The best iPad: every iPad Apple currently sells, ranked

Which Apple tablet is for you?

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If you've not visited Apple's website in a while, then you might not know that the company is currently selling four different iPads direct to customers – and at a time when it's debatable whether anyone even needs one tablet, selling four is quite a bold strategy.

From the ageing iPad mini 4 to the brand new 9.7-inch iPad, freshly launched for 2018, we'll explain the ins and outs of these tablets and tell you why you might choose one over the other three. The differences aren't all that easy to spot, so let's dig into the detail.

Apple iPad 9.7-inch 2018

The 9.7-inch iPad for 2018

1. 9.7-inch iPad (2018)

The best iPad for most people

Reasons to buy
+Affordable and a sensible size+Now with Apple Pencil support
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks the extra tricks of the Pro

Apple's newest iPad is actually its best iPad, at least for most users: although the 2018 version of the standard 9.7-inch iPad didn't get much of a refresh over its predecessor, it did get Apple Pencil support, which means you can doodle on the screen and inside apps to your heart's content. The Pencil is sold separately though, so be sure to factor that in.

It's not the most powerful iPad or the biggest iPad, but it is the best value, and a 9.7-inch screen seems to be just the right size – remember the very first iPad had a 9.7-inch screen back in 2010. It's actually the thickest iPad of the four, but it's still light enough to operate with one hand (for a while at least), and the A10 processor gives it plenty of oomph.

You don't get the Smart Connector for keyboard attachments that the iPad Pro has (though Bluetooth keyboards still work), and you don't get some of the fancier screen technology like an auto-adjusting frame rate – but most of us can live without that. You're also limited to 32GB or 128GB of storage, and we'd recommend going for the latter.

Apple iPad Pro 10.5-inch

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro

2. 10.5-inch iPad Pro (2017)

The best iPad for serious users

Reasons to buy
+Bigger, more responsive display+More on-board storage options
Reasons to avoid
-Significantly pricier than the 9.7-inch iPad

So if the standard iPad is the best iPad, why would you opt for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro? Well, you do get some extras, not least a little bit more screen space (though the pixel density is the same). This iPad is significantly faster under the hood than the basic iPad too, so you can jump around apps and games more quickly, and the storage goes up to a huge 512GB.

The ProMotion technology (which adjusts the screen refresh rate depending on what you're doing) and the True Tone feature (where the screen temperature changes based on ambient light) are exclusive to the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro tablets also have a wider colour gamut than the other two iPads can offer, making them more suitable for creative work.

All of these extra features cost extra money of course, but we'd say the 10.5-inch iPad Pro hits a nice balance between premium features and price. Add in the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil compatibility (both sold separately) and you can see that Apple is targeting this iPad at people who want to get a serious amount of work done on their tablet.

iPad mini 4

The iPad mini 4

3. iPad mini 4 (2015)

Apple's forgotten iPad

Reasons to buy
+The most compact iPad+Still runs the latest iOS
Reasons to avoid
-Hardware is getting dated

We have to admit to having something of a soft spot for the iPad mini 4, which launched way back in 2015 and seems to have been largely forgotten by Apple. For a good few years, the iPad mini size felt like the perfect size for tablets – the 7.9-inch displays these tablets have give you much more room than your phone without adding too much extra bulk.

In recent years, with phone displays getting bigger and bigger, and iPads becoming more popular for serious work – like word processing and video editing – the 7.9-inch size has slowly become less appealing. But if you want an iPad that's very easy to carry around and can still run all the software of its bigger siblings, then the iPad mini 4 is still a decent buy.

Unfortunately, it's almost as expensive as the 9.7-inch iPad, which makes it hard to recommend, unless you really want that smaller size. If Apple gave the iPad mini a serious upgrade, we reckon this model would be higher in our list, but with its slower processor and single on-board storage option (128GB), we're keeping it down in third place for now.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro

4. 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017)

The full-fat, full-on iPad

Reasons to buy
+Plenty of screen space to play with+Top-end specs and screen
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult to lug around

Okay, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro might take the bottom spot in our list, but it's still a great tablet – it's got all the Pro features we talked about above, like True Tone (screen temperature adjustment), ProMotion (screen refresh rate adjustment), support for the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil (sold separately), and top-of-the-iPad-range specs.

So why isn't it higher in our rankings? Well, it's very big, and it costs a lot of money. You'd better be sure this is the iPad you want before parting with your cash – at this size the iPad is almost impossible to operate with one hand, and is the heaviest iPad by some distance. That said, you do get much more room to get all your various iOS apps on screen at once.

To put it another way, it's suitable for multitasking and video work and word processing, as long as you're not going to be carrying it around too much. If you want the ultimate in iPad excess, and you're willing to pay for it, then maybe the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the one that's best for you – just remember the screen is the same size as a lot of laptop displays.