Which is the best iPad? We have tested and compared all of Apple’s current tablets, and here are our test winners.
What are the best Apple iPads you can buy this year? Here at Gadgetmark, we test almost every tablet released in Germany. Of course, this also includes those from Cupertino, and it still has every iPad that has come out in the last few years at my house to compare to others. Moreover, I particularly like using iPads myself.
In this leaderboard, you will find the best iPads that I think you can buy right now. These include the more expensive Pro series and the small iPad Mini and the much cheaper iPad 9.
The Best iPads: An Overview
Best iPads overall:
Apple iPad Pro 2021 (at Amazon*). The apparent test winners in this category are the 11-inch and 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro of the 2021 generation. Due to the M1 chipset, they are significantly more potent than the other tablets on this leaderboard. At the same time, the displays are brighter, support 120Hz, and are simply premium devices in every respect.
Best iPad Pro Alternative:
Apple iPad Air 5 (at Amazon*). The best alternative to the expensive iPad Pros is the Apple iPad Air 5. It is similar to the 11-inch Pro in many respects but is slightly smaller at 10.9 inches and only supports 60Hz. However, the Air is also built to a high standard and works with identical keyboards like the Apple Pencil 2. What is impressive is that the same M1 processor as the Pro sits inside!
Best 8-inch Tablet:
Apple iPad Mini (at Amazon*). The current iPad Mini is not only the best small Apple tablet but the best 8-inch tablet overall. It offers a stylish display with Apple Pencil 2 support, is faster than any Android tablet, and has a high-quality finish. It is currently my favorite tablet.
The best cheap iPad is:
Apple iPad 9 (at Amazon*). With the Apple iPad 9, the manufacturer offers an amazingly inexpensive tablet that is amazingly powerful on the inside. Very few will notice a difference in performance compared to the iPad Pro. However, other features such as the display, build quality, and accessory options are not quite as good. It was cheap for that.
What about older iPads? In my experience, Apple tablets last a long time. So if you want to save some money, it can be worthwhile to grab one that is one, two, or even three years old. However, I would not buy much older iPads anymore. Apple distributes long updates, but at some point, iPads become obsolete too.
The Best iPads: All the Details
Now let us look at the devices in detail. The complete test reports are always linked.
Apple iPad Pro 2021: The best tablets
In my opinion, the two Apple iPad Pro tablets of the 2021 generation are currently the best tablets on the market. They are more potent than any other tablet. However, they are also built to a high standard, have magnificent displays, excellent accessories, and a wide selection of tablet-optimized apps.
Apple offers the iPad Pro with an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch screen. Although the displays are different, you should mainly determine which of the two you take by the size. Would you like a huge one or a slightly smaller one? The 12.9-inch model resembles a 13-inch laptop, while the 11-inch model is as tiny as most tablets, making it more portable.
The big highlight is the Apple M1 processor, also found in many MacBooks. It makes the iPad Pro more powerful than any Android tablet and faster than many expensive laptops, and it is vastly superior to every competitor in benchmarks. Moreover, even in everyday life, it is suitable for computationally intensive work.
Because of the fast performance, I particularly like editing photos on the iPad Pro. However, intensive multitasking is also possible, all games can be played with the highest graphics settings, and even 4K videos can be edited wonderfully. Better than with many Windows devices.
In addition to the M1 chipset, we get 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 128GB to 2TB of storage. 5G options are also available.
The 11-inch iPad Pro has a regular LCD that is very sharp with a resolution of 2388 x 1668 pixels. At the same time, it is brighter than most of the competition at 600 nits, and it is a perfect IPS display.
More extraordinary, however, is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which has a so-called Liquid Retina XDR display. It is a new technology that is also called mini-LED. Black levels are intense here, it supports HDR content at up to 1600 nits, and at 2732 x 2048, it is just as sharp as the smaller model. Both support up to 120Hz.
However, the XDR display has one disadvantage. Under some conditions, a kind of blooming effect is visible. You can take a closer look at this problem in my review.
You can write on both displays with the Apple Pencil 2, an excellent stylus, and it is charged by induction on the tablet. Apple also offers two keyboards, of which the Apple Magic Keyboard is particularly noteworthy. Although this is an expensive keyboard, it almost turns your iPad into a laptop with a touchpad.
As usual, both are made entirely of metal and feel very high-quality. There are four excellent speakers on each side, there is a USB C Thunderbolt port, and you can unlock it via Face ID. As is typical for Apple, there is no MicroSD card slot.
Apple iPad Air 5: The best Pro alternative
The Apple iPad Air 5 is the best alternative to the iPad Pro if you want to save some money and can do without some premium features. It is still a very high-end tablet, but the speakers are not quite as good, the display “only” supports 60Hz, and there is no 12-inch version. Still, it is better than many Android tablets.
There are almost no differences in the basic design compared to the Pro. It gives us a high-quality metal body that works with the identical keyboards that Apple offers for the 11-inch Pro. The iPad Air even has a magnetic area for the Apple Pencil 2, which charges the pen. There is also a USB C port. Instead of FaceID, however, there is a fingerprint reader called TouchID.
At 10.9 inches, the Liquid Retina display is slightly smaller but remains very sharp with 2360 x 1640 pixels. It is fully laminated, 500 nits bright, supports True Tone technology, and looks great. However, it is not a 120Hz ProMotion display. So animations do not look as smooth as on the Pro. It is the most significant difference between the two.
