Choosing between the different iPad generations can be a confusing task. The iPad has been around since 2010, and Apple has launched many, many varients since. But don't worry: we're here to make sense of it all.
The first thing to understand is that there are four main types of Apple iPad: iPad Pro, iPad mini, iPad Air, and the basic iPad (which is just called 'iPad'). