Which is the best iPad to buy in 2022?
Apple’s got quite a few tablets available in the iPad lineup right now. To make things a bit more complicated — various stores and retailers still have new-old stock of models that are a year or two old now. So, while they all kind of look similar and do the same stuff… it can get a bit confusing which one is the best choice.
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Table of contents:
iPad Air (2022)
If you don’t insist on the smooth animations of 120 Hz, the iPad Air 5 can be an absolute bargain for you — and I suspect a lot of people will be flocking to that one instead the pricy iPad Pro line. Plus, you get a choice of some fun colors instead of the more boring “dark gray or light gray” choice.
Our recommendation: for $600, you get the base iPad Air (2022) with 64 GB of storage. That’s a bit stingy in 2022, but you can definitely make it work if you do a lot of file maintenance when you are done with big projects. Plus, you can use external storage options thanks to the USB Type-C port. If you want to spread your wings a bit more — the 256 GB storage option costs $750. At this point, I may seriously consider an iPad Pro 11″, since it costs $800 and comes with 128 GB of storage at the base level. Question is — do you need massive space, or would you rather get the benefits of 120 Hz ProMotion and quad speakers?
iPad Pro 12.9 (2021)
What’s the big deal? M1 is very, very energy-efficient and quite powerful. The new iPad Pros are pretty much on-par with a high-class business laptop in terms of performance.
Of course, it fully supports a wireless mouse and keyboard or the Magic Keyboard accessory, which basically turns the iPad Pro into a laptop-tablet hybrid. Yeah, iPadOS still holds it back from being a multi-tasking machine, but this may change in the future.
The iPad Pro (2021) has a USB Type-C port on the bottom, just like the 2020 line, but — there’s a huge but here — it’s actually a Thunderbolt port. Which means super-fast data transfer — either for files from and to external sources, or for an external high-res display.
Our recommendation: the iPad Pro 12.9 starts at $1100 for the 128 GB model with 8 GB of RAM. If you are willing to drop that amount of money on a huge tablet with pro specs, it’s probably a good idea to splurge the extra $100 and pay $1200 for a 256 GB model — this will give you some breathing room for your projects further down the road. If you want an iPad with 16 GB of RAM, you will have to pay a minimum of $1800 for the 1 TB model. At this point, you probably know exactly what you are looking for. Either that, or you have money to burn.
The iPad Pro 11 (2021) is in a bit of an awkward position right now. Yes, it has the same M1 chip, which we are ranting and raving about. It also has a Thunderbolt USB C at the bottom, so cool. But it doesn’t have the new XDR screen as the 12.9-incher — it’s the good old 120 Hz Liquid Retina LCD here.
And make no mistake — that M1 will definitely outperform the previous Apple A12Z chips that are in the 2020 line. So, if you want lots of performance headroom and future-proofing, but don’t want the gynormous 12.9-inch iPad Pro — the iPad Pro 11 is certainly a good buy.
On the other hand, iPadOS hardly packs enough features right now to make use of all the power the M1 has on tap. So, the iPad Pro 11 (2021) is not a “definite must buy” yet — the iPad Pro (2020) might start looking mighty tempting now, as retailers will surely start selling it off at discounted rates.
Our recommendation: Even at the base $800 price tier, the iPad Pro 11 can give you quite a bit to work with. 128 GB of storage is not very generous, but it also doesn’t feel very constraining on a mobile operating system. If you feel like you’d rather have the breathing room — an extra $100 will get you 256 GB of storage, which should be more than enough for most users for a few years to come. Anything above that becomes seriously pricey. Keep in mind that, through its USB port, the iPad Pro line now supports external card readers and hard disks with no issue. Anyone looking at the storage options of 512 GB and above is probably a serious pro who also needs the portability of an 11-incher.
iPad Pro 11 (2020)
The iPad Pro 11 (2020) is still a very, very good tablet. The Apple A12Z Bionic chip is nothing to sneeze at, as it still makes laps around most “thin laptops” out there. Yes, the A12Z is seriously outperformed by the new M1, but knowing Apple — iPadOS updates will still come to and work well on 2020 iPads for years to come.
The new models will start shipping in May and Apple has already delisted the iPad Pro (2020) from its official store. Which means that retailers will now begin selling off iPad Pro (2020) units at discounts, refurbished models will start popping up, and early adopters will start selling off their iPad Pro + Apple Pencil + Magic Keyboard combos on auction websites.
