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Apple's newest iPad Pro is here. Complete with an LiDAR scanner and full trackpad support, it appears to be even more of a PC replacement than previous models. Even if you aren’t looking to replace your trusty laptop, the iPad is an incredible device. In fact, it’s the only tablet I’d recommend buying after years of covering consumer technology — and I’m not exactly what you’d call an Apple fanatic. I use Windows on my main computer and a Chromebook for portable work. I’ve also been a diehard Android phone user since the original Motorola Droid was released. In other words, this advice is not coming from a place of brand loyalty — it’s coming from years of using the iPad alongside other tablets on the market.
SKIP AHEAD What iPad model should you get?
Should you get an iPad?
While price has historically been a barrier to Apple’s products, the current iPad lineup ranges from affordable to fairly expensive (and powerful). No matter which one you buy, it can probably handle most actions, including:
- Reading ebooks, saving articles to Pocket and browsing the web
- Watching movies and shows via Netflix, Hulu, and HBO
- Writing and other office work thanks to Google Docs, iWork, and Microsoft Office
- Drawing, designing and performing other forms of digital art—with or without the Apple Pencil
- Playing games like Monument Valley, Vainglory and graphically-rich, in-depth games like République
You may see the more demanding actions perform better on the higher-cost iPad models, but for the most part any model should work well for general use.
What iPad model should you get?
The lowest-cost iPad — which is just named the “iPad” — is the seventh generation of Apple’s venerable tablet. It boasts a super-sharp 10.2-inch display, up to 128GB of storage and Apple’s A10 Fusion central processing unit (CPU). This is a slower CPU than more expensive models but you likely won't notice the difference. I’m still using an older iPad with a comparable CPU and it runs like butter — even when playing games. At $329, you couldn’t ask for a better bang for your buck.
When I bought my current iPad — the 2016 9.7-inch iPad Pro — I planned on using it for comic books, games and computer magazines (yes, I’m a huge nerd). A big screen was a must for me, but if you’re just looking to read ebooks, browse Facebook and take your tablet anywhere, the smaller 7.9-inch iPad Mini could be an alternative.
The iPad Air, as its name implies, is slightly thinner than the regular iPad. But the real improvement comes in a faster A12 Bionic CPU, more available storage (up to 256GB) and extra features like a wide-color, anti-reflective, True Tone display for a more natural-looking image.
At 12.9 inches, the iPad Pro is closer to the size of a laptop and has a higher price tag (though there is a smaller and more affordable 11-inch model). This is the iPad for people looking to replace their computer and thanks to the most powerful processor in an iPad — the A12Z Bionic — and up to 1TB of storage, it will work well for all your digital creations.
Android and Windows tablets can do similar things to an iPad, but the feel of using the device is why I chose an iPad. Android has struggled to get its tablet interface feeling as smooth and usable and many Android apps — from big names like Spotify to various magazines and lots of smaller third-party tools — are similar to phone apps blown up to fit the size of a tablet. Plus, a lot of apps come out on iOS before reaching other platforms, which can be frustrating if you have to wait for a new game to launch for your Android product.
How does the iPad compare to other tablets?
I also prefer the iPad over Microsoft’s tablet. The app interface isn't comparable and I end up spending most of my time in a browser, which just seems silly for the price.
When it comes to longevity, I find that iPads last a relatively long time. Now, Android tablets might not get future updates since Google stopped manufacturing their own Android tablets. In addition to the actual product, I find that there are far more iPad-focused accessories like fold-out keyboard cases, than there are for any given Android tablet. Android and Windows tablets do have their advantages, of course.
- Tablets like the $64 Walmart Onn and $50 Amazon Fire (which runs a modified version of Android with fewer apps) are unbeatable on price — just don’t expect them to be very snappy or last very long.
- The $150 Fire HD 10 is significantly better, but still can’t hold a candle to a refurbished 2017 iPad that costs $60 more.
- Samsung has good options on the high end but I think the iPad still offers a better all-around experience for the money.
- Windows-based 2-in-1s are nice if you want a hybrid laptop/tablet form factor. However, I find these clunkier than a tablet — I’d rather go with a cheaper non-touch laptop and put extra money toward an iPad. It’s almost always going to be a better experience.