iPad Buying Guide 2022: Which of Apple's newest tablets suit your needs?
Comparing the different iPads & conclusion
With the pricing in mind and the similarities between the iPads established, we can now go on to actually comparing the different iPads, and seeing what you're paying for with each one. For those who dislike reading lengthy analyses, scroll to the bottom of each section for our TLDR summary.
iPad (9th-generation, 10.2-inch)
This is Apple's most affordable iPad and you could definitely view it as the iPad that's roughest around the edges, which is ironic given its rounded edges. Anyhow, it has the oldest silicon, running the almost three-year-old A13 Bionic chip, the largest bezels with an old-school Touch ID home button, and single-sided speakers. It also doesn't support Apple's Magic Keyboard, which, as we noted in our review of it, is the best way to elevate the typing experience on an iPad.
Despite all of that, though, it is still an iPad. And that means it supports the Apple Pencil (the first-generation at least), it has a 10-inch screen to comfortably watch your favourite movies and shows, and it has the same iPadOS, with the same support for apps like Procreate, Shapr3D and Adobe Lightroom if you engage in the creative arts. And though the A13 may be quite old now, it's still a capable chip that will easily keep up with the latest Qualcomm hardware.
Perhaps the main sour point is the Lightning port, which could mean a harder time connecting to external drives and USB-C accessories (all the other iPads use USB-C).
The starting point for the base iPad is S$499 for 64GB with just Wi-Fi. While it's better than the 32GB configuration that Apple used to sell with older iPads, it still doesn't offer much storage headroom if you plan on keeping it for a few years, especially if you use apps that require lots of storage for installation. Gamers, in particular, should take note because some games consume lots of storage. That said, if you mainly stream your content, then this won't bother you as much.
Ultimately, though, it gets to the fundamentals. You can use it to replace a pen-and-paper notebook, you can play games on it and run creativity and productivity apps, or use it as a content consumption device. And if that's all you need and you are not too fussed about the details, then this is the iPad for the job. Additionally, considering the relatively affordable price, it's a good choice if you have a school-age child whose learning experience could improve with an iPad.
It is also the only iPad in the lineup with a headphone jack, so there's that.
TLDR summary: The basic iPad is by no means terrible, but it's a compromised device. Still, it's an excellent choice for those on a budget. But if you can afford it, consider the other models in the line-up.
Read: Our Apple iPad review
iPad Mini (6th-generation)
Next up in price is the iPad Mini, which has a focus on portability. Right off the bat, the S$250 step up in base price compared to the 10.2-inch iPad nets you a smaller form factor (an 8.3-inch screen weighing about 300g), double-sided speakers, support for the second-generation Apple Pencil, and USB-C. It's also powered by the A15 Bionic chip, which powers the current-generation iPhone 13 series and is certainly no slouch (if you want to know the details, you can read our review of the iPad Mini here).
Despite being a selling point, the smaller screen is a double-edged sword. The 8.3-inch size almost negates the iPad's large-screen appeal for some people, and if you use an iPad for creative work, the small area is probably a compromise. Additionally, the small size doesn't allow for the Smart Connector on the back, so you'll have to stick with Bluetooth and USB-C for third-party accessories.
As a result, the deciding factor would be how often you intend to bring it out. If you're a student, it might make a better note-taking machine than a heavy laptop, for example.
And if 5G connectivity is important to you, it's worth pointing out that the iPad Mini is the most affordable iPad that supports 5G.
TLDR summary: The iPad Mini's compact size means it's the choice for users who value portability over everything else. And even though it's small, it's powerful, fast, has a great screen, and surprisingly decent speakers. It really is a pocket rocket.
Read: Our iPad Mini review.
iPad Air (5th-generation)
We get to the first M1 iPad in this guide, as well as the most recently-launched iPad. Though the iPad Air was already similar to the iPad Pro in a lot of ways, the addition of a Mac-class M1 chip to the 5th Generation Air puts it closer to feature parity with its Pro brother, to the point where it's hard to talk about the Air without mentioning what it lacks compared to the Pro.
We'll save those comparisons for the Pro section, though. For now, we can talk about the Air on its own merits, and how it stacks up to its cheaper siblings.
The iPad Air offers a screen upgrade to 10.9-inches from the iPad's 10.2, doing so while weighing about 20g less. Compared to the iPad Mini, the Air is S$100-S$130 more expensive, and also offers 5G on its cellular model, as well as second-generation Apple Pencil support and USB-C (up to 10Gbps).
