'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Apple's iPad lineup is arguably unmatched by any other platform or tablet maker. With the recent announcement of the fifth-generation , the entire lineup now has Apple's fancy Center Stage FaceTime camera feature that keeps you framed in a video call at all times.
From the to the iPad Air or , these premium tablets all consistently find their way to the top of performance charts. They offer 10 hours of battery life, clear and crisp displays, and access to hundreds of thousands of apps in the App Store.
And because Apple keeps updating and enhancing iPadOS, the iPad keeps gaining valuable features like widgets on the home screen, trackpad support, new Apple Pencil features, and more Mac-like features, while differentiating the tablet lineup from the iPhone.
Below, you'll find Apple's current iPad lineup and details about what differentiates each model in a bid to help you find the best iPad model for you.
Tech specs: Display: 11-inch Liquid Retina display or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion and True Tone | Processor: Apple Silicon M2 | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB | Biometrics: Face ID | Colors: Silver, space gray | Cameras: 12MP wide, 10MP ultrawide rear and 12MP TrueDepth FaceTime front | Weight: 11-inch: 1.03 pounds 12.9-inch: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 11-inch: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches, 12.9-inches: 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25-inches| Connections: USB-C Thunderbolt/USB-4 | Battery life: 10 hours
Apple's 2022 iPad Pro lineup is by far the most capable and impressive iPad lineup we've seen, making it our best overall pick. It's also the most expensive, by a long shot. The design hasn't changed all that much on the outside, but on the inside, you'll find Apple's M2 processor which consists of 20 billion transistors — 25 percent more than M1. It's the same exact processor that Apple is using in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
We spent some time with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and found it to be faster and more capable than any other iPad model we've tested to date. You can expect downloads up to 2.4Gbps, twice as fast as the previous model, 15 percent faster performance, and up to 35 percent faster graphics performance.
Read the review: iPad Pro (2022) review: I'm cautiously optimistic. Or foolish
The Pro also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, and there's a new hover feature thanks to the M2 chip. The feature works like this: once the tip of the Apple Pencil gets near the iPad Pro's display, and when it's within 12 millimeters, parts of the interface come to life in apps that support the new feature.The Smart Connector is on the back of the iPad Pro, giving you the option to use it with the Magic Keyboard that includes backlit keys and trackpad, or Apple's Smart Keyboard.
And, although the differences between the fifth generation and this sixth generation model are more subtle, the M2 chip is really what shines here, making it a powerhouse tablet. The iPad Pro, combined with iPadOS and the M2 chip, is as close as you can get to a laptop without actually buying a laptop.
Also: M1 iPad Pro (2021) vs M2 iPad Pro (2022): Is it worth the upgrade?
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for the Wi-Fi model and $999 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,099 for the Wi-Fi model and $1,299 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model.
Tech specs: Display: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone | Processor: A14 Bionic chip with 16-core Neural Engine | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Silver, Pink, Blue, Yellow | Cameras: 12MP f/1.8 wide, 12MP Landscape f/2.4 front | Weight: 1.05 pounds | Dimensions: 9.79 x 7.07 x .28 inches | Connections: USB-C, Smart Connector | Battery life: Up to 10 hours of video playback with USB-C charging
Apple's tried-and-true tablet, the base model iPad, is arguably the best value out of the group. You get all of the same features as the more expensive Pro and Air models in a lightweight form factor with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and thinner bezels than the previous generation.
Read the review: iPad 2022 (10th Gen) review: Better than the Pro in two ways
Apple updated the iPad in the fall of 2022 with the A14 Bionic processor, USB-C support, 5G support for on-the-go tasks, and a new 12MP ultra-wide camera. It also has support for the Magic Keyboard Folio made specifically for this iPad and include an adjustable kickstand with a 14-key function row for shortcuts.
It also comes in new and fun colors that break out of the standard space gray and silver we have seen for so long. The colors include pink, blue, yellow, and the expected Apple silver.
One major downside of the new iPad is that it doesn't support the second gen Apple Pencil. Instead, you'll have to connect your second gen Apple Pencil to a dongle in order to use it, making it an unnecessary hassle.
Another thing to consider is Apple increased the price of its base-model iPad by $120. You'll now have to shell out $449 to for this iPad. Still, it's the currently the cheapest iPad in the lineup.
Tech specs: Display: 10.9-inch Retina display | Processor: Apple Silicon M1 | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Space gray, starlight, pink, purple, blue | Cameras: 12MP rear, 4K video. 12MP Ultra Wide camera | Weight: 1.02 pounds | Dimensions: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 inches | Connections: USB-C port | Battery life: 10 hours
Apple's latest update to the iPad Air is more of a catch-up announcement than anything. The fifth-generation iPad Air keeps the same design we saw Apple bring to the Air in late 2020, but it now boasts an M1 processor and 5G connectivity. That's a lot of performance for the cost, which starts at $599.
