A father and daughter looking at an iPad

When it comes to tablets, it’s hard to beat an iPad.

Apple’s offspring loom large on our ratings chart, routinely outscoring the competition in performance and display quality and leading the way in predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, based on survey data from Consumer Reports members.

“Apple controls the hardware, the software—they pretty much have a handle on the entire ecosystem,” says Antonette Asedillo, who oversees tablet testing in our labs. “So they’re able to make sure everything works together well.”

And yet choosing the right model can be tricky. What’s the difference between the iPad Air and the iPad Mini, for example? How about the iPad and the iPad Pro? And why do the models in our ratings range in price from $330 to more than $1,000?

If you’re the type of person who hates mysteries like these, rest easy. The list below will help you make sense of your options. 

If you’re fond of saving money, too, here’s a tip: When shopping for an iPad, you can safely step back a product generation or two. Year-to-year improvements tend to be smaller than they are for the iPhone, Asedillo says, and price discounts can be generous, “especially when they’re trying to get rid of older stock to make way for the newer models.”

Take a look at our weekly electronics deals roundup, which often features sale-priced models.

As with every other product we test, from lawn mowers to mattresses, we bought the tablets below at retail stores to ensure we’re getting the exact same product as you, the consumer. We test the tablets on a variety of elements, including ease of use, the quality of the display, and how fast the model performs calculations.

The best iPad to get depends on your needs. Are you looking for a model with screaming fast processor speeds? Or something small enough to slip into a purse or backpack? Or do you want a big screen without a massive price tag?

Here are the models ideally suited to those needs.

Best Value

Quick Take

Apple iPad (32GB) - 2019

Price: $330

Display
Performance
Convenience
Unlock Tablet Ratings

At $330, Apple’s entry-level model, known simply as “iPad,” provides lots of bang for your buck, especially when you take into account the number of high-quality apps and services available for the iPad operating system.

More on Tablets

The 10.2-inch screen is large, sharp, and bright, even in direct sunlight. The front-facing camera shoots video in HD, making it ideal for video calls or using FaceTime. And despite the relatively low price, the tablet’s A10 Fusion chip is fast enough to handle not only basic web browsing and media consumption but also more processor-intensive tasks, such as 3D gaming.

The model supports the first-generation Apple Pencil stylus, sold separately for $100, and Apple’s Smart Keyboard, $160, which magnetically clips onto your iPad, doubles as a protective cover, and does not require charging or Bluetooth pairing.

The battery lasted 5.8 hours in our web-browsing tests and 9.2 hours during video playback, enough to handle many an airline flight. And 30 minutes of charge gave it an additional hour of operating time.

For some people, the 32 gigabytes of storage space may be limiting, especially if you’re really fond of taking photos, downloading apps, and using the new Apple Arcade video game subscription service. In that case, you may want to upgrade to the 128GB version priced at $430.

If you need constant connectivity, the iPad with WiFi and cellular data connectivity and 32GB of storage retails for $460.

Best Performance

Quick Take

Apple iPad Pro 11 (64GB) - 2018

Price: $800

Performance
Display
Specific tasks
Unlock Tablet Ratings
Quick Take

Apple iPad Pro 11 (128GB) - 2020

Price: $800

Performance
Display
Specific tasks
Unlock Tablet Ratings

The iPad Pro is a top-tier machine for power users. Thanks to a design with slim bezels and no Home button, it tucks an 11-inch screen into a body barely larger than a base iPad with a 9.7-inch screen. And like more recent iPhones, it uses Face ID to unlock your machine.

Apple introduced the latest model in March, but you may want to consider snapping up the third-generation version released in 2018, while it’s still available online. Our testers give it a slight edge over the new one, mostly because it offers 13.7 hours of web browsing in our battery life tests versus 8.7 for its sibling.

But the fourth-generation iPad Pro gets a big thumbs-up, too. It has an exceptional camera and a LiDAR scanner, which helps enhance the depth perception on augmented reality apps.

Either way, you’re looking at a tablet with lots of muscle, one capable of not only tackling heavy-duty chores such as high-resolution video editing but also serving essentially as a laptop.

The Pro is the only iPad that currently supports the second-generation of the Apple Pencil, which sports additional gestures to make using the stylus feel more seamless. It also supports Apple’s Smart Keyboard cover (allowing you to use a physical keyboard without needing to charge or pair it via Bluetooth) and the new Magic Keyboard, $300, which features a cantilevered design that lets you raise and lower the screen to get a better viewing angle.

The new iPad Pro 11 starts at $800 for a WiFi-only model with 128GB of storage or $950 for a model with WiFi and 4G cellular data connectivity. If you’re planning to do graphic or video work where large files sizes are a concern, a WiFi-only iPad Pro with 256GB sells for $900, a 512GB model for $1,100, and a 1TB model for $1,300. A 4G-enabled version with 128GB sells for $950, a 256GB model for $1,050, a 512GB model for $1,250, and a 1TB model for $1,450.

For those willing to pay for more screen real estate, there’s also the iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch screen, which is almost identical in every other respect. It starts at $1,000 for a WiFi-only version with 128GB of storage and $1,150 for a 128GB model with WiFi and 4G cellular data connectivity.

For those who may be torn between performance and price, Apple has the iPad Air, which is faster than the sixth-generation iPad and has a larger screen (10.5 inches vs. 9.7 inches) but starts at $500 for a 64GB WiFi-only model vs. the $800 base price for the iPad Pro. While that may be a happy medium for some buyers, our testing suggests that you’re better off going all-in on the Pro or saving your money and buying the sixth-generation iPad—there’s only a 1-point difference in Overall Score between the iPad Air and basic iPad, but the Air costs $170 more.

Best Portability

Quick Take

Apple iPad Mini (64GB) - 2019

Price: $400

Performance
Convenience
Specific tasks
Unlock Tablet Ratings

Apple refreshed the iPad Mini in mid-2019. The new 7.9-inch tablet is our best-scoring sub-8-inch model, and it wins by a large margin—the iPad Mini scores an 82, while its nearest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0, scores a 77.

There’s a lot to love about the iPad Mini. It has a bright and sharp display with a large viewing angle, meaning you don’t need to hold it dead center in front of your face to see it clearly. The processor, an Apple A12 Bionic chip, is blazing fast, so web browsing or watching movies feels smooth and stutter-free. It also means the iPad Mini can support some of Apple’s newer innovations, like augmented reality apps. 

The battery life is also impressive. Our testers clocked it at 10.1 hours for web browsing and 9.3 hours for movie playback. 

The smaller size and lighter weight (just 0.7 pound vs. 1 pound for the iPad Pro and iPad 9.7-inch) make it easier to hold for extended periods, too.