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Ever popular, and arguably one of the best tablet manufacturers on the market, Apple has plenty to offer. Their range of iPads is always expanding so it’s tough to pinpoint the differences when you browse especially if you are bombarded with specs and jargon.  

We have done the research and narrowed the list down to some essential Apple iPad options for 2020. 

Each has been categorized according to their benefits. That way rather than crown the best of the bunch and it being priced at an inaccessible level we have everyone covered. 

So if you’re shopping on a shoes-string, need a wide-lensed-LiDAr assisted creation station, or want a highly portable mini tablet, there is something on this list for your needs.

For more info, you can head over to Digitaltrends and read Simon Chandler’s best iPad review article.

Best iPads in each category

  • Best compact: Apple iPad Mini 5
  • Best large-screen: 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro
  • Best cheap: 2020 Apple iPad
  • Best all-rounder: 2020 Apple iPad Air 
  • Best of the bunch: 11-inch Apple iPad Pro 

Best compact tablet: Apple iPad Mini 5

The portability and convenience of the iPad Mini 5 are indisputable. While the design is a little less modern than the iPad Pro or Air models it still has plenty to offer. The screen measures 7.9-inches and is just what you need to curl up on a couch with. 

At face-value, the iPad Mini 5 resembles its predecessor. But under the hood, it has had an overhaul to bring it up to date. It now has far more processing power to cater to your needs thanks to its A12 Bionic chip. Sure, the tech is around 2 years old now but it works very well for juggling multiple apps, even the latest and most demanding. You won’t find yourself twiddling your thumbs at a loading screen or hit by any discernible lag.

Apple iPad Mini 5
Apple iPad Mini 5. Image credit: 9to5mac.com

If you are an avid reader, it is an ideal option for you. Despite its smaller size, it is also great for streaming videos and TV. It now supports the first-generation Apple Pencil ( currently $129). So you can use it for drawing and making notes, something it previously couldn’t do to consider if you have browsed in the past. 

The battery lasts up to 10 hours of constant use which is extended if you are a casual user. It features a built-in 8-megapixel rear-camera bolstered by a 7-megapixel front-facing camera. 

This gives it better specs than the 2020 standard iPad but it costs about $80 extra.

Why buy it? With a processing upgrade, the iPad Mini is a powerful compact option that is highly-portable. Whether you want to catch up on your favorite TV shows or bunker down with a good ebook it is perfectly suitable.

Who will it suit? Someone who doesn’t want a big cumbersome tablet. 

Find one @ Amazon for $379 

Find one @ B&H for $400

Find one @ Walmart for $379

Best large-screen iPad: 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the largest iPad Pro provides the most screen space with 12.9-inches on offer.

The specs match the 2020 11-inch iPad Pro model, essentially just a bigger version. Like the 11-inch model, it also sports narrower bezel edges to give additional screen space. The larger screen is capable of greater resolutions(2732 x 2048 pixels). 

It also has a higher frame refresh rate (120Hz) thanks to is ProMotion support. This makes it a good streaming device as you get to see your movies at a better quality with the faster update rate. It also make it great for gameplay as it doesn’t lag.

12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro
12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro. Image credit: engadget.com

Power-wise it is also pretty capable, equipped with an A12Z Bionic chip and Neural Engine it renders it the best option for those who find themselves installing game apps to unwind with. The battery life will again give you a good 10 hours of constant use. Using Face ID instead of the Home button makes it much more secure and convenient to use.

As a premium device from the line-up, it will set you back. You also have additional storage and accessory options, which again add-up to an expensive choice but the benefits speak for themself.

Why buy it? Powerful processing, better resolution, and frame refresh rate. The key ingredients for a more enjoyable leisure experience overall. 

Who will it suit? Heavy users, creative types, and gaming addicts. Whether you want to play games til the cows come home or use it at a professional level it is a useful tool.

