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 four different sizes, each with its own components and perks, not to mention a distinct price point. Hey, at least it's better than Apple's iPhone situation right now, since there are eight different handsets still up for sale.
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 10.5 (From £619)
Here it is: our favourite tablet in the world, and therefore our pick for the best iPad of the bunch in 2018. It's the newest size in Apple's lineup: the 10.5in display is a solid couple of inches smaller than the original 12.9in iPad Pro, and just a smidge larger than the core 9.7in iPad size.
And it's a stunner. The 2224x1668 screen is a gorgeous LCD panel with a wide colour gamut and brilliant contrast, as well as True Tone technology that automatically adjusts the colours based on your ambient lighting conditions. This iPad Pro is also packed with power, thanks to its A10X Fusion processor, and has an iPhone 7-caliber 12-megapixel back camera.
Paired with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, it's a nearly-unbeatable portable productivity machine, and it's a lot easier to carry around than a standard laptop. But even without those pricey accessories, the iPad Pro 10.5 is still an ideal machine for getting work done thanks to its size, power, and iOS 11's tablet-centric enhancements.
The base 64GB Wi-Fi model starts at £619 and ranges up to £969 for 512GB of storage, while the cellular-equipped versions range from £749 to £1099.
Buy the iPad Pro 10.5 if… you want top-of-the-line power in a modest package
iPad (From £319)
Now this is the iPad that we all know and love from years ago. Apple released a new, core 9.7in iPad in 2017, and now the 2018 edition is here with a couple of key upgrades - and a lower price, amazingly.
Apple's latest iPad is a bit trimmed down from the iPad Pro, expectedly, given the price difference. The A10 Fusion processor here is a smidge behind the A10X Fusion in the Pro models, although there shouldn't be much of a performance difference in day-to-day usage. 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 the four speakers 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 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 plenty powerful, it still looks great, and it'll run any apps, games, or media you throw at it. And now Pencil support makes it vastly more appealing. For most buyers today, this is probably your iPad.
Buy the iPad (2018) if… you want a well-rounded, well-priced tablet with Pencil support
iPad Pro 12.9 (From £769)
While the previous iPad models are suitably well-sized, the 12.9in iPad Pro tips the scales and feels expectedly massive. But that can be a good thing: this is the best iPad for creative expression, especially if you want to use its touch display for drawing, photo editing, or other acts that require plenty of screen real estate.
It's also the perfect coffee table device if you plan to use your iPad primarily at home and on the couch. Basically, it's a laptop screen set free as a tablet, but the size does make it a bit cumbersome for on-the-go usage, extensive reading, and one-handed interactions.
But if you're into the size, the iPad Pro 12.9 won't disappoint. It's essentially equipped identically to the 10.5in model, with the A10X chip, a 2732x2048 screen (at the same 264 pixels per inch), a 12MP back camera, and 10 hours of battery life. And yes, it works perfectly with both the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard for a makeshift, convertible laptop experience.
Buy the iPad Pro 12.9 if… you're creative or want a big screen in your lap
iPad Mini 4 (From £399)
The iPad Mini 4 occupies a strange space in Apple's lineup. It's the smallest iPad, of course, with a 7.9in display – but at £399, it's not the cheapest of the bunch, nor is it more powerful than the newer, entry-level iPad. In fact, it's two years old at this point, and uses an aging A8 processor.
Granted, the £399 Mini 4 comes with 128GB storage, and it's £10 less than the 128GB version of the 9.7in iPad. But for a tenner, you'll not only get the larger screen, but also a much faster processor too. In the Mini's favour, it does have the anti-reflective coating that the standard iPad lacks, plus it has the crispest screen of an iPad thanks to its compact size.
Given the price and its age, the iPad Mini 4 feels a bit left behind. Apple keeps it around to satisfy customers who like the smaller form factor, but hasn't seen fit to actually update the device in a couple years now. And in an age of larger and larger smartphones, the 7.9in size seems a bit less necessary for anyone who has a big handset.
But if you love the smaller size and want the heftier storage, this is still a pretty good iPad. We would probably just point you towards the standard, newly-updated 9.7in iPad instead.
Buy the iPad Mini 4 if… you must have the smallest iPad around