Best iPad 2018: Which of Apple’s tablets is best to buy right now?
If you’re in the market for a top-notch tablet, for most there will be little reason to look beyond Apple’s mighty iPads. The combination of premium design, powerful hardware and the robust ecosystem of apps and accessories they support is hard to beat.
The company’s October 30th Special Event saw the unveiling of two new iPad Pro models that changed up some of the tablet family’s defining elements, but overall creating an even more potent slate than their predecessors. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of every iPad you can buy right now and what each brings to the table.
Which iPad models can you buy right now?
Apple’s current iPad lineup comprises five models: three iPad Pros, including the two new additions for 2018, one classically styled 9.7-inch iPad, and 2015’s iPad Mini 4.
iPad Pro 12.9-inch – Starting at £969/$999
Just as the iPhone X brought about a significant reimagining of what an iPhone looks and feels like, Apple’s new iPad Pros for 2018 pull a similar trick. They sport a markedly different design and ditch the home button (and Lightning connector) of their predecessors.
The largest of Apple’s new slates features the same-sized screen as last year’s biggest model, but this time it’s set within smaller dimensions overall. The result is a big-screened tablet that, by comparison, should be easier to wield.
It’s powered by Apple’s own A12X Bionic chip – a beefier version of the A12 chip found in this year’s iPhone XS, XS Max and XR, and thanks to upcoming apps such as a full-featured rendition of Adobe Photoshop, users will soon be able to put all of that additional power to meaningful use.
The tablet launched alongside a revised Apple Pencil stylus, which offers the same functionality as before, but with a new design and new gesture controls. What’s more, it magnetically attaches to either 2018 iPad Pro, automatically pairing with them and charging as it does so.
iPad Pro 11-inch – Starting at £769/$799
The smaller 11-inch iPad Pro offers the same underlying hardware and power as its larger sibling in an even more compact package. Impressively, Apple has managed to squeeze this new, larger screen, onto a device that has the same footprint as last year’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the same thickness – at 5.9mm – as the new 12.9-inch model.
The move to USB-C in place of Lighting should negate the necessity for quite so many dongles, letting you more readily interface with peripherals such as external displays and digital cameras. Apple has released new keyboard folio covers for both 2018 Pros, along with implementing an enhanced version of Face ID that works in any orientation.
With the option of LTE and storage now available up to 1TB, it’s clear that Apple is serious about marketing its iPad Pros as legitimate competitors to more traditional laptops, convertibles and 2-in-1s.
iPad Pro 10.5-inch – Starting at £619/$649
If the new iPad Pros are too rich for your blood, or you simply can’t bring yourself to bid farewell to Touch ID and the home button just yet, Apple will continue to sell last year’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro for the time being.
It’s no slouch by any stretch of the imagination, with Apple’s hexa-core A10X Fusion processor, (1st-gen) Apple Pencil support, quad speakers and a killer display. Like its 2018 counterparts, the 10.5-inch 2224 x 1668 screen supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, ProMotion with a 120Hz refresh rate, True Tone automated colour balancing, and the DCI-P3 wide colour space.
There’s no 1TB storage option here, as included with the newer Pros, but you do still have a choice between 64GB, 256GB and 512GB of internal storage.
iPad 9.7-inch – Starting at £319/$329
Not everyone needs the power – or wants to pay the price – of an iPad Pro, and if that’s you then the basic 2018 9.7-inch iPad should be more than capable for your needs. Like the 10.5-inch Pro, you get first-generation Apple Pencil support and a similarly capable A10 Fusion processor running the show. It’s so capable, in fact, that we went so far as to call it an “iPad Pro Mini” in our full review of the slate.
A Touch ID fingerprint sensor resides within the tablet’s bezel, which skirts a 9.7-inch Retina IPS LCD, boasting a resolution of 2048 x 1536 (meaning a pixel density of 264ppi). The software is upgradable to the latest iOS 12.1 release, meaning more tablet-specific interaction options, and while Apple doesn’t offer its own keyboard folio cover as it does for its Pro iPads, you can still find recommended third-party alternatives on the company’s website.
