How to Choose Your Next iPad

The iPad Pro on a pretty marble countertop.
xMarshall/Shutterstock

It’s tough to shop for an iPad. They all seem to do the same thing, but the difference between their prices is dramatic. Here’s how to navigate Apple’s ecosystem and find the iPad that’s right for you.

What Will You Do with an iPad?

You can do just about anything with an iPad. They’re great for playing games, watching TV, or browsing the web. But they also make fantastic digital tools for illustrators, musicians, or video editors. Some people even buy iPads as total laptop replacements.

So before you get into shopping for an iPad, you should figure out why you want one. Generally speaking, any iPad is excellent for playing games or browsing the web, while more demanding tasks like video editing will require some extra processing power.

Think About Specs

Once you know what you want to do with your iPad, it’s time to narrow things down. Any iPad can be used for drawing, but you also have to think about screen size. Plus, some iPads don’t work with accessories like the Apple Smart Keyboard or the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil—that’s not good news for writers or artists.

Here are some details to look out for:

  • Screen Size: iPad sizing is directly related to iPad pricing. Before worrying about specs, you should figure out which screen size you’re comfortable with. Are you dead-set on a 12.9″ screen (if so, just buy the iPad Pro), or are you open to any screen size?
  • Storage Capacity: Extra storage is useful if you keep a lot of music or movies on your iPad. But iCloud exists, and you can always plug an external storage device into your iPad.
  • Ports: Okay, do you want a Lightning port or a USB-C port? USB-C ports are becoming the industry standard, and they can support more peripherals than Lightning ports—but you’ll have to go for a Pro model if you want the added versatility of USB-C.
  • Apple Pencil Support: All 2018 and 2019 iPads work with the 1st Gen Apple Pencil. But, the 2nd Gen Pencil charges wirelessly, and it only works with the iPad Pro.
  • LTE/Cellular connectivity: Apple sells an LTE/cellular version of each iPad model. Cellular capability is useful if you want to use your iPad on the go, but the LTE/cellular iPad models cost about $100 to $200 more than their Wi-Fi equivalents (and then there are carrier fees). If you’re set on a cellular iPad, factor that extra cost into your budget.

You don’t really have to worry about battery life, as all iPad models have the same battery life, according to Apple (10 hours of continuous browsing).

Now that you know what you’re looking for in an iPad, it’s time to learn the differences between each iPad model. Shopping for iPads can be confusing because new models are released each year, so we’re going to detail each model by its screen size, year, specs, and features. We’ll start with the iPad Pro and work our way down by screen size, but keep in mind that the iPad MIni is technically more powerful than the basic iPad.

iPad Pro (11-Inch and 12.9-Inch 2018 Model)

The iPad Pro
Apple

Ah, the most expensive of the iPads. The iPad Pro isn’t super portable, but it’s great for professionals, video editors, and artists. It’s also the most advanced version of the iPad, with features like Face ID and a USB-C port that should become the standard across all iPad models over the next few years (but for now, they’re Pro-only).

  • Size: The iPad Pro comes with an 11-inch or 12.9-inch screen. It doesn’t have a home button, so the screen feels big and comfortable when rotated in any direction.
  • Capacity: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage.
  • Specs: The iPad Pro has 4GB of RAM (the 1TB model has 6GB), and it sports a super-fast A12X Bionic processor. These specs make the iPad a lightning-fast multitasking monster.
  • Cameras: A 12MP rear camera and 7MP front-facing camera.
  • Special Features: The iPad Pro has Face ID, which eliminates the need for the home button. It also has a USB-C port, which is more universal than Lightning (and works great with USB-C hubs). It also works with 1st and 2nd Gen Apple Pencils.

All in all, the iPad Pro is the Mac-Daddy of all iPads. It’s great for power users, artists, people who work with video, or people who just want a big iPad (no shame). It’ll do whatever you want it to, it’ll stay up to date for a while, and it’ll work with a wide array of accessories.

Keep in mind that the iPad Pro isn’t the only iPad for professionals or artists. It just happens to be the biggest and the flashiest.

Great for Power Users

Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, Wi-Fi, 256GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)

The iPad Pro is great for demanding tasks like video editing. Of course, it's also a great luxury device (if you can afford it).

iPad Air (10.5-Inch 2019 Model)

The iPad Air
Apple

The iPad Air is just a slight update to the regular iPad. It’s a bit slimmer, has a larger screen, and has a better processor. That’s about all there is to it. It’s great for people who want an iPad that’s in-between the basic iPad and the iPad Pro. (By the way, its specs are identical to the iPad Mini.)

  • Size: The iPad Air has a 10.5-inch screen, but it’s slimmer than the regular iPad. It has a home button.
  • Capacity: 64GB or 256GB of storage.
  • Specs: The iPad Air has 3GB of RAM and works with the A12 Bionic processor—the same processor that’s in newer iPhones. It’s pretty snappy.
  • Cameras: A 8MP main camera and a 7MP front camera.
  • Special Features: The iPad Air works with the 1st Gen Apple Pencil and the official Apple Smart Keyboard. It has a Lightning port, not a USB-C port.

The iPad Air is the everyman’s iPad. It’s not as portable as the basic iPad, and it’s not as powerful as the iPad Pro. But it can do nearly everything that the iPad Pro does. It’s just not as fast or as flashy, that’s all.