Read the review: iPad Air (2022) review: So good I almost regret buying my iPad Pro
The Air still sits confidently between the base iPad and the iPad Pro when you look at the price, but it's effectively caught up to the iPad Pro in terms of performance. But with a 10.9-inch display and a Touch ID sensor that doubles as a power button on the side of its housing, it's more affordable and slightly different than the iPad Pro. The new iPad Air still works with the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil.
Apple also updated the color lineup for the Air, matching the iPad Mini's color lineup, with the addition of a new blue color.
Where the iPad Pro is the model for those who want nothing but the best, the iPad Air is the model for those who want to use the tablet for work and play, without big sacrifices in performance or features.
Also: iPad Air (2022) vs iPad Pro (2022): How to choose
At the $599 starting price, the iPad Air comes with 64GB or $749 for 256GB of storage. You can add cellular to it for an extra $130. For (practically) everyone, this is the iPad to get if you don't want the base iPad but don't want to spend over $1,000 on an iPad Pro.
Tech specs: Display: 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display | Processor: A15 Bionic | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Space gray, pink, purple, starlight | Cameras: 8MP rear, 1080p video. 12MP FaceTime camera with Center Stage | Weight: 0.65 pounds | Dimensions: 7.69 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches | Connections: USB-C | Battery life: 10 hours
If you want something smaller and more manageable, the Apple iPad Mini fits the bill. Apple's recent update to the Mini brought it current with the company's new flat-edge design, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil.
It's powered by the A15 Bionic processor, and the display size was increased from 7.9 inches to 8.3 inches. By removing the home button and putting Touch ID in the top button that's used to sleep/wake the tablet, the overall size of the Mini actually decreased.
Read the review: Apple iPad Mini (6th Gen.) review
There's a spot on the right side of the tablet to charge the Apple Pencil, and it makes for a fantastic tablet to draw or write notes on.
You have the option of 64GB or 256GB of storage, with the former priced at $499 and the latter $649 for the Wi-Fi-only models. If you want to add cellular connectivity, you're looking at a $150 increase. It's smaller but also more expensive, so unless you really value the size, you're better off going with another iPad.
The iPad Pro is the best iPad money can buy. It's the most capable in terms of performance and can be used for anything from graphic design to entertainment.
11-inch Liquid Retina display or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Apple Silicon M2
10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone
10.9-inch Retina display
Apple Silicon M1
8.3-inch Liquid Retina display
If you're stuck between getting the base model iPad or the iPad Air (or for that matter, the iPad Air or the iPad Pro), we recommend sitting down and thinking of all the ways you want to use the iPad.
If your list primarily consists of consumption activities, like watching videos and reading news, odds are the base model iPad is what you should go with. However, if you want to do a fair amount of emailing, messaging, writing, or web browsing, then the iPad Air is where your search should begin. As for the iPad Pro, it's clear that it's now meant for users who plan to push it to its limits, be it with connecting multiple accessories and monitors, or other peripherals while they work.
If you need a laptop replacement and love the iPad, then the iPad Pro is where to start your search.
Choose this iPad...
If you want...
The best overall option
The portability of a tablet but don't want to replace your computer
To use your tablet for work and play
Something smaller and more manageable
We've been testing and using tablets since the first iPad launched and have used every iPad on this list. The selection process for the best iPad consists of using the tablet, reading other reviews both from consumers and product reviewers, and then determining what should and shouldn't make the list.
The iPad Mini is best suited for kids as learning and education devices, since it is small, manageable, and inexpensive. Apple's iPad Mini would also be great in an enterprise setting as payment kiosks and information stations, along with those who don't like big phones or tablets but want a bigger screen for gaming and entertainment.
The best iPad for drawing is definitely the iPad Pro, thanks to its Mini LED Display that Apple calls Liquid Retina XDR, which is brighter and offers more color contrast when you're drawing.
The Pro is also great for drawing since it supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, with a magnetic spot on the side to charge it.
The best iPad for students would have to be the fifth-generation iPad Air. It has much of the same features as the powerful iPad Pro, but costs a lot less for students' budgets. It's also compatible with the Magic Keyboard and the Apple Pencil 2nd gen, so students can utilize it in different ways.
It's easy to see the price difference between one of Amazon's Fire tablets and an iPad. However, you have to remember that Amazon designs and builds its tablets as entry-level tablets that do the bare minimum.
Performance is going to be slower, and app selection is going to be worse on Amazon's Fire tablet lineup. The iPad has access to the same App Store the iPhone does, with most of those apps optimized to take advantage of the larger display on the iPad.
If you still want an iPad but want to pay less and don't mind older versions, you can buy a renewed iPad through , which sells sell high-quality like-new products that are refurbished and pre-owned.