Apple has six iPads to choose from. Here’s how to pick the right one for you

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Apple iPad
Apple

Earlier this week, Apple introduced a redesigned iPad and updates to the iPad Pros. They’ll likely help the company spur sales during the ever-important holiday shopping season. But it also means Apple now sells six different iPads, and you might find it a bit tricky to pick the one that’s best for you or a loved one.

If you’re considering buying a new iPad, that means you need to choose between:

  • The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • The new 11-inch iPad Pro
  • The iPad Air
  • The redesigned regular iPad
  • The iPad mini
  • Or last year’s regular iPad

That might look like a daunting list, so here’s a guide to help you figure out which iPad best fits your needs, listed in order of the cheapest iPad to the most expensive model.

2021 iPad: You just need a tablet

Apple iPad
Source: Apple Inc.

The ninth-generation iPad was introduced in September 2021. It starts at $329 and is the cheapest option in Apple’s current lineup. It has great all-day battery life and is perfect for basic tablet needs like streaming movies, reading, catching up on emails, browsing the internet, scrolling social media and FaceTiming.

It’s the cheapest, but it doesn’t feel like it. This is the iPad I currently use. It’s the right pick for you if you want to save a little money and don’t perform complex tasks like video editing. There are some drawbacks, though.

The screen and cameras aren’t as good as any of the other iPads. It has a dated A13 processor, first introduced in 2019, and it only works with the older Apple Pencil. Apple doesn’t sell a model with support for 5G cellular networks, so you’re stuck on slower networks if you pick that model. This is the “I just need a tablet” tablet.

2022 iPad: You just need a tablet but want some newer features

The new iPad
Apple

Pick this iPad if you need a great tablet and can spend a little more on the newest entry-level version available. It’s currently available to order online and will be in stores on Oct. 26.

The new entry-level iPad (10th generation) got a major redesign and starts at $449, a bit of a premium over the $329 iPad.

It has a larger 10.9-inch display and no longer has the home button. Now, the power button on top of the iPad has Touch ID capability, so you just tap and hold that button to unlock it.

Another big change is the position of the front-facing camera. It’s now on the long side of the tablet, instead of the short side, which should help you look more centered on the camera during video chats. It also comes in new colors including white, yellow, red, and blue.

The new iPad is powered by the slightly older A14 Bionic chip, but it offers faster performance and longer-lasting battery life compared to the cheaper iPad. It has sharper front and back cameras. And, if you need it, you can also buy a 5G cellular version.

But here’s a drawback you should know about: The new iPad only works with the older Apple Pencil. And that only charges and pairs through the old Lightning port. So, you need to buy a $9 dongle if you want to charge that pencil with the new iPad. It’s silly that Apple didn’t add support for the newer second-generation Apple Pencil, which charges and pairs through magnets on the side of other iPads.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s also available in some fun colors. Yellow iPad, anyone?

iPad Mini: You need a super portable tablet

Apple iPad Mini 2021
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The sixth-generation iPad mini, which starts at $499, was released in September 2021. If you value portability, this is the pick for you.

This is a great iPad for kids given that has a smaller 8.3-inch screen and weighs just over half a pound. I’ve even seen doctors use it since it fits perfectly in a white coat pocket.

Like the new iPad, the mini has a 12-megapixel wide camera and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide front camera, which work with Center Stage to keep you in focus during video calls. Apple also sells a 5G cellular version of the iPad mini, which means you can download apps, music and movies if you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection. And it has a faster chip than the new entry-level iPad above.

The iPad mini works with the $129 second-generation Apple Pencil, which is more comfortable to use than the dated first-generation version. And it’s convenient to charge. You just stick it to the magnet on the side of the iPad.

iPad Air: The middle of the pack

iPad Air
Source: Apple Inc.

The latest iPad Air, which starts at $599, debuted in March 2022 with Apple’s M1 chip, which is a big upgrade from the A14 or A15 chips found in the other iPads. It’s a great middle-of-the-road iPad for people who might do some video editing and gaming, but don’t need the better screens, cameras and added processing speed of the M2 chip that’s in the Pro models.

The iPad Air has Center Stage, which helps keep you in the frame during video calls, meaning you can move back and forth around the room while chatting on FaceTime and the camera will follow you.

You can buy a 5G cellular version of the iPad Air, which means you can download apps, music and movies faster when you’re away from Wi-Fi networks.

Like the iPad Pro and iPad mini, the iPad Air works with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, which is more comfortable to use and charges when it’s attached to magnets on the side of the tablet.

iPad Pros: You need as much power as you can get in a tablet.

Apple’s new iPad Pros in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes.
Apple

The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are the highest-end iPads available, with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro offering a brighter and more colorful screen than the 11-inch version. The new models — updated with Apple’s M2 processor and more — are currently available to order online and will be in stores on Oct. 26.

This is the iPad for serious gamers, video editors, photographers, designers (or creatives in general) and anyone who just wants the best iPad on the market. The bigger screen on the 12.9-inch iPad might make it attractive for people who prefer using a tablet instead of a laptop.

The M2 chip is the biggest update with the new iPad Pros. It’s the same processor that was introduced in the MacBook Air earlier this year. Apple said M2 offers about a 15% speed boost over the M1 processor used in last year’s iPad Pro. That might be beneficial for people trying to eke out as much speed as possible while rendering videos. There are some other upgrades, too.

Both new iPad Pro models support Apple’s new hover feature. With hover, the screen can now detect the tip of the Apple Pencil up to 12 millimeters above the surface of the screen. Apple says this will allow artists to sketch with more precision and makes handwriting-to-text conversions faster. The iPad Pro works with the $129 second-generation Apple Pencil.

The 11-inch version starts at $799 with Wi-Fi, while the 5G cellular model starts at $999. The 12.9-inch model starts at $1,099 with Wi-Fi and the 5G cellular version starts at $1,299. If you opt for maximum storage of 2TB, the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro will set you back $2,399.

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