It’s available in a choice of three colours – silver, gold and Space Grey – and storage is split between 32GB and 128GB, with a price hike of £90/$100 for the latter option. An LTE variant is also available for on-the-go connectivity, at a cost.
iPad Mini 4 – Starting at $399/£399
Inexplicably, Apple still sells the iPad Mini 4. A fantastic little tablet when it launched, it’s still an enticing premium option from a design perspective. However, the internals are long overdue an upgrade, especially when you consider that Apple still sells it starting at $399/£399.
There are few other small tablet options out there worth considering. Amazon’s latest Fire tablets are great budget options – although, comparatively, the Fire OS software experience is limited; iOS offers far greater app support and versatility.
Related: Best Cheap Tablets
As you’re paying more for the iPad Mini 4 than you are the base 2018 iPad (even though the former includes far more internal storage, at 128GB) you have to be certain that this tablet’s compact and crisp 7.9-inch display and the dimensions that complement such a screen size are an absolute necessity. Otherwise, you’ll be short-changing yourself.
Which iPad is best for me?
Right now, your money is best spent on Apple’s 11-inch 2018 iPad Pro. It can’t quite serve as a true laptop replacement, but that limitation falls to iOS rather than the Pro’s hardware. However, this does suggest that Apple could make some radical changes in order to close the gap between the two experiences, while still relying on the iPad Pro’s powerful innards.
The A12X Bionic chip is more than capable of ensuring that this slate feels fast and it will multitask faultlessly for a number of years before showing any major signs of degradation. The option of up to 1TB of local storage also means you’ll be unlikely to max out the Pro anytime soon.
The 11-inch model offers greater portability than any other Pro, considering the size/performance balance it strikes. Plus, added extras such as Apple Pencil 2 support and the newly tailored folio covers for the tablet’s redesigned smart connector also extend its creativity and productivity capabilities yet further. Note, too, the switch to USB-C adds greater versatility to the overall package.
Still too much money? Then 2018’s 6th-generation iPad will get you most of the way there for less than half the price – and it won’t feel dated for at least another year.
iPad/iPad Pro competitors
Apple has made sure that if you’re considering a tablet purchase then an iPad will be at the top of your list. However, these stylish slates aren’t a perfect fit for everyone. If you’re not locked into the Apple ecosystem then an iPad might hold little appeal. If this is the case then there are a couple of alternatives worth looking into.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
Samsung’s 2018 tablet of choice offers the same focus as Apple’s iPad Pro line: a premium build with its strengths in entertainment, creativity and productivity. Like the Pro line, the Tab S4 can be paired with an additional folio keyboard. Samsung includes its own S Pen stylus in the box, which means that sketching, annotation and general digital art are feasible as part of the base price.
The Snapdragon 835 processor feels a little dated, but slick technologies such as iris unlock and an HDR-compliant display make up for the comparative lack of raw power.
The Tab S4 also integrates a dedicated DeX mode into its Android-powered user experience, creating a desktop-style environment to work in that includes easier multitasking and floating window support.
Amazon Fire HD 8 (2018)
Amazon’s most recent Fire tablet offers the expected mix of incrementally updated hardware in an eye-catching polycarbonate shell. And at £59.99/$79.99, there’s little reason not to love what the HD 8 is offering here.
The company’s wealth of entertainment and education content is placed front and centre, while the Amazon app store has a few choice offerings to supplement your basic tablet needs.
The addition of integrated Alexa support is one of the HD 8’s most appealing aspects. And paired with the dedicated dock, the tablet can serve as a makeshift Amazon Echo Show for a much lower price.
Check out our Best Tablets roundup for a full rundown on which tablets are worth your money right now.
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