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The best iPad models: Expert tested

Whether you want to use the iPad for entertainment, studying, or work, I'll help you choose the best iPad model for your needs.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief
Reviewed by Allison Murray

Why you can trust ZDNET

ZDNET's reviewers and editors have been testing and using tablets for years. When we test a new iPad, we spend at least two weeks (and often several months) using the device in our everyday lives -- doing everything from working to browsing to video editing to streaming shows to gaming. We seek to get a feel for how you'd actually use the device day to day, and any pros and cons related to performance, display, battery life, cameras, and other features.

What to Consider

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Form factor

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Compatibility

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Price

iPad Air (5th generation) | Best iPad overall
iPad Air blue from the back
iPad Air (5th generation)
Best iPad overall
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iPad (10th generation) | Best iPad for FaceTime and Zoom
Apple iPad 10th Gen with Apple Pencil
iPad (10th generation)
Best iPad for FaceTime and Zoom
View now View at Amazon
iPad (9th generation) | Best budget iPad
iPad 9th-gen home screen
iPad (9th generation)
Best budget iPad
View now View at Amazon
iPad Pro (6th generation) | Best iPad money can buy
iPad Pro with keyboard and pencil
iPad Pro (6th generation)
Best iPad money can buy
View now View at Best Buy
iPad Mini (6th generation) | Best iPad for specific use cases
iPad Mini from the back, with Apple Pencil
iPad Mini (6th generation)
Best iPad for specific use cases
View now View at Amazon

The iPad remains the gold standard for tablets because of its wide array of quality apps and content, as well as its integration with other products within the Apple ecosystem. And Apple just announced two upgraded iPad models, available for preorder now: the sixth-generation iPad Air and the seventh-generation iPad Pro

Also: The best iPad stylus

Whether you're looking for the best iPad for you, or you're buying one for a kid, a parent, or another friend or relative, there are now essentially five options to choose from -- two variations of the standard iPad, the iPad Mini, the iPad Air, and the iPad Pro (in two sizes). While we haven't had a chance to test out the new 2024 iPad Air and 2024 iPad Pro models, keep an eye out for our upcoming reviews on these two tablets. 

Also: iPad Pro (2024) vs. iPad Air (2024): Which Apple tablet should you buy?

What is the best iPad right now? 

I've been using an iPad nearly every day since the product first launched in April 2010, and I've tried all the various models over the years and used them for many different things. My current pick for the best iPad for most people is the iPad Air, because it includes nearly all of the best features the iPad has to offer at a price that's more approachable than the iPad Pro. Below is my full breakdown of the current iPad lineup -- based on my hands-on experience and product testing -- as well as my buying recommendations for each model to help you pick the best one for various needs and budgets. (You can also check out some great iPad Memorial Day deals right now.)

The best iPads of 2024

iPad Air (5th generation)

Best iPad overall

The iPad Air looks and feels a lot like the iPad Pro, especially if it's in the Magic Keyboard case and it has the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) magnetically attached. It's truly a slightly less expensive iPad Pro that's only missing a few features (primarily an upgraded processor, an even better display, and more powerful cameras for AR and pro video capture).  

This is the iPad to get if you want to use your iPad nearly every day and do more than just read and watch videos. You want to use it to answer emails, write up documents, take notes, draw a little bit, and maybe play games, for example. The iPad Air is much more powerful device than the base-level iPad, and it's meant for doing more. That's why it has a nicer display and cameras (back and front) than the standard 9th- and 10th-gen iPad models.  

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

My biggest complaint with the iPad Air is that if you're stepping up to this model, then you'll want to get the most out of it and include the add-ons to it -- upgrade from the base 64GB of storage to 256GB, include the cellular connectivity option, and add the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and the Magic Keyboard. By the time you do all that, it's going to cost you $1,300. That's only $200 less than a similarly configured 11-inch iPad Pro. It's also about the same price as an M2 MacBook Air.  

