Updated: Aug 30
iPad buyers guide from MacMan.
Apple would love to make a one-size-fits-all iPad. But people have different needs and different budgets, so after years of feedback, Apple has ended up with a whole orchard of iPads to choose from. This ensures there is a perfect iPad model for everyone, but some shoppers might find all the different options a little overwhelming. I'm here to break it down for you.
There are five basic categories of iPads. Let's start by figuring out which category is right for you.
9th generation iPad
It starts at a mere $329 dollars and will do more than enough for the average person. If you've never had an iPad or if you have an old iPad, you will probably still be impressed by the performance and versatility of Apple's base model. It even works with the Apple Pencil.
10th generation iPad
Those who want to be more up-to-date with the latest trends and technology might prefer the latest generation of iPad. This will have slightly better performance and a sleeker, more modern design. Don't want your friends to make fun of you for using a device that still has a home button? Try the new 10th generation iPad. It comes in an assortment of fun colors and works with Apple's new Magic Keyboard Folio.
It's small enough to fit in your coat pocket, but it will actually perform slightly better than the previous models in this list. It also supports the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, for even more drawing functions. Perfect for the casual artist or globe-trekker.
It's slightly thinner, but that really isn't the most exciting thing about this tablet. The selling factor on this one is the M1 processing chip. Despite its thin, portable, design, this model will actually out-perform most computers on the market. This is a perfect option for those who prefer the portability and durability of a tablet but want to be sure it is going to be up to all the tasks that they are used to doing on a traditional computer.
If you want the very best thing on the market, look no further. This is a state-of-the-art high-performance device. It's fun and function. It's a toy and a power tool. It's everything you could ever possibly need, and a whole bunch of things you never even realized you wanted. It is an even better option for those looking to use an iPad as a full computer replacement. And for the professional artist, this can be a crucial tool to give you a leg up on the competition. If you're going to be relying on your technology to support your livelihood, having the greatest and latest model can be crucial. If you're looking at this purchase as an investment in your career, this is the iPad for you. This model offers two screen-size options, both with Apple's unrivaled M2 processing chip.
After you select the correct model for your needs, you'll want to decide on a storage size. Think about how you'll use your iPad. Downloading apps, taking photos, and especially recording videos will take up a lot of space. Watching Netflix and browsing the web won't take up much at all.
The first four models (all except the Pro) offer only two storage sizes: 64 GB and 256 GB. The smaller size is going to save you a significant amount of money, but I would caution against it. All iPads have great cameras which means the pictures will be large files. Apps can accumulate a lot of data very quickly too. And I'm not just talking about the professional tools a graphic designer might use either. All of those slot machine games your grandma loves so much are notorious for eating up storage space. So, unless you're confident that you will be using the camera and the App Store very conservatively, I would avoid the smaller size. The next size up is four times as large and can comfortably meet most people's needs.
The iPad Pro comes in many sizes, from 128 GB all the way up to 2 TB. If you're going to be using it as a graphic design tool, you will likely have a lot of big files that you will want to be able to navigate between quickly and a large SSD drive will make things a lot easier for you. Finished products can be saved to the cloud, but the local SSD will help you quickly access your active projects. I would recommend any graphic designers to at least go for the 512 GB or the 1 TB. The 2 TB version is beyond most people's needs, but would be very appealing to amateur film-makers. With a big enough drive to comfortably hold and quickly access raw video files, the iPad Pro can be an entire movie studio in your hands.
Cellular or Wi-Fi Only?
All iPads will have the option to be purchased with cellular capability. With this extra feature, you can access all of your iPad's features wherever you find a cellular signal, just like you would with your iPhone. You would just need to activate a separate data plan with your phone carrier. This will make your iPad a lot more versatile and portable. High speed Wi-Fi is very easy to find these days and most plans offer affordable hotspot plans which can essentially turn your iPhone into a Wi-Fi router to use for your iPad, so it's not like you would be totally lost without this feature. However, if you're springing for one of the more expensive iPads and are going to be relying on it for work and travel, the cellular capability could be crucial.
For a full list of specifications for each different iPad model, here is a great comparison chart. View PDF.
For the student...
The 10th generation iPad (256 GB) will fulfill all your basic needs.
The iPad Air (256 GB) is fast, light, and can easily work as a full computer replacement.
For the couch potato...
The affordable 9th generation iPad (64 GB) will entertain you for hours.
The 9th generation iPad (256 GB) will ensure that you have the freedom to download all the games you want while still leaving room for pictures and videos.
For the traveler...
The iPad mini (256 GB) with cellular capability will prove to be a light, durable travel companion with ample room for all your pictures, videos, and booking apps. Cellular capability also gives you the power to quiet your kids with Netflix when they won't stop asking if you're there yet.
For the businessman...
The iPad Pro 11 inch (256 GB) with cellular capability offers the portability and fast multi-tasking performance that can take your business to the next level. This is a great tool for any traveling salesperson or entrepreneur.
For the artist...
The iPad Pro 12.9 inch (512 GB) offers a large screen compatible with all the newest drawing features on the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. Apple has always been the best option for artists, and their top-tier iPad is simply the best art tool on the market.