Apple makes different iPad models for various uses, so how do you tell them apart? Without knowing which is which, you’ll overpay for features you don’t need.
The nitty-gritty specs often cloud the point, making it difficult to determine which one is right for your specific requirements. We’ve cut out all the headaches.
Our guide covers the best iPads for professional use, digital artistry, mobile gaming, and general media use — think YouTube and Netflix streaming.
Best for general use and media – iPad 2021 (9th Gen)
The price point and balanced features speak volumes for this iPad. Beyond being one of the most affordable options on this list, the 9th gen 2021 iPad includes an ample 64GB of storage to host tons of games, apps, pictures, and downloaded videos for on-the-go viewing.
With a 10.2-inch screen powered by the A13 Bionic chip’s Neural Engine, you encounter near real-time responsiveness, although there is a noticeable delay compared to the iPad Pro 2021 later on this list.
A 12MP front camera grants decent photograph resolutions, and thanks to Center Stage, your subject remains in the frame to reduce loss of camera focus. This camera compares to Apple’s newest iPad Air, minus the ability to record 4K resolution.
Optional upgrades include a storage increase to 256GB and a connectivity boost by adding cellular to your existing Wi-Fi connection capabilities.
Best for professionals – iPad Air 2022
You might expect the 2021 iPad Pro to take the cake, but the iPad Air 2022 has stolen the show. With an impressive 10-hour battery life identical to the iPad Pro and a compact 10.9-inch screen size, you can take this anywhere without worrying about storage space or hitting that dreaded 10% battery notification.
Ultralight at just 458 grams and equipped with cellular and Wi-Fi access for uninterrupted service, the iPad Air 2022 encompasses every previous benefit of Apple’s professional iPad lineup.
You can take pictures with a 12MP camera or 4K video depending on your client’s needs or record in 24 FPS (film industry standard) to record movie-quality video.
The 8-core GPU and 8-core CPU create a responsive and flawless experience thanks to the M1 chip with desktop-level architecture. It’s the best professional experience you’ll have on an iPad.
Best for Gaming – iPad Pro 2021 (256GB)
Games need space, and the 2021 iPad Pro has plenty of it. Take advantage of an 11-inch display with real-time responsiveness and hyper-accurate touch precision, running on Apple’s M1 chip. It’s no secret that the M1 is the best-performing chip Apple has produced so far.
One of the biggest bonuses for mobile games is the 120Hz refresh rate to stay ahead of the competition with excellent performance. The Liquid Retina display keeps everything looking crisp regardless of what title you play.
Plugging your iPad Pro into an external display for a bigger picture? The thunderbolt port grants nearly flawless connectivity to displays, as well as docks and exporting external storage. You can film, edit, and export gameplay videos at ridiculous speeds.
It wouldn’t be the iPad Pro if it didn’t include ultra-fast Wi-Fi, which is paramount to first-person shooter games on mobile platforms. With True Tone and P3 wide color, your gameplay performance looks crisp and color accurate.
Best for Artists – iPad Pro 2020
Artists need excellent resolution, precision, and space. The 2020 iPad Pro has 128GB of integrated memory at its lowest price point and up to 1TB of memory for certain models.
With a native resolution of 2388 x 1668 and touch-accurate zoom functionality, artists can create highly detailed work while running on a solid Wi-Fi connection for internet-required apps.
With a 2.49 GHz processor and 6GB of RAM, apps open and react quickly; your creativity doesn’t have to wait. Thanks to the thin profile and average 10-hour battery life, inspiration can strike you wherever you are, and you’ll be ready.
It’s important to note that Apple doesn’t produce brand new 2020 iPad Pros any longer. Thankfully, the Amazon Renewed program ensures quality, support, and excellent condition.
iPad buying guide: How to find the best iPad for your needs
What is the cheapest way to buy a new iPad?
Amazon has consistently low prices on iPads. The Amazon Renewed program helps you save even more money on slightly outdated iPad models. You can also utilize a browser extension such as Honey or CapitalOne Shopping for scanning the internet and finding the best prices at checkout.
What’s the difference between an iPad and an iPad Air?
iPad Air models tend to have a smaller bezel to reduce overall dimensions, though the screen size is almost identical to standard iPads or iPad Pro models. The iPad Air lineup is lighter than standard iPads by anywhere from 15 to 100 grams depending on the generation and specific model.
Are iPad Pros worth it?
The iPad Pro lineup traditionally includes faster processing speeds and more RAM than other iPad models released in the same year/generation.
As the name implies, an iPad Pro is useful for professional applications. Pro models have longer battery lives per charge, quick and responsive on-screen results, and large enough screens to collaborate with clients or customers in person.
If you enjoy competitive mobile gaming, the iPad Pro lineup features a 120Hz display, and it’s a literal game-changer. iPad Pros are more powerful, albeit more expensive, models that give additional power to those who need it.
Do I need an iPad case?
iPads are inherently fragile. They feature glass faces that can be easily scratched, cracked, or shattered. While an iPad case won’t guarantee impeccable safety, it dramatically reduces the risk of losing hundreds of dollars of tech by a simple slip-up.
Kim recommends the ProCase, which fits numerous 2020 and 2021 iPad models. It features a hard shell, kickstand, and an attractive price point.We may receive a commission when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.