iPad models compared: the best Apple slates of 2021, ranked and rated

The ultimate iPad comparison. Which one is the best iPad for you?

Apple iPad Pro hero image for iPads compared guide
(Image credit: Apple)

Finding the best iPad for you isn’t necessarily all about seeing which one is the most expensive and just buying that. In fact, the best iPad model is about finding the best iPad for your specific needs. Whether that’s the best iPad for drawing, the best iPad for video editing, the best iPad for note taking and portability, or just the best budget iPad, we’ve laid them all out in this iPad comparison guide.

Here we’ll go over the reasons to buy available models, outline some all important specs, and break down the key differences in chips and storage space. You want iPads compared? You got it.

And iPads, like many of the best tablets on the market today, aren’t just standalone anymore. If you’re looking to make an iPad a laptop replacement, you’ll want to gear yourself up with the right iPad keyboard and accessories.

The Apple Pencil is a great add on too if you’re doing a lot of note taking or want to use more creative apps. This is why we’ve added both keyboard connectivity and the version of the Apple Pencil that works with each iPad in the specs section below. The biggest difference between the two generations of Apple Pencil is the charging functionality. The 1st Generation Apple Pencil uses your iPad’s Lightning port, while the 2nd Generation handily clips onto the side of your iPad for wireless magnetic charging.

Let’s break down the best iPads to find the right one for you.

Three iPads compared in a line

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPad Air (2020)

The best iPad for all-round use

Specifications
Display size: 10.9 inches
Space: Up to 256GB
CPU: Apple A14
Apple Pencil compatibility: 2nd Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio
Reasons to buy
+ Beautiful in all colours + Exceptionally fast 
Reasons to avoid
- Cameras aren’t great - No 120Hz refresh rate  

When it comes to the best iPad, the latest iPad Air smugly takes the top spot. As we said in our Apple iPad Air (2020) review, this is now the tablet to beat. The combination of the new sleek square-edged design and a brilliant processor make this iPad equally impressive aesthetically and when it comes to sheer power. There’s no 120Hz refresh rate like the iPad Pro but the Apple A14 chip means this is only slightly behind the MacBook Pro 13-inch in terms of performance. This means that whatever you throw at it, the iPad Air will happily oblige. 4K video and hi-res image editing is a doddle and the iPad Air makes a perfect companion for the Apple Pencil 2nd Generation for other creative apps. It’s a step up in price from previous generations but well worth the extra investment for a tablet that’s ready for the future.   

Apple iPad Pro 2021 12.9 on a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

2. iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

The best iPad for video editing and sheer power

Specifications
Display size: 12.9 inches
Space: Up to 2TB
CPU: Apple M1
Apple Pencil compatibility: 2nd Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio
Reasons to buy
+ Beautiful mini-LED display + Ultra fast 
Reasons to avoid
- Face ID can be awkward  

We didn’t call the iPad Pro 12.9 inch “the best tablet screen in the world” for nothing in our Platinum Award winning iPad Pro 12.9 inch review. This is a tablet that has it all. A buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate, an absurd level of power thanks to the new Apple M1 chip, and a beautiful mini-LED display with mind-blowing HDR makes it the current jewel in Apple’s, admittedly very expensive, crown. The only reason that this isn’t number one on our list is the fact that you probably don’t “need” an iPad with this much power. If money is no object then this is obviously a perfect shining purchase but given that most users won’t use the power on offer in the iPad Air, the iPad Pro’s computational prowess will only be tested by the hungriest of creative users. That doesn’t mean we don't think you should try though…

Apple iPad mini 6 held in hand on white background

(Image credit: Apple)

3. iPad mini (6th Gen)

The best iPad for portability, but still with the full power of iPadOS

Specifications
Display size: 8.3 inches
Space: Up to 256GB
CPU: Apple A15
Apple Pencil compatibility: 2nd Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+So light and portable+Incredibly powerful+Apple Pencil 2nd Gen support
Reasons to avoid
-Screen will be too small for some

