Which are the best Apple iPads that you can buy right now? Here at MyNextTablet, we review almost every tablet and that includes the ones from Cupertino. I still own every iPad that has been released in the last couple of years because I keep them for comparisons. And because I like to use iPads in particular.
In this list, you find all iPads that I can recommend right now. Among them are the pricy Pro series, but also the small iPad Mini 6, and the very affordable iPad 9.
The Best iPads: An Overview
- Best iPads overall: Apple iPad Pro 2021 (on Amazon*). The clear winners in this category are the 11-inch and 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro of the 2021 generation. Due to their Apple M1 chipset, they are more powerful than all other tablets out there. At the same time, their screens are brighter, support 120Hz, and are super-premium devices in all regards.
- Best iPad Pro alternative: Apple iPad Air 5 (on Amazon*). The best alternative to the pricey iPad Pro is the Apple iPad Air 5. It resembles the 11-inch iPad Pro a lot, but with 10.9 inches, it’s a bit smaller and supports 60Hz only. Still, the Air is very well made and works with the same keyboard covers and the same Apple Pencil 2 as the Pro does. Most importantly, it features the same lightning-fast Apple M1 chipset.
- Best 8-inch tablet: Apple iPad Mini 6 (on Amazon*). The current Apple iPad Mini 6 not only is the best small Apple tablet but the best 8-inch tablet in general. It offers a pretty screen with Apple Pencil 2 support, is faster than all Android tablets, and is very well built. It’s my favorite tablet in general at the moment.
- Best cheap iPad: Apple iPad 9 (on Amazon*). With the Apple iPad 9, the company is selling a surprisingly affordable tablet that is very powerful at the same time. I think most won’t notice a performance difference compared to the Pro. All other aspects like its display, built quality, and accessories are not as good, however. But it’s very cheap.
What about older iPads? Tablets from Apple are up-to-date for a long time. So, if you want to save some money, it can be worth it to get an older model used. You should be fine if it’s one, two, or even up to three years old. But I wouldn’t get an older device because even iPads are out-of-date at some point.
The Best iPads: All Details
Let’s check out those devices in more detail. I’ve linked all of my full reviews below each tablet.
Apple iPad Pro 2021: The Best Tablets
The two Apple iPad Pro tablets of the 2021 generation are the best tablets you can buy right now. Not only are they more powerful than all other tablets out there, but they also have a very premium built, very nice screens, fantastic accessories, and lots of tablet-optimized app support.
Apple is offering two versions with an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch display. Even though the kinds of screens they use are different, I think the only reason for deciding between the two of them should be the size you need. Do you want a big or a bit smaller tablet? The 12.9-inch one is similar in size to a 13-inch laptop. And the 11-inch version has the same size as most tablets.
The biggest highlight of the Pro is the Apple M1 processor that you can also find in some MacBooks. Because of this chipset, the iPad Pro is more powerful than every Android tablet and faster than many if not most traditional laptops too. In fact, in benchmarks, it’s way more powerful than all competitors. And in real life, it’s well suited for demanding applications.
Because of its performance, I love editing photos on the iPad Pro. Demanding multitasking is possible too, games run with the highest graphics settings, and you can even edit 4K videos very well. Better than with most Windows devices.
In addition to the M1 chipset, we get 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 128GB up to 2TB large internal storage. Options with 5G are available too.
The 11-inch iPad Pro has a standard LCD screen with a resolution of 2388 x 1668 pixels. It’s very sharp. At the same time, it’s brighter than most competitors with 600 nits. I think it’s a very nice IPS display.
More unique is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro which has a so-called Liquid Retina XDR display. That’s a new technology that’s also called mini-LED. Blacks are especially deep here, HDR content is supported with up to 1600 nits, and with 2732 x 2048 pixels it’s equally sharp as the smaller one.
Both support a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Apple calls this ProMotion.
This XDR display has one downside, however. In some circumstances, there’s a blooming effect visible. It can look as if bright writing is glowing, for instance. You can read more about it in my full review linked below.
On both screens, you can write with the Apple Pencil 2 which is a fantastic stylus. It’s charged inductively by placing it on top of the tablets. In addition to that, Apple is offering two types of official keyboard covers of which the Magic Keyboard is the best one. Even though it’s pricey, it’s a great keyboard dock with a good keyboard and touchpad. It kind of transforms your iPad into a notebook.
As usual, both are made of metal and are very premium-feeling. On their sides, we get four fantastic speakers, a USB C Thunderbolt port, and you unlock it using FaceID facial recognition. A microSD card slot is missing, of course.
Apple iPad Air 5: The Best Pro Alternative
The Apple iPad Air 5 is the best alternative to the iPad Pro, especially if you want to save some money and can live without some premium features. It continues to be a high-end tablet, but the speakers are not as good, the screen supports 60Hz only, and there’s no 12-inch version. It’s still better than most Android tablets.
With its basic design, there’s almost no difference compared to the Pro. We get a premium-feeling metal body to which you can connect the same two keyboard options that also work with the 11-inch Pro. The iPad Air also has the same magnetic area to charge the Apple Pencil 2. It has a USB C port but instead of FaceID, you unlock it using a TouchID fingerprint scanner.
Its 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display is a bit smaller but is equally sharp with 2360 x 1640 pixels. It’s fully laminated, 500 nits bright, supports the True Tone technology and just looks pretty. But it’s not a 120Hz ProMotion display. So, animations don’t look as smooth as on the Pro. This is the biggest difference between the two.
