The best iPad for you can be hard to find, because Apple has released so many models over the last few years. There was a time when, if you wanted an Apple tablet, you bought the iPad in whatever color and storage you wanted. That's no longer the case.
Apple sells a cornucopia of iPad models, from the big, beautiful iPad Pro to the svelte iPad Air. And with the iPad Pro (2021) and iPad Air (2022) both sporting Apple silicon, there are even meaningful differences in performance and price depending on which size of iPad Pro you buy. Many rank among the best tablets you can buy, but picking which is best for you can be tricky. Of course, with Apple reportedly developing touchscreen MacBooks for the first time ever, the line between MacBook and iPad may be getting a lot thinner in the future.
To help you decide which iPad is right for your needs right now, we've assembled an easy-to-read list here detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each tablet. This is all based on our lab testing and hands-on reviews, with the goal of saving you from making a purchase you might later regret.
The best iPads you can buy today
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As great as the iPad Air 4 is, the iPad Air 5 has replaced it by hitting the same sweet spot between portability and power. The new iPad Air 2022 is ideal for consuming and creating content, and its $599 starting price is within reach for many people.
Thanks to the addition of M1, the iPad Air 2022 is almost on par with the iPad Pro. That isn't to say the Air is now a Pro replacement, but the gap in power is considerably smaller. This, along with its relatively affordable starting price, could make this new iPad Air more compelling than the iPad Pro for budget-minded shoppers who still want the best iPad their money can buy.
Overall, the latest iPad Air is an almost perfect tablet. While there's still some room for improvement, it's hard to put this sleek, powerful slate down. This is arguably the best tablet for most people.
See our full iPad Air (2022) review.
The best got better when Apple dropped its super-powerful M1 chip inside the already mighty iPad Pro 2021. That chip set new tablet records in Geekbench and Adobe Premiere Rush — continuing Apple's tradition of putting tons of brawn in its sleek tablets. And this 12.9-inch model i the only tablet to sport Apple's Liquid Retina XDR display, which offers much higher brightness — up to 1588 nits! Also, Apple's designed it to do a new video conferencing trick called Center Stage, where the camera tracks and follows you as you move during calls.
Oh, and the basics are still stellar. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021's quad-speaker setup booms, its optional Magic Keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience — and its 10+ hours of battery life is enough to get you through a full day of use. That said, the super-bright XDR display needs HDR content to thrive, and that's not always available — as the likes of Hulu and HBO Max have yet to adopt it. Also, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 is more expensive than the MacBook Air — and heavier to boot, at least when docked with its Magic Keyboard. But, still, the iPad Pro 2021 is worth it for creative pros who want the best tablet for their next masterpiece.
Read our full iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review.
We love the flat-edged iPads listed above, but none if them is as portable or light as the new iPad mini (which should be called the iPad Air mini, if we're being honest). It has the thin-bezels and flat-edges design of the iPad Air, support for the second gen Apple Pencil and even USB-C. Also, its A15 Bionic processor is blazing-fast and its battery life is shockingly good for a tablet this small.
But, yes, we like the iPad mini 6 most for its size. The other iPads aren't as easy to use with just one hand, and this model throws out the dated normal iPad aesthetic for a modern one, so you're not compromising for your preferred size. This means you have an iPad that's better for reading books and comic books, and can share a small desk with your other items.
Read our full Apple iPad mini 6 (2021) review.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro may have the bigger, brighter screen, but the 11-inch iPad Pro is arguably better for more people. Not only is its battery life fantastic — more than 13 hours on the Tom's Guide battery test, making it the longest-lived iPad on this list — but it's lighter and fits better with last year's Magic Keyboard. Plus, it's $300 less expensive than its bigger sibling. On top of that, you get the astonishing speed of the Apple M1 chip, which is powerful enough to handle even the most demanding video and image editing apps.
The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 is great for getting things done, but it also excels as an entertainment device. Its bright and colorful display is sharp, its four speakers provide much larger sound than you might expect from such a thin device, and if you're willing to pony up the cash its amazing (optional) Magic Keyboard offers the simplest and smoothest tablet typing experience there is.
Read our full iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) review.
The iPad 2022 is a tablet that looks and feels new, and that’s a welcome change over the last few iterations. We appreciate the sleeker design and bigger display, though some may miss the headphone jack from the 9th gen iPad. We also like the Touch ID-enabled power button, repositioned front camera and USB-C charging, as well as the upgraded A14 Bionic chip and 5G connectivity.
However, $449 is a lot of money to spend on this tablet. Yes, Apple is keeping the $329 iPad 9th gen around, but it still stings to see a $120 jump from one generation to the next. Our bigger issue is with the Apple Pencil situation; it’s just way too awkward to charge this thing, and there’s nowhere to store the stylus when not in use.
Do we think the iPad 2022 is worth the splurge over last year’s model? Mostly, as this is a more future-proof tablet. Overall, the iPad 10th gen is one of the best tablets, but we can’t unequivocally say that it’s the best tablet for most people because of the higher price and Apple Pencil blunder.
Read our full iPad 2022 review.
How to choose the best iPad for you
If you know you want to buy an iPad, you've already made your buying decision easier by eliminating a large swath of Android and Windows tablets from the running. Now you just need to ask yourself a few key questions.
How do you plan to use this iPad? Is it mostly going to stay within easy reach of the couch, and be used primarily for light entertainment like browsing Reddit, watching YouTube videos, or looking up trivia on IMDB? Then you don't need all the power of Apple's new M1 chip, and you'll probably be very happy with the svelte iPad Air or the less expensive base iPad.
But if this is a tablet you plan to use for creative purposes, either as a laptop replacement (which basically requires investing in a Magic Keyboard attachment) or as a device for editing photos and videos, you should consider paying the premium for a new iPad Pro. Both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models of the 2021 iPad Pro are incredibly performant due to having Apple's speedy M1 chip.
If you have money to burn, consider splurging on the 12.9-inch model: not only is it nice to have the extra screen space, but it's the only iPad to sport an eye-catching mini-LED display, which Apple is marketing as a pro-grade screen that will make your photos and videos look their best. Just be aware that it really requires HDR content to look its best, and that's still hard to find within the iPadOS ecosystem.
How much storage do you need? Because it can't be upgraded after you buy it. Frankly, Apple is pretty unfriendly about storage on iPads, often equipping the entry-level models with barely enough storage to get by. You don't want anything less than 64 GB, and if you're planning on storing a good amount of high-res videos and apps on your iPad you'll probably want to get a model with at least 128 GB of storage space.
Do you want cellular connectivity? Having an iPad that can access cellular data networks really improves your quality of life by letting you use Internet-reliant apps wherever you can get a signal. However, if you're not planning on taking your iPad on the go, you'll probably be just fine with a simple Wi-Fi-only model.
How we test iPads
First, we run as many benchmarks as that iPad will allow, to see how fast they are in ways that can be compared directly against competitors. We then use colorimeters and light meters to measure how colorful and bright these tablets’ screens can get. After that, we put them through our in-house battery test, which times how long it takes — while surfing the web with brightness at 150 nits — to drain a tablet of a charge.
After that, we do the same things you do — browse the web, watch YouTube, play games, compose emails — and then a lot more. We try and write some (or all) of our tablet reviews on the tablets we're testing, on an attachable keyboard if possible. Nobody wants to write a magnum opus on a glass screen, trust me.