Back in the day, buying an iPad was easy… because there only was one. And no Android tablet could touch it for features and slickness.
These days things are way trickier. Now there are four Apple iPads in five different sizes, some work with the first-gen Apple Pencil, some with the second-get, and some with none. Never mind the huge variation in price tags.
Given that even the price of admission is high, you’re going to want to make sure you’re getting the device best suited to your needs. So, which iPad is best for you? Let’s take a look…
iPad Pro 11in (from R14,000)
Thanks to its new ultra-skinny bezels, the 12.9in iPad Pro is smaller than previous 12.9in models, but nonetheless we think the 11in model wills suit most people better. If nothing else, you can get the entry level one for R3,600 less.
Although the home button’s no more, it’s still not quite edge-to-edge screen here, with a bit of bezel still needed to house the TrueDepth camera. Still, Face ID works a treat, whether you’re holding the Pro in portrait or landscape mode, and once you’ve unlocked it you’ll be far too busy peering at that 2,388 x 1,668 pixel Liquid Retina display to care about bezels, we promise.
The A12X Bionic chip inside the iPad Pro also ensure it slows down for nothing. Geekbench claims it’s not far behind a 15in MacBook Pro when it comes to lifting power, so whether you’re working on detailed, multi-layered image files or a remix of your latest track, it shouldn’t break a sweat.
Do note, though, that if you’re mostly after something to send emails and manage spreadsheets on, a regular laptop is probably a better bet. But with the new wireless-charging Pencil and the USB-C port making it easier to hook up to external displays, the 11in iPad Pro is a creative’s dream device.
In the event you need (or want) an even bigger digital doodle pad, the 12.9in variant starts at R17,600. Yes, it’s really, really good looking… but that’s also a sizeable leap in price.
Buy the iPad Pro 11in if… you’re a scribbling or video-editing creative who values portability
iPad Air (from R9,000)
Until recently, there was a big gap between the iPad Pro and the standard, entry-level iPad. Now that Apple’s updated the iPad Air, though, that gap is pretty minimal, and the Air is well worth a look if you still want plenty of grunt but don’t need everything the Pro offers… and don’t want to spend quite that much money.
With the Air you get the same A12 Bionic processor seen in the iPhone XS (but not the more powerful A12X from the iPad Pro), powering a 10.5in display that’s fully laminated and includes an anti-reflective coating. It’s a True Tone, wide-colour display too, plus the iPad Air supports the first-gen Apple Pencil as well as the Smart Keyboard, making it an excellent all-round productivity tablet.
Yes, you could save another R3,000 by going with the regular iPad instead, but its processor is a bit dated, the smaller screen isn’t as nice, and it doesn’t support the Smart Keyboard. If you’re going to use your iPad for any kind of serious creation, but aren’t willing to spend tens of thousands on a tablet, go with the iPad Air.
Buy the iPad Air if… you want a potent iPad with a reasonable price tag
iPad Mini 2019 (from R7,500)
Inexplicably, the folk at Cupertino opted to hang onto a dated iPad Mini in the iPad lineup for, well, way longer than we thought reasonable. At least, they’ve updated the tiniest iPad so that it can keep pace with many of its larger brethren.
The 2019 iPad Mini packs the same A12 chip as the iPad Air and the iPhone XS, plus it boasts the sharpest screen of the lot because it packs the same pixel count into its more compact, 7.9in frame.
Also, as this iPad Mini supports the Apple Pencil, it’s the perfect pocket-sized (well, almost) slate for writing, scribbling and doodling, although serious digital doodlers will probably want more screen real estate. The design hasn’t changed much after all of these years, but maybe there’s comfort in the familiar, yeah?
Buy the iPad Mini if… you want the most portable iPad around and still need Pencil support
iPad (from R6,000)
So, you want an iPad, but you don’t need bells or whistles, and you’re pretty price sensitive? Apple’s regular 9.7in iPad is likely the best bet for you.
Essentially a simpler version of the iPad Pro or Air, the standard iPad is still pretty feature-laden. The A10 Fusion processor isn’t as powerful as the A12X Bionic chip inside the Pro models or the standard A12 in the others, but for low-demand users wanting to read, browse the internet, consume a little media and take some notes, that probably doesn’t matter. There’s no anti-reflective coating on the display, so broad daylight isn’t going to be great, and similarly the speakers pale in comparison to those on the Pros… plus the 8MP camera looks a little decrepit compared to its peers… but may we redirect your attention to the price?
Despite the compromises, adding Apple Pencil support to the 2018 model means this is still a great buy for people who want to be able to handwrite notes or sketch. The first-gen Apple Pencil is still pretty pricey at R2,100, but at least you can now get a tab-plus-Pencil setup for under R10k. Do keep in mind there’s no Smart Connector for Apple’s other tablet accessories, though, so if that’s a dealbreaker you’re going to have to go for something fancier.
Nevertheless, this is still probably the iPad for most folk. At R6,000 for the Wi-Fi only 32GB model it’s a bargain, and one that still has plenty of power, looks the part, and will run most things you care to fling at it. Plus, you know, Pencil support.
Buy the iPad if… you want a well-rounded, well-priced, normal-sized tab that supports the Pencil