Find one @ Amazon for $950

Find one @ Woot! for $920

Best cheap: 2020 Apple iPad 

The eighth iteration of the standard iPad 2020 makes a solid budget-friendly choice. Although it doesn’t offer the glamour or gimmicks of the top-end of the line it’s a well-made dependable option. The tech is a little older but comparably unnoticeable with most real-world tasks.

Sporting a proprietary A12 Bionic processor it gets the job done effectively. It comes with 3GB of RAM to install and run all your favorite apps, sufficient enough for a moderate user.

2020 Apple iPad
2020 Apple iPad. Image credit: cnet.com

The screen measures 10.2-inches and is a Retina display with a pixel resolution of 2160 x 1620. It is a decent size for extended video enjoyment. Inch for inch you get the same pixels as the iPad Air.

The camera is an 8-megapixel job. The quality is pretty decent matching the Mini specs and not quite coming up to the standards of the Air or Pro devices that benefit from a 12-megapixel. 

It provides 32GB of storage as standard and 10 hours of high-definition continuous playback. This of course is dependent on what exactly you are using it for. The average user will probably get a full day’s use before recharging.

Why buy it? The iPad 2020 is older but by no means obsolete. The processor is capable and the lower price renders it a good value for money product.

Who will it suit? Moderate users who can’t afford a premium iPad. Or, anyone who is not willing to pay top-dollar. The tech really isn’t obsolete yet and for most use it handles well.

Find one @ Amazon for $359

Find one @ Best Buy for $330 

Find one @ Adorama for $329

Best all-rounder: 2020 Apple iPad Air

If your budget allows then The iPad Air is a great step-up from the entry-level iPad. With it’s slimline aesthetics and upgraded processor, its specs are considerably close to the iPad Pro. The two have very few differences so in our eyes it balances peak performance and affordability really well. 

Currently retailing at $200 less than the premium end of the line with its $600 price-tag it provides many of the same premium features and wide compatibility. If you are looking for a middle-ground best of both worlds option that presents value this is it.

Harboring one of Apple’s new A14 Bionic chips, it handles everything with a breeze. With fewer processing cores than the A12Z of iPad Pro, the performance on paper may appear less from benchmark testing but in the real world, it is hardly noticeable side by side. The performance is pretty impressive overall.

2020 Apple iPad Air
2020 Apple iPad Air. Image credit: theverge.com

All of the accessories that the iPad Pro supports can be used with the Air. This includes the second-generation Apple Pencil.

The screen is 10.9-inches and Pixel for pixel the resolution of 2360 x1640 matches the pro. The only real compromise is a lower refresh rate.

As far as the camera is concerned, you don’t get the Ultrawide that the Pro model offers but it still has plenty to offer. If you’re not specifically after the better camera shots and your budget doesn’t stretch to the Pro then the iPad Air is a close approximation.

Why buy it? It shares many of the Pro models’ core features and capabilities but saves you a couple of hundred bucks. Striking a good balance between performance and price it is well worth looking at.

Who will it suit? Someone who is looking for optimal performance that doesn’t want to empty out the bank account.

Find one @ Amazon for $599

Find one @ B&H Photo Video for $599

Find one @ Best Buy for $600

Best of the bunch: 11-inch Apple iPad Pro 

The best of the bunch can only be Apples premium, flagship-model answer to touch screen tablet based enjoyment.

With a highly powerful Apple A12Z Bionic chip that gives a laptop a run for its money, the Pro had to take the crown. Extremely well manufactured with good-looking aesthetics and streamlined bezels that help maximize the screen area Apple’s iPad Pro is a top choice. 

The extra resolution on offer weighs in at 2388 x 1668 pixels. It also benefits from the support of Apple’s ProMotion 120Hz technology. That enables it to refresh frame rates far more efficiently. This fluid update rate is unsurpassed and ultimately provides better viewing pleasure and keeps games from lagging.

The camera features an ultrawide lens and has a LiDAR lens. So it is great for those who like to take pics. The LiDAR adds a realistic dimension when taking a photo and let’s you use a wider variety of photo editing Apps in different ways. But photographic capabilities aside, it also allows users to access 3D scanning app technology and improves augmented reality use and there will likely be yet unforeseen, wider applications to come in the near future.

