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The best iPads: How to choose the right Pro, Air, or Mini for you

Apple's iPad lineup includes the powerhouse iPad Pro to the portable iPad Air. To help you choose one, ZDNET compared the best iPad models currently available.

Apple's iPad lineup is arguably unmatched by any other platform or tablet maker. While only four options, there is an iPad for everyone and all kinds of uses, whether you want to entertain the kids, use your tablet to create art or design work, replace your laptop, or simply for streaming and entertainment purposes, there is an iPad for everyone. 

From the iPad Mini to the iPad Air or iPad Pro, these premium tablets all consistently find their way to the top of performance charts. They offer 10 hours of battery life, clear and crisp displays, and access to hundreds of thousands of apps in the App Store.

And because Apple keeps updating and enhancing iPadOS, the iPad keeps gaining valuable features like widgets on the home screen, trackpad support, new Apple Pencil features, and more Mac-like features, while differentiating the tablet lineup from the iPhone.

Below, you'll find Apple's current iPad lineup and details about what differentiates each model in a bid to help you find the best iPad model for you. 


Pros & Cons
  • iPadOS 16.1's new multitasking feature
  • Strong performance thanks to M2 chip
  • The most expensive, by a long shot
  • Not many changes compared to previous model
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 11-inch Liquid Retina display or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion and True Tone | Processor: Apple Silicon M2 | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB | Biometrics: Face ID | Colors: Silver, space gray | Cameras: 12MP wide, 10MP ultrawide rear and 12MP TrueDepth FaceTime front | Weight: 11-inch: 1.03 pounds 12.9-inch: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 11-inch: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches, 12.9-inches: 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25-inches| Connections: USB-C Thunderbolt/USB-4 | Battery life: 10 hours

Apple's 2022 iPad Pro lineup is by far the most capable and impressive iPad lineup we've seen, making it our best overall pick. It's also the most expensive, by a long shot. The design hasn't changed all that much on the outside, but on the inside, you'll find Apple's M2 processor which consists of 20 billion transistors — 25 percent more than the M1. It's the same exact processor that Apple is using in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

We spent some time with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and found it to be faster and more capable than any other iPad model we've tested to date. You can expect downloads up to 2.4Gbps, twice as fast as the previous model, 15 percent faster performance, and up to 35 percent faster graphics performance. 

Review: iPad Pro (2022) review: I'm cautiously optimistic. Or foolish

The Pro also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, and there's a new hover feature thanks to the M2 chip. The feature works like this: once the tip of the Apple Pencil gets near the iPad Pro's display, and when it's within 12 millimeters, parts of the interface come to life in apps that support the new feature. The Smart Connector is on the back of the iPad Pro, giving you the option to use it with the Magic Keyboard, which includes backlit keys and trackpad, or Apple's Smart Keyboard.

And, although the differences between the fifth generation and this sixth generation model are more subtle, the M2 chip is really what shines here, making it a powerhouse tablet. The iPad Pro, combined with iPadOS and the M2 chip, is as close as you can get to a laptop without actually buying a laptop.

Also: M1 iPad Pro (2021) vs M2 iPad Pro (2022): Is it worth the upgrade?

The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for the Wi-Fi model and $999 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,099 for the Wi-Fi model and $1,299 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

Pros & Cons
  • Modern design
  • USB-C port
  • Landscape front-facing camera is superior to other iPad models
  • Four colors to choose from
  • $120 more than predecessor
  • Dongle required to charge Apple Pencil (1st Gen)
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone | Processor: A14 Bionic chip with 16-core Neural Engine | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Silver, Pink, Blue, Yellow  | Cameras: 12MP f/1.8 wide, 12MP Landscape f/2.4 front | Weight: 1.05 pounds | Dimensions: 9.79 x 7.07 x .28 inches | Connections: USB-C, Smart Connector | Battery life: Up to 10 hours of video playback with USB-C charging

Apple's tried-and-true tablet, the base model iPad, is arguably the best value out of the group. You get all of the same features as the more expensive Pro and Air models in a lightweight form factor with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and thinner bezels than the previous generation. 