The latest iPad mini has a new all-screen design, plus support for Apple Pencil 2nd Gen, which means the stylus magnetically connects to the side of the tablet, charging wirelessly while there, so that it's always by your hand and ready to use. And with a super-sharp screen and the massive amounts of power provided by Apple's A15 chip – as seen in the iPhone 13 – this is one of the most stunningly portable computers around today. It's a little creative wonder, giving you the ability to make music, draw complex illustrations, edit 4K video, work on high-res photos, or anything else you want… as long as its 8.3-inch screen is big enough for you.

And, of course, the small size makes it a fantastic machine for games too, or for kids to use in general. This new design feels like the iPad mini has reached the form it was always supposed to have, balancing mobility and capability excellently, though we think many will still just want to go for the bigger-screened iPads. 8.3 inches and 10.2 inches might sound close, but that's a lot of area you're missing out on here. Here's our full iPad mini (6th Gen) review.

Apple iPad 10.2 shown on two-tone background

(Image credit: Apple)

4. iPad 10.2 inch (2020)

The best cheap iPad for work and play

Specifications
Display size: 10.2 inches
Space: Up to 128GB
CPU: Apple A12
Apple Pencil compatibility: 1st Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Smart Keyboard
Reasons to buy
+Speedy software + Great build quality  + Good value  
Reasons to avoid
- 1st Gen Apple Pencil charging awkward  

Thankfully the creeping up in price of both the iPad Air and iPad Pro hasn’t reflected in the outlay for the 2020 iPad 10.2 inch. At a much more affordable price point than the other two, this tablet sticks to the traditional iPad design in that it retains the Home Button, but the impressively nimble Apple A12 chip lurks inside. This means that the iPad 10.2 inch is constantly impressive in terms of performance and with the usual 10 hour iPad battery life, it’s ideal for both work days and nights on the sofa with games on Apple Arcade. The 1st Generation Apple Pencil support is a little disappointing as it’s more awkward to charge, but, as we said in our Apple iPad 10.2 inch review the build quality and iPad software make this a “no-nonsense top tablet.”

iPads compared with Pro model standing on end on white background

(Image credit: Apple )

5. iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

The best on the go powerhouse

Specifications
Display size: 11 inches
Space: Up to 2TB
CPU: Apple M1
Apple Pencil compatibility: 2nd Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio
Reasons to buy
+Ultra fast M1 chip +More portable screen size+Great cameras 
Reasons to avoid
-No XDR screen 

Want an M1 chip but don’t fancy the expansive tray of technology that’s the 12.9 inch iPad Pro? Well, if you don’t mind sacrificing the XDR screen, the iPad Pro 11-inch still delivers the ludicrous power of Apple’s silicon but inside a slightly smaller form factor. And don’t worry, the Liquid Retina display still has a 120Hz refresh rate so you won’t have too much FOMO over the bigger alternative. Once again the M1 chip means you’ll be hard pressed to find an app that actually challenges the CPU and you can do as much iPad video and photo editing as you please. Add in the dual rear cameras that are vastly better than any previous iPad Pro, superior front facing camera, and ten hours of battery life and this is an enticing package indeed. It's still an investment in terms of outlay but also happens to be one of the best tablets available. 

iPad Pro balanced on one of its corners

(Image credit: Future)

6. iPad Pro (2020)

The best iPad for more portable power

Specifications
Display size: 11 or 12.9 inches
Space: Up to 1TB
CPU: Apple A12Z
Apple Pencil compatibility: 2nd Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio
Reasons to buy
+ Beautiful 120Hz screen + Ultra powerful 
Reasons to avoid
- Overkill if you don’t need the speed 

