For many, the word tablet is synonymous with the word iPad, but even if you’ve decided that Android and Windows slates aren’t for you that’s only half the battle, as Apple’s ever growing range of portable powerhouses provides a lot of options.
Do you want a compact 7.9-inch screen, a well-rounded 9.7 inches or a massive 12.9-inch monster? Do you need top tier power or are you fine with more modest specs? Are you looking for a real laptop replacement or just a convenient way to browse the web?
Whatever the case there’s an iPad for you and to make it easier to sift through them and find the right one we’ve highlighted all the choices, in a clear, concise way, so boot up your old tablet one last time, read through our rundown and get ready to upgrade.
- Looking for an Android tablet instead? Check out our best tablet ranking.
In reverse chronological order, from the brand new iPad Pro 9.7 to the budget friendly iPad mini 2, here’s our guide to the best iPad for you.
iPad Pro 9.7
For the average user the iPad Pro 9.7 is one of the best all-round options, or it is if money is no object anyway, as it starts at £499 (US$599, AU$899) and if you want more than 32GB of storage or cellular connectivity the price rises steeply.
But it does a good job of justifying that outlay, as the iPad Pro 9.7 is the latest and greatest in Apple’s ‘main’ line of slates.
The 9.7-inch screen strikes a great balance between being big enough to get far more out of than a phone screen and small enough to still be fairly portable.
And although Apple has ditched the Air moniker, at 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm and 437g the iPad Pro 9.7 is every bit as thin and light as the iPad Air 2.
But it lives up to the Pro name, with plenty of power afforded by its A9X processor and 2GB of RAM, four speakers for serious media potential, a beautiful True Tone screen, which adapts the color and intensity to your environment, and of course the ability to use the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil with it, if you want to use the slate to actually get things done.
The iPad Pro 9.7 also comes with up to 256GB of storage if you’re prepared to pay, so you needn’t feel limited by the lack of a microSD card slot, and it’s likely to remain a powerful and versatile tablet for years to come, so while it’s expensive you might not feel the need to upgrade for a long time.
iPad Pro 12.9
The iPad Pro 12.9, or simply the iPad Pro as it’s sometimes known, is in many ways a bigger and better version of the iPad Pro 9.7.
It matches that slate’s four powerful speakers, accessory options and storage capacity, but at 12.9 inches the screen is significantly larger, while its 2048 x 2732 resolution ensures it retains the same 264ppi pixel density. It’s also more powerful than its smaller sibling, combining the same Apple A9X processor with a massive 4GB of RAM.
That power is undeniably a good thing, but the screen size will be more divisive, as while all that space is great if you plan to use it as a real laptop replacement, for running apps in split screen, or for watching a lot of movies, it leaves it a little unwieldy in other ways, especially as it makes the slate a hefty 713g. If you want the ultimate in portability this isn’t it.
But if you can afford the high-price and want the very biggest and most powerful tablet Apple has to offer there can be no other choice than the iPad Pro 12.9.
iPad mini 4
Big screens aren’t for everyone, and that’s where the 7.9-inch iPad mini 4 comes in. The screen size means it’s far more portable than Apple’s larger tablets, especially as it’s light at 299g. It’s not quite small enough that you can use it one handed, but you can comfortably hold it for a lot longer than most of Apple’s slates, or throw it in a bag and forget about it.
It’s also big enough to enjoyably browse the net or watch videos on when you’re away from home and bigger screens, but it’s obviously not quite as strong an experience for most visual media as Apple’s larger 9.7 and 12.9-inch slates.
The small size and lack of Smart Connector also makes it worse for productivity than the iPad Pro range, but this isn’t designed as a laptop replacement.
It’s still fairly powerful thanks to 2GB of RAM and the aging but still impressive Apple A8 processor, while the screen is sharp, rich and easy to see even in bright sunlight.
