Back in my day, Apple gave us one iPad, and we had to use it, otherwise we’d go to bed iPad-less.
Kids today have all the iPad. There’s an iPad for every mood and every day of the week. Big iPads, small iPads, expensive iPads, slightly less expensive iPads.
If you’re looking for an iPad, it can be tough to know where to start – and that’s doubly the case if you’re looking to pick one up for someone else. There are currently six different models available for purchase from Apple’s site.
iPad Pro 12.9 inch (6th gen) – Starts at $1,099
iPad Pro 11‑inch (4th generation) – Starts at $799
iPad Air (5th generation) – Starts at $599
iPad (10th generation) – Starts at $449
iPad (9th generation) – Starts at $329
iPad mini (6th generation) – $499
The differences on the models aren’t entirely clear on the face of it, and things are further muddied by different refresh cycles and the fact that a new edition of a specific model doesn’t mean its predecessor necessarily goes away (as is the case with the 9th and 10th gens of the standard iPad). So here’s a quick guide based on different users and use cases.
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Laptop Replacement: 11‑inch (4th generation)
The notion of an iPad as a laptop replacement would’ve seemed downright bizarre as recently as a few years ago. But while many of us are a long way from giving up our notebooks, plenty (including a TechCrunch staffer or two) have made the jump to an iPad/keyboard case combo and not looked back. The transition has certainly been made easier by recent multi-tasking additions to iPadOS.
You’re best off going with one the Pro models here. While there are bound to be certain elements you miss from your PC days (ports spring immediately to mind), the addition of the M2 chip’s processing power will ease the blow a bit. Couple that with the Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio or any number of third-party keyboard cases, and you’ve got a fairly capable laptop replacement (plus a much better camera system that you’re going to get on non-convertible PC).
We went with the 11-inch here for sizing and pricing reasons. Your mileage will vary, of course. Screen size is important for true multitasking and if you plan to use the system to watch movies and the like. You may also consider to $200 upgrade to 5G to always be connected.
Price: Starts at around $799
For Creative Pros: iPad Pro 12.9 inch (6th gen)
We’re definitely recommending the 12.9 inch version of the Pro here, for the simple reason that a little added real estate goes a long way when it comes to the digital canvas. As above, mileage will vary, but if your friend or loved one is the type to take Apple Pencil to digital paper, it’s probably worth the additional splurge.
Add in elements like the ProMotion and True Tone technology for the display and an excellent dual-camera system with 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide sensors, and you’ve got a well-rounded creative work slate.
Price: Starts at $1099
Frequent Travelers: iPad mini (6th generation)
Our two prerequisites here? Thin and light, obviously. The 6th generation iPad mini isn’t the most powerful device in here (though it does, notably, sport the A15 Bionic, vs. the 10th gen iPad’s A14), but for those constantly on the go, shaving off a few ounces goes a long way. The mini weighs in at 0.65 pounds, to the 10th gen iPad’s 1.05.
You are, obviously sacrificing a good deal of screen size here. The mini’s display is only 8.3 inches – somewhere between a very small tablet and very large phone. That’s more than enough for casual gaming, but you’re probably going to be less amenable to a movie marathon on the thing.
Price: Starts at $500
No Frills: iPad (9th generation)
An important thing to remember in all of this: even the cheapest iPad is an expensive gift – particularly in a bad economy. While it’s true that someone on your list would be over the moon to get a decked-out 12.9-inch iPad Pro, we’re talking about a nearly $800 difference in prices. Or look at this way: you could buy three 9th-gen iPads for the price of one 12.9 inch Pro and still pocket $112.
Certainly not everyone requires the latest and greatest. For most straightforward tablet tasks, a slightly out of date iPad will still get the job done. No shame at all in not buying the most expensive model for things like watching movies, surfing the web and catching up on emails.
Price: Starts at $329