Buying an iPad should be simple. You just get whatever’s new, right? If only. Apple sells four main iPad models, each with its own strengths. In addition, a growing number of older iPads are floating around the eBays of the world. Since all of these devices look pretty much the same, it’s important to know what you’re buying and what you should pay for it. This guide covers the best iPads available right now, what’s coming up, the important differences between models, and the old models that exist (including the ones you shouldn’t buy at any price).
Be sure to check out all our buying guides, including the Best iPad Accessories, Best iPhones, Best iPhone 13 Cases and Accessories, Best Tablets, and Best MacBooks.
Updated September 2022: We’ve added buying advice ahead of Apple’s September event.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED
Is Now a Good Time to Buy?Wait for the Apple Event
No. You should hold off on buying a slate, because Apple is rumored to be launching a new 10th-generation iPad at its annual iPhone launch event on September 7, though this could be pushed to a separate October event, where we’re expecting to see a new iPad Pro. Rumors swirling about the base iPad suggest it will have a USB-C charging port, a more modern design, 5G support, the same processor as the iPhone 12 series, and a slightly larger 10.5-inch screen. The iPad Pro series will likely be powered by Apple’s new M2 processor, will feature MagSafe wireless charging, and will have general improvements to the camera.
This doesn’t mean the current models aren’t good buys—you’ll likely just find steeper discounts on older models after the announcements, or prices for new iPads might be so close to the older models that you might want to stick with what’s new. The exceptions? The iPad Air was just refreshed this year, and it’s unlikely that the new iPad will steal its thunder. The iPad Mini is coming up on a year, but it’s still a great small tablet, and there are no signs of a new model on the way.
Best for Most PeopleApple iPad (2021, 9th Gen)
Apple is expected to announce a 10th-generation iPad in September or October, so it’s worth holding off buying Apple’s most basic slate. If, for some reason, you can’t wait, then the ninth-generation iPad (8/10, WIRED Recommends) will serve you extremely well. It’s the best tablet for most people and the most affordable iPad. It has the same shape and size as its predecessors, so all current accessories will work, including the first-generation Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. It still has the Home button and thick borders around the 10.2-inch screen.
The A13 Bionic chip, which debuted on the iPhone 11, makes it one of the most powerful tablets for the price, and this generation brought other welcome improvements, like 64 gigabytes of storage instead of a paltry 32. The screen has True Tone, which adjusts the color temperature of the display to match the ambient lighting, so that it looks more natural. But the real highlight is the front camera, which is 12 megapixels and supports Center Stage, the iPad Pro feature that moves the camera around during video calls so you always stay in the frame. (The camera placement is still a bit awkward.)
This is the only iPad without a fully laminated display, which creates an air gap between the screen and the glass. It just means interacting with the screen doesn’t feel as precise as with other iPads, something that’s especially noticeable with the Pencil.
Best for PortabilityApple iPad Mini (2021, 6th Gen)
The iPad Mini looks like no iPad Mini that came before (8/10, WIRED Recommends). Apple’s 2021 refresh mimics the design of the iPad Pro, with slimmer bezels around the 8.3-inch screen. It’s a little shorter than its predecessor, and its compact size makes it the best slate to take with you everywhere. You might even be able to fit it into your cargo pants pocket. It loses the Home button but doesn’t adopt Face ID—like on the iPad Air, Touch ID is baked into the Sleep/Wake key. It also has sub-6 5G connectivity if you add a cellular plan, but best of all is the USB-C charging port, so you can recharge it with your MacBook charger.
With the latest A15 Bionic processor, it can handle pretty much any intensive app or game. It has improved cameras on the front and back (plus Center Stage on the selfie cam) and second-generation Apple Pencil support, so the stylus magnetically attaches to the edge and charges simultaneously. It won’t roll off the desk!