Overall, 98% customers who have purchased the iPad Air at Best Buy said they would recommend this model, and gave it an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. 

iPad Air (5th generation) 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

iPad Air blue from the back
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iPad (10th generation)

Best iPad for FaceTime and Zoom

When Apple upgraded its 10th generation base-level iPad with a new design to match the iPad Pro and iPad Air, it added a surprising number of features that had been limited to the high-end models, including USB-C, 5G, 4K video capture, and Wi-Fi 6. 

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

But Apple also gave the 10th-gen iPad something no other iPad has: a front-facing camera that is centered horizontally and optimized for video calls when the iPad is docking in its keyboard case -- which has now become the preferred position for many iPad users. This unequivocally makes the iPad 10th-gen the best iPad for FaceTime calls, Zoom meetings, and other types of video calls. And, based on customer reviews, this iPad would be a good option for those new to Apple as well as those looking for something easy to use for kids or seniors.

The biggest drawback to this model is the price. Starting at $450, it's $130 more expensive than the iPad 9th generation, which Apple still sells and remains the best budget iPad.

iPad (10th generation) 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 iPad 10th Gen with Apple Pencil
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iPad (9th generation)

Best budget iPad

If you just need a basic, full-screen iPad to watch videos, play games, answer messages, and do an occasional video call, for example, then the base-level iPad (9th generation) will suit plenty of people just fine. And it starts at $329, which makes it very accessible. It's a great first iPad for kids. It's also a good one to give elderly relatives and friends who are still a little uncomfortable with technology and just need a device to do a few simple things.  

The 9th-gen iPad is filled with last-generation technology such as the Lightning connector for charging, a Touch ID home button, 4G LTE connectivity, the A13 chip, and the 1st-gen Apple Pencil. But it does have a 12MP front-facing camera and so it's still a good video call device. And overall, these older technologies are still good enough to handle the basics for most people -- and will be for several years to come. 

Review: Apple iPad (2021) review: If it's not broke, don't fix it

And the customer reviews speak for themselves: 98% of customers who have purchased this generation iPad at Best Buy would recommend it to a friend, and gave it a rating of 4.9 stars out of 5.

iPad (9th generation) tech specs: Display: 10.2-inch Retina display | Processor: A13 Bionic | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Silver, space gray | Cameras: 8MP rear, 1080p video, 12MP FaceTime camera with Center Stage | Weight: 1.07 pounds | Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29 inches | Connections: 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning port | Battery life: 10 hours

iPad 9th-gen home screen
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iPad Pro (6th generation)

Best iPad money can buy

The iPad Pro is the ultimate iPad, where Apple has pushed the boundaries of what's possible for a tablet and even tempted people to make this their only computing device. Customers who have bought it praise this processor upgrade, saying it makes the iPad Pro "future-proof" and worth the cost in the long run. But I would argue that most people shouldn't buy the iPad Pro thinking it's a replacement for your laptop, because many of you would be disappointed and frustrated.

Instead, you should buy the iPad Pro for the things it does well that you can't do with a laptop. The three big ones are: 

  1. Built-in 5G for simplified, always-on connectivity  
  2. Digital drawing capabilities with the Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
  3. Advanced camera system for capturing augmented reality and ProRes video 

The always-on 5G is its best feature because it always beats having to use your phone as a hotspot -- or worse, public Wi-Fi from your laptop. Being able fire up the iPad Pro with its excellent keyboard, beautiful screen, and faster processor and power through messages and documents from anywhere is truly a treat. And for professionals who want the flexibility of drawing with a digital device or working with AR for viewing and capturing high-quality video without a heavy, bulky rig, the iPad Pro is a purpose-built device that works great. 

