Which iPad should you buy? It’s a much more complicated decision than it used to be, with six models of iPad officially to buy from Apple and many older variants still available from third-party retailers – and that’s before we get into elements like colours, storage options, cellular connectivity and optional accessories.
But don’t fear! We at Tech Advisor are iPad experts, and here, we showcase our selection of the best iPads available to buy right now, along with expert buying advice on what to consider when on the hunt for an iPad. If you’re open to Android and Windows alternatives, why not take a look at our choice of the best tablets?
Best iPad 2023
1. iPad Air (2022) – Best overall
- Premium design
- Great accessory support
- iPad Pro-level performance
- No Face ID
- 60Hz display
The latest iPad Air is undoubtedly the best iPad for most people, and it’s not just down to the modern look, complete with a full-screen display and angled edges.
The key feature of the iPad Air is that it boasts the same Apple M1 chip as not only the iPad Pro range but desktops like the 24in iMac and Mac Mini, offering significant gains in both the CPU and GPU department, making it ideal for content creators, students and gamers that need laptop-level power on the go.
It’s much more powerful than any other non-Pro iPad, and it leaves the Android competition in the dust.
There’s also the bright and detailed 10.9in display to consider, and although it doesn’t offer the 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate technology of the Pro range, it can make use of the Magic Keyboard and second-gen Apple Pencil – something that can’t be said of any other non-Pro iPad.
There’s also 5G connectivity and a 12Mp Center Stage front-facing camera this time around, two of the biggest omissions from the 2020 model, making it easy to recommend to most everyday users.
2. iPad mini (2021) – Most Portable iPad
- Portable design
- Apple Pencil support
- A15 Bionic smarts
- More expensive than predecessor
- No Magic Keyboard support
- 60Hz refresh rate
The sixth-gen iPad mini ditches the old form factor for something more akin to the iPad Air and iPad Pro range, with an angular design, stereo speakers, Center Stage technology and much smaller bezels than before.
The iPad mini’s 60Hz display has jumped to 8.3in, but without changing the physical size of the tablet, allowing for more display real estate without affecting its portable nature. It’s a gorgeous display too, with the highest pixel density of any iPad right now, but it is a bit on the small side for true split-screen multitasking.
It’s powered by the same A15 Bionic as the iPhone 13 range, making it more powerful than the iPad Air at a similar price.
The Touch ID sensor has been moved to the Power button like with the iPad Air, and there’s support for the second-gen Apple Pencil to boot, but the lack of a Smart Connector on the rear means that it doesn’t have its own Magic Keyboard – a real boon for the iPad Air and Pro range, and the only real chink in the mini’s armour.
3. iPad 10.2in (2021) – Best Budget iPad
- Large display
- Great performance
- Dated design
- 1.2Mp camera
- Downward-firing speakers
It might’ve been superseded by the redesigned (and much more expensive) 10th-gen iPad, but there’s still very little to complain about where the 9th-gen iPad is concerned – so much so that Apple decided to keep it on sale as the true entry-level tablet. If you’ve got the seventh- or eighth-gen iPad, there might not be enough to tempt you, but there’s a lot to love here if you’re coming from an older device or want to dip your toe into the iPad experience.
The 10.2in screen offers TrueTone tech that’ll automatically adjust the colour balance based on your environment, and there’s improved colour accuracy too. There are also improvements to the software with iPadOS, an upgrade to the A13 Bionic (the same as that in the iPhone 11) and most importantly, upgraded the base storage from an unusable 32GB to 64GB, and there’s a 256GB model for those that need a little more storage too.
Considering the affordable price, that’s an impressive feat for the budget iPad. Sure, it doesn’t have a laminated display, ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate or an updated design like others in the iPad collection, but we can’t expect these things without a higher price and blurring the lines to those premium models.
If you don’t care about the latest specs and just want an iPad to use for gaming and social media, this is a great entry point that won’t break the bank.
4. iPad Pro 12.9in (2022) – Best hardware
- Best-in-class display
- Mac-based M2 processor
- Upgraded front camera
- More expensive than ever
- iPadOS can't take advantage of M2 power
Apple’s 12.9in iPad Pro is undoubtedly the most powerful and capable tablet on the market right now, but it’s also the most expensive – especially in the UK, with a £250 bump compared to the last-gen iPad.
That said, the cash will get you an iPad with Apple’s latest M2 chipset with plenty of power to handle whatever you throw at it, even when it comes to demanding graphics design and video editing apps. The catch is that the M2 is simply too powerful for any iPad app at the moment, and while that guarantees great performance, it can be a bit overkill for most tasks on an iPad. We need more apps designed to take advantage of the M2 power, and those are very slow to arrive.
The accompanying 120Hz micro-LED display (available on the 12.9in model exclusively) is perfect for graphics design, watching movies and browsing social media, and the 12Mp front-facing camera with auto-tracking tech is ideal for those working remotely – though it’s not placed on the long edge like with the 10th-gen iPad.
Paired with the Magic Keyboard it has the potential to be a true laptop replacement, but it’s a very pricey one, matching the asking price of a MacBook Pro.
It’s undoubtedly Apple’s best tablet, but if you’re not going to get full use out of the large display and powerful internals, you’d probably be better off with a different iPad.
