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Which Apple tablet is best?

Apple has sold more tablets than any other company for more than the last decade. If you’ve ever used an iPad, that’s probably not surprising, as it’s easy to see how powerful and user-friendly they are.

Apple’s never been one to offer a huge variety of products in any active lineup. At the moment, though, there’s considerably more variation between iPads than even MacBooks. The top models, the two sizes of iPad Pro, cost too much to be worthwhile for most consumers. The other three variants, though, all have significant strengths and don’t cost a fortune.

iPad 9

9th iteration of the iPad

This is the ninth iteration of the iPad that redefined the tablet industry, and it’s more efficient, more powerful and as good-looking as ever. It’s the lowest performer among the current full-size iPads, but most people hardly notice, because it performs nearly every common task with no frustrating slowdowns. It’s also remarkably affordable for something so capable — which isn’t the kind of praise you might expect for an Apple device.

iPad 9 pros

  • Excellent value: It’s the most popular tablet on the planet, largely because it’s so affordable.
  • Good processing power: It can handle the vast majority of common tablet uses without breaking a sweat.
  • Increased storage vs. previous versions: The base model iPad starts with 64 gigabytes of internal storage and costs the same as the previous model did with 32 GB. You can increase to 256 GB for a premium of roughly $150.
  • High-resolution display: While it’s unchanged from the previous generation, it remains a surprisingly good screen for such an affordable tablet.

iPad 9 cons

  • Uses the Lightning connector: More and more devices, from Apple as well as competitors, use the robust, versatile USB Type-C connector. The low-end iPad is not yet one of them.
  • Not ideal for gaming: If you’re looking for a premium gaming experience, look elsewhere. The iPad 9’s A13 Bionic microprocessor doesn’t deliver the highest frame rates in the most resource-intensive games.
  • Cellular version is stuck with 4G LTE: Those who demand the most cutting-edge in wireless connectivity should consider a different model.

iPad mini 6

iPad Mini

The iPad mini is the least talked-about member of Apple’s iconic tablet lineup. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad tablet or not worth buying, though. It’s less popular than others simply because it doesn’t have the same amount of screen space. While it’s not as ideal as its relatives for enjoying high-definition content, some people just really, really like compact devices. 

iPad mini 6 pros

  • Remarkably compact: There are no other tablets, Apple or otherwise, that pack such premium components into such a small body.
  • Impressive performance: While it doesn’t have the latest M1 chipset, its A15 Bionic processor can crunch numbers at nearly the same level. You should have no trouble with any but the most demanding applications.

iPad mini 6 cons

  • Expensive for the size: While it’s a bit counterintuitive, you’re essentially paying more to get something smaller.
  • Not enough screen space for everybody: The major con to the Apple mini, and the significantly limiting factor for most buyers, is that it’s just not that big. The smaller screen makes it less ideal for viewing HD content and a lot more difficult to engage in any kind of productive work.

iPad Air 5

iPad Air

The most recent iPad Air is as advanced in one respect as the premium iPad Pro. Namely, it uses the same M1 chipset that the iPad Pro and new MacBooks use. Some additional minor but meaningful tweaks let the fifth-generation iPad Air deliver better results in most tasks you’d use a tablet for.

With that said, it’s physically just about identical to the fourth-generation model, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s especially thin and doesn’t weigh much, so it can provide the ultimate handheld experience. It also offers some camera and connectivity improvements over the previous Air and current entry-level iPad.

iPad Air 5 pros

  • High-end central and graphics processor: The Apple M1 chipset inside it delivers the best performance of any tablet yet released.
  • Large, premium Liquid Retina display: It offers above-average pixel density, even for Apple devices, with the kind of clarity you’d expect from a premium device.
  • Great for gaming: Its powerful processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM make a for an excellent gaming experience at up to 60 frames per second.
  • Slim and lightweight: It has plenty of screen space despite being Apple’s thinnest, lightest tablet.
  • Enhanced front camera: A wide-angle lens with updated zoom and high dynamic range functions allows for better photos and videos than previous versions.
  • USB-C connector: If you use any modern portable electronics aside from Apple products, you’ll be happy to know that the new Air supports your other charging cables.
  • Apple Pencil 2 support: The second-generation Apple Pencil is widely regarded as the best stylus in the business, and it works with the fifth-generation iPad Air.

iPad Air 5 cons

  • Relatively expensive: It’s roughly twice as costly as the base model iPad. If you don’t need the added processing power or aren’t obsessed with having the thinnest possible tablet, consider saving money by going with the more basic option.
  • Limited to a 60-hertz refresh rate: While it’s great for resource-intensive games at up to 60 frames per second, it doesn’t have the premium motion handling or ultra-smooth scrolling the iPad Pro offers.

Should you get the iPad 9th generation, iPad mini 6 or iPad Air 5?

If you’re on an even remotely tight budget, the base ninth-generation iPad is a great choice that will almost certainly satisfy. It does everything well and is one of the best tablets available, despite merely being Apple’s entry-level option.

Those who insist on an especially svelte design and the best possible processing power should strongly consider the iPad Air 5. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s nowhere near as costly as either iPad Pro, and performs nearly as well.

Finally, only people who are dead-set on having the most compact electronics possible should consider the iPad mini 6. While it’s a great device in its own right, the compact size limits its functionality overall.

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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