Review: iPad 2022 (10th Gen) review: Better than the Pro in two ways

Apple updated the iPad in the fall of 2022 with the A14 Bionic processor, USB-C support, 5G support for on-the-go tasks, and a new 12MP ultra-wide camera. It also has support for the Magic Keyboard Folio made specifically for this iPad and includes an adjustable kickstand with a 14-key function row for shortcuts. 

It also comes in new and fun colors that break out of the standard space gray and silver we have seen for so long. The colors include pink, blue, yellow, and the expected Apple silver. 

One major downside of the new iPad is that it doesn't support the second-generation Apple Pencil. Instead, you'll have to connect your second-generation Apple Pencil to a dongle in order to use it, making it an unnecessary hassle.

Another thing to consider is Apple increased the price of its base-model iPad by $120. You'll now have to shell out $449 for this iPad. Still, it's currently the cheapest iPad in the lineup.

Pros & Cons
  • M1 processor and 5G connectivity
  • Touch ID sensor doubles as a power button
  • Compatible with Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil
  • Same design we saw Apple bring to the Air in late 2020
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 10.9-inch Retina display | Processor: Apple Silicon M1 | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Space gray, starlight, pink, purple, blue | Cameras: 12MP rear, 4K video. 12MP Ultra Wide camera | Weight: 1.02 pounds | Dimensions: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 inches | Connections: USB-C port | Battery life: 10 hours

Apple's latest update to the iPad Air is more of a catch-up announcement than anything. The fifth-generation iPad Air keeps the same design we saw Apple bring to the Air in late 2020, but it now boasts an M1 processor and 5G connectivity. That's a lot of performance for the cost, which starts at $599. 

Review: iPad Air (2022) review: So good I almost regret buying my iPad Pro

The Air still sits confidently between the base iPad and the iPad Pro when you look at the price, but it's effectively caught up to the iPad Pro in terms of performance. But with a 10.9-inch display and a Touch ID sensor that doubles as a power button on the side of its housing, it's more affordable and slightly different than the iPad Pro. The new iPad Air still works with the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil. 

Apple also updated the color lineup for the Air, matching the iPad Mini's color lineup, with the addition of a new blue color. 

Where the iPad Pro is the model for those who want nothing but the best, the iPad Air is the model for those who want to use the tablet for work and play, without big sacrifices in performance or features. 

Also: iPad Air (2022) vs iPad Pro (2022): How to choose

At the $599 starting price, the iPad Air comes with 64GB or $749 for 256GB of storage. You can add cellular to it for an extra $130. For (practically) everyone, this is the iPad to get if you don't want the base iPad but don't want to spend over $1,000 on an iPad Pro.  

Pros & Cons
  • USB-C port
  • Support for the second-generation Apple Pencil
  • Charges the Apple Pencil
  • Touch ID in the top button
  • $150 more for cellular connectivity
  • It's smaller, but also more expensive
  • Unless you really value the size, you're better off going with another iPad
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display | Processor: A15 Bionic | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Space gray, pink, purple, starlight | Cameras: 8MP rear, 1080p video. 12MP FaceTime camera with Center Stage | Weight: 0.65 pounds | Dimensions: 7.69 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches | Connections: USB-C | Battery life: 10 hours

If you want something smaller and more manageable, the Apple iPad Mini fits the bill. Apple's recent update to the Mini brought it current with the company's new flat-edge design, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil. 

It's powered by the A15 Bionic processor, and the display size was increased from 7.9 inches to 8.3 inches. By removing the home button and putting Touch ID in the top button that's used to sleep/wake the tablet, the overall size of the Mini actually decreased. 

Review: Apple iPad Mini (6th Gen.) review

There's a spot on the right side of the tablet to charge the Apple Pencil, and it makes for a fantastic tablet to draw or write notes on. 

