What’s the best iPad to buy?
If you’re on the hunt for a tablet, chances are an iPad is top of your wishlist, and for good reason.
Since Google unceremoniously announced it was pulling out of the tablet market, outside of Microsoft’s business/productivity focussed Surface-line, Apple’s been left pretty much unopposed in the space.
But that hasn’t stopped it releasing all manner of great iPads over the years, with highlights including industry leading high refresh rate screens, top notch performance and an app ecosystem that puts the competition to shame.
2020 continues this trend and has been another great year for the iPad line with Apple having unveiled a new iPad Air 4 and iPad 8, giving it a complete portfolio of tablets covering multiple price points and user cases.
The wealth of choice is awesome, but it can make knowing which iPad is right for your specific needs a little tricky, especially considering how similar some of the models look.
If you’re just after a tablet to keep the kids entertained, there’s no point shelling out for a top end Pro-model with a keyboard and Apple Pencil. Equally, if you’re looking to do creative work, you’ll definitely want to pay the premium and get one with a large ProMotion display and stylus.
Here to make sure you get the exact right iPad for your needs, we created this guide detailing the best iPads we’ve reviewed that are still on the market.
Editor’s note: The iPad Air 4 isn’t out until October which is why it isn’t featured in this list. We’ll update this guide once we’ve reviewed it.
- Best for portability: iPad Mini 5
- Best all-round: iPad Pro
- Best for value: iPad 8
1. iPad Mini 5 – Starting at £399/$399
Best for portability
Barely touched in years, Apple’s announcement of an updated iPad Mini 5 in 2019 came as something of a shock.
The fifth-generation iPad Mini looks very much like the older ones, with the classic metal and glass design along with a TouchID-toting home button, Lightning connector and headphone jack. What is new though is that the 7.9-inch display now supports Apple’s True Tone tech for altering the colour temperature depending on your environment to make it a lot more comfortable to read on. You’ve also got Apple’s latest A12 Bionic chipset and support for the Apple Pencil.
Read our full iPad Mini 5 review
2. iPad Pro 11-inch – Starting at £769/$799
Best all-round iPad
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 2017’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the same thickness – at 5.9mm – as the newer 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.
Read our full iPad Pro review
3. iPad Pro 12.9-inch – Starting at £969/$999
Best iPad for power users
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 newest slates features the same-sized screen as 2017’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 handle.
It’s powered by Apple’s own A12X Bionic chip – a beefier version of the A12 chip found in 2018’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.
Read our full iPad Pro review
4. iPad 9.7-inch (2018) – Starting at £319/$329
The Best value iPad
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 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.
Read our iPad 9.7-inch 2018 review
5. iPad 8
The best entry level iPad
If you’re a regular person that just wants a tablet to browse the internet, occasionally game and watch Netflix or Disney Plus on the go then the iPad 8 is the best option on the market right now.
It doesn’t have most of the fancy features you’ll find on Apple’s more expensive iPads, but by getting nearly all the basics right, it’ll be more than good enough for 99% of buyers.
The new A13 Bionic chip is super fast and ensures the iPad is more than powerful enough to run nearly every app on the App Store and any game you’ll find on Apple Arcade. The screen doesn’t have the high refresh rate or DCIP3 colour gamut coverage of more expensive models, but it’s still bright and wonderfully vibrant.
The only serious downside for most buyers is its slightly retro design, which features fairly large and chunky bezels by today’s standards. Still, even with this small flaw, all-in-all, for less than £350 you’ll struggle to find a better iPad.
Read our iPad 8 review
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.
- Check out our Best tablets roundup for a full rundown on which tablets are worth your money right now.