What you might consider the best iPad in 2021 isn’t necessarily the best iPad for someone else. There’s no ultimate iPad for everyone because different users have different needs.
Luckily, Apple has thought of exactly that, which is why it has several iPad models – so that every user can have the best iPad to cater to their needs and budget. That’s more apparent than ever this year. While all models might look pretty similar to the untrained or less discerning eye, they couldn't be more different if they tried, which only benefits consumers.
With a few different iPad options on hand, it means that the more budget-minded won’t have to blow all their savings to own one while those who require a lot of power won’t have to settle for anything less.
But, does it also make choosing a little trickier? Perhaps, but that’s what we’re here for. Whatever it is you plan on using that brand-new iPad for, we’re here to ensure that you choose the right one by listing their similarities, highlighting their differences, and enumerating the advantages each one brings to the table.
Just remember, though, that right here we cover the best iPads on the market, but you may be better suited to a slate from another maker, so be sure to also check out T3's best tablets and best tablets for kids buying guides, too.
The best iPads you can buy today
Part of why tablets have become so popular is the level of portability they offer. Next to these, laptops feel like massive bulky things that would be better left at home. And, in that way, that 11-inch iPad Pro beats its larger almost 13-inch brother. That size is just right and portable enough for a lot of people while keeping things incredibly fast and potent for power users who’ll want to use it for the more demanding creative endeavours.
The 11-inch iPad Pro has the A12Z Bionic chip powering it, a variant of the A12 chip only with more CPU and GPU cores, as well as (allegedly) the same amount of RAM as the 12.9-inch, which means it’s more than capable of performing multi-core tasks like video editing. But, that’s not all that’s the same here. Both have the same cameras, the same display specs and features, the same video recording capabilities, and the same accessories support (including Apple Pencil 2 and the aptly-named Magic Keyboard).
In fact, you can count their technical differences on the fingers of one hand. Even with the 12.9-inch one having a bigger battery, this 11-inch iPad Pro rivals its longevity at up to 10 hours on a single charge.
What makes it all the better is that it offers all that while keeping things more affordable. At £200/$200 less, it’s certainly just a bit more accessible to more people. So, even if it’s more power than you’ll ever need or use, you can justify getting it if you fancy a souped up tablet.
Bear in mind, however, that this is still a kitted out iPad designed for creative professionals who need a portable solution for their demanding needs while on the go, complete with features that most people will probably never utilize in their lifetime. So, only commit if you have some extra cash lying around and you want the best of the best or it’ll prove most useful to your daily workload.
The classics never really go out of style, and the same can be said about the tablet that started it all. While the Apple iPad (2020) now has brothers that are either more portable, better looking, or more powerful, this original model is still the best iPad for most people. And, that’s why Apple hasn’t stopped updating it eight generations later.
For 2020, it’s better than ever. Sure, there are still a few things that Apple could have improved on. Those thick top and bottom bezels, for example, should already be a thing of the past. Plus, at 7.5mm thick, it feels bulkier than the rest of the iPad family, including the biggest iPad Pro.
However, where the manufacturer has improved it, it has done so impressively. It now has the A12 Bionic chip inside, which is faster and more efficient than the previous generation’s A10 Fusion chip. It now also has a slightly bigger display and higher resolution than the 6th-generation. And, of course, it comes with many of the features the new iPadOS 14 has brought in.
Those users hoping to utilize this iPad for squeezing in some work emails and tasks while on the go or traveling will appreciate that it comes with Apple Pencil (1st Generation) and Smart Keyboard support, as well as up to 128GB of storage space. That storage option is also a boon to those with a penchant for taking photos and videos with their iPads, although admittedly that 8MP rear camera badly needs a proper overhaul.
The best part about the iPad, however, is that it’s an incredibly affordable proposition, sitting at an under £400/$400 price point for its Wi-Fi only models. It’s even cheaper than the iPad mini while touting similar features as well as a couple of advantages. Whether or not you’re on a budget, however, this iPad is a worthy contender.
Those who are tired of the same neutral colors on their devices will very much appreciate the color options the Apple iPad Air (2020) comes in. On top of silver, space gray, and rose gold, it also comes in green and sky blue, which add to this tablet’s appeal. Cute as it may be, it doesn’t take away from its capabilities. And, this is one capable device.
This new generation iPad Air comes powered by the new A14 Bionic chip, which is the fastest chip in an iPad right now with a 3.1GHz boost clock. This chip, according to Apple, delivers 40% faster CPU and 30% GPU performance. That means that it’s powerful enough to perform lighter photo and video editing tasks. Though again, it’s not going to be as fast as the iPad Pros whose A12Z chip comes with more cores. Still, it’s plenty powerful for productivity tasks and multi-tasking. That’s without mentioning its 4K at up to 60fps recording capabilities and 1080p slow motion at up to 240fps.
