iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro vs. iPad mini: iPad Buying Guide (2023)

By Sean Riley


Which iPad should you buy?

iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro vs. iPad mini: iPad Buying Guide (1)

Withfour different iPads covering a variety of sizes and prices ranging from $329 to over $2,000, there are plenty of excellent Apple tablets to choose from. That's a good thing, but how do you decide which iPad is the right fit for you?

Do you just want to watch videos and use a few apps or are you looking for something that can be a laptop replacement or a creative tool? Use our handy iPad buying guide to get the right Apple slate for your needs and budget.

The iPad Air 5 is still arguably the best iPad for most users, bringing the M1 processor and optional 5G in a more affordable package than the iPad Pros. However, the newly announced iPad Pro 2022 or iPad 2022 could tip the scales away from the iPad Air 5, but we'll have to see once we get them in for review. At first blush, the new iPad Pros don't seem like a significant upgrade over the previous models for most users, but the new iPad 2022 may be a spoiler for the Air as it bridges the gap between the base iPad 2021 and the iPad Air 5.

If you're in the market for a new iPad right then you should take a look at the best iPad deals as there are often excellent discounts on the previous models in the wake of a new iPad launch.

iPad Pro vs. iPad Air vs. iPad mini vs. iPad: Compared

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The iPad lineup is made up of four families: the iPad Pro, the iPad mini, the iPad Air and the iPad. But as you drill down to the individual models, you'll findplenty of variety in specs, features, and prices. Here's a quick breakdown.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPad Pro12.9-inchiPad Pro11-inchiPad Air (2022)iPad (2021)iPad mini (2021)
Best ForLaptop Replacement, Professional ArtistsLaptop Replacement, Professional ArtistsProductivity, Media Consumption, GamingMedia Consumption, GamingReading, Email, Social Media, Gaming
Starting Price$1,099$799$599$329$499
Screen12.9inches (2732 x 2048), Liquid Retina XDR11 inches (2388 x 1688); Liquid Retina10.9-inch (2360 x 1640)10.2 inches (2160 x 1620)8.3 inches Liquid Retina
Battery Life10 hours (rated, web surfing); 9 hours (browsing)10 hours (rated, web surfing); 9 hours (browsing)10:0911:5910:59
ProcessorM1M1M1A13 BionicA15
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB
Cameras(Rear / Front)12MP and 10MP/7MP front12MP and 10MP/7MP12MP/7MP8MP, 12MP12MP, 12MP
Color OptionsSilver, Space GraySilver, Space GraySpace Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, BlueSilver, Space GraySpace Gray, Pink, Purple, Gold
Touch IDFace IDFace IDYesYesYes
Pencil SupportedYesYesYesYesYes
Dimensions11 x 8.5 x 0.25 inches9.7x7 x 0.24 inches9.7 x 7 x 0.2 inches9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches7.7 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight1.5 pounds1 pound1 pound1.1 pounds0.7 pounds

Common Features

All iPads provide access to more than 1 million apps optimized for the big screen, which is far more than what Android or Windows devices offer. You can also expect a high-quality aluminum unibody design and a bright and crisp display.

The tablets all come with iPadOS. As with the iPhone the software support from Apple is second to none and you can expect at least 5-6 years of software updates regardless of which model you select.

Also note that all iPad models can be ordered with 4G LTE or 5G capability, which allows you to get online when you're out of Wi-Fi range. If you're an iPhone user you may want to forgo the added cost for the cellular iPad and the associated plan as the personal hotspot feature works fairly seamlessly, but it's a nice option to have.

iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro vs. iPad mini: iPad Buying Guide (2)

(Video) iPad vs Mini vs Air vs Pro - iPad Buyers Guide

iPad (2021)

Best budget tablet

Reasons to avoid


Dated design

Simply called the "iPad," this 10.2-inch slate is the most affordable Apple tablet, with a starting price of just $329. Despite its lower price, the iPad has plenty of premium specs, including a 2160 x 1620-pixel Retina display, a speedy A13 Bionic processor, Apple Pencil support and dual 8-MP / 12-MP cameras. It comes in 64GB or 128GB capacity.

This model is actually staying around following the release of the iPad (2022) as the new iPad is making the jump to a $449 starting price. Now it earns it with a bump to a 10.9-inch display, an A14 Bionic processor, improved cameras, a USB-C port, and a more modern design that eliminates the home button, but the iPad (2021) is going to remain a strong affordable option.

Best For: Because of its relatively low price and generous screen size, the iPad is a great choice for media consumption, gaming, social media and some light productivity. Although the iPad mini 4 is a better size for small hands, many parents will prefer the iPad's lower price when choosing a slate for their kids. College students on a budget will also find this model appealing.

