Once upon a time, buying an iPad just meant buying the iPad. There was one model, and nothing else on the market came close to it.
But these days, Apple has four different iPads in five different sizes, each with its own components and perks not to mention wildly varying price tags.
Still, if you're planning on spending a few (or several) hundred quid on a tablet, you'll want to make sure you end up with the device that's perfectly suited for your needs. Which iPad is best for you? Let's explore…
iPad Pro 11in (from £769)
Apple might’ve made the 12.9in iPad Pro physically smaller but we still reckon the 11in one is the better option for most people. For starters, you can get the entry level one for £200 less.
Even though the home button has been ditched it’s still not quite all screen, with a fairly chunky bezel needed to house the TrueDepth camera, at least in comparison to the one on your phone. Face ID works a treat, whether you’re holding the Pro in portrait or landscape, but once it’s unlocked you’ll be too busy gazing at that 2388x1668 Liquid Retina display to care about what’s surrounding it.
The A12X Bionic chip inside the iPad Pro makes it an absolute speed demon. Geekbench reckons it’s almost as powerful as a 15in Macbook Pro and whether it’s complex multi-layered image files or a remix of your latest single you throw at it, there’s not a bead of binary sweat in sight.
It’s worth noting that if you’re looking for something to send emails and manage spreadsheets on a traditional laptop is probably a better bet. But with the new wireless-charging Pencil and the USB-C port making it easier to hook up to external displays, if you want to do the kind of ‘creative’ things you see people doing in Apple ads, the 11in iPad Pro really is a joy to use.
And if you need an even larger canvas, the 12.9in model starts at £969 (gulp). It's gorgeous, but that is a hefty price bump.
Buy the iPad Pro 11in if… you're creative or want a big screen in your lap
iPad Air (From £479)
There used to be a pretty significant gulf between the iPad Pro and the standard, entry-level iPad – but now with the newly-revived iPad Air, you can get a plenty powerful, perk-laden iPad that doesn't quite have every bell and whistle… or the gargantuan price point to match.
You'll get the same A12 Bionic processor seen in the iPhone XS (but not the more powerful A12X from the iPad Pro), with a 10.5in display that's fully laminated and has anti-reflective coating. It's a True Tone, wide-colour display too, plus the iPad Air supports the first-gen Apple Pencil and also the Smart Keyboard.
You'll save another £160 by going with the regular iPad instead, but that tablet's processor is a bit dated, the smaller screen isn't as nice, and it doesn't support the Smart Keyboard. If you're going to use your iPad for any kind of serious creation or productivity needs, but aren't willing to spend several hundred quid on a tablet, go with the iPad Air.
Buy the iPad Air if… you want a powerful iPad without the bloated price tag
iPad Mini (From £399)
Apple strangely kept a dated iPad Mini in the lineup for a few years without an upgrade, but finally – finally – the smallest iPad packs about as much of a punch as larger editions.
The 2019 iPad Mini features the same A12 chip as the iPad Air and the iPhone XS, plus it has the sharpest screen of all of them since it packs the same amount of pixels into a smaller 7.9in frame.
And since this iPad Mini also supports the Apple Pencil, it's an ideal tablet to carry around for sketching and doodling, although any serious artists could do well with a larger frame. The design hasn't changed a lick after all of these years, but it's the best pick for portability.
Buy the iPad Mini if… you want the most portable iPad around
iPad (From £319)
If you’re looking for an affordable and relatively straightforward tablet experience, Apple’s regular 9.7in iPad is probably a better match.
The latest version is trimmed down from the iPad Pro, expectedly, given the price difference. The A10 Fusion processor here isn’t as powerful as the A12X Bionic chip inside the Pro models or the standard A12 in the others, although for standard day-to-day tasks there shouldn’t be a dramatic performance difference. The screen lacks anti-reflective coating, so it's not quite as much of a pleasure to look at in bright lighting. Likewise, the stereo speakers don't hold up to those on the Pro models, and the 8MP camera here is a bit dated.
But the addition of Apple Pencil support in the 2018 model is an enormous upgrade for anyone who wants to jot down notes, sketch, annotate documents, or scribble to their heart's content. The first-gen Pencil is still pretty pricey at £89, but at least the total buy-in for a compatible model has dropped considerably. It is lacking the Smart Connector for other accessories, however.
All things considered, this feels like the iPad for the vast majority of people. It's the cheapest of the bunch at £319 for the 32GB model, it's still solidly powerful, it still looks good, and it'll run any apps, games, or media you throw at it. And now Pencil support makes it vastly more appealing.
Buy the iPad (2018) if… you want a well-rounded, well-priced tablet with Pencil support