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

Where the iPad Pro falls down is when you want to start multitasking and doing more complicated tasks that you'd normally do on your laptop. There almost always ends up being a task that's more frustrating or takes extra steps or simply doesn't have all of the functionality you get when you perform the task from a Mac or a Windows PC. And for now, I'd also recommend waiting until Apple announces the next iPad Pro in the spring before making an investment this big -- unless you have an urgent need and won't have FOMO about the latest new features. 

iPad Pro (6th generation) 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-inch: 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25-inches | Connections: USB-C Thunderbolt/USB-4 | Battery life: 10 hours

iPad Pro with keyboard and pencil
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iPad Mini (6th generation)

Best iPad for specific use cases

The design of the iPad Mini (6th generation) makes it look a lot like a smaller iPad Air, and the technology inside the product is very consistent with that impression. The 8.3-inch tablet is nearly identical in specs to the 10.9-inch iPad Air. It's essentially the smaller sibling, but it's only $100 less expensive, starting at $499.   

The iPad Mini feels more like a big smartphone than a small tablet at times. It can easily slip into bags, purses, and even the pockets of some cargo pants and vests. Compared to a phone, it's better for reading ebooks, PDFs, documents, news apps, and other digital content -- especially when leaning back in a chair or a couch. But it's not quite as nice as reading on a full-size iPad propped up horizontally in a case when reading at a desk or table. The portability of the iPad Mini along with its support for the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil make note-taking a popular use case -- although I consider the a better note-taking tablet, if that's the primary function you're looking for.

Review: Why the iPad Mini 6 is Apple's most exciting new product in years

The main audience for the iPad Mini might be businesses with specific use cases such as retail customer service, point-of-sale, and logistics apps such as delivery. It's also good to give to young kids as a first iPad since it's smaller, lighter, and easier to handle. And there are rugged cases for it -- which is critical for both little kids and many business use cases. 

Customers who bought the iPad Mini reported in reviews that they were impressed by its battery life, durability, and its display, also noting its portability to fit in purses and bags, particularly for entertainment purposes. 

iPad Mini (6th generation) 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

iPad Mini from the back, with Apple Pencil
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What is the best iPad?

The best iPad overall is the iPad Air since it has many of the high-end features of the iPad Pro but isn't quite as expensive. However, if you're going to add all of the accessories like the Apple Pencil, the Magic Keyboard, cellular connectivity, and extra storage then you're still going to spend over $1,000 with the iPad Air and will only save a couple hundred dollars off the price of the iPad Pro. In that case, you should strongly consider opting for the iPad Pro.  

iPad modelPrice (starting cost)DisplayProcessorWeight
iPad Air$59910.9-inch Retina displayApple Silicon M11.02 pounds
iPad (10th gen)$44910.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True ToneA14 Bionic1.05 pounds
iPad (9th gen)$32910.2-inch Retina displayA13 Bionic1.07 pounds
iPad Pro (6th gen)$79911-inch Liquid Retina display or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Apple Silicon M2
1.03-1.5 pounds
iPad Mini$4998.3-inch Liquid Retina displayA15 Bionic0.65 pound

*MSRP at the time of writing. Please note that actual prices may vary depending on available sales, deals, discounts, and coupons.

Which is the best iPad for you?

Whether you're buying a new iPad or upgrading an old iPad, the first thing to do before you buy is to get really clear about what you're planning to use it for the most.  

Choose this iPad...

If you want...

iPad Air

The best overall option. It can be used for both work and play, and at just over a pound, the Air is compatible with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil. 

iPad (10th gen)

The portability of a tablet but don't want to replace your computer. The new 12MP ultra-wide camera even beats out the Pro, especially for video calls.

iPad (9th gen)

A budget-friendly iPad. It's a great first-iPad for kids, and can also handle basics like watching videos, playing games, quick video calls, and more.

iPad Pro (6th gen)

A high-performance tablet. It has built-in 5G for simplified, always-on connectivity, the workhorse M2 chip, and a gorgeous, high-quality display for watching videos.

iPad Mini

A smaller, more manageable iPad model with an 8.3-inch display and many of the same specs as the iPad Air. 

