It’s been a funny year for the iPad.
In April, Apple announced a massive 79% increase in iPad revenue for the second fiscal quarter of 2021 which included the best performing March quarter revenue for nearly a decade.
But 2021 was also the year Apple added a proper desktop-class chip to their tablet in the form of the M1.
And did nothing with it.
Despite this, and as I’ve said many times before, I absolutely love the iPad. If you’re going to buy a tablet, it’s literally the only one worth bothering with, and the combination of design, screen and performance is a genuine delight to experience every time you pick one up.
There’s just one issue above and beyond the frustratingly slow drip-feed of new iPadOS capabilities.
There are so many iPads to choose from.
As a result, there are thousands of buying guides out there for the iPad, but I’d like to offer my own and try and keep it as simple as possible. Because, when you strip back the names, numbers and confusing chip selections, the choice is easy.
iPad mini (yep, it’s still there)
The iPad mini is a superb device, and that’s for one very simple reason: its size. It sits beautifully in the slot between the largest iPhone and the traditional 10-or-so-inches of a regular iPad. Arguably, this makes it the perfect consumption device and a genuine competitor for Amazon’s Kindle.
The iPad mini also boasts the A12 Bionic chip and support for the first-generation Apple Pencil.
It has everything going for it. But its price suggests you really should wait if you think an iPad of this size is right for you. Because at £399 for the cheapest version and rumours of a redesign intensifying, now would be a poor time to buy an iPad mini.
I think we’ll see a new, iPad Air-like redesign before the end of the year. Hold onto your pennies – or keep reading.
Perfect for: no one. Yet. Wait for the redesign (it’s coming).
iPad (the OG)
I was very kindly sent an 8th generation iPad to review by the wonderful folk at Major Mobiles UK. If you buy it from their online store, it’s just £274 (something I highly recommend if you’re in the UK, given their pricing and ease of ordering).
However, even when bought directly from Apple, it sits at £329, making it comfortably the cheapest new iPad you can buy.
It is ridiculously good value for money. Just like the iPad mini, it boasts the A12 Bionic (which really is more capable than practically anyone needs it to be) and supports the first-generation Apple Pencil. But you can attach a Smart Keyboard to it, too, which practically makes it a laptop.
Oh, and those bezels? They don’t matter. At all. It even has an OG Touch ID sensor for a bit of nostalgia.
Perfect for: anyone who wants an iPad but doesn’t want to spend Apple money to get one.
iPad Air (Apple’s rod for its own back)
The iPad Air has always maintained a solid position in the middle ground of the iPad lineup. It’s for people who want a great, light iPad but who don’t want to empty their bank balance in exchange for the iPad Pro.
In October 2020, Apple made those people even smarter than they were before. Because I cannot think of a single reason why you’d opt for the iPad Pro over the iPad Air, unless you want a bigger screen.
The 4th generation iPad Air is practically identical to the 11-inch iPad Pro. In order to keep costs down, it features a lesser camera, no Face ID (instead, Touch ID is integrated into the power button), a lower refresh rate screen and, rather than the M1 chip, you’ll have to make do with the A14 Bionic.
The problem for Apple is that none of that stuff matters. The camera is still good for the rare occasions you’ll use it, Touch ID is surprisingly intuitive, the lack of Pro Motion is only noticeable if you A/B test between an iPad that has it, and the A14 Bionic is more powerful than you’ll ever need it to be.
The iPad Air is easily the best iPad Apple makes at the moment – by a country mile.
Perfect for: practically anyone with a decent budget.
iPad Pro (oh, hello, M1 chip)
I have two questions for you:
- Would you feel more comfortable knowing that you can’t buy a better device than the one you have?
- Is a 12.9” screen more appealing than anything smaller?
If you answered yes to one or both of the questions, buy yourself the 12.9” iPad Pro. For anyone looking to replace their laptop and remain within the Apple ecosystem, it’s unbeatable.
But it is expensive – particularly if you add that Magic Keyboard and an Apple Pencil. And the M1 chip makes no difference to anything (yet), so don’t let that sway your decision.
As for the 11-inch version, I’d ignore it entirely. If 12.9 inches of iPad is too big for you (it is a bit unwieldy in many settings), just grab the iPad Air.
Perfect for: people who want the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing they can go no better (or if you just want that bigger screen).
The iPad remains Apple’s most versatile device. I dearly want Tim and co. to do more with it from a pro app perspective, but I’m prepared to wait if the hardware remains this good.
Deciding which iPad is right for you ultimately comes down to price. They are all brilliant, fast, beautifully designed tablets and will last many, many years. The only deciding factor beyond the price is the screen size, but if you just want a great, regular iPad, that 8th generation version takes some beating.
Which one are you going for?