Best iPad to get in 2021: iPad Air 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2020 vs. iPad 2020 vs. iPad Mini 2019

Apple’s iPad continues to be popular for both work and remote learning, and two of its models recently got performance boosts. The current lineup for Apple’s iPad includes the 2020 eighth-gen 10.2-inch iPad, fourth-gen 10.5-inch iPad Air and the second-gen 11- and fourth-gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro models released earlier this year. There’s also the fifth-gen 2019 7.9-inch iPad Mini

Read more: Best Apple deals right now: Save on Apple Watch, 2020 iPads and Intel MacBooks

o if you’re looking for a new iPad, here’s what you need to know: First, the features and performance get better as you move up in the line. Regardless of which iPad you go with, though, all the current iPad models support the latest version of iPadOS (a special version of iOS specifically for iPads) and work with Apple’s Smart Keyboard and with either the first generation Apple Pencil or second generation Apple Pencil. That’s good news for anyone who’s looking to do more than look at websites, stream videos and music, and play Apple Arcade games on their Apple product. Plus, all of the current iPad models support mouse and trackpad use for a more MacBook-like experience


Apple/Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET

Also, iPads hold their value, and there’s generally a huge market for older used and refurbished models. Availability dried up some over the past several months with more people working and learning from home. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best deal before you buy an iPad

Read more: The 30 best iPad games you need to play

iPad 2020 vs. iPad Air 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2020 specs

iPad 2020 (10.2) iPad Air 2020 (10.9) iPad Pro 2020 (11) iPad Pro 2020 (12.9)
Display resolution 2,160×1,620-pixel resolution 2,360×1,640-pixel resolution 2,388×1,668-pixel resolution 2,732×2,048-pixel resolution
Pixel density (ppi) 264 ppi 264 ppi 264 ppi 264 ppi
Rear camera 8-megapixel f2.4 12-megapixel f1.8 12-megapixel f1.8 wide, 10-megapixel f2.4 ultrawide 12-megapixel f1.8 wide, 10-megapixel f2.4 ultrawide
Video recording 1080p at 30fps 4K at 24, 30 or 60fps; 1080p slo-mo at 120 or 240fps 4K at 24, 30 or 60fps (wide); 60fps (ultrawide) 4K at 24, 30 or 60fps (wide); 60fps (ultrawide)
FaceTime front-facing camera 1.2-megapixel photos; 720p video 7-megapixel photos; 1080p video 7-megapixel TrueDepth; 1080p video 7-megapixel TrueDepth; 1080p video
Processor A12 A14 A12Z A12Z
Dimensions 9.8×6.8×0.29 inches 9.7x7x0.24 inches 9.7x7x0.23 inches 11×8.5×0.23 inches
Weight 1.08 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.09 lbs. (LTE) 1 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.01 lbs. (LTE) 1.04 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.04 lbs. (LTE) 1.41 lbs. (Wi-Fi); 1.42 lbs.(LTE)
Battery Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular Up to 10 hours use over Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours over cellular
Headphone jack Yes No No No
Connector port Lightning; Apple Smart Connector USB-C; Apple Smart Connector USB-C; Apple Smart Connector USB-C; Apple Smart Connector
Apple Pencil-compatibility Yes; first generation Yes; second generation Yes; second generation Yes; second generation
Unlock with Touch ID Touch ID Face ID Face ID
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0
SIM card support for cellular model Nano-SIM; eSIM Nano-SIM; eSIM Nano-SIM; eSIM Nano-SIM; eSIM
iPad Keyboard compatibility Smart Keyboard Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio
Audio Two-speaker Two-speaker Four-speaker Four-speaker
Capacity and price: Wi-Fi models $329 (32GB) / $429 (128GB) $599 (64GB) / $749 (256GB) $799 (64GB) / $899 (256GB) / $1,099 (512GB) / $1,299 (1TB) $999 (128GB) / $1,099 (256GB) / $1,299 (512GB) / $1,499 (1TB)
Capacity and price: LTE models $459 (32GB) / $559 (128GB) $729 (64GB) / $879 (256GB) $949 (64GB) / $1,049 (256GB) / $1,249 (512GB) / $1,449 (1TB) $1,149 (128GB) / $1,249 (256GB) / $1,449 (512GB) / $1,649 (1TB)


The least expensive iPad is also the one we’re most likely to recommend for people looking for a new iPad for the family and general use. For 2020, Apple put in a faster A12 bionic chip for the 10.2-inch iPad, giving it a performance boost over the previous iPad model. That’s the same processor running the third-gen iPad Air. It’s also the last remaining full-size iPad with a headphone jack.

That said, the last-gen model is still a good pick. It can handle the latest iPadOS just fine and should perform all the standard iPad tasks for some time. Regardless if you go with the old or new model we have one word of caution: The base 32GB of storage can fill up fast, so we recommend going with the 128GB version if possible.
Read our iPad 2020 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple recently released the update to its iPad Air with a supercharged new processor, the A14. The 2020 Air is the first Apple product to use this chip, and it goes without saying that it’s a considerable improvement over the A12 in the 2019 Air. 

The 2020 iPad Air gets a bigger 10.9-inch display but its slimmer bezels make it about the same size as the 2019 10.5-inch Air. Touch ID is embedded in the power button now, which should make unlocking easy. The newer iPad Air also supports Apple Pencil 2 now as well as Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. Plus, it has better cameras, faster Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 and switches from a Lightning port to a more universal USB-C port. But with all the improvements, it starts at $100 more than the prior generation. We haven’t tested the new model yet, but this is a must-get iPad for anyone looking for something fancier than a regular iPad. 

The third-gen Air is still worth considering, however, especially if you can find it at a lower price now. The 2019 iPad Air is a lot like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro models from 2017. Starting at $499, it’s built around a 10.5-inch Retina display like the 2017 Pro but has an updated A12 Bionic processor like the one powering the iPhone XS. If you want better performance and more storage space — there are 64GB or 256GB options — you should consider stepping up the Air. Plus, while it’s larger than the entry-level iPad, it actually weighs a hair less.
Read more.

Scott Stein/CNET

Whether you’re a digital artist or have waited years for an iPad that blurs the line between tablet and MacBook, the latest iPad Pro is what you want. Aside from different screen sizes (and respective resolutions) and weight, the 11- and 12.9-inch Pros are the same. If you’re considering the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, you’ll likely want to spring for the 12.9-inch version for the significant increase in workspace. As for performance, this has all the latest and greatest components Apple’s iPads have to offer. If device longevity is key, you’ll want to pay the premium for the 2020 iPad Pro.
Read our Apple iPad Pro 2020 (12.9-inch) review.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The littlest iPad doesn’t look any different than it did in 2015, but for 2019 it got a faster A12 processor and Apple Pencil support. Those additions make the 7.9-inch Apple iPad Mini — starting at $399 (£399, AU$599) — a smart choice for those who want a smaller device for notetaking and sketching while also giving you better performance for games and more screen space than your phone for reading and videos (and you won’t be eating into your phone’s battery life, either). While its wide bezels make it look a bit dated compared to the rest of the lineup, at least the iPad Mini has Touch ID and a headphone jack to go along with them. 

It’s worth noting, though, that the processor is now the same one found in the new 10.2-inch iPad, which starts at $329 with 32GB of storage. You do get 64GB in the base iPad Mini and, although it’s smaller, it does have a higher-quality display and Bluetooth 5.0. Still, it looks like you’re mostly paying extra to get the same performance in a smaller body.
Read our Apple iPad Mini 2019 review.

Now playing:
Watch this:

Apple’s newest iPads: Making sense of iPad Air 4 and…