5. iPad 10.9in (2022) – The awkward middle child
- Modern design
- Great performance
- Switch to USB-C
- Not an entry-level tablet like previous-gen
- Muddies the water of the iPad range
- Doesn't do anything the older iPad can't
The 10th-gen iPad is a tough one. If you look at the tablet by itself, it’s a great upgrade: it boasts the same modern look as others in the iPad collection, there’s a boost in power using the same A14 Bionic as the iPhone 12 and the new colour options are the most vibrant we’ve seen. It’s a good-looking, capable tablet that’s hard to complain about.
There’s a catch though; it’s much more expensive than the entry-level iPad from 2021, starting at an increased $449/£499. That muddies the water somewhat as it’s no longer the ideal entry-level tablet – that’s still the iPad 10.2in from 2021 – and it brings it closer to the iPad Air and iPad mini. The Air, in particular, offers quite the upgrade with support for the improved second-gen Apple Pencil and Apple’s M1 chipset, and it doesn’t cost that much more in the grand scheme of things.
There’s also the fact that, while better-looking, it doesn’t really do anything that the old, cheaper iPad can’t do.
So while it’s a great tablet in its own right, it struggles against the rest of the existing iPad range.
6. iPad Pro 11in (2021) – Power & Portability
- Mac-based M1 processor
- More portable than 12.9in model
- Center Stage tech
- Apps can't take advantage of M1 power
- No multiscreen
If the iPad Pro 12.9in is a little too big for your taste, the iPad Pro 11in may interest you.
It has most key features of the iPad Pro 12.9in, including a 120Hz ProMotion display, the Mac-based M1 chipset, the Center Stage tech that tracks you when using the front-facing camera and even its own Magic Keyboard – the only real difference is in the display department. While the 12.9in model gets the micro-LED treatment, the 11in model features the same IPS tech as previous years.
That’s not to say the iPad Pro 11in doesn’t offer a phenomenal display experience – it’s bright, crisp, detailed and ideal for creatives on the go with Apple Pencil support – but it won’t be quite as vibrant as the larger 12.9in model.
Still, if you can live with that, the iPad Pro 11in is an incredibly capable tablet touting some of the best benchmark results we’ve ever seen from a tablet, making it perfect for both work and play.
Note: We expect this to be replaced by the newer iPad Pro 11in (2022) once we get it in for review.
What should I look for when buying an iPad?
iPads come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s more of a question of preference than simply going for the biggest tablet you can get your hands on. Bigger isn’t always necessarily better, especially if you’re looking for a portable tablet you can use on the go.
In terms of screen size, you’ve got five options available:
- iPad mini (2021): 8.3in
- iPad (2021): 10.2in
- iPad (2022): 10.9in
- iPad Air: 10.9in
- iPad Pro 11: 11in
- iPad Pro 12.9: 12.9in
Of course, a larger screen is going to provide a more immersive entertainment experience, whether you’re watching movies on Netflix or playing Call of Duty: Mobile, but as the screen size increases, so does the weight.
While the iPad mini weighs only 293g, the iPad Pro 12.9 weighs a whopping 682g – over double the weight – although the iPad Air strikes a nice balance with a 10.9in display and a weight of only 458g. It really does depend on your preferences and how you intend to use the iPad.
It’s also worth noting that the iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini and the latest 10th-gen iPad feature the best screen-to-body ratio in the current collection, ditching the chin and forehead present on the entry-level 9th-gen iPad, but whether that’s worth paying a premium for is up to you.
The level of performance varies among the current iPad offering, with the entry-level iPad 10.2in featuring the A13 Bionic chipset – the lowest in the current range. That’s bumped up to the A14 Bionic on the newer 10th-gen iPad, and the iPad mini takes it a step further with the A15 Bionic. However, those looking for the most power should opt for the Apple M1-based iPad Air or the even more powerful M2 found within the latest iPad Pro range.
What does that mean? If you’re looking to use your iPad for work and intend on editing videos and creating graphics, you’ll benefit from the M1 or M2 chipset of the iPad Pro range or the most recent iPad Air. If you’re only looking for an iPad to browse the web, use your favourite apps and play games, the standard iPad 10.2, iPad 10.9 or iPad mini should suffice.
5G or 4G
All of the iPads come with a choice of Wi-Fi-only or cellular models, but not all offer 5G support.
If you want to use the fastest networking speeds, you’ll need to steer clear of the entry-level 10.2in iPad – it’s the only tablet in the existing collection that’s still on 4G. The latest iPad, Air, Mini and Pro models all offer super-fast connectivity.
Consider the accessories available for each iPad, as it’s not a uniform offering: the Magic Keyboard with a built-in trackpad and innovative cantilever hinge that turns the tablet into a true laptop competitor is only compatible with the iPad Pro and iPad Air. It’s a similar story with the second-gen Apple Pencil too, though that’s also supported by the 2021 iPad mini.
You do have a Smart Keyboard and first-gen Apple Pencil available for other iPads, but it’s not the same experience as what you’ll get from Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil. If using Apple’s high-end accessories is a key part of what you’ll be doing with the iPad, you should consider an iPad Pro or Air.
Most importantly of all, you’ve got to decide just how much you want to spend on a new iPad. The good news is that Apple has expanded its iPad portfolio in recent years, with options to suit every budget.
The 10.2in iPad is the cheapest in the range at only $329/£369, and it goes all the way up to $2,199/£2,499 for the 2TB variant of 12.9in iPad Pro.