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A Guide to Finding the Right iPad for You

by Sarah Dobson on August 24, 2020

The Big Idea: With four current models to choose from, deciding which iPad to buy can be tough. To help find the right iPad for you, we’ll give you the rundown on all four models – the iPad Pro, the iPad Air, the standard iPad, and the iPad Mini.

What You’ll Learn: This guide rates each iPad based on productivity (what you need it to do), entertainment (what you want it to do) and portability (where/how you plan to use it).

Deciding which iPad to buy can be an overwhelming decision. Apple has released an extensive line of iPads over the years and they’re all pretty amazing. Currently, there are four models available – the iPad Pro, the iPad Air, the standard iPad, and the iPad Mini. From a distance, these models look similar and have a lot of the same functionality. But when you look closer, there are a lot of differences in features between the models that meet the needs of different users.

So, which iPad is best?

It’s a tough question to answer definitively since so much depends on how you plan to use your iPad. If you’re in the market for a new iPad, the better question might be “which iPad is best for me?”

How to determine which iPad to buy

We put together the guide below to help you figure out which iPad model best fits your needs. We’ve boiled it down to three main factors:

  1. What you need it to do (productivity)
  2. What you want it to do (entertainment)
  3. Where you’re going to use it (portability)

You might notice price is not one of our factors. Since iPads vary in functionality and features, there’s a range in pricing. This is about finding the iPad that delivers the most value to you. Price can be factored in later to break ties or decide between your top choices.

Before we dive in, let’s take a closer look at each iPad model:

iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Display: 12.9-inch Liquid Retina display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color

Capacity: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

Colors: Silver, Space Gray

Battery life: Up to 10 hours

iPad Pro (11-inch)

Display: 11-inch edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide colorCapacity: 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB

Capacity: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

ColorsSilver, Space Gray

Battery life: Up to 10 hours


iPad Air

Display: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3 wide color

Capacity: 64GB, 256GB

Colors: Space Gray, Silver, Rose Gold, Sky Blue, Green

Battery life: Up to 10 hours



Display10.2-inch Retina display

Capacity: 32GB, 128GB

Colors: Space Gray, Silver, Gold

Battery life: Up to 10 hours


iPad Mini

Display: 7.9-inch Retina display with True Tone and wide color

Capacity: 64GB, 256GB

Colors: Space Gray, Silver, Gold

Battery life: Up to 10 hours

Factor No. 1: Which iPad is best for productivity? 

Fittingly, the two iPad Pro models are far and away the best bets if productivity is a principal factor for you. Whether you need to design elaborate 3D models, develop complex documents or create amazing presentations, both the 12.9-inch and 11-inch Pro models are a great fit.

Other than screen size, the iPad Pro models have a variety of features that allow you to perform complex tasks normally reserved for laptops:

  • Gigabit-class LTE that’s 60 percent faster with support for more LTE bands than any other tablet
  • Compatible with the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard to make it easier to work on complex projects
  • Your choice of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or a whopping 1TB capacity meaning you probably won’t have to worry about running out of storage room as you complete these projects
  • 10 hours of battery life to allow you to work all day on a single charge (this is true across all four models)

Winner: iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Runner-up: iPad Pro 11-inch

Third Place: iPad Air

The 12.9-inch Pro version gets the edge here due to a larger screen size which makes it easier to view, create and edit documents, as well as run two apps side-by-side. However, if you do a lot of work while traveling, especially on planes, the 11-inch iPad Pro is a solid runner-up.


Factor No. 2: What’s the most entertaining iPad?

iPads are just as much about having fun as they are helping you get stuff done. As far as providing entertainment, and the media capabilities that deliver it, all four models have their advantages.

For listening to music, both the iPad Pro models have four high-fidelity speakers – one in each corner – to deliver awesome sound no matter how you’re holding it. The standard and Mini versions still deliver great sound with two speakers, which doesn’t matter much if you’re listening with headphones.

With their large screens, the iPad Pro models are great for watching video. Both Pros feature P3 wide color support, letting you see photos, videos, apps and games in vivid, true-to-life detail. Interestingly, the iPad Mini has the best pixel density (over 3 million pixels in a 7.9-inch display!) of any of the models with the same resolution as the standard model. The Pro models and the Mini also have anti-reflective coating making it easier to see the screen outside, something the standard model is lacking.

While the camera probably isn’t a major factor for you when deciding which iPad to buy, all four models have exceptional photo and video recording functionality. The Pro models both have 12-megapixel cameras and 4K HD video recording, while the standard and Mini versions both sport 8-megapixel cameras and 1080p HD video recording.

Winner: iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Runner-up: iPad Air

Third place: iPad Pro 11-inch

In this category, it all comes down to use case. Are you going to watch video and listen to music from home most of the time? If so, one of the Pro models is probably best for you. Do you want to enjoy your iPad on the go? Then standard or Mini might be better.

For our ranking, we gave the iPad Pro 12.9-inch the nod since its larger screen is best for watching video. The iPad Air slipped into second place since it retains more of the added media capabilities of the Pro models than the Mini, while still being easier to take with you to watch and listen on the go.


Factor No. 3: What’s the most portable iPad?

Speaking of on the go, the standard iPad is just 10.2 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide and weighs in at just over a pound. The standard iPad loses some of the functionality of the Pro models but it’s still very powerful and supports the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard to help you stay productive on the go.

If you want to travel even lighter, the iPad Mini weighs in at just 0.68 pounds with dimensions that make it easy to squeeze into overstuffed luggage (height – 7.87 inches; width – 5.3 inches; depth – 0.28 inches).

Winner: iPad Air

Runner-up: iPad Mini

3rd place: iPad Pro 11-inch

Yes, the iPad Mini is the smallest and lightest, but it’s still not fitting into most pockets. The iPad Air model isn’t much bigger than the Mini and it allows you to carry around a lot more functionality without taking up much more real estate. Both the Pro models are almost big enough to require a backpack for transport so they’re definitely out on this category, but they’re still much lighter and easier to carry than your average laptop.


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