Apple has been so influential in the tablet market that many people swap iPad and tablet names around interchangeably, kind of like Velcro(R) and hook and loop or Oreo(R) and chocolate sandwich cookie. In any case, with a new iPad lineup released every year, it may be challenging to keep up with the latest iPad models.
Currently, you have four iPads to choose from in 2021: The iPad Pro 11″ (3rd Gen 2021), iPad Pro 12.9″ (5th Gen 2021), iPad Air (4th Gen 2020), iPad (8th Gen 2020), and the iPad Mini (5th Gen 2019). Each type of iPad offers something a little different. The question of which iPad to get depends on several factors. Whether you need more power or a simple, low-cost iPad, this article discusses the best and worst iPad available and which one is perfect for you.
If you’re in the market to buy the latest iPhone, check this article out.
What’s The Newest iPad Out
Let’s take a quick look at the specs and features offered by the latest iPad models so that you can find the best one for you.
iPad Pro 12.9″ 5th Gen (2021) and 11″ 3rd Gen (2021)
The iPad Pro is the newest and most advanced iPad to date. It’s also the best iPad available and has a price tag that matches its Pro status. The models (11-inch and 12.9-inch) became announced in April of 2021, at which time they went into a pre-order status. Fortunately, the long-awaited iPad Pro 12.9″ (2021 version) is available for purchase here today.
As the name suggests, the iPad Pro’s target audience is professionals and business owners. With the new M1 Chipset, Apple boasts this 2021 iPad Pro; it has a 50% faster CPU and 40% faster GPU, meaning there’s so much more you can do with the newest version.
You can run Photoshop CC, Microsoft Word, and other work-related software on your iPad Air, but it’s going to be a bit smoother experience on the iPad Pro, whether you’ve connected the keyboard or not.
The iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR display and ProMotion technology make for unprecedented refresh rate and display quality. If you’re a photographer, video editor, or graphic designer, you’ll find the Pro a perfect fit.
With FaceID integrated into the iPad Pro in 2020, unlocking and security protocols are highly updated in this new 2021 model. The fingerprint scanner has an oleophobic coating to resist finger smudges, adding to your peace of mind.
There are two versions of the iPad Pro: the iPad Pro 11″ with an 11-inch screen and the iPad Pro 12.9″ with, you guessed it, a 12.9-inch screen.
The features and specs for both models are just about the same, except for the display.
Of the two iPad Pro models, the larger screen wins out every time. It’s a full Retina screen with excellent color reproduction, excellent clarity, and superb detail. The 12.9″ is $1,099, more expensive than the 11″, which comes in at only $799.
Of course, the 11″ model is a solid option if you want to save some cash or if you’re looking for something a little bit more portable.
Here are the specs for the iPad Pro 11-inch 3rd Gen (2021) model:
- Liquid Retina display
- M1 Chip
- 11-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
- 2388-by-1668-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (PPI)
- ProMotion technology
- Wide color display (P3)
- True Tone display
- LiDAR Scanner for AR
- Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
- Fully laminated display
- Antireflective coating
- 1.8% reflectivity
- 600 nits brightness
- Full Apple Pencil support
Here are the specs for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch 5th Gen (2021) model:
- Liquid Retina display (same)
- M1 Chip (same)
- 12.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology (larger screen)
- 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) (more pixels)
- 2D backlighting system for indivdual LED illumination levels to improve sectional contrast and vibrancy
- ProMotion technology (same)
- Wide color display (P3) (same)
- True Tone display (same)
- LiDAR Scanner for AR (same)
- Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating (same)
- Fully laminated display (same)
- Antireflective coating (same)
- 1.8% reflectivity (same)
- 600 nits brightness (same)
- Full Apple Pencil support (same)
The size of the iPad Pro 12.9″ is considerable, but so is its power. Depending on what you need to use it for, you could easily replace your desktop or laptop with this tablet.
With the latest iPad Operating System (iPadOS 14) delivering excellent performance and numerous apps for on-the-go productivity, it’s well worth checking out. The iPad Pro battery life means you will have to charge your iPad more frequently with heavy use.
With all things considered, the 2021 iPad Pro is a mighty device and lives up to the incredible reputation of the iPad.
If you want a tablet that functions as your primary computer with a keyboard, replacing your laptop, then the extra power and screen size of the Pro will serve you well as an alternative.
For the rest of us with more modest requirements, Apple has some outstanding options at affordable prices.
iPad Air 5th Gen (2020)
The iPad Air fits somewhere in the middle, between the standard iPad and the iPad Pro. It’s a small, lightweight tablet that has a decent amount of power for its size. The newest model (released September 2020) features an upgraded chipset, display, and countless other features.
The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina screen works very well, has excellent clarity, and is suitable for work or play.
The iPad Air is significantly cheaper than the iPad Pro. Still, aside from the smaller screen and decrease in storage, the performance difference is hardly noticeable (unless you’re playing the latest games, which can sometimes strain the Air).
If you don’t mind the smaller screen and downgraded performance, the iPad Air is a great, affordable alternative to the iPad Pro. You can get an iPad Air for about half the price of an iPad Pro.
Here are the specs for the 2020 iPad Air 5th Generation:
- Weight: 458g for the WiFi only version or 460g for the Cellular version
- Dimensions: 9.74″ x 7″ x 0.24″
- Operating System: iPadOS 14
- Screen size: 10.9-inch
- Resolution: 2360 x 1640 pixels
- Chipset: A14 Bionic
- Storage: 64GB/256GB
- Battery: 38.6‐watt-hour
- Cameras: 12MP wide rear camera and 7MP front-facing camera
Reviewers have said battery life is pretty good, even while gaming, so we’ll assume it’s safe to say that battery life is solid. Typical users get about 9 hours of battery life per charge on their iPads.
The power of the A14 chipset is superb, and even new games have no trouble running at full speed on this modest device.
So, while it’s not as powerful as the iPad Pro, don’t make the mistake of assuming the iPad Air can’t handle some more demanding tasks. However, suppose you’re looking at a tablet to be your primary computer, connecting it to a keyboard when you want to use it as a laptop in addition to using it as a tablet. In that case, you might appreciate the greater power and screen size of the iPad Pro. There are great options for keyboard case combos on Amazon.
iPad 8th Gen (2020)
You can’t go wrong with a standard iPad. It’s the most popular iPad that Apple makes and is an excellent solution for most Apple users.
It features a 10.2″ screen with excellent color reproduction, fast response times, and bright graphics.
The chassis sits nicely in your hand and exhibits Apple’s usual design flair. It’s light, too, at only 490 grams for the wifi only or 495 grams for the cellular model. Though not as light as the iPad Air. You can get a new iPad (10.2-Inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) for just over $300, making it a good value for what you get.
Here are the specs for the standard 2020 iPad 8th Generation:
- Weight: 490g
- Dimensions: 9.8″ x 6.8″ x 0.29″
- Operating System: iPadOS 14
- Screen size: 10.2-inch
- Resolution: 2160 x 1620 pixels
- Chipset: A12 Bionic
- Storage: 32/128GB
- Cameras: 8MP rear, 1.2MP front
There are hardware compromises over the Air or Pro, such as an older chipset, less storage, and lesser quality cameras. However, compared to the rest of the iPad lineup’s pricing, this tablet is more than up to the challenge, especially with the slick iPadOS 14 driving the experience.
iPad mini 5th Gen (2019)
The smaller iPad Mini is great for those who want a lighter and smaller tablet. It’s a small device with a 7.9-inch screen and fits nicely into the hand. It’s easy to hold like a paperback novel.
If portability is essential, then buy an iPad mini. The build quality is excellent, the screen is top class, and the battery life is also very decent.
However, it’s hard to justify grabbing the iPad mini over one of the other options mentioned in this article in most cases.
2019 iPad mini 5th Generation Specs:
Here are the specs for the 2019 iPad mini:
- Weight: 304g
- Dimensions: 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1 mm
- Operating System: iPadOS 14
- Screen size: 7.9-inch
- Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
- Chipset: A12 Bionic
- Storage: 64GB/256GB
- Battery: 5,124mAh
- Cameras: 8MP rear 7MP front
The iPad mini is only slightly larger than a phone, so it will work for some but not others. With some decent hardware, including Apple’s newest A12 chipset, the mini has power aplenty. With iPadOS 14 providing usability, a decent battery, superb Retina screen, and these modest dimensions, it’s hard to fault the iPad mini.
Which iPad Should You Buy?
For once, the decision on which Apple device to buy is very straightforward. If you want power and aren’t concerned with price, nothing compares to the iPad Pro. If you’re a small business owner, a professional, or someone who wants to replace their laptop with an iPad, then the iPad Pro’s the best choice if you have the budget for it.
If the iPad’s price tag is an issue, but you don’t want to compromise too much, the iPad Air is a solid bet.
The iPad mini is ideal for those who want something more extensive than a phone with Apple Pencil compatibility. The smallest version of the Apple iPad series, the “iPad mini,” offers a powerful solution that fits in a compact housing.
All iPads (except for the iPad Mini) work with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Cover, so you’re covered there too.
Ultimately, we recommend going with the iPad Pro if you need the power and screen size but, for most casual iPad users, the regular iPad is an outstanding choice for about a third of the price of the Pro.
Regardless of which iPad model you choose, you may want to sketch and write on your iPad, which works well with the iPad Pencil. The Apple Store has several excellent drawing, note-taking apps, making the iPad Pencil popular with graphic designers, artists, and those who don’t think typing notes is as useful as writing things down.