Apple’s iPads dominate the tablet market in the US, and for good reason. Apple has an impressive suite of tablet-centric apps, an easy-to-use operating system, and an excellent support and service architecture. As of this writing, there are five main iPad models: the basic iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, and the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. Refurbished models are often available from Apple, and you can also search for used markets for old iPads. A good iPad has a life span of at least five years.
But which one is right for you? Let’s find out.
Can an iPad replace my laptop?
Possible and possible not. iPads run on Apple’s iPadOS, a tablet-focused version of iOS for phones. iPadOS adds tablet-centric features, like split-screen multitasking, without becoming a desktop-style full-window operating system. This has advantages – iPad apps are designed to work better without a keyboard or trackpad, but they can use the keyboard and trackpad if needed. But it also has downsides – you can’t extend your screen to multiple monitors, you can’t have more than three apps on your screen at once, and many professional apps don’t have all the features of their desktop versions. If you need these features, look no further than our favorite 2-in-1 convertible or hybrid laptops and Windows tablets.
However, if you don’t mind these limitations and just want to be able to type on real keys sometimes, there are plenty of iPads compatible keyboards and keyboard cases. And I find that younger folks who aren’t used to multi-windows are perfectly happy to use the iPad for schoolwork, video editing, and chatting.
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Which iPad is best for me?
The base model iPad is the best tablet if you’re just looking for an entry-level device for gaming, media, or schoolwork. In durable case, it is also a good choice for kids tablet pc.
If you intend to do more productive or creative work, the iPad Air is the best. It has many of the features of the iPad Pro (fast processor, better sound, compatibility with the greatly improved second-generation Apple Pencil), but it costs much less.
A keyboard that turns the iPad Air into a powerful productivity tablet (Photo: Molly Flores))
iPad mini packs many of the Air’s features into a smaller body. Think of it as a portable notebook or sketchbook, or an enterprise tablet for vehicle mounts, point-of-sale systems, or jacket pockets.
If price is no object, the iPad Pro has great hardware. But its operating system prevents it from doing more than Air does, and it costs a lot. It is definitely a luxurious experience.
Old or used models sometimes sell for less than new iPads. Two of them are particularly attractive:
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The refurbished 2020 iPad Pro 12.9-inch is around $700 to $750. It’s slower and more expensive than the new iPad Air, but it’s great if you want a larger drawing surface or a really fancy large color reader. Most people should get the new Air, but that does give you the extra screen size.
The 2018 6th generation iPad can be found for under $200. For basic use, as long as you don’t intend to play immersive games or use a lot of video creation apps, this iPad should still have all the power you need for the next three years or so.
Do I need iPad accessories?
In the box, you will get an iPad and a charger. You may need a few other things to get the most out of your new tablet.
Any iPad can be enhanced with the optional stylus accessory, a high-quality active stylus pen. There are two types of pencils. The first generation works with the base iPad model, and the second generation works with other models. The second generation stylus is easy to hold because it’s not completely round, and it charges easily using a magnetic connector on the side of the tablet. There is also a less expensive alternative to the pencil, the Logitech Crayon.
iPad has the best options for cases and covers for any tablet. But it’s not known for its battery life, so it’s probably a good idea to grab a power bank.
The next best thing
It’s worth noting that the cheapest iPad isn’t very cheap, especially once you take these add-ons into account. I think $300 is great for a five year investment, but not many people have that money. Some Android tablets sell for even less — even under $100 — and are suitable for basic gaming and media streaming, but not for school work or productivity. Our list of the best cheap tablets tells you which low-quality models are worth considering.