See our iPad (2021) coverage

iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro vs. iPad mini: iPad Buying Guide (3)

iPad mini

Best small tablet

Reasons to buy


Compact size enables single-handed use


Fast performance from A15 Bionic


Sharp and bright display


Decent battery life and USB-C charging


Excellent camera upgrades

Reasons to avoid


Magic Keyboard isn't supported


Apple Pencil Gen 2 sold separately


Small display can feel cramped


64GB of storage



(Video) 2021 Apple iPad Buyer's Guide - iPad Air vs iPad Pro vs iPad vs iPad Mini

The more portable, purse-friendly tablet in the iPad family, the iPad mini is a great handheld device. It features an 8.3-inch display and an A15 chip.

Best For: If you like to read on the couch, in bed, or on the go, the iPad mini is a great size for books, especially comic books. Its relatively small screen makes it easy to type quick social media posts or send off emails, during one-handed use or while standing up. The mini is the best size for kids, but parents may prefer to get the less-expensive iPad.

See our full iPad mini (2021) review

iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro vs. iPad mini: iPad Buying Guide (4)

iPad Air (2022)

Best for most people

Reasons to buy


Sleek design with thin bezels


M1 chip delivers excellent performance


Good battery life


Loud, clear speakers


Support for Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard but...

Reasons to avoid


Accessories are expensive add-ons


No Face ID or headphone jack


64GB base storage


Display could be brighter, more vivid

This $599 iPad Air looks to provide the best mix of pro and consumer features at a price that won't hurt too much. With support for the current Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, it can be your next 2-in-1, acting as a laptop when you need to be productive.

The biggest differences between it and the entry-level $329 iPad are its larger 10.9-inch screen and blistering fast M1 processor. It also mirrors the iPad Pro with USB-C charging and while it would have been nice to get Face ID, the fingerprint sensor is fast and moving it to the side button gives the Air thinner display bezels and a more modern iPad Pro design.

(Video) 3 Things I LOVE & HATE About the iPad Mini 6! 1 Year Later

Best For: Overall, the iPad Air is a great option for most people who aren't on such a tight budget but don't need the niche features that make the iPad Pro so expensive.The only reason to consider the upgrade to a Pro now that the Air also features the M1 processor, are the superior cameras, Face ID, and the larger 120Hz displays.

See our iPad Air (2020) review

iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro vs. iPad mini: iPad Buying Guide (5)

iPad Pro (11-inch)

Best for on-the-go professionals

Reasons to buy


Stellar performance


Intuitive and useful trackpad support


Vivid and super bright display

Reasons to avoid


Expensive (especially with accessories)

This is what happens when you take the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, increase its screen, shrink its bezels and swap its home button out for Face ID. Oh, and then there's the Ferrari engine under the hood: Apple's unbelievable M1 processor still flies in the 2021 iPad Pros.

The iPad Pro 2021 is for the same crowd as the previous models: those without a budget who want the absolute best tablet on the market, as well as professionals and enthusiasts using intensive apps for content creation or editing. Unless Apple changes direction and turns the iPad Pro into a true laptop replacement, the market for this tablet will remain limited.

The iPad Pro (2022) adds a faster M2 processor and Wi-Fi 6E support in both models, but those are the only significant upgrades, so if you can find a good deal on an iPad Pro 2021 then you shouldn't be worried that you are missing out on much. Most users will never touch the upward limit of even the M1-powered iPad Pros performance.

Best For: Creative pros who love their styluses, want a smaller device and push their iPad to the limits. Also, pros on a budget will go for this model, as it's just as fast and capable, but starts at $200 less and its $179 Smart Keyboard Folio is $20 less than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's keyboard cover.

iPad Pro (2021, 12.9-inch)

Best as a tablet/laptop hybrid

Reasons to buy


XDR display can get bright and vivid


M1 chip is outrageously fast


Slim, durable chassis

(Video) ULTIMATE iPad buyer’s guide - 2023 edition!


Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 support


Improved front-facing camera with Center Stage


5G wireless speeds

Reasons to avoid


Display has some limitations


iPadOS can feel restricting



If you think bigger is better, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best. Not only does it have the speedy M1 that the 11-inch iPad Pro offers, but its 2732 x 2048-pixel mini-LED edge-to-edge panel is the largest digital canvas that apple offers. But that size doesn't ruin its portability, as it's a mere 0.4 pounds heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro and only slightly thicker at 0.25 inches compared to 0.23 inches.

And about that M1 processor, our tests showed that the new iPad Pro is faster at image editing than actual laptops. And with 10+ hours of battery life, it also outlasts most PCs.

The 2nd Generation Apple Pencil (sold separately for $129) packs gesture-based tricks in its barrel and a charging method that won't feel like you're breaking it, while the Magic Keyboard turns the iPad Pro into a laptop.

Best For: Those demanding creative pros who want the best iPad experience possible. Not only is it super-fast, but its larger screen — both in inches and pixels — provides the largest canvas for professional artists and video editors to do their work.

See our 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) review

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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.


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