Apple currently sells five iPads. There’s the iPad, iPad Mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. Here lies the question, which one is right for you?
Let’s start off by taking a look at all the iPad currently for sale.
(11″ – $799, 12.9″ – $999)
We’re going to start by looking at the higher end of the line iPad line, the iPad Pro. It’s like a combination of the MacBook Pro and iPhone Pro. You can choose between a 12.9-inch or 11-inch sized screen featuring “ProMotion Technology,” Apple’s fancy talk for 120Hz. To put it simply, this is what gives the iPad Pro a fast, smooth feeling when navigating. The 2020 iPad Pro is powered by the A12z Bionic chip, which is Apple’s current high-end processor for iPads. It features a fully-fledged camera array including wide and ultra-wide camera lenses, a flash, and a LiDAR Scanner for augmented reality (AR), 3D spaces. Flipping around the front, you will find the TruDepth camera, used as the front-facing camera and FaceID. You will find two speaker grills at the top and two at the bottom. In between the bottom speakers is USB-C instead of Lightning, more on that later. Both sets come together to create an excellent audio experience. The iPad Pro also supports the second-gen Apple Pencil, which conveniently attaches to the iPad both for storage and to recharge. Upon checkout, you can upgrade the storage capacity from 128GB up to 1 TB and choose between space gray and silver colors.
Up next, we take a look at the iPad Air, just a step down from the iPad Pro. The iPad Air takes all the important parts of the Pro and leaves the rest behind. That being said, the Air misses out on the TrueDepth camera system in favor of the FaceTime HD camera. Without the TrueDepth camera, FaceID was dropped in favor of TouchID built into the sleep/wake button. Continuing with the cameras, the Air skips out on the multiple lenses and LiDAR Scanner in favor of a single wide lens. They also have roughly the same displays minus ProMotion. However, the iPad Air gets the generic A14 which is still super fast and on par with the A12Z of the iPad Pro. Almost everything else is the same, Apple Pencil 2 support, USB-C charging, and speaker arrangement. When checking out, you can choose between a wide range of colors and upgrade the storage from 64GB up to 256GB.
(8th Generation – $329)
Then on to the standard 8th gen iPad (2020). This is the most basic of iPad. It uses the old design language with a TouchID home button. The camera is super basic, but I’ll get the job done. I think the 10.2-inch screen is the perfect size for a tablet. You get to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack and only one speaker grill at the bottom between the lightning port. All of this is powered by the A12 processor, which was originally launched in the iPhone XS. During checkout, you can choose your color option, space gray, silver, or gold, and upgrade the storage from 64GB to 128GB.
(5th Generation – $399)
Last is the 5th gen iPad Mini from 2019. The iPad Mini takes the iPad and shrinks it to a 7.9-inch display. Ironically it’s about an inch bigger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Other than the screen, everything is the same as the 8th gen iPad. When checking out, you can choose from the same color options as the standard iPad. For storage options, you can upgrade from the basic 64GB up to 256GB.
Which Should You Pick Up?
Here comes the question, which should you get?
Well, the iPad Mini is an obvious no-go. It hasn’t been updated since 2019, not that its internals are out of date, but I think it’s pretty overpriced for what it is. The only reason I see to buy an iPad Mini is that you really want a smaller 7.2-inch screen. Other than that, get the basic iPad.
Another question, do you plan on using an Apple Pencil? If so, you should go with either the iPad Air or iPad Pro. The iPad Mini and iPad both still use the terribly designed 1st gen Apple Pencil which is such a pain. You have to deal with multiple small pieces that are easy to lose, there is nowhere to put the pencil when you’re not using it, and you plug the pencil into the iPad to charge it. The 2nd gen is superior in every way. Gone are the small pieces, and when you’re finished, you can magnetically attach it to the iPad Air or iPad Pro to charge. However, if you plan on using the Apple Pencil often, you may prefer using the iPad Pro, the faster screen will make your pencil work seem more instantaneous.
Do you plan on using external devices like a TV, external flash drive, dock, or USB keyboard and mouse? Then once again, you should go with the iPad Air or iPad Pro. Both of these devices have USB-C instead of Lightning. With USB-C, you can basically plug any USB accessory into your iPad. If you already have a 2016 or newer MacBook, you probably also have a collection of adapters, docks, and cables that will now also work on your iPad.
When it comes to the iPad Pro versus the iPad Air, it gets a little tricky. Are the small benefits of the iPad Pro important enough to spend the extra money? Is FaceID, the smoother display, and the fully-fledged camera array important to you, or are you looking for a 12-inch display? Then the iPad Pro is for you. Other than that, I think most people can get away with the iPad Air.
Last but not least, we have the standard 8th gen iPad. This is the perfect device for the non-pro user who wants an iPhone on a bigger screen. This is the average user who checks their emails, browses the web, and pays the bills. At a starting price of $329, the iPad is pretty unbeatable, especially when compared to other Windows devices at that price point.
That’s a rundown of the iPads currently available for purchase. And of course, any of this can change at any time. For instance, there are rumors of a new iPad Pro possibly being released this year. Another option you have is to purchase a Certified Refurbished iPad. They are repackaged as new then discounted.
But, no matter which one you pick, you can’t really go wrong. As I said in my iPhone 12 unboxing and first impressions, iOS is iOS, whether on an iPhone 7 or iPhone 12. At the same time, iPadOS is iPadOS, whether on an iPad Mini or iPad Pro.
- MacRumors Buyers Guide
- 12.9-Inch iPad Pro With Mini-LED Display Rumored to Launch in First Quarter of 2021