top of page

The Best iPad to Buy (and a Few to Avoid)

Apple’s tablet lineup is more confusing than ever. We’re here to help you find the right slate for your needs

Best for Most People

Apple iPad (2021, 9th Gen)

Even with the addition of the 10th-generation iPad, we still think the ninth-generation iPad from 2021 is the best iPad for most people. It's the most affordable (and has dipped as low as $250). It has the same shape and size as its predecessors, so all current accessories will work, including the first generation Apple Pencil and Apple's Smart Keyboard. It retains the classic Home button with Touch ID plus thick borders around the 10.2-inch screen.The A13 Bionic chip, which debuted on the iPhone 11, makes it one of the most powerful tablets for the price, and there are other welcome upgrades, like 64 GB of storage and True Tone, which adjusts the color temperature of the display to match the ambient lighting to look more natural. The real highlight is the front camera, which is 12 megapixels and supports Center Stage, the iPad Pro feature that moves the camera around during video calls so you always stay in the frame. (The camera placement is still a bit awkward.) It's worth highlighting that this iPad doesn't have a fully laminated display. That means there's an air gap between the screen and the glass, which can make interactions with the Apple Pencil feel a smidge imprecise.

The Awkward Choice

Apple iPad (2022, 10th Gen)

Apple has modernized its most basic iPad It has uniform slim bezels around a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina (IPS LCD) display. There's finally a USB-C port instead of Lightning, so you can charge it with the same cable as you use to charge a MacBook. The cellular model now supports 5G, and like on the iPad Air, the Touch ID sensor is integrated into the power button that sits on the top edge of the slate. The rear camera has been upgraded to 12 megapixels, instead of 8 megapixels. But, perhaps most importantly, the 12-MP selfie camera has been moved to the center of the iPad (in landscape mode), so you’ll no longer have to uncomfortably stare to the side during video calls it powered by Apple's A14 Bionic chip—the same that's in the iPhone 12—which Apple claims delivers 20 percent faster performance and a 10 percent bump in graphics over the ninth-gen model; it never felt sluggish in our testing. But we have gripes. This supposedly basic iPad now costs $120 more, starting at $449. It still doesn't have a fully laminated display, and you also don't get second-gen Apple Pencil support—it only works with the first-gen stylus; now that the Lightning port is gone, you need to use an adapter to recharge the Pencil. (It's included if you buy a new first-gen Apple Pencil, but if you already have one, the adapter is $9.) This iPad supports the Magic Keyboard Folio (and the original Smart Folio case), but we don't recommend spending nearly half the price of the tablet on a keyboard case. Read our Best iPad Accessories guide for cheaper alternatives.

Best for Portability

Apple iPad Mini (2021, 6th Gen)

The iPad Mini looks like no iPad Mini that came before (). Apple's 2021 refresh mimics the design of the iPad Pro, with slimmer bezels around the 8.3-inch screen. It's a little shorter than its predecessor, and its compact size makes it the best slate to take with you everywhere. You might even be able to fit it into your cargo pants pocket. It loses the Home button but doesn't adopt Face ID—like on the iPad Air and 10th-gen iPad, Touch ID is baked into the power button. It has sub-6 5G connectivity if you add a cellular plan, but best of all is the USB-C charging port, so you can recharge it with your MacBook charger.With the A15 Bionic processor (released in 2021 with the iPhone 13), it can handle pretty much any intensive app or game. It has improved cameras on the front and back (plus Center Stage on the selfie cam) and second-generation Apple Pencil support, so the stylus magnetically attaches to the edge and charges simultaneously. It won't roll off the desk! The iPad Mini has frequently dropped to $400, so try to catch it on sale.

Best Upgrade

Apple iPad Air (2022, 5th Gen)

Even the most basic iPad is plenty powerful for most tasks, but the 2022 iPad Air steps things up with the M1 processor—the same that powers the MacBook Air from 2020. The modern design remains unchanged from the 2020 iPad Air, with the same 10.9-inch LCD screen, slim bezels, USB-C port, and Touch ID built into the top power button. It packs support for the second-generation Apple Pencil (Amazon) and the Smartand Magic Keyboard. What's new? Apple added 5G support (if you opt for the cellular version), a selfie camera with a higher-resolution 12-megapixel sensor, as well as support for Center Stage, which ensures the camera stays on you if you're moving around a room during video calls.This tablet is lighter and nearly as compact as the cheapest iPad, but you get a larger screen—making this a nicer slate for getting work done. That said, it's still not as easy to multitask on iPadOS as it is using a MacBook, and the first-party accessories add up to make it quite expensive.

4 views0 comments


bottom of page