
You'll need to set these features up before you hand over the iPad. However, you can setup passwords to keep settings in place and ensure your kids are using their tablet in ways you approve.
For more information, consult Apple's Parental Controls guide.
This is largely a matter of preference. However, Apple Care tends to be a decent value if there is any chance you'll drop your tablet.
Not to mention that the larger screen and increased weight means tablets are more prone to damage when they fall than other mobile devices.
For more information on insurance considerations, check our cell phone insurance guide. While it's geared toward phones, the information applies to tablets just as well.
Tablets are great for work processing and other productivity tasks, but if you prefer a physical mouse and keyboard over touchscreens, you might find tablets a bit odd to use.
Taking care of the keyboard concern is simple. Just buy one of the official iPad keyboards from Apple or pick up any Bluetooth keyboard with iOS support. Then you just need to pair it like you would any other Bluetooth device.
Unfortunately, you cannot connect a mouse (Bluetooth, USB, or otherwise) to an iPad unless you're willing to jailbreak your tablet. This is because iOS does not natively support a cursor.
We won't cover the information here because it's quite in-depth. But if you're comfortable with your abilities, a quick Google search should offer the steps for the jailbreaking and mouse pairing process.
This is mostly a matter of personal preference. As free Wi-Fi is easier to find these days, having LTE on your tablet isn't quite as important as it once was.
However, if you're in an area where Wi-Fi is sparse, LTE connectivity might prove useful. Just keep in mind that it will add to the total cost of your tablet to keep your data connection running.
As one of the first mainstream tablets ever made, Apple's iPad lineup continues to dominate the tablet market.
However, when you get to the upper-end iPad models, prices increase quickly. So knowing what you need in a tablet and the differences between the various models are essential to finding a good fit -- both in terms of features and value.
If you're looking for a tablet for occasional use or use on the go, the iPad Mini (2019) is an excellent option.
The iPad 9.7 (2018) fits most other consumer use cases with no problems.
If you need a tablet for work, the iPad Pro series offers performance and displays that other tablets simply cannot touch.
P.S. Looking for tablet options for your kids and find Apple's prices a little high for your liking? We've rounded
up a list of highly-ranked, affordable tablets for kids that won't
leave you waking up from nightmares of cracked screens and replacement fees every night.
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