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The best iPads you can buy

DATE POSTED:September 30, 2019
  • You can't go wrong with any of Apple's iPads, but the 2018 9.7-inch iPad is the best deal for most people with its sharp screen, fast processor, support for Pencil, and low $330 price tag (it's frequently on sale for less).
  • The 2019 10.2-inch iPad has most of the same specs as the 9.7-inch iPad, but it has a larger screen — it's a good deal at $330 too.
  • We also think the 2019 iPad Mini and iPad Air are great deals if you want to spend a bit more for new processors and better specs.
  • Additionally, the iPad Pro models are terrific for people who want a super powerful tablet that can act like a laptop in a pinch.

Apple is the uncontested king of tablets. The word iPad is synonymous with the word tablet. Chances are if you own a tablet at all, you have an iPad.

Apple's tablet lineup is more varied than ever before, and a brand-new iPad just joined the crew. At $330, the 9.7-inch iPad and 10.2-inch iPad are two of the cheapest iPads Apple has ever sold, but they're both quite powerful and they even support the Apple Pencil.

The rest of the iPads are equally stylish and powerful (if not more so). We've tested nearly every iPad that has been released over the past three years, and these are the absolute best iPads you can buy. 

Here are the best iPads you can buy in 2019:

Updated on 09/30/2019 by Malarie Gokey: Updated prices, added the new 10.2-inch iPad, and updated formatting.

The best iPad overall

The 2018 9.7-inch iPad and the 2019 10.2-inch iPad are absolute steals at $330 with a gorgeous sharp screen, high-end metal design, and support for the Apple Pencil.

Apple's iPads have always been the best tablets you can buy, but the high price tags made it tough to find an iPad on a budget. All that has changed with the 2018 9.7-inch iPad. It costs a mere $330 when it's not on sale (it's frequently discounted), and it offers nearly all of the same high-end specs and features as the new iPad Air. The only difference is the processor, which is a bit older.

Apple also introduced a larger 10.2-inch iPad in September 2019 for those who want a bigger screen. It also costs $330 and it has most of the same specs.

If you own an aging iPad or iPad Mini, the 9.7-inch iPad or the 10.2-inch iPad are good upgrades. Obviously, if you have an iPad Air 2 or an iPad Pro, you don't need to get the new one. The iPad is for anyone who has always wanted an iPad, but couldn't afford the $500+ price tag. Both iPads are an absolute steal at $330, and you may be able to get the 9.7-inch one for less, as it's frequently on sale.

The 9.7-inch screen is sharp and clear with its 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution, as is the 2,160 x 1,620-pixel resolution on the 10.2-inch model. The A10 processor is still capable (even though it's not the iPhone 11's A13 chip), the battery life should be great, and you can even buy things on both iPads with Apple Pay, thanks to the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Best of all, both iPads support the Apple Pencil, an incredible stylus with virtually no lag. You will have to pay $100 extra for the Pencil, but if you like to take notes or draw on your iPad, it is well worth it. Naturally, any Bluetooth keyboard also works with the iPad, so if you want to use it as a quasi-laptop, you can pick up a great keyboard.

You simply can't beat those specs at that price point. Comparable Android tablets cost hundreds of dollars more, and the iPad still has a better app library and accessory support. 

The aluminum build looks and feels premium. Both iPads are quite light, too, so you can happily binge-watch Netflix in bed or take them with you. Tech nerds will say the iPads have a boring old design, but it's tried and true. Plus, the aluminum build is durable.

Pros: Incredible price for an iPad, slick aluminum design, Touch ID for security and Apple Pay, gorgeous screen, supports the Apple Pencil

Cons: Not the latest processor



The best mid-range iPad

The new iPad Air sits right in the middle of Apple's iPad lineup with its perfectly sized screen, $499 price, and great specs.

If you don't want an iPad Pro, but you don't want the Mini and you won't compromise and get lesser specs, the iPad Air is the tablet for you. It sits right in the middle of the iPad lineup, and it has everything you need.

The new iPad Air keeps the same overall design as previous-generation iPad Air models, so it has the Home button and larger bezels compared to the new iPad Pro models.

Although it looks the same, there's a lot of new tech inside. The new Air runs on Apple's A12 Bionic chip, so it's very fast and responsive. The tablet also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, which is widely considered the best stylus for drawing on a tablet, and it has a sharp 10.5-inch True Tone screen with a resolution of 2,224 × 1,668 pixels.

You can buy the iPad Air with either 64GB or 256GB of storage, and it comes in three color options: Silver, Space Gray, or Gold. You can also choose either a Wi-Fi-only connection or a combination of cellular and Wi-Fi connections.

Alongside the iPad Air, Apple is also selling a Smart Keyboard, which is great for those of you who want to use your tablet as a laptop in a pinch, but it's no iPad Pro. If you want to do more with your tablet, we recommend the Pro models.

Pros: Good price, nice sharp screen, works with the Pencil, new processor

Cons: Old design with bigger bezels



The best small iPad

The new iPad Mini is finally here, and it may not have the new design, but it has all the new specs and it supports Apple's excellent Pencil stylus.

