Apple’s iPad lineup consists of four different models, all of which offer a tablet experience unlike anything you can find anywhere else. Most recently, Apple updated both iPad Pro models with a faster processor and a better display technology for the 12.9-inch model.
Every iPad Apple offers has a slightly different design, different specifications and, of course, pricing. There’s the iPad, the iPad Air, the iPad Mini and the iPad Pro — but which iPad does what, and is the high-end iPad Pro worth the money?
Truth be told, all iPads run the same software and have access to the same apps in the App Store. Heck, almost all of them will even work with Apple’s own keyboard accessory, and they all work with the Apple Pencil. But there are differences in the type of keyboard they’ll work with, and there are two different generations of the Apple Pencil, each one for specific iPad models.
So, why not just get the least expensive model and call it a day? Well, screen size, overall capabilities and performance, that’s why. We’ll break down the differences between iPad models so you can choose the one that fits your needs.
The eighth-generation entry-level iPad arrived last September with its staple starting price of $329. We spent some time testing it when it launched and we have to admit we were impressed. In fact, so much so that when we pitted it against other top tablets on the market, it was our pick for the best tablet of 2021. The update includes improved performance in the iconic tablet design that Apple is yet to fully stray from.
If you’re upgrading from an older iPad model, you’ll be happy to know Apple increased the display size with last year’s base model, from 9.7 inches to 10.2 inches. The Touch ID fingerprint reader is still hidden in Apple’s tried-and-true home button.
The eighth-generation iPad’s performance improvement comes courtesy of Apple’s A12 Bionic processor. That’s the same chip that Apple used in the iPhone XS, so it’s a couple of years old, but it’s still no slouch. Combined with the performance gains of iPadOS 14, the iPad will have no issues while you triage your email, browse the web, game or watch your favorite creators on YouTube.
Apple’s base model iPad is the ideal tablet for someone who doesn’t necessarily want a laptop replacement or need something to do heavy photo or video editing. It’s more than enough for a young student or anyone who views the iPad more as an entertainment device.
That said, if you do want to sit down and write a school paper or a lengthy email, you can pick up the Smart Keyboard Cover for $159. Or, if you want an iPad to draw or sketch on, the first-generation Apple Pencil will work and is only $99.
The iPad with Wi-Fi starts at $329 for 32GB of storage or $429 for 128GB. Add another $130 to either price for an LTE model.
A once forgotten model, Apple updated and completely redesigned the fourth-generation iPad Air in late 2020. The Air sits comfortably in the middle of Apple’s tablet lineup, both in terms of price and capabilities, and it’s incredibly appealing for those exact reasons.
The new Air looks more like the iPad Pro, with flat edges, a spot to wirelessly charge the second-generation Apple Pencil and a USB-C port. It comes in five colors: Space Gray, silver, rose gold, green and Sky Blue.
The screen goes nearly edge to edge, lacking a home button. It also lacks Face ID, a feature that’s still reserved for the iPad Pro line. Instead, Apple has built its Touch ID fingerprint technology into the iPad Air’s sleep/wake button. It’s the first time we’ve seen Apple use Touch ID somewhere other than the home button, and it worked flawlessly in our testing.
Inside the Air is Apple’s A14 Bionic processor. It’s the same processor the iPhone 12 line uses, and it’s incredibly quick and powerful. Apps open fast, games are lag free, and multitasking is a breeze.
The Air is powerful enough to handle daily tasks like email and web browsing, but also keep pace with your photo and video editing needs.
If you’re looking for a tablet you can get some work done on that’s more powerful than the basic iPad and and not nearly as expensive as the iPad Pro, the iPad Air is a good fit.
The iPad Air with Wi-Fi starts at $599 for 64GB of storage or $749 for 256GB. For the same storage amounts but with LTE connectivity, you’re looking at $729 and $879, respectively.
The iPad Mini is essentially a smaller version of the base model iPad. It uses Apple’s A12 processor and comes with up to 256GB of storage and Apple Pencil support. There isn’t a Smart
Which iPad is right for you? Here’s what to know and which to buy
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