Factors to consider when choosing the best iPad:

If you're looking to buy an iPad, here are the top factors you should consider before making a purchase: 

  • Mobility: The iPad lineup now ranges from the very small and light iPad Mini to the iPad Pro 13-inch, which can be heavier and more bulky than a laptop (once you attach the Magic Keyboard Case or another third-party case). In between these two you have the rest of the iPad lineup that comes in slight variations of the traditional 10-inch iPad form factor. Think about how much you want to use the iPad on the go and the bag you want to carry it in. Will you be carrying just the iPad or will you also be carrying a laptop?
  • Accessories: Think about which iPads are compatible with the accessories you'd like to use such as the Magic Keyboard Case and the three different versions of the Apple Pencil.
  • Price: There are now iPads for nearly every budget, especially when you include the last-generation models we've highlighted below in the Alternatives section. You can get a standard iPad for around $300 and it will be fine for watching videos, doing light web surfing, and answering messages. This is a great choice for a first iPad or to upgrade an older one used for the same tasks. The premium iPad Pro models are loaded with features, have incredible displays, and cost the same as a premium laptop. However, they are best for creative professionals, artists, and those who want to use the device as their full laptop replacement, which can still be a frustrating endeavor if you're a power user with a long history on a laptop and you have a lot of work to do.

How do we test iPads?

I have been using an iPad since the day the first Apple tablet was released in 2010, and I have tried out nearly every iPad model at one point or another since then. I've tested the modern iPad models in real-world situations to evaluate their features, design, performance, and overall value. 

For example, I've used the iPad Mini to take notes and read documents on the road. I've used the standard iPad for web browsing and watching YouTube. I've used the iPad Pro models for lots of Zoom calls, Slack, web apps, creating Google Docs, reading during lunch using the Kindle app and the Magic Keyboard case since it props up the iPad quite nicely, and downloading and watching videos while traveling. I've recently tried using the iPad Air for all the things I typically do with an iPad Pro and found that it works great with only two exceptions: the battery life isn't as good and the fingerprint sensor isn't as convenient as Face ID for all day use during a long day of meetings or work.

What are the newest iPad models?

Apple announced the 6th-generation iPad Air and the 7th-generation iPad Pro models on May 7. You can preorder the tablets now at Apple's website, and they are officially available on May 17. 

Also: How to preoder the new iPad Air, iPad Pro, Magic Keyboard, and Apple Pencil Pro

The new iPad Air comes in two sizes for the first time (11 inches and 13 inches) and features the M2 chip. In addition, the iPad Air now starts at 128GB instead of the mere 64GB that Apple previous included in the base model.

The iPad Pro now comes with the new M4 chip which Apple says delivers up to 4x faster GPU rendering and a 50% faster CPU performance than the M2 in the previous iPad Pro. The Pro tablets also feature an Ultra Retina XDR display, which Apple called "the world's most advanced display."

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 2nd-generation Apple Pencil, with a magnetic spot on the side to charge it. 

All that said, the iPad Air also supports the Apple Pencil and is solid drawing tablet as well -- just a step down from the Pro because of the screen quality.

What is the best iPad for students?

The best iPad for students is the 5th-generation iPad Air. It has many of the same features as the powerful iPad Pro but costs less for students' budgets. 

Also: The best note-taking apps for iPad

It's also compatible with the Magic Keyboard and the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil, so students can utilize it for different forms of note-taking. 

Should I get the iPad Pro or the iPad Air?

Where the iPad Pro is the model for those who want the upgraded cameras, AR features, and the high-quality display, 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

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 as the iPhone, with many apps optimized to take advantage of the larger display on the iPad. 

As far as Samsung tablets go, these devices will run on Android 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 and professionals. The tablets in this series have larger screens and more processing power, comparable 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 high-quality, like-new products that are refurbished and pre-owned. 

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