Apple iPad Pro, Air, or Mini? These are the Best iPads to buy in 2022
Apple’s iPad series has been considered the best tablet on the market for well over a decade, and while challengers running Windows and Android have stepped up their game in recent years, if you want the most polished and technically powerfully tablet, with the best app ecosystem too boot, it’s still going to be an iPad — especially since even the mid-range priced iPad Air packs the all-powerful M1 chip now.
The big question is: which iPad? Because Apple has a lot of them, and they’re confusingly named because they’re not clearly labeled by sequential numbers. Navigating this entire maze of decisions can be difficult though. That’s where we come in. Here are the best iPads to buy depending on your need or budget.
Navigate this guide:
- Best iPad money can buy: iPad Pro (2021, 12.9-inch)
- Best iPad for most people: iPad Air 5 (2022)
- Best budget iPad: iPad (2021)
- Best small iPad: iPad Mini (2021)
- Best older iPad for value: iPad Pro (2018, 11-inch)
- Best iPad Accessory: Apple Pencil (2nd gen)
Best iPad money can buy: iPad Pro (2021, 12.9-inch)
The 12.9 inch, 2021 model iPad Pro is so powerful, it’s almost overkill for an iPad. It runs on the same M1 chip that dropped jaws and garnered gushy praises last year when it debuted inside Macs, sports a mini LED screen that gets up to 1,000 nits in brightness, and on 1TB and 2TB models even comes with 16GB of RAM, which is unheard of for an Apple mobile device.
Even if you get the lower-storage model with “just” 8GB of RAM, this iPad Pro is going to perform every task you throw at it without breaking a sweat thanks to iPadOS’ excellent optimization and that aforementioned M1 chip, which outperforms Intel Core i9 processors in many tasks. If you’ve decided an iPad can be your full-time work machine, this 2021 12.9-inch model, paired with Apple’s Magic Keyboard case, is the way to go. If you need the absolute best tablet, this is it.
Also Great: iPad Pro (2021, 11-inch)
If you want to save a bit of money, the smaller 11 inch model of the 2021 iPad Pro still offers the M1 chip, Thunderbolt USB-C port, and “TrueDepth” camera system with a LiDAR scanner. But it lacks the groundbreaking mini LED panel used by its larger sibling. Still, the screen here (a more traditional LCD panel) is no slouch, and it still refreshes at 120Hz for smoother animations.
You also get the very useful “Center Stage” feature that allows the iPad’s front-facing camera to automatically track your face and keeping you center-framed during video calls.
Best iPad for most people: iPad Air 5 (2022)
The newest iPad on this list, the iPad Air 5 (2022) brings back almost the exact same design and outer hardware as the 2020 model — so you’re still getting a 10.9-inch LCD 60Hz display, Touch ID fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, and the same just-about-right size (not as big as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but not as small as the iPad Mini).
But this new iPad Air got major upgrades inside — mostly in the chip, which has been bumped up to M1, thus giving it roughly the same power as the iPad Pros on this list. The RAM has also been doubled to 8GB (not that Apple discloses it anyway). The only other hardware change is the front-facing webcam is now upgraded to a 12MP ultra-wide camera which can handle Apple’s “Center Stage.”
While its 10.9-inch screen may feel slightly cramped as a full-time work machine, it’s more than suitable for shorter stretches of work on the go at coffee shops or airport lounges, and it’s arguably the perfect size for fun things like watching NetFlix, playing games or sketching with the Apple Pencil.
That it runs on the M1 — the same chip seen in not just the iPad Pro but even the iMac and MacBooks — makes this $599 iPad Air a very attractive deal.
Best budget iPad: iPad (2021)
As the name implies — just iPad, with no “Air” or “Pro” moniker affixed at the end — this is the vanilla iPad using the old but iconic circular home button design with thicker bezels. While there’s no denying this design looks a bit outdated in 2021 — it still charges via Lightning cable instead of USB-C — this 2021 iPad is still quite capable, with a 7nm A13 Bionic chip (the same SoC used in iPhone 11 series two years ago), and support for Apple Pencil (although the first-gen version). Factor in the low starting price of $329, and this is a great option for those on a budget or young students. Do note that the keyboard and Apple Pencil shown in the above photo require separate purchases.
Best small iPad: iPad Mini (2021)
Measuring just 203mm x 135mm x 6.1mm and weighing just 0.6lbs, Apple’s tiny iPad finally got a modern refresh at the iPhone 13 launch event, with slimmer bezels and a home button-less design that matches up with the top end iPad series in aesthetics. The slimming of bezels brings practical benefits too — the iPad Mini 2021 has a larger screen (8.3 inches) than the 2019 model, yet it has smaller dimensions at 195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3 mm. This thing is so petite that when you attach the gen two Apple Pencil to it, the Pencil’s length almost covers the entire side of the iPad Mini.
This means this is a very easy carry for small bags or in one hand. And it’s not lacking in power either, running on the Apple A15 Bionic which will have enough processing power to last you years. And yes, as spoiled in the last paragraph, this new iPad Mini supports the newer gen two Apple Pencil.
Best older iPad for value: iPad Pro (2018, 11-inch)
If after reading through this list, you find yourself really wanting the Pro model iPads for that modern slim-bezelled design, Face ID, excellent speakers, and 120Hz screen refresh rate, but find the 2021 models too pricey, you can consider buying the 2018 model which is now on major discount.
The 2018 iPad Pros are the first iPads to get the modern redesign, and it looks very similar to the 2021 models including all the features mentioned in the last paragraph. You do lose out on the M1 chip, mini LED display, ultra-wide camera, and LiDAR scanner, but you’re still getting an iPad Pro experience at a much lower price tag. Pair this with the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard and the machine works just as well as the 2021 models in most tasks.
Best iPad Accessory: Apple Pencil (2nd gen)
While there are many excellent third-party keyboard options for the iPad (so users don’t have to buy the official Apple keyboard case unless they want to), there are no real stylus alternatives to the Apple Pencil for the iPad. So if you want to sketch, take notes, or just have a finer point for photo or video editing, the Apple Pencil is the only option in town.
The good news is Apple’s Pencil is really good — arguably the best consumer-grade stylus, with over 4,000 pressure sensitivity points and dozens of excellent creativity apps that support the Pencil.
Do note that the second-generation Apple Pencil only works with the modern slim-bezelled iPads without a home button. If you want a stylus for the iPad Mini or iPad with the circular home button, you need to get the first-generation Apple Pencil, which we’ve listed below.
Also Great: Apple Pencil (1st gen)
The original Apple Pencil is the one you want if you’re buying it for the iPad (2020) or iPad Mini (2019). This stylus works mostly the same way as the improved generation two versions above, except it cannot attach magnetically to the iPad and has to be charged by removing a cap at the top of the stylus. A bit awkward, but still an excellent tool for drawing and sketching.
Apple’s iPad is arguably the best machine for both work and play, and every iPad listed here would excel at both. We have a soft spot for the 2022 iPad Air for the reasons listed above, but if you have money to spend and want the best of the best, the 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro brings a better screen and speakers.