Office workers who send out a lot of emails, prepare a hefty number of documents, and organize events on a daily basis will love it. As will writers, journalists, and college students. In fact, it’s the perfect mid-range laptop alternative, helped by its compatibility with the Magic Keyboard and both generations of the Apple Pencil (much like the Pros), which are a dream to use with it.
The fact that it's lighter than the rest, save for the iPad mini of course, makes it the perfect companion for digital nomads who’d rather not lug around a laptop, even something as small and lightweight as a MacBook Pro 13-inch.
Finally, iPad Air users who are considering upgrading from their older models will appreciate its higher resolution camera, bigger, better, and higher resolution display, and USB-C port. One nifty thing it does have that the iPad Pros don’t is that Touch ID feature beautifully integrated into its power button. Well, that and that more accessible price tag.
Still, the Apple iPad mini is already great in its current iteration, and its performance is good enough to allow you to squeeze in some productivity tasks every now and again. Plus, you can’t beat that price.
Don’t underestimate the iPad mini’s tiny packaging. This little tablet that could comes with the same A12 Bionic chip and 3GB memory as the iPad (2020), which Apple could even upgrade this year when it’s 2021 successor comes out. It even has the same rear camera and the same video recording capabilities. And, to its credit, it has bigger storage options and a higher resolution front camera than the iPad, which gives it a bit of an edge.
Though if we’re being honest, it’s really the mini’s pocketable form factor that is the main selling point here. It’s almost half the size of the iPad Pro and less than half its weight, making it an excellent companion for those who prefer traveling light over sheer power.
In fact, the iPad mini is just the ticket, in fact, if all you really need from your tablet is to read e-books, catch up on current events, stream shows and movies, and perhaps organize your schedule on a digital planner. Thanks to its compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil and some Bluetooth keyboards, that last part is easier than ever.
There are some things that we hope Apple might improve on for its next generation. Those thick bezels scream early 2000s, and the thinner they get, the more screen real estate you have without compromising its minuscule size. And, since it’s already inherently adorable, some fun color options would be nice.
Thanks to its support for the Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard, users can really get a lot of work done. And, that’s despite the fact that the touchpad support isn’t completely there yet as far as reliability.
It’s clear that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is built with creators in mind. This tablet simply begs to be utilized for creativity, from its display and cameras down to its specs inside. Not only is it powered with Apple’s A12Z chip, touting an eight-core CPU and an eight-core GPU that are just the ticket for multi-core tasks like photo and video editing, but it also comes with a host of features most useful to creative professionals.
That IPS display, for one, is a beaut, fitted with the highest resolution of any iPad, a brightness of 600 nits, and a spacious 12.9-inch screen – not to mention, Apple’s ProMotion technology that affords it a whopping 120Hz refresh rate for the smoothest viewing experience and P3 wide color gamut that’s ideal for editing. Its 11-inch brother has those features as well, but you still can’t beat that bigger screen real estate.
Then there’s its cameras. The new iPad Pros not only has one, but two cameras, thanks to Apple slapping on a new 10MP ƒ/2.4 camera in the rear for good measure. Because every photographer and videographer knows that taking brilliant images is just as much about having great lenses as it is about having a terrific camera and the necessary skills. Other features worthy of a mention? How about its 4K at up to 60fps and 1080p at up to 240fps recording capabilities?
Those interested in augmented reality will also appreciate the inclusion of a LiDAR scanner. It may not have a lot of applications at the moment, but it is the future of tech and having one on the Pros is essentially future-proofing them.
While one could argue that the iPad Pro 12.9-inch is big and expensive enough that you might as well get a laptop, none of those laptops beat its thin frame and portability – not even the revered MacBook Air M1, which by the way has a lower resolution and only 400 nits of brightness.
How to choose the right iPad for you
Every iPad is a balance between portability, performance, and price. At the same time, not every performance or price or level of portability is the same. There are differences in size and thickness, in power and specs, even in functionalities and features.
For example, the current iPad Pros are powered by Apple’s A12Z chip while the newer iPad Air comes with the newer A14. However, while the A14 chip may have faster clock speeds, the A12Z is a much more capable multi-core performer, making the iPad Pros better for such tasks as photo and video editing and the iPad Air a much more cost effective solution for productivity.
There are other things to consider as well: available accessories, support for other tech, and all the other bells and whistles that will prove useful to you. Choosing the right iPad for you, therefore, boils down to a few things, including your budget, your needs, and even your aesthetic.
We know it sounds like a lot for picking a tablet, but if you’re going to be spending anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand pounds or dollars, you should get the most ideal one for you.
- These are the very best tablets you can buy today