Apple may not have been the first with the tablet idea but it's certainly the iPad that's made tablets famous. Whether you're after a great screen for watching films and TV on the go or something more powerful with creative potential, then Apple's got you covered. The iPads really are some of the best tablets around (and have a lot going for them in the iPad vs MacBook debate) but deciding which Apple tablet you should buy is a much tougher decision.
Do you go for the standard iPad? The thinner, lighter iPad Air? The big pocket-sized iPad Mini? Or do you spend big on an iPad Pro 12.9 with all the bells and whistles, and stunning cinematic potential?
We're here to help you decide.
Before you start browsing, think about what you want to do with an iPad. If you'll be taking it out and about, the Mini might be the best iPad for you, as it's smaller and more portable than its siblings. Of course, you'll find bigger screens on other iPads in Apple's family, so the Mini might not be the best option for watching films and playing games for long periods.
In that case, maybe the standard iPad or iPad Air might be preferable. And if you want to use it for creative work (such as illustration, design, animation or music-making), the more powerful iPad Pro might be right for you. It also comes with the Apple Pencil, a stylus that's great for drawing and annotating.
And when you eventually decide to take the plunge, why not consider partnering your new iPad with a pair of wireless headphones? Come to think of it, the Apple AirPods Max might be a particularly impressive match.
Whatever your needs, there's an iPad for you. Let's work out which one.
- Browse the best headphones to partner with your new iPad
Ever wanted an OLED or QLED TV that you could fit in a backpack? The iPad Pro 12.9 is that – and plenty more. With its high-end laptop-derived processor, and new mini LED-lit display, this is a real game-changer for Apple's latest premium tablet.
Apple positions its iPad Pro models as productivity and creativity devices, and the new M1 chip takes this to the next level. This is the same chip that Apple has in its
As for the screen, Apple calls it a Liquid Retina XDR display, with the ‘XDR’ standing for ‘eXtreme Dynamic Range’. This is the first mini-LED backlight in an iPad. There are 10,000 of the things, arranged into 2500 independent dimming zone. That makes for better contrast control with near-perfect blacks and brighter highlights, resulting in a supremely punchy image with great colour authenticity. HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision are all supported.
This tablet is right up there with that of the very best TVs you can buy. Of course, it's hugely expensive and not easy to justify for anyone who has no intention of taking advantage of its productivity potential, but it’s also the best tablet you can buy for watching movies on the move – a luxury, but an extremely persuasive one.
Read the full Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) review
The latest iPad Air is the first Apple tablet to feature the firm's own M1 processor. That's a big deal, as the chip is also found in Apple's blazingly fast MacBook laptops. The intention is clearly to make the Air a sort of iPad Pro Lite that will satisfy the creative types for whom the full-fat Pro models are expensive overkill. But what about us AV nerds?
Nothing has changed in terms of audio visual specs, but that's no bad thing. The 4th Gen iPad Air that came before it scored a perfect five out of five in our review, so we're more than happy for this model to perform the same.
The image is supremely authentic and natural, with an unquestionable colour balance, oodles of detail and crisp definition. Motion is handled adeptly without any hint of active processing and blacks, while not OLED-inky, are plenty deep enough and packed with detail. There’s a satisfying HDR punch too, and plenty of dramatic contrast.
There are some improvements with SDR and standard HDR, the new model's picture is notably better looking though.
In the sound department, it's more of the same. Though again, you won't hear any complaints from us.
Read the full Apple iPad Air (2022) review
This bigger-screened, better sounding iPad Mini is a huge improvement on the last model and just the ticket if an 8-inch tablet is what you’re after. It's small enough to carry around in a jacket pocket while offering a viewing and listening experience that’s way beyond that of even a large mobile phone.
The bezel has shrunk right down meaning that, while the device remains the same size as the previous generation, the screen itself is actually bigger. The picture quality is better too. The 500nit LCD panel is less leaky for light than before, making video look punchy and exciting.
It's sound which has moved on leaps and bounds, though, with a vastly improved level of dynamic expression to now match the trademark Apple crisp sense of timing. There are also speakers on both ends of the tablet, for the first time, meaning that you get a sense of cinematic sound even without headphones.
