Once upon a time, buying an iPad just meant buying the iPad. There was one model, and nothing else on the market came close to it.
But these days, Apple has four different iPads in four different sizes, each with its own components and perks, not to mention a distinct price point. Hey, at least it’s better than Apple’s iPhone situation right now, since there are eight different handsets still up for sale.
Still, if you’re planning on spending a few (or several) thousand on a tablet, you’ll want to make sure you end up with the device that’s perfectly suited for your needs. Which iPad is best for you? Let’s explore…
IPAD PRO 10.5 (FROM R11,000)
Here it is: our favourite tablet in the world, and therefore our pick for the best iPad of the bunch in 2017. It’s the newest size in Apple’s lineup: the 10.5in display is a solid couple of inches smaller than the original 12.9in iPad Pro, and just a smidge larger than the core 9.7in iPad size.
The 2224×1668 screen is a gorgeous LCD panel with a wide colour gamut and brilliant contrast, as well as True Tone technology that automatically adjusts the colours based on your ambient lighting conditions. This iPad Pro is also packed with power, thanks to its A10X Fusion processor, and has an iPhone 7-caliber 12-megapixel back camera.
Paired with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, it’s a nearly-unbeatable portable productivity machine, and it’s a lot easier to carry around than a standard laptop. But even without those pricey accessories, the iPad Pro 10.5 is still an ideal machine for getting work done thanks to its size, power, and iOS 11’s tablet-centric enhancements.
The base 64GB Wi-Fi model starts at R11,000 and ranges up to R16,600 for 512GB of storage, while the cellular-equipped versions range from R15,400 to R18,700.
Buy the iPad Pro 10.5 if… you want top-of-the-line power in a modest package
IPAD (FROM R5,500)
Now this is the iPad that we all know and love from years ago. Apple made a 9.7in version of its iPad Pro last year, but this time around, they moved the base Pro model up to 10.5in and decided to reserve the 9.7in size for a more budget-friendly model. It’s the iPad.
Apple’s latest iPad is a bit trimmed down from the iPad Pro, expectedly, given the price difference. The A9 processor here is a generation behind, although we didn’t see much of a performance difference in day-to-day usage. The screen lacks anti-reflective coating, so it’s not quite as much of a pleasure to look at in bright lighting. Likewise, the stereo speakers don’t hold up to the four speakers on the Pro models, and the 8MP camera here is a bit dated.
All that considered, however, this feels like the iPad for the vast majority of people. It’s the cheapest of the bunch at R5,500 for the 32GB model, it’s still plenty powerful, it still looks great, and it’ll run any apps, games, or media you throw at it.
The lack of Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support does limit its value for power users, but for the average buyer? This is probably your iPad.
Buy the iPad (2017) if… you want a well-rounded, well-priced tablet
IPAD PRO 12.9 (FROM R13,500)
While the previous iPad models are suitably well-sized, the 12.9in iPad Pro tips the scales and feels expectedly massive. But that can be a good thing: this is the best iPad for creative expression, especially if you want to use its touch display for drawing, photo editing, or other acts that require plenty of screen real estate.
It’s also the perfect coffee table device if you plan to use your iPad primarily at home and on the couch. Basically, it’s a laptop screen set free as a tablet, but the size does make it a bit cumbersome for on-the-go usage, extensive reading, and one-handed interactions.
But if you’re into the size, the iPad Pro 12.9 won’t disappoint. It’s essentially equipped identically to the 10.5in model, with the A10X chip, a 2732×2048 screen (at the same 264 pixels per inch), a 12MP back camera, and 10 hours of battery life. And yes, it works perfectly with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard for a makeshift, convertible laptop experience.
Buy the iPad Pro 12.9 if… you’re creative or want a big screen in your lap
IPAD MINI 4 (FROM R6,000)
The iPad Mini 4 occupies a strange space in Apple’s lineup. It’s the smallest iPad, of course, with a 7.9in display – but at R6,000, it’s not the cheapest of the bunch, nor is it more powerful than the newer, entry-level iPad. In fact, it’s two years old at this point.
Granted, the R6,000 Mini 4 comes with 128GB storage, and it’s R1,500 less than the 128GB version of the 9.7in iPad. But for one and a half grand, you’ll not only get the larger screen, but also a faster processor too. In the Mini’s favour, it does have the anti-reflective coating that the standard iPad lacks, plus it has the sharpest screen of an iPad thanks to its compact size.
Given the price and its age, the iPad Mini 4 feels a bit left behind. Apple keeps it around to satisfy customers who like the smaller form factor, but hasn’t seen fit to actually update the device in a couple years now. And in an age of larger and larger smartphones, the 7.9in size seems a bit less necessary for anyone who has a big handset.
But if you love the smaller size and want the heftier storage, this is still a very fine iPad. We would probably just point you towards the standard iPad instead.
Buy the iPad Mini 4 if… you must have the smallest iPad around