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Choosing the Perfect iPad Guide

Choosing the right iPad can be a daunting task, given the array of options from the 10th-generation iPad to the iPad Air and the M2 iPad Pro.

Apple offers three tablets with approximately 11-inch screens and similar designs but with notable differences in internal components and accessory support.

Even after more than two years, the older 10.2-inch iPad and iPad mini are still in the mix. If you're in the market for a new iPad, we've dissected the strengths and weaknesses of each model and rounded up the best values.

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Before we dive into the details, a cautionary note:

Apple is likely to unveil new iPads in the coming months. Although no tablets were released in 2023, credible sources, including Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, indicate that Apple plans to refresh its entire lineup throughout 2024.

According to Gurman, these updates might arrive as early as March and could feature revamped iPad Pros with OLED displays and updated iPad Airs, including a new Air model with a 12.9-inch display.

Updates to the entry-level iPad and iPad mini are also reportedly on the horizon. If you can hold off on purchasing a new iPad now, it's advisable to do so.

However, if you need a new tablet today or want to snag an existing model at a discount, here's a breakdown of the current lineup.

Among the six iPad models currently available, the iPad Air stands out as the most universally appealing.

We awarded the latest Air a review score of 90: it boasts the same elegant design as the iPad Pro but at a lower price, featuring a bright, sharp, and accurate 10.9-inch display with thin bezels and flat edges.

Equipped with a USB-C port like recent MacBooks and iPhones, the Air allows you to charge it with the same cable as your other gadgets, though it lacks the Thunderbolt connection of the iPad Pro.

In 2022, Apple refreshed the Air with its M1 system-on-a-chip, providing more than enough power for virtually any task, with increasing iPadOS features exclusive to M-series chips.

The iPad Air is also compatible with Apple's premium accessories, including the second-generation Pencil stylus and the exceptional Magic Keyboard, similar to the 11-inch iPad Pro.

While these accessories add to the overall cost, they are indispensable for digital artists or frequent typists.

The middle of Apple’s iPad lineup is somewhat crowded. If you require more than the Air’s default 64GB of storage, stepping up to the 11-inch iPad Pro, starting at 128GB, makes sense.

It offers a better 120Hz display and a faster M2 chip for a slightly higher cost than a higher-capacity Air. The newer 10.9-inch iPad is a decent option, but with its non-laminated display and limited accessory support, it's a tougher sell unless deeply discounted.

Despite the iPad Air's price, it strikes the best balance between price and performance for most users.

For those on a budget or not using a tablet intensively, the 9th-gen iPad is a compelling choice. While it's expected to be phased out in 2024, at $329 for a 64GB model (often available for less than $300), it's the most budget-friendly entry into iPadOS.

Although its hardware is a step down from the models above, it remains capable for essential tasks.

We assigned the 9th-gen iPad a review score of 86 in 2021. Following Apple’s older design language, it is slightly thicker and heavier than the 10th-gen iPad and iPad Air, featuring wider bezels and a 10.2-inch display. While the screen is susceptible to glare and not laminated, it still delivers sharp visuals.

The Home button on the bottom bezel includes a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and the device charges via a Lightning port rather than USB-C. Its speakers are not as impressive, but it retains a headphone jack.

Running on Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, the same SoC as the 2019 iPhone 11 series, it may not match the fluidity of the M1 but is adequate for casual tasks. It supports Apple's Smart Keyboard and first-gen Pencil stylus.

Ultimately, the choice boils down to price. While the 10th-gen iPad is superior in isolation, the 9th-gen model's affordability makes up for its shortcomings.


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