iPad Buying Guide: Which One is Right for You?

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With five different models in three sizes and prices ranging from $269 to $1,029, there has never been more variety for iPad shoppers. That's a good thing, but how do you decide which one to buy? Use our handy iPad buying guide to get the right Apple slate for your needs and budget.

ipad buying guide lead

iPad Models Compared

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

  iPad Pro
12.9-inch
iPad Pro
9.7-inch
iPad Air 2 iPad mini 4 iPad mini 2
Best For Laptop Replacement, Professional Artists Note-Taking, Light Productivity Media Consumption, Gaming Reading, Email, Social Media, Light Gaming Kids, Budget
Starting
Price
$799 $599 $399 $399 S269
Screen 12.9 inches
(2732 x 2048)
9.7 inches
(2048 x 1536)
9.7 inches
(2048 x 1536)

7.9 inches
(2048 x 1536)

7.9 inches
(2048 x 1536)
Processor A9X A9X A8X A8 A7
Storage (GB) 32, 128, 256 32,128, 256 16, 64 16, 64, 128 16, 32
Cameras
(Rear / Front)
8 MP, 1.2 MP 12 MP, 5MP 8 MP, 1.2 MP 8 MP. 1.2 MP 5 MP, 1.2 MP
Video
Recording
1080p 4K 1080p 1080p 1080p
Color
Options
Silver, Space Gray, Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Rose Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold Silver, Space Gray
Touch ID Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Pencil
Supported
Yes Yes No No No
Dimensions 12 x 8.7 x 0.3 inches 9.4 x 6.6 x .29 inches 7.9 x 5.3 x .29 inches  7.9 x 5.3 x .29 inches   7.9 x 5.3 x .28 inches
Weight 1.57 pounds 1.05
pounds 
0.73 pounds  0.73 pounds 0.68 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.

With iOS 9.3, iPads are now better nighttime companions. The Night Shift feature shifts the color temperature away from blue light that can make it harder for you to get to sleep. Also, the iOS update improves security on the Notes app with password protection and adds multiuser support.

Also note that all iPad models can be ordered with 4G LTE capability, which allows you to get online when you're out of Wi-Fi range. You'll pay $129 more than you would for the Wi-Fi-only version, plus the cost of whatever monthly data plan you sign up for.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro delivers a big and beautiful display, fast performance and long battery life, but it's best for creative pros. The Apple Pencil (sold separately for $99) delivers awesome precision, and the A9X processor can handle anything you throw at it. If you add the $169 Smart Keyboard, you've got a 2-in-1 that might be able to rival your laptop. 

Best For: This behemoth is large enough to replace a laptop, if you pair it with the keyboard. It also provides the largest canvas for professional artists and video editors to do their work.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro offers the same beautiful display, power and support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard as its 12.9-inch big brother. The key differences are a more affordable $599 starting price, a Rose Gold option and the ability to shoot 4K video and 5-MP selfies. 

Best For: If you need to take a lot of notes or require a tablet for business purposes -- editing and showing presentations, clipboard use, etc -- the iPad Pro 9.7-inch offers the best balance between portability and productivity.

Apple iPad Air 2

The Air 2 is thin and powerful, and $200 less than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The Air 2's screen is the same as the one on the new Pro flagship line. But, this 0.24-inch slim slate packs an A8X processor, which still delivers fast CPU and graphics performance. And like its fancier brethren, the Air 2 offers Touch ID and runs iOS 9.3 with Night Shift technology. 

Best For: The Air 2's relatively-large display and light weight make it a good choice for watching videos, playing games and using other content-consumption software such as recipe apps. 

Apple iPad Mini 4

If you're looking for a more purse-friendly tablet with a stunning screen, the iPad mini 4 may be the device for you. It features the same pixel resolution as the larger iPad Pro and iPad Air models on a smaller, 7.9-inch display. It also features the same advanced 8-MP and 1.2-MP cameras as the ones on the iPad Air 2, but its more compact size may be more suitable for small or childlike hands.  

Best For: If you like to read on the couch, in bed or on the go, the Mini 4 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.

Apple iPad mini 2

It's the oldest and least expensive iPad that Apple sells. But old doesn't mean dead. The iPad mini 2 features a Retina display, long battery life and zippy A7 performance for just $269. You won't get Touch ID support or Apple Pencil support, but you will get access to the latest iOS 9.3 update. It's worth noting that you can't get the mini 2 in Gold or Rose Gold; just Silver or Space Gray. 

Best For: Because of its relatively low price and small dimensions, the mini 2 is a good first tablet for kids. The mini 4 is also appropriately sized for children, but it costs around $150 more, making for a costly replacement when junior drops it down the stairs.

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
Add a comment
8 comments
  • James Vazquez Says:

    The number of available apps in the Google Play Store surpassed 1 million apps in July 2013 and was most recently placed at 2.6 million apps in December 2016.

  • Mark I Lawmaster Says:

    Which of the iPads is right for me? NONE!!! Ill spend the same amount of money for about 2-3x the performance of a Samsung Galaxy Note pro 12.2 with the S Pen included. Apple can go suck apples! ;-) have a blessed day everyone. Just another friendly Android fanboy.

  • John O Says:

    The weight for the iPad Air 2 is incorrect.

  • simon Says:

    your specs are wrong - the pro 12 inch CANNOT have the same dimensions as the pro 9.7
    Also the weights are wrong

  • francois misson Says:

    I wout like to know the of the iPad 12.9 inches

  • angela burton Says:

    I have a ipad 9" or so an I need some information.i think it's 16gb.can u give information on it.

  • wade Says:

    No where can I find where to buy an Apple Wi-Fi 3g or 4g Ipad with true GPS capability by model number or store where they can be purchased. Approx cost would be nice. Any help is appreciated

  • Rahul Says:

    Personally I would prefer the iPad Air simply because of the low weight compared to previous models. The bezel is thin but iOS 7 is optimized to detect fingers obstructing the screen and still stay away from causing any problem. The iPad Mini with retina display is good but sometimes I feel it's just too small for the complete tablet experience.

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