iPad Buying Guide

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I will try to keep this article updated as new iPads are released. This article is current as of May 8 2023. If any new iPad have come out since then you may want to contact me. I might have simply forgotten to update this article.

iPad is Apple’s most varied product line, so it easily gets confusing when trying to decide which one to pick. Hopefully, this chart will help out.

In addition to the storage capacity, other decisions to make are color and whether to get cellular. Getting cellular allows you to connect your iPad to the internet without the use of WiFi or a mobile hotspot. The cost for cellular is an additional $150 for most models and $200 for iPad Pro, as well as a monthly fee from your cell phone provider for an additional line. For most people, I recommend just using WiFi or a mobile hotspot. You cannot add the cellular hardware later without replacing the iPad, but if you get the cellular model you are not required to pay for the cellular service.

In addition to what’s in the table below, the iPad Pro models do have a lot of upgrades over the other models:

  • Only iPad models with Face ID
  • Significantly better speakers
  • Better mic including Audio Zoom while taking video (it uses microphone tech that can “zoom” in on a distant subject like a camera zoom)
  • Ultra Wide camera
  • LiDAR scanner
  • Hover support for Apple Pencil
  • WiFi 6E
  • Cellular option has mmWave support
  • The USB-C connector supports Thunderbolt/USB 4 speeds
  • ProMotion display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Brighter screen, especially on the 12.9″ model

Apple also still sells the 9th generation iPad as an ultra-cheap option for $329. I don’t usually recommend this unless you have a particular need, you absolutely cannot afford anything more, or you’re getting it for kids that you are sure will destroy it anyway. It will be obsolete in just a few years. It is the older style with a home button. It is the only iPad that still uses the Lightning cable instead of the new USB-C cable. And the A13 chip is not even half the speed of the iPad Air.

If you are unsure, I usually recommend the iPad Air.

iPad mini 6th GeniPad 10th GeniPad Air 5th GeniPad Pro 11″ 4th GeniPad Pro 12.9″ 6th Gen
(image sizes not proportional)
Retail Starting Price$499$449$599$799$1,099
Price for 256 GB (for apple-to-apples comparison)$649$599$749$899$1,199
Purchase LinkApple / Best Buy / B&H Photo / AmazonApple / Best Buy / B&H Photo / AmazonApple / Best Buy / B&H Photo / AmazonApple / Best Buy / B&H Photo / AmazonApple / Best Buy / B&H Photo / Amazon
Who It’s ForSomeone who values portability above all else, and is happy with an iPad the size of a paperback book. Good for reading in bed because it’s much smaller and therefore lighter.Someone who values cost above all else and is fine with a lower-quality screen. Great for kids or for casual use.Best for most people. A good balance of quality and cost. Great for people who spend a lot of time on their iPad.Best for people who want some of the advanced features such as an improved camera, higher quality screen, larger storage options, extra processing power, and more sensitive Apple Pencil support.Best for people who really value a large screen and the other iPad Pro features.
DrawbacksScreen has what people describe as “jelly scroll” where text and images don’t scroll smoothly. Slower than most iPads. No support for Stage ManagerLow picture quality compared to other iPads. Screen is not “laminated” which means the glass and the display has a noticeable gap between. Slowest iPad. No support for Stage Manager.Touch ID instead of Face IDIt’s far more powerful than most people need.The cost is basically the same as a MacBook Air. More if you add a keyboard.
Screen Size8.3″10.9″10.9″11″12.9″
ProcessorA15 BionicA14 BionicApple M1Apple M2Apple M2
Speed Compared to iPad Air, per GeekbenchAbout 30% slowerAbout 40% slowerBaselineAbout 20% fasterAbout 20% faster
AuthenticationTouch IDTouch IDTouch IDFace IDFace ID
First-Party Keyboard Support (“Magic” items have a trackpad)Only Bluetooth, third-partyMagic Keyboard FolioMagic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard FolioMagic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard FolioMagic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Folio
Apple Pencil SupportApple Pencil 2Apple Pencil 1Apple Pencil 2Apple Pencil 2Apple Pencil 2
Capacities64 GB
256 GB
64 GB
256 GB
64 GB
256 GB
128 GB
256 GB
512 GB
1 TB
2 TB
128 GB
256 GB
512 GB
1 TB
2 TB

Where to Buy. I recommend purchasing from any authorized reseller. This includes direct from Apple, Best Buy, Amazon (if sold by Amazon), Target, B&H Photo, Adorama, and more. I don’t generally recommend buying used unless you trust the seller. There are a lot of stolen iPads on marketplaces such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist that are locked and cannot be used. And oftentimes when someone is selling an iPad it’s because it has a problem. You may want to shop around a bit because you can often find iPads discounted $50 to $100, and sometimes only a particular color is discounted.

Covers/Keyboards. As for accessories, generally, the only one I pretty much universally recommend is some sort of cover. That can either be one with or without an integrated keyboard. If you don’t want a keyboard, you can just get the “Smart Folio” which is a simple magnetic cover that protects the front and the back.

  • For the most trim and simple options, check out what Apple has to offer.
  • For more durable cover options at the expense of size, check out OtterBox.
  • For a keyboard with better protection or for more options at the expense of size, check out Logitech.

Apple Pencil. Many people have an interest in the Apple Pencil, but you should know that the Apple Pencil is not meant to be a tool to navigate the iPad in place of your finger. It can do that somewhat but it doesn’t work as well as your finger. It is intended for drawing and writing. So unless you intend to use the iPad for taking handwritten notes or for drawing, I recommend you skip the Apple Pencil. There are two models available, so make sure you are getting the correct one. This is not a choice to make; each iPad only works with one model or the other.

Chargers. All iPads come with a USB-C charging block and cable. If you want additional blocks or cables or want one that can charge multiple devices, I recommend looking at Anker rather than Apple.

Screen Protectors. I don’t recommend the use of screen protectors. They cover your screen and can interfere with the touch sensitivity of your screen. And they don’t do what most people think they do. They will not protect your screen from cracking. Anything that strikes the iPad with enough force to crack the screen will do so through a thin sheet of plastic or glass. They only protect from scratches, which is not very likely if you have a cover anyway.

Featured image courtesy Apple, Inc.

Further Help

If you are an existing customer who needs help with this or if you have other questions, or if you are in San Francisco and interested in becoming a client I invite you to book an appointment with me. Otherwise, you may wish to contact Apple Support or find a local Apple consultant.

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