The Best iPad for Most People

Apple iPad Air (10.5-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)

The iPad Air sits in between the iPad Pro and the regular iPad. It can do nearly everything that the Pro can do; it's just not as fast or flashy.

iPad (10.2-Inch 2019 Model)

The 10.2 Inch iPad
Apple

The new version of the regular iPad is reasonably priced, with specs that are similar (but a bit better) than the 2018 iPad (it supports the official Apple Smart Keyboard!).

For a price that’s about $100 cheaper than the iPad Air, you already know where this iPad fits into the family. It’s portable, it’s great for gaming or watching videos, but it might stutter if you try to force it into resource-heavy tasks.

  • Size: At 10.2 inches, the 2019 iPad is portable yet comfortable. It’s better for drawing than the 2018 iPad. It still has a home button.
  • Capacity: 32GB or 128GB of storage.
  • Specs: The 10.2-inch iPad has the A10 Fusion chip, just like the 9.7-inch iPad.
  • Cameras: An 8MP back camera and a 1.2MP front camera.
  • Special Features: The 10.2-inch iPad actually works with the official Apple Smart Keyboard, which is nice. It also works with the 1st Gen Apple Pencil, but it has a Lightning port, not USB-C.

Again, this is a great casual iPad. Its extra screen real-estate and Apple Smart Keyboard support make it a good choice for students or artists, especially if money is an issue.

A Large Screen, a Great Price

New Apple iPad (10.2-Inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)

The 10.2-inch iPad (AKA the 2019 iPad) is super affordable, and it's a great choice for gamers, artists, or casual iPad users.

iPad (9.7-Inch 2018 Model)

The iPad 9.7 Inch
Apple

The 9.7-inch iPad was made in 2018, but it’s almost identical to the new 10.2-inch iPad. The only significant difference (aside from screen size) is that the 9.7-inch iPad doesn’t work with the official Apple Smart Keyboard.

In other words, this iPad is excellent for most people, especially if you’re just trying to draw, play games, or watch videos.

  • Size: The 2018 iPad’s 9.7-inch screen size is reasonable and makes the overall form factor very portable.
  • Capacity: 32GB or 128GB of storage.
  • Specs: The 9.7-inch iPad has the A10 Fusion chip, just like the 10.2-inch iPad.
  • Cameras: An 8MP back camera and a 1.2MP front camera.
  • Special Features: It works with the 1st Gen Apple Pencil, but it has a Lightning port and doesn’t work with the official Apple Smart Keyboard.

Again, the 9.7-inch iPad is excellent for most people, especially if you just want an iPad for casual use. It’s reasonably priced, especially now that Apple wants to replace it with the nearly identical 10.2-inch iPad.

An Affordable Casual iPad

Apple iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB) - Silver (Previous Model)

The 9.7-inch iPad is perfect for watching videos, playing games, drawing pictures, or browsing the web. And it's pretty cheap to boot!

iPad Mini (7.9-Inch 2019 Model)

The iPad Mini
Apple

As odd as it sounds, the iPad Mini is more powerful than the regular iPad. Its specs are identical to the iPad Air (minus the size), but it costs about $100 less.

This is a great value for the money. The Mini doesn’t have a huge screen, but its specs are fantastic, and it’s great for playing games, reading books, or working through resource-heavy software.

  • Size: The iPad Mini’s 7.9-inch screen may be small for some people, but it’s super portable and easy to type on.
  • Capacity: 64GB or 256GB of storage.
  • Specs: The iPad Mini has 3GB of RAM and works with the A12 Bionic processor—the same processor that’s in the iPad Air. It’s fast, and it feels great on a tiny device.
  • Cameras: A 8MP main camera and a 7MP front camera.
  • Special Features: The iPad Air works with the 1st Gen Apple Pencil and the official Apple Smart Keyboard. It has a Lightning port, not a USB-C port.

Apple fans love the iPad Mini for a reason. It’s fast, powerful, affordable, and portable. The only drawback is the smaller screen, but for most people, that’s just a matter of personal preference.

Portable, Fast, Affordable

Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Silver (Latest Model)

The iPad Mini has the same specs as the iPad Air, so it's great for any regular iPad task. But it's super portable and super affordable, which is awesome.

Can’t I Save Some Money?

Even the “budget” iPads are expensive. But there are a few ways to save money on an iPad. Some of these methods require a bit of patience, while others rely on your ability to work with Apple’s policies.

Here are some of the ways that you can save on an iPad:

  • Wait for a Sale: iPads regularly go on sale, although some sales are better than others. You can track iPad sales on sites like camelcamelcamel or Slickdeals, or manually look out for deals on sites like Amazon or Best Buy.
  • Buy a Refurbished iPad: Apple sells discounted refurbished iPads on its website, and you can regularly find refurbished iPad deals on Amazon. (We suggest buying from Apple or Amazon because they have good return policies for refurbished products. Just watch out to make sure you’re getting the right mode—there are lots of refurbished iPad 2s floating around.)
  • Get a Trade-In: You can save a few hundred bucks trading in your old iPad at an Apple store or through Apple’s website.
  • Get an Older Model: Consider buying the 2017 or 2018 models of an iPad—just make sure that they have all the features you need (like Apple Pencil compatibility).

Just keep in mind that these methods aren’t perfect, and they can be a bit uncomfortable at times (especially if your refurbished iPad isn’t what you expected). But hey, that’s just what happens when you try to save some cash.


All in all, it’s hard to shop for an iPad. But if you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to narrow down your search to something that you’re happy with.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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