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Here's help picking out the best iPad -- from Mini to Pro -- to meet your feature and performance needs.


Apple's relatively small upgrades to its cheapest iPad will nevertheless probably help it retain its position as "a safe (but unexciting) budget bet" after we've had a chance to test it. The new entry-level model gains a couple of useful extras: more storage for $329 (64GB, rather than the ridiculously low 32GB of the last model), a faster A13 chip and better cameras (most importantly, a wider-angle higher-res front-facing Center Stage camera that tracks your face via digital pan and zoom). It still uses the first-gen Apple Pencil, which is fine for the money, and It's still compatible with a range of keyboard cases. Its predecessors were often on sale for $299 or less and that should be true this holiday season as well. 

The 2020 model has the slower A12 bionic chip, but it's also the last remaining full-size iPad with a headphone jack. Going back yet another generation to its seventh incarnation, it's still likely a decent pick if you can find it for a pittance. It can handle the latest iPadOS just fine and should perform all the standard iPad tasks for some time. Regardless if you go with the old or new model we have one word of caution: The base 32GB of storage can fill up fast, so we recommend going with the 128GB version if possible. 

Read our iPad 2020 review.


$329 at Apple

Read more: The 30 best iPad games you need to play

Best iPad for those who want a little more

Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, 2020)

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple recently released the update to its iPad Air with a supercharged new processor, the A14. The 2020 Air was the first Apple product to use this chip, and it goes without saying that it's a considerable improvement over the A12 in the 2019 Air. 

The 2020 iPad Air gets a bigger 10.9-inch display but its slimmer bezels make it about the same size as the 2019 10.5-inch Air. Touch ID is embedded in the power button now, which should make unlocking easy. The newer iPad Air also supports Apple Pencil 2 now as well as Apple's Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. Plus, it has better cameras, faster Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 and switches from a Lightning port to a more universal USB-C port. But with all the improvements, it starts at $100 more than the prior generation. We haven't tested the new model yet, but this is a must-get iPad for anyone looking for something fancier than a regular iPad. 

The third-gen Air is still worth considering, however, especially if you can find it at a lower price now. The 2019 iPad Air is a lot like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro models from 2017. Starting at $499, it's built around a 10.5-inch Retina display like the 2017 Pro but has an updated A12 Bionic processor like the one powering the iPhone XS. If you want better performance and more storage space -- there are 64GB or 256GB options -- you should consider stepping up the Air. Plus, while it's larger than the entry-level iPad, it actually weighs a hair less.

Read our Apple iPad Air 2020 review.


$599 at Apple

Best iPad for power users

Apple iPad Pro (2021)

Scott Stein/CNET

Whether you're a digital artist or have waited years for an iPad that blurs the line between tablet and MacBook, the latest iPad Pro is what you want. The 11- and 12.9-inch Pros are nearly the same, save for their screen sizes and higher resolution and XDR technology in the 12.9-inch version. If you're an intensive user of graphics apps like those in Adobe Creative Cloud, you'll definitely appreciate the higher performance of the Pro.

If you're considering the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, you'll likely want to spring for the 12.9-inch version for the significant increase in workspace; if you're a screen buff, you may also want it for the Liquid Retina XDR display. Also note that there's a price jump when you get a 1TB or 2TB model because the RAM doubles from 8GB to 16GB for those who really need as much power as possible.

Along with the increased performance, these were the first iPads to offer support for 5G wireless, though now Apple has expanded the 5G option to other models in the line. They're still not quite the MacBook replacement some crave, but they're getting closer every year. 

Read our iPad Pro 2021 review.


$799 at Apple

Best iPad for commuting

iPad Mini (7.9-inch, 2019 or 8.3-inch, 2021)

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The 7.9-inch 2019 model has been superseded by a new 8.3-inch model, but you can still find the older version -- just not from Apple. Given that the new model's price starts at $100 more than the 2019 version at $499 you may still want to consider it if you simply want something small and don't care about the substantial upgrades in addition to size: USB-C, the new A15 Bionic chip, optional 5G, the digital-zoom Center Stage camera of its bigger siblings, support for second-gen Pencils that attach magnetically and charge wirelessly, and more. But the new design also means it'll need all-new cases and keyboard accessories, and you lose the headphone jack.

Given that the 2021 model remains the smallest in the line, we'll probably continue to recommend it as the best option for commuters. The 7.9-inch iPad was relatively unchanged from its 2015, upgrading to a faster A12 processor and adding Apple Pencil support. We thought it a smart choice for those who want a smaller device for note-taking and sketching while also giving you better performance for games and more screen space than your phone for reading and videos (and you won't be eating into your phone's battery life, either). While its wide bezels make it look a bit dated compared to the rest of the lineup, at least the 2019 iPad Mini has Touch ID and a headphone jack to go along with them. 

Read our Apple iPad Mini 2019 review.


$400 at Best Buy $299 at Walmart

The M1 iPad Pro: 11 and 12.9-inch compared

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