Absolutely don’t be shy to jump on a deal if you find one. The iPad Pro 11 (2020) has a beautiful screen with 120 Hz refresh rate, a fantastic-sounding quad-speaker setup, and a lot of power under its thin aluminum hood.
Our recommendation: the base version of the iPad Pro 11 (2020) comes with 128 GB of storage, which is plenty enough for medium tablet usage — some productive apps, some games, and some storage management with the help of iCloud.
iPad Air (2020)
The iPad Air 4 landed in 2020 and it was pretty hard to ignore. In fact, it was an amazing middle-of-the-road solution, supporting the pro-grade accessories of the iPad Pro — the Magic Keyboard and the Pencil 2nd gen — but at a lower price. Now that the iPad Air 5 (2022) has launched, the Air 4 will quickly become scarce. You can use this small window of opportunity to hunt for a discounted iPad Air (2020), which will undoubtedly be a great value for money.The iPad Air 4th gen is powered by the Apple A14 chip, built on a 5 nm process. It’s a pretty potent system, which may not be as powerful as the brand-new M1 chips, but it still has plenty of juice. In fact, if you are not strictly looking for a Pro machine, the iPad Air 4 will pretty much do everything you need from a modern tablet. As long as you can stomach the fact that it doesn’t have a 120 Hz screen, you’ll get a solid tablet with a modern design, stereo speakers, and plenty of life left in it.
Our recommendation: The iPad Air 4 starts at $600 for the 64 GB variant. Now that the Air 5 is coming out, look for deals and discounts on the Air 4 to score the best bargain.
Apple’s budget iPad was upgraded yet again in 2021. It has a comfortably large 10.2-inch screen and the old style body — thick bezels to hold on to and Touch ID on the bottom.
The biggest upgrade here is to the base storage capacity — you now get 64 GB for the $330 model, which was quite needed and a very welcome refresher. Additionally, we get the Apple A13 Bionic chip inside — it’s a couple of years old, it was first introduced with the iPhone 11. Still, it’s more powerful than anything on the Android side and it has — at the very least — 3 more years of peak performance in it. Updates to the iPadOS will probably keep rolling for at least 5 years, too.
Apple’s cheapest iPad on offer has Smart Keyboard support, bringing it that much closer to the much more expensive iPad Pro lines. Couple that with support for an Apple Pencil (gen 1) and you’ve got a machine that’s meant for play and work… depending on your field, of course.
Our recommendation: the base $330 variant comes with 64 GB of storage, which can definitely work for most users. You might have to do some files maintenance and storage housekeeping a few months down the line, but it’s not unmanageable. The other storage tier is 256 GB for $480, which is a bit much for the base level iPad. At that point, it might be wise to look around for a refurbished iPad Air (2020) with 128 GB or an old iPad Pro 11” with 128 GB.
iPad mini (2021)
It has finally happened — Apple has updated the iPad mini line! The new iPad mini 6 generation looks and behaves like a tiny iPad Air (2020). It’s got the new all-screen front look, it has a Touch ID sensor in its oversized power button, it even has stereo speakers in landscape orientation, and it supports the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. There’s no Smart Keyboard support here — the mini is too tiny for that, or so Apple has decided.
The iPad mini has some quirks — like a very noticeable “jello” effect when scrolling the screen. It’s obviously going to remain this way, too, as Apple’s response to it was basically “Well, that’s what LCD screens do”. But, if you can get past that, it’s a perfectly good tablet for reading, surfing, and maybe even binging YouTube.
It’s powered by the new Apple A15 Bionic chip, which paradoxically makes it more powerful than the currently-available iPad Air. But don’t get an iPad mini because of its price — it’s a cool little munchkin, but at $500, you get a really small screen to work with. It kind of makes iPadOS features like Slide Over and Split View a bit useless on the small canvas.
Our recommendation: Starting at $499 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi only model, this tablet is not meant for those looking for a bang-for-buck deal. If you want a good iPad experience for a bargain — go back to the base iPad 10.2 (2021). The mini is meant for a specific type of customer that wants that small device experience — maybe fans that are looking for a backup iPad for situations where the Pro is just too big.