When the first iPad Mini came out, I wanted it immediately. I'd never liked big tablets, and its small size seemed perfect. I'm not alone in my love of small tablets, but for years, Apple has left the iPad Mini series to languish without an update — until now.

The 2019 iPad Mini is Apple's budget-friendly small tablet. It may not have the fresh new design we were hoping for — those thick bezels are still there along with the home button — but it has all the latest specs we wanted in this update.

It's powered by the ultra-powerful A12 Bionic chip, and it supports the first-generation Apple Pencil. We're thrilled Apple gave the Mini Pencil support, as it's the best stylus we've ever used, and it makes the Mini a great tablet for note taking or drawing.

The Mini's True Tone, 7.9-inch screen has a sharp 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution, too, so you can really enjoy watching videos, reading, and creating on the screen.

You can choose between 64GB or 256GB of storage and three color options: Silver, Space Gray, or Gold). If you want to keep the price down, you can get the Wi-Fi-only version, but there is also a Mini with both cellular and Wi-Fi connections.

Pros: Compact, affordable, new processor, sharp screen, works with the Pencil

Cons: Old design with bigger bezels



The best iPad Pro

Apple's iPad Pro comes in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes with specs that are so high-end they surpass some laptops.

The new iPad Pro is a work of art — It has slimmed down bezels, a stunning sharp screen in two sizes, an absurdly powerful processor, and tons of great accessories to go with it, including the Apple Pencil.

You can get it in 11- and 12.9-inch screen sizes to suit your preferences. The 12.9-inch screen is great for digital artists who need room to roam, while the 11-inch model is great for most people's needs. Both iPad Pros have really high screen resolutions: 2,388-by-1,668 pixels (11-inch model) and 2,732-by-2,048 pixels (12.9-inch model).

Regardless of which model you buy, the iPad Pro is a powerhouse. The A12X Bionic processor is so high-powered it can surpass some laptops. Apple's entry-level model comes with 64GB of storage, but you can get up to 1TB if you want to spend a whole lot of money.

We recommend picking up the new Apple Pencil if you like to take notes or draw. It may cost $129, but it is worth it — The Pencil is the best stylus I've ever used, and the new version even charges wirelessly and magnetically attaches to your iPad for easy storage.

Apple's Keyboard will also cost you a pretty penny, so we recommend going for a third-party case and keyboard.

There are three downsides to the iPad Pro, as we see it: It's expensive, it won't replace your laptop, and you have to pay extra for the keyboard and the stylus. Otherwise, it's a great tablet that's well worth the cost — if you have the money.

Pros: Gorgeous screens, new design with smaller bezels, excellent specs, high-end performance, Pencil is superb for drawing, two screen sizes

Cons: Very expensive, not a laptop replacement, accessories are extra



The best stylus

The first-generation Apple Pencil is the best for the 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPads, while the second-generation stylus is ideal for the new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros.

Over the years, I've tested a lot of styluses from companies like Adonit, 53, Wacom, and more. None of those styluses can hold a candle to the Apple Pencil. Whether you buy the first-generation Pencil or the second, you're getting a stylus that was made by Apple in tandem with the iPad.

As such, the Pencil works with the iPads' screens in special ways that no other stylus can. The result is improved pressure sensitivity and an impressively low level of latency. You won't even notice a lag because it's imperceptible. When you use an Apple Pencil, you actually feel like you're using a normal graphite pencil.

There are a few differences between the first- and second-generation Pencils: The second-gen model has wireless charging and magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad and it was made for the new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, while the first-gen Pencil is for the older 9.7-inch iPad and the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The first-generation Pencil also works with the 2019 iPad Mini and iPad Air. The first-gen Pencil charges with a lightning port on the end and doesn't attach to your iPad. It's also a bit cheaper.

Choose whichever makes the most sense to you, but the second-gen Pencil's easier charging method and magnetic attraction to the iPad make it a winner in our book.

Pros: It works with even the cheapest 9.7-inch iPad, lack of latency, pressure sensitivity, made for the iPad's screen, easy to charge, comfortable to hold

Cons: A tad pricey



The best keyboard for your iPad

The Logitech K780 works with any device, connects wirelessly, and offers a full-sized keyboard with satisfying keys for typing.

The Logitech K780 is the best Bluetooth keyboard for just about any device, including the iPad. Sure, it's not a keyboard case, so it won't protect your iPad and provide a keyboard, but that means you get a full-sized keyboard with a number pad and satisfying keys that have good travel.

The K780 supports connections to multiple devices, so you can use it with your iPad, phone, and computer if you want. The circular keys are comfortable to type on because they are full size. Logitech also incorporated a tablet and phone stand into the keyboard's design, so it's easy to prop your iPad up without needing to buy a separate stand or case.

The only downsides here are that it needs AAA batteries to run and it's not the most portable keyboard you can buy. If you want a more portable option, the foldable iClever Ultra Slim 3 Keyboard folds up to one-third of its size and can be used in both wireless and wired modes.

Pros: Nice design, comfortable, two-year battery life

Cons: Needs AAA batteries