The performance is almost the same. Inside we get the same Apple M1 processor that also sits inside the Pro. While the performance is a bit weaker in some benchmarks, I couldn’t tell a difference in real life. Games run smoothly and with the highest graphics settings and I enjoyed editing photos and videos on it.
Apple is selling the iPad Air with 64GB and 256GB of internal storage and all versions have 8GB of RAM. You can get all versions with 5G as well.
The software of all iPads is the same, by the way. Apple is releasing iPadOS updates longer than most other brands. So, regarding this, all tablets on this list score fantastic.
Apple iPad Mini 6: Best 8-Inch Tablet
The Apple iPad Mini 6 is the best 8-inch tablet available today – it’s faster than all Android tablets of its size. Basically, it’s a smaller version of the iPad Air but its design shrank to 8.3 inches and the performance is a bit weaker. It’s 0.4 inches larger than the previous Mini.
As is typical for Apple, the body is completely made of metal and is very premium-feeling again. We get thin and even screen bezels, a magnetic area for the Apple Pencil 2, as well as two good stereo speakers, and a USB C port. Inside the power button sits the same TouchID fingerprint scanner as on the Air.
The highlight of the iPad Mini is its 8.3-inch Liquid Retina LCD screen. With 500 nits it’s not as bright as the Pro, but as bright as the Air. Viewing angles are wide, colors look fantastic, and with 2266 x 1488 pixels the display is very sharp. Sadly, it supports only 60Hz and no 120Hz.
I did notice one downside with its screen, however. When holding the tablet in portrait orientation and scrolling, you can see a kind of jelly or rolling shutter effect. It can look as if one half of the screen is refreshed slower than the other. Not a huge bummer – and there’s no alternative anyway. You can read more about it in my review.
On a positive note, I love that this small tablet supports the Apple Pencil 2. And it’s a fantastic combination. The iPad Mini 6 is very well suited as a small tablet to take handwritten notes with or to sketch something. As usual, you have to buy the pen separately.
The performance is unbeatable at the moment. At least by tablets of a similar size. Inside runs an Apple A15 processor which is very powerful. It’s supported by 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 256GB internal storage, as well as optional 5G. In benchmarks, this processor is faster than the newer Samsung Galaxy Tab S8. But it’s not as powerful as the iPad Pro and Air. Still, it’s a great gaming tablet too.
Apple iPad 9: Best Entry-Level Tablet
The Apple iPad 9 is the cheapest tablet that Apple is selling at the moment. In all regards, it’s weaker than the Pro and Air and we still get the old, typical iPad design that this lineup had since the first generations. The performance is very impressive, however, as its Apple A13 chipset is faster than most Android tablets including premium devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7. Lots of performance for a small amount of money.
With 10.2 inches, the IPS display of the iPad 9 is a bit smaller than the Air. But with 2160 x 1620 nits, it’s very sharp and equally bright with 500 nits. The colors and contrast look great.
Sadly, the screen is not fully laminated. Between the touchscreen and the IPS panel is a small visible air gap. Because of this, it can sometimes look as if you’re not touching the screen directly – especially when using the Apple Pencil. This is the biggest compromise you have to make with the iPad 9 compared to the others on this list.
You can use the Apple Pencil 1 in this case which is almost as good as the Apple Pencil 2. It’s not charged inductively but by connecting it to the lightning connector of the tablet. Still, it’s a very good pen that reacts fast and has fantastic software support. But because of the not laminated screen, it can be hard to draw very precisely.
The basic design hasn’t changed at all. While we get a very premium-feeling metal body too, the design looks old. It has thick black screen bezels, a physical home button, as well as an old lightning connector. And while the two stereo speakers are good ones, the sound comes from one side of the tablet only. I like the TouchID fingerprint scanner, on the other hand, which is built into the home button underneath the screen.
Like all iPads, the iPad 9 is shipped with the newest version of iPadOS. So, it’s running the same software as the Pro.
In addition to the stylus, Apple is also offering an official keyboard cover as an optional accessory. I think it’s a nice one if you need to write occasionally only. But if you need to get lots of work done regularly, I suggest you connect a proper keyboard using Bluetooth.
Read: My Apple iPad 9 Review
Questions And Answers
Here I’m answering a couple of questions that we get regularly.
I buy all iPads myself, just as I do with most tablets in general. So, we’re not sponsored by Apple. After buying an iPad, I test it just as I test other devices. I’m comparing it to the competition, running benchmarks like Geekbench 5 and 3D Mark, playing lots of games, and checking if everything works properly. Then I run my standard battery test and check its video render performance by rendering a video in Adobe Premiere Rush.
But mostly, I used it as my daily tablet for a couple of weeks up to months. I surf the web, edit photos in Lightroom and Photoshop, and watch movies with Netflix and Prime Video. I use it as a regular user would.
You’ve read it above already. The differences between the iPad Pro and iPad Air are small at the moment. The basic design and the Apple M1 chipset are the same. However, the Air has a smaller screen that’s a bit darker and supports 60Hz instead of 120Hz. The speakers are a bit weaker, the USB port a bit worse, and instead of FaceID, we get TouchID. The LiDAR sensor is missing and we don’t get an ultra-wide-angle camera on the back.
The newest iPad is the Apple iPad Air 5 at the moment. Before that, Apple released the iPad Mini 6 and iPad 9. Both iPad Pro versions are the oldest right now. But not really old, as they’ve been released in 2021.
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