I’ve toyed with the idea of creating an iPad buyer’s guide for a while now because I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that it could be a worthy public service act.
Why? Because the current iPad lineup is rather confusing unless you know exactly what you want (and even then it’s not entirely clear where you should be spending your hard-earned).
As always, I must offer a quick disclaimer at this juncture. This iPad buyer’s guide won’t provide in-depth benchmark comparisons or pixel-by-pixel display shoot-outs. Instead, I’m going to give you my usual, unashamedly broad and high-level account of every iPad Apple currently sells.
I won’t dig into the second-hand market or previous generations, either; there’s a wealth of value on offer if that’s the path you decide to tread, but this guide is for anyone who wants to buy a brand-new iPad.
Let’s try and work out which one is best for you, shall we?
iPad (9th generation and 10th generation)
Price: from £369 (9th generation), £499 (10th generation)
If you want to spend the least amount of money possible on a new iPad, you’ll need to settle for the 9th-generation version. But that is no bad thing – at all.
This iPad joins the 2022 iPhone SE as the only remaining touchscreen Apple device with a physical home button. It also has larger bezels than the rest of the iPads in this guide and slightly older screen technology (although you’re unlikely to be disappointed on that front – all iPad displays are superb).
Despite this, it’s packing a super-fast chip (the A13 Bionic), it’s compatible with the Smart Keyboard and you can use the first-generation Apple Pencil with it, too. If all of that stuff sounds up your street and you think the idea of spending just £369 on an iPad is money well spent – I agree. Go buy yourself one.
As for the 10th-generation iPad, I’m afraid I cannot recommend it. The reason for this will become clear as you continue to read this guide, but it remains one of Apple’s weirdest product releases of the last few years. The only saving grace for the 10th-generation iPad is the brilliant Magic Keyboard Folio, but that isn’t enough to warrant at least £499 of your money – particularly given the ludicrous decision to only make it compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil.
Perfect for (9th generation): budget-conscious buyers who have no desire whatsoever for the latest – and fairly meaningless – tech
Perfect for (10th generation): I still cannot think of a single person who should buy this
Price: from £569
You may have already baulked at the price of the iPad mini. It does, after all, sit squarely within the mid-range iPad bracket, which might seem odd for a device that is one of the smallest in the lineup and which doesn’t boast any of the ‘Pro’ features found elsewhere.
That’s right – there’s no Face ID, the camera system is relatively mediocre, and the display doesn’t benefit from Apple’s 120Hz variable refresh rate ProMotion technology.
Despite this, the iPad mini remains my favourite ever iPad and one of the best devices Apple has launched in the last few years. It was a product that had languished for far too long in its previous form – a fact that was confirmed when people flocked to my initial review of the long-awaited new version last year. It was the surprise, stealth hit of 2021.
My iPad mini is my note-taker and content consumption device of choice. It follows me everywhere and I’d be lost without it. I just wish there was a Magic Keyboard option!
Perfect for: digital note-takers and anyone who wants the most convenient, stress-free iPad experience
Price: from £669
If you’ve been eyeing up the 10th generation iPad, I’d urge you to do everything possible to find the additional £170 and buy yourself the latest iPad Air instead.
For that additional outlay (you’ll require less if you hit the second-hand market) you get a better chip (the M1, in this case – which, for all my misgivings, will at least offer lots more longevity), a laminated screen, and, crucially, second-generation Apple Pencil 2 compatibility.
The 5th generation iPad Air is my second-favourite iPad ever, after the iPad mini. Bar the lack of ProMotion and Face ID, Apple has thrown everything at this iPad and if you can look past those two negligible upgrades, it’s a device that will last you for many years.
Perfect for: anyone who thinks the iPad mini is too small and who doesn’t want to head into iPad Pro territory
Price: from £899 (11-inch), £1,249 (12.9-inch)
I have many misgivings about the recent iPad Pro ‘update’, but it’s important to note that they’re only relatable to a very specific type of buyer.
If like me, you’ve got an iPad Pro that was bought during or after 2018, the latest version is an utter waste of time. I bought the M2 12.9-inch iPad Pro, realised I couldn’t review or use it in any meaningful way and sent it straight back to Apple, unopened.
However, if you’re a new iPad Pro buyer, or if your current iPad Pro is one of the first generation versions complete with a physical home button and big bezels, the latest devices will knock your socks off. They remain incredible tablets – the best on the market, by quite a distance.
The new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are powered by the ludicrously capable M2 chip and have high refresh rate displays to die for (although it should be noted that the 11-inch version doesn’t have the super-bright XDR display found on its big brother).
These iPads are the pinnacle of what Apple has to offer at the moment. They’re more powerful than practically anyone needs them to be, have iPhone-class multi-lens camera systems, and offer storage options that will satisfy the hungriest of users.
They’re just so expensive – particularly if you live in the UK. I’d therefore urge you to consider the iPad Air if you don’t want that mammoth 12.9-inch screen. But if you’ve got the budget for it and if you don’t have the same misgivings as I do about the lack of proper professional support offered by Apple for these devices, they are undeniably impressive.
Perfect for (11-inch): anyone who doesn’t like the idea of a non-ProMotion display
Perfect for (12.9-inch): anyone who wants the biggest and best iPad display available
The accessories you need
There’s a tonne of iPad accessories out there, but I personally think there are only three worth spending your hard-earned money on:
- Magic/Smart Keyboard: Bar the iPad mini, every iPad on this list can be combined with an official Apple keyboard that essentially turns it into a laptop alternative (although bear in mind that you’ll need to add your own trackpad or mouse with the Smart Keyboard). These accessories double as cases, too, and although they add a fair amount of bulk and weight, they completely transform the iPad experience (there’s no Bluetooth faffage to worry about, either!).
- Apple Pencil: Steve Jobs suggested that his company would never make a stylus. Despite his best intentions, I’m glad they eventually did. The Apple Pencil is another brilliant way to elevate the usefulness of your iPad and is a huge amount of fun. If you think the official version is too expensive, I’d urge you to check out this brilliant Apple Pencil alternative from Benks.
- Paperlike: If you want to use your iPad for any form of drawing or handwriting, you need a Paperlike – trust me (buy yours here).
The only other iPad accessory I’d suggest budgeting for at some stage is a magnetic stand. This will only work with the latest iPad 10th-generation, Air, mini, and Pro models, but it provides genuine utility when you don’t need to handle your iPad.
I use several magnetic stands in the studio and they’re a great way to make full use of my iPads as secondary Mac displays or simply as a way to keep on top of notifications without the need to constantly pick the device up. You can check out my round-up of magnetic iPad stands here.
In truth, every iPad on this list is a wonderfully-constructed, beautifully designed, super-powerful device that won’t disappoint in any significant way.
It’s important to remember that we reviewers get to try all of these devices and, therefore, have somewhat skewed experiences and resulting opinions of each one. Regular buyers don’t A/B test devices in the way we do, therefore as much as I lament the existence of the 10th generation iPad or suggest that the latest iPad Pro is a total letdown, if you buy either of those products in isolation, you’ll probably be super happy.
Regardless, every iPad above has a fairly defined user base, and I hope that I’ve been able to clarify where you sit within those audiences. If not, just add any remaining questions or concerns you have to the comments section below and I’ll get back to you!
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