It uses FaceID in place of the Home button for increased security. It harbors a USB-C port widening application use. It is also very versatile in terms of accessories.

11-inch Apple iPad Pro
11-inch Apple iPad Pro. Image credit: apple.com

It comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory as standard which is fairly generous on the storage side to begin with. You can even bump this up to 1TB if you have the cash to spare. Despite a powerful processor that can be demanding on a power supply it still capably provides 10 hours of battery-llife when in constant use.

Granted aa Apples high-end iPad it will be out of the realms of a realistic option for some budgets. But with its hardware specs and performance, we had to give it our top-spot.

Why buy it? It is the best iPad currently available, rivalled only by the larger screen edition. The performance is unmatched and it offers the best versatility.

Who will it suit? Creative people who need accuracy and detail, those with professional workflows that demand processing power, and anyone who simply has to have the best.

Find one @ Amazon for $750

Find one @ B&H Photo Video for $750

Find one @ Woot! for $740

Find one @ Brandsmart USA for $749

Points to remember when selecting the gadget

  • iPads are well-manufactured with a high level of quality control. This gives them greater longevity to begin with. Yes they can be pricier but as with all consumer electronics you get what you pay for.
  • Apple has regular software updates meaning when you invest in a device it is supported for a long time. This also adds to its ‘shelf-life’ by the time you are ready for an upgrade your device will have served you well and proved good value for money.
  • iPadOS is essentially identical to regular iOS. If you have owned a smartphone you will find the transition easy. 
  • If you are crossing over to the Apple band Wagon from Android, you may find it a little more alien at first.
  • In comparison to Android, iPadOS functions in a logical streamlined manner. 
  • There is somewhat less customization available which is a small gripe for some. 
  • The interface is easier to navigate especially for new users and less prone to incompatibility when updating.
  • Apple iOS is a locked ecosystem. The additional security that this provides and ensures outweighs any negative factors by far.
  • An iPad may not be able to support all the data you transfer if you transition from a different Android device. Contacts, message history, photos, and videos are widely supported but many of your Android apps may not be native and so you might find you lose some data. 
  • The iPadOS is better at allowing you to switch between app tasks. It facilitates it with its Split View and Slide Over features. This makes it very user friendly and better suited to multi-tasking.
  • A lot of popular web apps work better on an iPad than your regular iOS device. The Safari browser install is rated as ‘desktop-class’. This makes the iPad operating system more in line with a computer. It is notably much faster than your iPhone OS.
  • Apple iPad accessories are of high quality but they are certainly not cheap. So, if you are looking to use your iPad for anything creative you should be prepared for additional costs once you are locked into the Apple OS. For an idea; the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is $299.

Texting and calling

You might be surprised to know that you can call and text from your iPad with a little mediation. You have a few options;

iMessage allows iPad users to send text messages to other iOS devices or Mac computers. For contacting non-Apple customers you can install a third-party text-messaging app.

You can route Wi-Fi calls through your iPhone or purchase an iPad with cellular support. This can cost around $150 extra for a cell service plan.

Alternatively, you can use FaceTime or other third-party video-calling apps like Skype and Zoom. This method relies on your friends having access and installing the same Apps,  they are simple to set-up and don’t hog a lot of space.

You might want to look into a good Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service if you need to use an iPad to make calls for business purposes.

How they were ranked 

All iPads were thoroughly tested by Apple enthusiasts for extensive periods. The team were very familiar with each model to begin with so were apt for taking them through their paces. 

They were given real-world tasks. Everything from playing games and streaming multimedia to photos and video capture was looked at. A wide range of apps were tested. A mixture of older as well as the latest were used, the latter of which are more demanding on your OS.

Weakness and strengths were noted throughout the testing process and the innovation and convenience on offer was also discussed. The features and differences between each model were considered, be that the functional everyday ones or the more quirky. Judgment for each category was made on this basis.

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