Throw in a super-slick user experience, the rather handsome looks, USB-C recharging and the interesting addition of Apple Pencil support and you’ve got yourself a little winner. Just a pity there's no 3.5mm headphones socket, of course.
Read the full Apple iPad Mini 6 (2021) review
This is the 10th generation of iPad, which makes us feel a bit old. To see its trusty tablet into double digits, Apple has given it its biggest makeover yet. Gone is the monochromatic shell in favour of bright hues and squared-off edges.
It's a success. The 'all-screen' design brings it in line with the classy-looking iPad Air, with smoothed-off flat edges and narrow bezels. The new colours schemes (among them yellow and pink) add a sense of fun without cheapening the device. And the screen has been enlarged, from 10.2 inches to 10.9. The front-facing camera is now better positioned for video calls in landscape, too.
Other improvements include the adoption of USB-C for charging and data transfers, and a higher screen resolution (to go with the larger size).
Performance is as reliable as ever, with richer, bolder colours than the previous generation iPad, with plenty of dark detail to enjoy. The sound is a big improvement too, with clear vocals and ample bass weight. It's a little pricier than previous models, but still worth every penny.
Read the full Apple iPad (2022) review
The iPad Air (2020) represents a major step up for Apple's all-rounder tablet. This fourth generation device boast a newer design, complete with a Touch ID sensor and speaker layout. There’s also a bigger screen, more powerful processor and improved main camera.
Although it can’t match the specs of the iPad Pro 2021 (or the newer iPad Air higher up this list), both in terms of processing power and storage, Apple still claims the Air is more than powerful enough to be able to edit 4K video on and it’s fully compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, which will come in handy for creative types.
The speakers have been repositioned at either end of the tablet to fire out proper stereo audio and that helps give it a more cinematic and immersive feel. The audio itself is more solid and defined too. There’s extra weight to dialogue and it never seems to muddy the clarity of what you’re hearing at normal volumes.
The screen is punchy and bright, but with a great level of subtlety when the scene demands. Blacks are deep and rich, and there’s a general sense of depth to the scene too. Although though the Pro is more capable still, this cheaper and very capable variant is all that most people will ever need.
Read the full Apple iPad Air (2020) review
As the smallest tablet in the iPad family, you might expect the Mini to be the cheapest slate Apple makes. But you'd be wrong. That honour actually goes to the seventh-gen iPad, which is still available at some retailers, though not Apple itself.
It's missing some tech compared to the Mini such as HDR support, but it does have the Smart Connector, which can be used to connect to Apple's Smart Keyboard. This is something neither the previous iPad nor the current Mini can do.
The 10.2in screen has a pixel density of 264ppi, which is lower than the iPad Mini. It also lacks the laminate layer, anti-reflective coating, True Tone (which automatically adjusts colours and brightness to match ambient lighting) and wide colour support of other tablets. It keeps the A10 Fusion chip of the previous model, which is fine, but not as zippy as Apple's newer chips.
Despite these drawbacks, you still get Apple's trademark natural colour balance, with excellent detail, definition and motion. The iPad Mini pips it with a little more punch and deeper blacks but it's still a good watch. And audio performance is strong, with a weight, solidity and dynamic variation that outdoes the Mini.
It might be Apple's least impressive tablet, but this older iPad is far from underwhelming.
Read the full Apple iPad 7th Generation review
If you're making content (think movies, music, illustrations and animation) you'll want an iPad Pro. The other iPads are great machines for consuming content (i.e. watching movies and listening to music), but this thing is built for creatives.
As such, it's a bit over-powered if all you want is to watch movies and play the odd game. But when has too much power ever been a bad thing (budget allowing, of course)? It's like using a Bentley to do the weekly shop – completely unnecessary, but quite a lot of fun, we imagine.
After all, it's a belter of a device for content consumption. The screen is crazy sharp and bright, and at this size (10.5in), films look an absolute treat. It sounds pretty great too, balancing dialogue with the soundtrack nicely and automatically adjusting for the best audio depending whether it's in portrait or landscape mode.
Sure, you probably don't need one. But if you can afford it, why wouldn't you?
Read the full Apple iPad Pro 10.5in review
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