Given its size, it's certainly not as portable as the iPad Mini though it's hardly what you'd call heavy either -it's only 6.1mm thick and less than 500g heavy. On the upside, the larger display should mean a more comfortable viewing experience. And, of course, the main component that drives the cost of the iPad Air over the iPad and iPad Mini is now the M1 chip. In that sense, app performance should be similar to the iPad Pro. Therefore, you should consider the Air if you want the absolute best performance at the cheapest price.
It's also the iPad with the largest amount of colour choices. Five colours to be exact, compared to the four on the iPad Mini and two on the iPad and iPad Pro.
TLDR summary: The iPad Air isn't exactly cheap, but if you can afford it, it's the best iPad for most people.
Read: Our iPad Air review.
iPad Pro (3rd-generation 11-inch and 5th-generation 12.9-inch)
Finally, we get to the shiniest, most expensive iPad of them all, the iPad Pro. It's powered by the same M1 chip, and if you're worried about whether the thin chassis of the iPad Pro will impact its performance, according to our review, you shouldn't be.
The main feature it can hold over other iPads, though, is its screen. Namely, the 120Hz ProMotion display. For the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the display also sees an upgrade from the regular Retina LCD to a mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display, with which Apple claims a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness, and 1,600 nits of peak brightness with HDR content. It looks fantastic, though it must be said that the "regular" LCD screen of the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro isn't terrible either.
As for more pragmatic differences, the iPad Pro has the greatest flexibility in terms of storage options. Rather than only 64GB or 256GB, the choices are 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB. It's also the only iPad with two memory configs, 16GB for the terabyte models and 8GB for the rest. The Thunderbolt 4 ports are another differentiator, as are the cameras and sensors – the iPad Pro is the only iPad with multiple rear cameras and Face ID. On the rear, there are the usual wide and ultra-wide cameras, but there's also the addition of a LiDAR scanner which is handy for AR apps that need to understand their surroundings.
Being the Pros, though, these are the most expensive iPads, ranging anywhere from S$1,199 for the 128GB Wi-Fi 8GB iPad Pro 11-inch to over S$3,000 for the 2TB 12.9-inch iPad Pros.
Those who want the greatest amount of storage on an iPad would probably be looking at these, as well as those who really need the LiDAR scanner and users who want the best displays on an iPad.
TLDR summary: This is peak iPad. For many people, the iPad Pro is overkill. But if you have deep pockets, like shiny, beautiful, premium things, and want the ultimate iPad experience. The iPad Pro is it.
Read: Our iPad Pro review
Final thoughts and conclusion
We've reached the end of the comparisons, but it might still be hard to decide, especially if you're looking for your first iPad. To help with that, you could ask yourself some of these questions to help guide you:
|How much will I be relying on the cloud and streaming vs. internal storage?||
If you're planning to load it with content and large apps, a 256GB iPad might be more worth it.
|How much will I be using it indoors vs. outdoors?||If you're bringing it outdoors often, consider investing in a cellular iPad Mini.|
|How much does screen size matter to me?||
This is also to decide whether to get an iPad Mini or not.
|Does sound from the built-in speakers matter?||The basic iPad only has speakers on one side.|
|How long am I looking to keep the iPad?||E.g. An iPad Air with the M1 and USB-C is more future-proof than an iPad with Lightning.|
|Do I own a Mac?||
If not, features like Sidecar, Universal Control, and even AirDrop are out of the picture, which may change the way you see price-to-performance.
It's also worth considering whether you'll get any accessories, which are expensive enough to affect the choice of iPad you're going for. As an example, a second-generation Apple Pencil costs S$189, which may mean you can no longer afford a 256GB iPad if you have a strict budget.
For reference, here are some of Apple's own accessories and how much they cost (as well as links to their pages on Apple's online store):
- Magic Mouse, S$129
- 1st Gen Apple Pencil, S$138
- 2nd Gen Apple Pencil, S$189
- Smart Keyboard, S$239
- Smart Keyboard Folio, starts at S$269
- Magic Keyboard, starts at S$439
Ultimately, like any other purchase, you have to ask yourself: If I buy it, what will I use it for? For some, this might be a hard question to answer, which probably explains why you have such a hard time deciding. But to sum things up, the iPad is a nice budget option, the iPad Mini is for those who need utmost portability, the iPad Air is the most sensible one that most people you aim for, and the iPad Pro is really for those who have deep pockets or have a real need for some of its unique features like the multiple cameras or lidar scanner.
If you're considering getting an iPad, whether it's your first one or whether you're looking to switch from an older model, hopefully, this guide has helped point you in the right direction. All the iPads mentioned above are available now on Apple's online store.