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's even meaningful differences in performance and price depending on which size of iPad Pro you buy.
To help you decide which iPad is right for your needs, 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.
With that in mind, here's our roundup of the best iPads you can buy right now. We've also got a detailed comparison between the different types of iPad in our Which iPad should you buy? iPad vs. iPad mini vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro guide, and plenty of suggestions for what you can do with your iPad in our 11 best iPad apps to install first feature.
And if you're specifically looking for a tablet for family use, then head over to our best iPads for kids guide.
What are the best iPads?
The iPad is synonymous with tablets for a reason: when you buy the basic iPad, you're guaranteed to get a great screen and strong audio. But when it comes to picking the best iPad for most people, we encourage most people to consider the iPad Air 2022. It's a bit pricier than the base iPad, but if you want to use the latest Apple Pencil or an attachable keyboard, it's the best iPad that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It also packs a powerful M1 chip, which makes it almost as performant as the costlier iPad Pro.
Speaking of the iPad Pro, it's the best tablet for those who want a premium device for work and play. It's available in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions, and while both look great and deliver amazing performance thanks to Apple's M1 chip, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 is the only iPad that currently sports a dazzling mini-LED display. With a starting price of $1,099 it's hardly cheap, but if you can afford to splurge you'll get the most beautiful iPad on the market.
The best iPads you can buy today
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. The one thing it's missing is a proprietary, Apple-made keyboard like the Magic Keyboard — but at this size that wouldn't really work anyways.
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.
We like the new 9th Gen iPad, because it does everything you expect from a normal iPad. Great screen, good sound and battery life, and even faster performance than before. Yes, even though it looks just like the previous models, the iPad 2021 is still worth a look. If you take a lot of video calls, you'll be impressed by how much clearer you look on this iPad vs the previous models, as Apple's upgraded the 1.2MP front-facing camera to a 12MP sensor. And that lens is smarter, because of Center Stage (Apple's new trick to keep you in the frame when you move around on video calls).
The A13 Bionic chip is a welcome update for speed, since iPadOS 15 is getting smarter and features like LiveText (which lets you copy and paste text out of images) are improved with a faster processor. Aside from that, the new iPad is very similar to the previous model, and that's great if you use wired headphones and still prefer Lightning cables over USB-C, but it's not as great if you want the excellent second-gen Apple Pencil or wish Apple would slim down the bezels.
Read our full iPad 2021 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.