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Not sure which iPad is best? Here’s how to choose the best Apple tablet

Apple’s iPad turned 10 this year and, while current models are still essentially a slate of glass and metal, their size, features and performance have changed a lot since it was first officially unveiled onstage by Steve Jobs on Jan. 27, 2010. The current lineup includes the 10.2-inch iPad (2019, seventh-generation), 10.5-inch iPad Air (2019, third-generation) and second-gen 11- and fourth-gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro models released earlier this year. There’s also the fifth-gen 2019 7.9-inch iPad mini. 

Read more: The best 2020 iPad deals: The 10.2-inch model is back on sale for $250

As you might expect, the features and performance get better as you move up in the line. Regardless of the iPad you go with, though, all of the current iPad models support one of Apple’s Smart Keyboard and either the first- or second-gen Apple Pencil. That’s good news for anyone looking to do more than play Apple Arcade games, look at websites and stream videos and music. Plus, all of the current models support mouse and trackpad use for a more MacBook-like experience. 

ipad-air-2019-vs-ipad-pro-2018-vs-ipad-2018Apple/Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET

That said, Apple iPads hold their value, and there’s generally a huge market for older used and refurbished iPads. Availability dried up some over the past several months with more people working and learning from home. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best deal before you buy an iPad. 

Read more: How to pick the best iPad keyboard trackpad case  

iPad 2019 vs. iPad Air 2019 vs. iPad Pro 2020 specs

iPad 2019 (10.2) iPad Air 2019 (10.5) iPad Pro 2020 (11) iPad Pro 2020 (12.9)
Availability See it at Amazon See it at Amazon See it at Amazon See it at Amazon
Display resolution 2,160×1,620-pixel resolution 2,224×1,668-pixel resolution 2,388×1,668-pixel resolution 2,732×2,048-pixel resolution
Pixel density (ppi) 264 ppi 264 ppi 264 ppi 264 ppi
Rear camera 8-megapixel f2.4 8-megapixel f2.4 12-megapixel f1.8 wide, 10-megapixel f2.4 ultrawide 12-megapixel f1.8 wide, 10-megapixel f2.4 ultrawide
Video recording 1080p at 30fps 1080p at 30fps 4K at 24, 30 or 60fps (wide); 60fps (ultrawide) 4K at 24, 30 or 60fps (wide); 60fps (ultrawide)
FaceTime front-facing camera 1.2-megapixel photos; 720p video 7-megapixel photos; 1080p video 7-megapixel TrueDepth; 1080p video 7-megapixel TrueDepth; 1080p video
Processor A10 A12 A12Z A12Z
Dimensions 9.8×6.8×0.29 inches 9.8×6.8×0.24 inches 9.7x7x0.23 inches 11×8.5×0.23 inches
Weight 1.07 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.09 lbs. (LTE) 1 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.02 lbs. (LTE) 1.04 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.04 lbs. (LTE) 1.41 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.42 lbs.(LTE)
Battery Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular
Headphone jack Yes Yes No No
Connector port Lightning; Apple Smart Connector Lightning; Apple Smart Connector USB-C; Apple Smart Connector USB-C; Apple Smart Connector
Apple Pencil-compatibility Yes; 1st generation Yes; 1st generation Yes; 2nd generation Yes; 2nd generation
Unlock with Touch ID Touch ID Face ID Face ID
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0
SIM card support for cellular model Nano-SIM; eSIM Nano-SIM; eSIM Nano-SIM; eSIM Nano-SIM; eSIM
iPad Keyboard compatibility Smart Keyboard Smart Keyboard Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio
Audio Two-speaker Two-speaker Four-speaker Four-speaker
Capacity and price: Wi-Fi models $329 (32GB) / $429 (128GB) $499 (64GB) / $649 (256GB) $799 (64GB) / $899 (256GB) / $1,099 (512GB) / $1,299 (1TB) $999 (128GB) / $1,099 (256GB) / $1,299 (512GB) / $1,499 (1TB)
Capacity and price: LTE models $459 (32GB) / $559 (128GB) $629 (64GB) / $779 (256GB) $949 (64GB) / $1,049 (256GB) / $1,249 (512GB) / $1,449 (1TB) $1,149 (128GB) / $1,249 (256GB) / $1,449 (512GB) / $1,649 (1TB)

Best iPad for most people

Apple iPad (10.2-inch, 2019)

Sarah Tew/CNET

The least-expensive iPad is also the one we’re most likely to recommend for people looking for a new iPad for the family and general use. Despite its older A10 processor, the 10.2-inch iPad can handle the latest iPadOS just fine, and its display that’s slightly larger than its predecessor’s is better for productivity and entertainment. One word of caution, though: The base 32GB of storage can fill up fast, so we recommend going with the 128GB version if possible. Read our Apple iPad 10.2-inch 2019 review.

$329 at Apple

$330 at Best Buy

$330 at Adorama

For those who want a little more

Apple iPad Air (10.5-inch, 2019)

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 2019 iPad Air is a lot like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro 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. .

$499 at Apple

$443 at Back Market


$500 at Best Buy

Best iPad for the casual user

iPad Mini (7.9-inch, 2019)

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The littlest iPad doesn’t look any different than it did in 2015, but for 2019 it got a faster A12 processor and Apple Pencil support. Those additions make the 7.9-inch Mini — starting at $399 (£399, AU$599) — a smart choice for those who want a smaller device for notetaking 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 dated compared to the rest of the lineup, at least it has Touch ID and a headphone jack to go along with them.  Read our Apple iPad Mini 2019 review.

See at Amazon

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