The iPad mini 4 is also a fraction of the price of Apple’s Pro range, starting as it does at £319 (US$399, AU$569) and with up to 128GB of storage you needn’t be terribly limited in that area – though it’s no match for the 256GB you can get in the iPad Pro.
iPad Air 2
The iPad Air 2 is the predecessor to the iPad Pro 9.7 and the difference in name gives a hint of what it’s lacking – namely compatibility with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, along with the four powerful speakers found on the Pro range.
It’s not as strong for productivity then, but in many other ways the iPad Air 2 can almost match up to the iPad Pro 9.7 and all for a much lower price.
For one thing it has the same premium metal body, along with the same weight and dimensions, leaving it a slim and light 6.1mm thick and 437g.
It also has the same size and resolution 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 screen, though behind the scenes more vivid colors and the True Tone tech (for dynamically adjusted white balance) in the iPad Pro 9.7 make the display altogether more impressive.
But when the screen is already so good on the iPad Air 2 you might not miss those things, especially if you’ve not seen them in action.
The slate sports plenty of power too, matching the iPad Pro 9.7 for 2GB of RAM and finding a middle ground between that and the iPad mini 4 with its A8X processor. In short, if you don’t need the productivity potential of the iPad Pro and can live with slightly dated but still solid specs the iPad Air 2 is a strong choice, though these days it’s only available with up to 64GB of storage.
iPad mini 3
The iPad mini 3 is an oddity, as aside from the addition of a Touch ID scanner it’s basically exactly the same as the iPad mini 2.
Given the higher price that makes it a tough sell unless you really care about security and really don’t want to type out a PIN every time you unlock it.
It’s not a complete disaster, with a slim, light and premium build, a decent screen and the same polished iOS experience you get on other Apple slates. But it’s hard to recommend to anyone when you can get essentially the same tablet for less with the iPad mini 2 or a far better compact slate with the iPad mini 4.
The iPad Air is getting on a bit now, but it’s testament to the work Apple puts into its tablets that it still offers slick performance and a premium design. It might make it a little difficult to buy now though considering it’s not officially on sale through Apple in most countries.
The Apple A7 processor and 1GB of RAM keep iOS 9 running smoothly, though both those things are a noticeable step down from even the iPad Air 2, let alone Apple’s newer iPad Pro range, so it’s not as future-proofed as those slates, especially as its age means Apple will stop supporting it sooner.
But the 9.7-inch Retina display still impresses and while it’s not quite as slim at 7.5mm thick it still oozes premium quality and comes in at an almost as light 469g.
There’s no Touch ID here and most shops aren’t selling it with more than 32GB of storage any more, but if all you want from your slate is something to browse the web on, use apps and watch video, rather than store loads of content, play high-powered games and replace your laptop, the iPad Air is almost a match for the iPad Air 2 or even the iPad Pro 9.7 and of course it’s a lot cheaper.
iPad mini 2
Remarkably Apple is still selling the iPad mini 2, despite it dating back to 2013 and having been superseded by both the iPad mini 3, which Apple no longer sells, and the iPad mini 4.
But it’s easy to see why. The iPad mini 3 offered little that the mini 2 didn’t, only really adding Touch ID, and in being so conservative secured a mediocre 3-star review from us.
The iPad mini 2 though was and is impressive. It’s every bit as powerful as the iPad Air and has a compact 7.9-inch display, with the same resolution as the iPad mini 4. The overall quality isn’t quite as high but it’s still a strong tablet screen.
At 7.5mm thick and 331g it’s not quite as slim and light as Apple’s latest mini, but it’s still compact enough to comfortably cart around with you and it sports a similarly premium design.
It has an older processor and half as much RAM, which combined with its age means you might feel the need to upgrade sooner rather than later if you do invest in the iPad mini 2.
But right now it still offers a quality experience and is an ideal option if you want a highly portable and low cost tablet, just as long as you can live without the secure convenience of Touch ID and with a maximum of 32GB of storage, as that’s the most Apple now sells it with.
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