The Air is almost identical in terms of performance. Inside is the same Apple M1 processor that we know from the Pro. Although the performance is slightly weaker in some benchmarks, I could not tell any difference. Games run smoothly with the highest graphics settings, and I used it to edit photos and videos beautifully.
Apple offers the iPad Air with 64GB or 256GB of internal storage, and all versions have 8GB of RAM. Optionally, you can also get it with built-in 5G.
The software is identical for all iPads, and Apple has been rolling out iPadOS updates for a surprisingly long time, longer than most manufacturers. In this respect, all the tablets on this list are very well positioned.
Apple iPad Mini 6: Best 8-inch Tablet
The Apple iPad Mini 6 is the best 8-inch tablet on the market – more potent than any Android tablet of this size. It is ultimately a smaller version of the iPad Air, but the design has shrunk to 8.3 inches, and the performance is slightly weaker. It is 0.4 inches larger than the previous version.
Typically, Apple’s case is made entirely of metal, and the artistry feels very high quality. We get thin, even display bezels, a magnetic area to charge the Apple Pencil 2, good stereo speakers, and a USB-C port. A TouchID fingerprint reader is built into the power button like the Air.
The highlight of the Mini is the 8.3-inch Liquid Retina LCD. While it is not as bright as the Pro at 500 nits, it is as bright as the Air. Viewing angles are nice and wide, colors look great, and the screen is very sharp at 2266 x 1488 pixels. It is a pity that it only supports 60Hz and not 120Hz.
However, I could observe a disadvantage with the display of the iPad Mini. If you hold it upright and scroll, a kind of jelly effect or rolling shutter effect is visible. As if one half of the display were updated slightly slower than the other. The problem is not bad – and there is no alternative anyway. It can read more about it in my review.
On the other hand, it is excellent to write on a small tablet with the same Apple Pencil 2 that also works with the Pro and Air. It is an excellent stylus, and it is just as good for handwriting and drawing as the other two. As usual, the stylus has to be purchased separately.
The performance of the iPad Mini is unbeatable because, with the Apple A15 processor, there is a powerful chipset inside. It is supported by 4GB RAM and 64GB or 256GB storage, and optional 5G. Impressively, it outperforms the newer Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 in benchmarks. However, it does not come close to the iPad Pro and Air. Therefore, it is well suited as a gaming tablet and for all demanding applications.
Apple iPad 9: Best entry-level tablet
The Apple iPad 9 is the cheapest tablet that Apple currently offers. It is significantly weaker than the Pro and Air in all respects, and we still get the old, typical iPad design of the first generation. The performance is impressive because it is faster than most Android tablets, including premium devices like the Galaxy Tab S7, thanks to the Apple A13 chipset. Much performance for little money.
At 10.2 inches, the IPS display of the iPad 9 is slightly smaller than the Air, but it is also very sharp at 2160 x 1620 pixels and just as bright at 500 nits. The colors and contrast look great.
However, I find it unfortunate that the display is not fully laminated. A small air gap is visible between the touchscreen and the IPS layer. This can make it appear as if you are not touching the display directly, especially with the Apple Pencil. That is the most significant compromise you will have to make with the iPad 9 compared to the other tablets on this list.
You can write on the screen with the Apple Pencil 1, which is similar in quality to the Apple Pencil 2. However, it is not charged by induction but via the tablet’s Lightning connector. Nevertheless, it is a perfect pen that responds quickly and is very well supported by the software. However, due to the non-laminated display, it is harder to draw very precisely.
The basic design has not changed at all over the years. Although we still get a high-quality metal case, the design looks old. We get thick bezels, a physical home button, and the old Lightning connector. It is also a pity that although it has good stereo speakers, the sound only comes from one side. However, the TouchID fingerprint reader, located on the home button, is practical.
Of course, the latest version of iPadOS also runs on the iPad 9, and it is the same software as on the Pro.
In addition to the stylus, Apple offers an official keyboard case for the basic iPad, suitable for everyday work. However, if you want to write a lot on your tablet, I recommend connecting a more traditional keyboard via Bluetooth.
Below I answer a few questions that we get regularly.
How do we test iPads?
I buy all Apple iPads myself, as do most tablets from other manufacturers. So we are not sponsored by Apple. After buying an iPad, I test it just like the other devices, and I compare it to the competition, run benchmarks like Geekbench 5 and 3D Mark, play lots of games, and see if everything works properly. In addition, I always run the same battery test and see how good the video rendering performance is with Adobe Premiere Rush.
However, I mainly use it as my everyday tablet for a few weeks to months. I use it to surf the Internet, edit photos in Lightroom and Photoshop, and watch movies with Netflix or Prime Video.
What is the difference between iPad Pro and iPad Air?
You read it above. The differences between the iPad Pro and iPad Air are currently minimal since the basic design and the Apple M1 chipset are the same. With the Air, however, we get a slightly smaller display that is slightly darker and only supports 60Hz instead of up to 120Hz. In addition, the speakers are a bit weaker, the USB port is slightly worse, and there is TouchID instead of FaceID. There is also no second camera and no LiDAR sensor on the back.
Which iPad is the latest?
The latest iPad is currently the Apple iPad Air 5, followed by the iPad Mini 6 and iPad 9. The two iPad Pro models are currently the “oldest.” In quotation marks, they were released in 2021 and are therefore not old.