You have the option of 64GB or 256GB of storage, with the former priced at $499 and the latter at $649 for the Wi-Fi-only models. If you want to add cellular connectivity, you're looking at a $150 increase. It's smaller but also more expensive, so unless you really value the size, you're better off going with another iPad. 

What is the best iPad?

The iPad Pro is the best iPad money can buy. It's the most capable in terms of performance and can be used for anything from graphic design to entertainment.

iPad model




iPad Pro

 11-inch Liquid Retina display or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display

Apple Silicon M2

1.03-1.5 pounds


10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone

A14 Bionic

1.05 pounds

iPad Air

10.9-inch Retina display

Apple Silicon M1

1.02 pounds

iPad Mini

8.3-inch Liquid Retina display

A15 Bionic

0.65 pounds

Which is the best iPad for you?

If you're stuck between getting the base model iPad or the iPad Air (or for that matter, the iPad Air or the iPad Pro), we recommend sitting down and thinking of all the ways you want to use the iPad. 

If your list primarily consists of consumption activities, like watching videos and reading news, odds are the base model iPad is what you should go with. However, if you want to do a fair amount of emailing, messaging, writing, or web browsing, then the iPad Air is where your search should begin. As for the iPad Pro, it's clear that it's now meant for users who plan to push it to its limits while they work, be it by connecting multiple accessories and monitors, or other peripherals.

If you need a laptop replacement and love the iPad, then the iPad Pro is where to start your search.  

Choose this iPad...

If you want...

iPad Pro

The best overall option


The portability of a tablet but don't want to replace your computer

iPad Air

To use your tablet for work and play

iPad Mini

Something smaller and more manageable

How did we choose these iPad models?

I, myself, and other ZDNET writers like Jason Cirpirani have been testing and using tablets for years. The selection process for the best iPad consists of using the tablet, reading other reviews both from consumers and product reviewers, and then determining what should and shouldn't make the list. 

What is the best iPad for kids?

The base model iPad is the best tablet for kids since it's easy to use, lightweight, and can grow with your child as they need it for different purposes. The iPad Mini would also be a good choice, since it's the smallest iPad in the lineup, perfect for little hands. 

What is the best iPad for drawing?

The best iPad for drawing is definitely the iPad Pro, thanks to its Mini LED Display that Apple calls Liquid Retina XDR, which is brighter and offers more color contrast when you're drawing. 

The Pro is also great for drawing since it supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, with a magnetic spot on the side to charge it. 

What is the best iPad for students?

The best iPad for students would have to be the fifth-generation iPad Air. It has many of the same features as the powerful iPad Pro, but costs a lot less for students' budgets. It's also compatible with the Magic Keyboard and the second-generation Apple Pencil, so students can utilize it in different ways. 

What are the differences between an iPad, Amazon Fire, and a Samsung tablet?

It's easy to see the price difference between one of Amazon's Fire tablets and an iPad. However, you have to remember that Amazon designs and builds its tablets as entry-level tablets that do the bare minimum. 

Performance is going to be slower, and app selection is going to be worse on Amazon's Fire tablet lineup. The iPad has access to the same App Store the iPhone does, with most of those apps optimized to take advantage of the larger display on the iPad. 

As far as Samsung tablets go, these devices will run on Android OS and are closer to iPads in terms of performance, design, and features. The Galaxy Tab S series is ideal for users who need power, such as creators or professionals. The tablets in this series have larger screens and more processing power, and could be closely compared to the iPad Pro. 

On the other hand, Samsung also makes a Galaxy Tab A series, which comes at a lower price point with smaller screens for those who need a simple tablet for everyday tasks and entertainment. 

Are there alternative iPad models to consider?

If you still want an iPad but want to pay less and don't mind older versions, you can buy a renewed iPad through Amazon's Renewed Store, which sells sell high-quality like-new products that are refurbished and pre-owned. 

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