So, while back in the day we had a choice between “that new iPad or the one that came out last year”, now we have quite the choice. You’re out to purchase a new Apple tablet and feel a bit confused? No fear — here’s our comprehensive buying guide on Apple iPads for 2019, which will help you find the best slate for you or that special person you are buying it for.
The “best” options
Balance between power, price,
accessories, and portability
iPad Pro 11-inch
The bad news is that the new iPad Pro 11-inch starts at $800 for the base, 64 GB model. That’s before you even go to add a $130 Apple Pencil 2 or a $180 Smart Keyboard. Yeah, that’s laptop-level money. But hey, check out our next entry!
iPad Pro 10.5
Specs | Review
The iPad Pro 10.5 pretty much performs the best balancing act between price, size, hardware, and potential to accessorize. It has the most powerful hardware that is currently offered on iPads — the Apple A10X Fusion hexa-core chip and 4 GB of RAM — and despite the fact that it has a 10.5-inch screen, its thin bezels make it only a little bigger than the iPad 9.7 (a.k.a. the iPad Air form factor).
More good stuff — it has quad speakers that blaze out stereo sound and it’s compatible with the Apple Pencil as well as a Smart Keyboard, which can be added at a later date as a separate purchase to increase your productivity with the tablet.
Unfortunately, while it’s not the most expensive iPad out there, it’s still rather pricey. The iPad Pro 10.5 starts at $649 for the 64 GB, Wi-Fi only model. If you want to add a cellular option to that, it’s an instant $130 increase. The pricing stops at $1,129 for a 512 GB model with cellular. If you are having a hard time making a decision, here is our suggestion for best options:
If you need connectivity on the go — spend $779 on the 64 GB + Cellular variant
If you think you will do OK without mobile Internet — spend $799 on the 256 GB Wi-Fi only model and enjoy tons of storage
iPad Air (2019)
Specs | Review
This year, Apple revived a beloved classic — the iPad Air! Why is it a big deal, you ask? The Air line introduced super-thin and super-light iPads with the Air 2 being unbeatable in both of these categories for years to come. In fact, the Air 2 is still lighter than any iPad Apple has on sale (minus the mini 5, of course), but more on that later.
The 2019 redux of the iPad Air is the perfect middle-of-the-road solution. It supports both the Apple Pencil (gen 1) and a Smart Keyboard but stays cheaper by cutting some corners. It has the old form factor, so you get Touch ID and a home button instead of Face ID. It also lacks real stereo — the two speakers are situated on one side of the device — which is not fantastic, but hey… we’ll take it. The Air also sticks to the Lightning connector, which can be both a pro and a con. If you’ve been doing actual work on your iPad and spent money on accessories that work with the Lightning connector, you will probably feel more inclined to buy a 2019 iPad Air or a previous generation iPad Pro instead of the new USB C iPad Pros.
For the price of $500, you can get a Wi-Fi model with 64 GB, which is pretty good storage. But if you intend to keep this tablet for a long, long time, we suggest you squeeze out an extra $150 and buy the 256 GB model for $650. Four years from now, you’ll be glad you did.
I just want a tablet, give me something cheap
Alright, alright! So you don’t subscribe to the “Go Pro or go home!” ideology. The first thing you might want to look at is the iPad 10.2, which starts at $329 at the Apple Store. But we have another idea for you:
iPad Pro 9.7
Specs | Review
The iPad Pro 9.7 is sort of a forgotten model. It only existed for a single generation, before Apple upgraded with a 10.5-incher and then an all-new-design 11-inch iPad Pro. It hails back from 2016, so its hardware is a bit old — the Apple A9X chip, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of base storage. However, it just so happens that these specs fully support iPadOS in 2019 and the good old Pro runs just fine. Now for its qualities — it has that top-notch, laminated, anti-glare screen, a quad-speaker stereo setup, and full support for the Apple Pencil (gen 1) and Smart Keyboard case.
Of course, Apple doesn’t sell these brand new, but does have a few refurbished ones on stock. Going to 3rd party stores, you can find some massive deals, costing you less than an iPad 10.2, which has similar hardware, but a worse-looking screen and no stereo speakers.
Of course, you might feel uncomfortable buying refurbished or second hand — there’s nothing like having a shiny new device to unpack and have the 1st party warranty to give you a peace of mind. Apple’s budget iPad was upgraded this year to have a slightly larger, 10.2-inch display. It doesn’t make for much of a difference when viewing content, but the new form factor allows for a slightly larger keyboard case, making it feel more spacious and comfortable for typing. Yes, Apple’s cheapest iPad on offer now has Smart Keyboard support, bringing it that much closer to the much more expensive iPad Pro lines. Couple that with support for an Apple Pencil and you’ve got a machine that’s meant for play and work… depending on your field, of course. It’s had some corners cut, of course. No laminated display here, so the screen has that cheap-ish look to it. Its two speakers are placed right next to each other, on the bottom side of the tablet, so there’s no true stereo. Also, it’s still powered by the Apple A10 Fusion — the three-year-old chip, which originally shipped with the iPhone 7.
As compact as possible
iPad mini (2019)
Specs | Review
There’s the iPad Mini for those that like to be able to hold the tablet with one hand and use it on the bed without dropping it on their face. The iPad mini (2019) is great for that. The tiny line has been ignored by Apple for way too long, but in 2019, it finally got an upgrade with an A12 Bionic chip and 3 GB of RAM. And hey, you can use an Apple Pencil on this one, too, although the canvas may be getting a bit small here. No Smart Keyboard, though.
It’s still a bit disappointing that it didn’t get a facelift. The mini’s design has very obviously aged. On the flip side, these thick bezels will definitely make it super easy to hold it with one hand no matter what position you are in.
The biggest, baddest iPad
Specs | Review
We can’t go without mentioning the biggest guy in town. The iPad Pro 12.9 is as big as a MacBook Air and costs about the same. Yeah, it’s obviously a niche device meant either for the professionals out there, or the ones that take their tablet usage very, very seriously — on-the-go typers, graphics artists, even pro gamers if you wish.
The iPad Pro 12.9 is powered by the Apple A12X Bionic octa-core chip and 4 GB of RAM and it’s a real beast — both in terms in productivity and size, measuring at 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches (280.4 x 214.9 x 5.8 mm) and weighing 24.41 oz (633 g). It starts at $999, but add an instant $129 to that if you want the Apple Pencil 2 to use on that large canvas.
Alright, so the iPad Pro 12.9 definitely stands in a weird niche. iOS holds it back from being a PC-style machine, but it’s still powerful and productive enough, with its own set of unique features and apps, which are not covered by the MacBook family of devices. If you are going for this one, you are probably well-aware of exactly what you are looking for, but still:
The 256 GB Wi-Fi model for $1,149 seems to be the best middle-of-the-road offering. Plenty of storage to play in and it’s still slightly cheaper than the newer MacBook Airs. Well… that’s before you add a $200 keyboard and a $130 Pencil in the mix. Just for comparison’s sake — a 13-inch MacBook Pro with 256 GB of storage is $1,499.