If the 12.9inch iPad Pro is looking a little steep price wise but you still fancy the 120Hz refresh rate, then the iPad Pro 2020 is the ideal solution. Now reduced by retailers since the release of the Pro with the M1 chip, this model is available in both 12.9 inch and 11 inch flavours. This makes it an ideal way to get incredible performance without spending the earth, and the chance to get a slightly smaller version of the beautiful screen for improved portability. The 11-inch iPad Pro includes a 2388x1668 display at 264 pixels per inch and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro includes a 2732x2048 display, again at 264ppi.  Both have support for what Apple calls ProMotion, which is that all-important 12Hz refresh rate. As we said in our iPad Pro 2020 review, the screen offers “incredible colour accuracy and visibility even at angles” making this one of the best iPads for video and photo editing.

Apple iPad 10.2 inch 7th gen on white background

(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPad 10.2 inch (2019)

Best budget iPad for drawing

Specifications
Display size: 10.2 inches
Space: Up to 128GB
CPU: Apple A10 Fusion
Apple Pencil compatibility: 1st Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Smart Keyboard
Reasons to buy
+ Apple Pencil connectivity + Perfect sofa tablet 
Reasons to avoid
- No TrueTone screen  

If you’re looking for a great budget iPad with Apple Pencil support, the iPad 10.2 inch from 2019 is a perfect way to get involved with creative apps without breaking the bank. The Apple A10 Fusion chip is slightly older now but this is still nifty performance-wise for day to day tasks and the 10.2 inch screen is ideal for movie watching and reading. One omission that the newer iPads now boast is a TrueTone screen to match the brightness of your room but if you’re looking for a cheap iPad to settle down on the sofa with, the screen real estate for the price here is a no brainer. There’s also compatibility with Apple’s Smart Keyboard to make it a budget laptop replacement for any documents etc. 

Read our Apple iPad 2019 review

iPad Air tablets in various colors line up

(Image credit: Apple)

8. iPad Air (2019)

The best budget iPad for portability

Specifications
Display size: 10.5 inches
Space: Up to 256GB
CPU: Apple A12 Bionic
Apple Pencil compatibility: 1st Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth, Smart Keyboard
Reasons to buy
+ Still great performance-wise + Ultra thin and light 
Reasons to avoid
- 1st Generation Apple Pencil 

The iPad Air was awarded T3’s Platinum Award for good reason back in 2019. This is a tablet with a zippy processor thanks to the A12 Bionic chip and an impressive 10.5 inch screen with TrueTone tech for perfect brightness while working. As we said in our iPad Air 2019 review, there’s more than enough power on offer for day to day work and, as its name suggests, this is a seriously thin and light tablet. It’s ideal for sliding into a bag alongside a keyboard and makes an ideal laptop alternative. The starter size of 32GB might not suit those with a library of movies and TV to transfer but this is ideal for those looking to do document work or just browse the web.

iPad Mini tablets face-on in various colors

(Image credit: Apple)

9. iPad Mini (2019)

The best iPad for note taking on the go

Specifications
Display size: 7.9 inches
Space: Up to 256GB
CPU: Apple A12
Apple Pencil compatibility: 1st Generation
Keyboard compatibility: Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+ Works with Apple Pencil + Portable and speedy 
Reasons to avoid
- Not big enough for day to day work 

Don’t be fooled by the iPad Mini’s diminutive size. While this 2019 model still has the older Apple design with a home button and more significant bezels around the screen, the A12 chip inside is no slouch when it comes to performance. Compatibility with the 1st Generation Apple Pencil makes this a perfect note taking device to slip into a bag and not worry about carting around a giant slab of technology. You can even use it as a starter drawing tablet and for this price range, the iPad Mini is an ideal companion for media watching on the go. Whether you want to use it for movies or as a glossy e-reader, this is a perfect travel device that is equally happy to play games or even do some work when the occasion calls for it. For more permanent work though, you'll want to go a bit bigger in the screen dept. 

Read our Apple iPad Mini (2019) review