Apple has four iPad models to choose from, spanning a wide range in price and performance. Which one is right for you? Which is our favorite? We compare them all.
By Will Greenwald and Steven Winkelman
In 2019, Apples has four different iPad lines with five different screen sizes, ranging in price from $329 to $999 (for baseline models; the biggest iPad Pro with cellular connectivity and 1TB of storage will set you back $1,899). That gets pretty complicated when you’re shopping for a new tablet.
To help you figure out what you’re getting with each iPad, let’s look at all the differences between the various models. But we’ll start with the similarities and what you can expect from any Apple tablet you buy today.
Across the Board: Software, Wireless Connectivity, and Apple Pencil
Ever since its inception, the iPad has run the same operating system as the iPhone: iOS. It’s been Apple’s standard mobile operating system for over a decade, running through 12 separate iterations. That changes soon when Apple officially splits iOS into separate smartphone and tablet branches. iPhones will get iOS 13, while iPads will get iPadOS.
The new tablet-specific operating system will focus on streamlining and expanding multitasking to improve the usefulness of iPads as workplace devices, with pinnable widgets and cross-app workflow features such as split-screen and rapidly sliding between screens. Our preview of iPadOS takes a closer look at the new system and everything it adds, so you can know what to expect when it comes out.
For now, though, every iPad model available currently runs the latest version of the Apple’s catchall mobile operating system, iOS 12. Improved performance, expanded Screen Time controls, FaceTime with up to 32 people, and all the other features iOS 12 offers can be found on every new iPad.
Wireless connectivity is also almost universally strong across the iPad models. Every version has at least Bluetooth 4.2, dual-band 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi with MIMO, and optional LTE cellular connectivity. As for future-proofing, none of the iPads support 5G yet; Apple hasn’t even announced its first 5G iPhone, so we’ll be waiting a while for a 5G iPad.
Every new iPad also supports the Apple Pencil. This doesn’t mean every Apple Pencil is the same; the $99 first-generation Apple Pencil works with the iPad, iPad Air, and iPad mini, while the $129 second-generation Apple Pencil only works with the iPad Pro (and conversely, the iPad Pro only works with the pricier Apple Pencil).
Apple iPad: Budget Baseline
For a time, the iPad and iPad Air were both Apple’s midrange tablets. The iPad Air simply replaced the iPad in 2015, and the iPad replaced the iPad Air 2 in 2017. Now Apple is offering current models of both the iPad and the iPad Air, and they’re very different from each other. Instead of sitting nestled between the iPad mini and iPad Pro in price and features, the standard iPad is Apple’s budget tablet, by far the least expensive at $329. It’s also the least powerful.
The 2019 iPad is a very slightly upgraded version of the 2018 model, with the most notable change being support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard folio. That means it still uses Apple’s A10 Fusion processor, which is a good two generations behind the A12 Bionic used by the iPad Air and iPad mini. Don’t expect it to handle powerful apps or games, or juggle multiple apps at a time, nearly as smoothly as the other iPads. Storage is also more limited, with only 32GB and 128GB models available. The other iPad models start at 64GB and go up to 256GB for the iPad mini and Air, and up to 1TB for the iPad Pro. Since none of the iPads have microSD card slots for expanding storage, 32GB of space is pretty limited.
The iPad’s screen is also the least advanced of the current models. It’s a Retina LCD just like the iPad Air and iPad mini, with a 2,160-by-1,620-pixel resolution for 264 pixels per inch. That’s actually a higher resolution that the iPad mini, but the mini’s smaller screen size makes for higher pixel density. It also lacks the lamination and anti-reflective coating of the more expensive models and doesn’t feature Wide Color up to the DCI-P3 color space or Apple’s True Tone setting.
The other lagging factor of the standard iPad is the selfie camera. While it shares the same 8MP rear-facing camera as the other non-Pro iPads, its front-facing camera is a meager 1.2MP. That’s a fraction of the resolution of the 7MP selfie cameras on the iPad mini and iPad Air, and that means your FaceTime calls will look a lot less pleasant to whoever you’re talking to.
The big appeal of the regular iPad is the value it offers for the price. At $329, you’re getting a big, bright screen and lots of functionality that outshines any budget Amazon Fire or Lenovo Android tablet in build quality and polish, and still costs far less than Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs. If you want a versatile entertainment device for watching videos, reading books and comics, browsing the web, communicating with your friends and even doing light text-crunching and presentations, it’s an excellent choice…..Read More>>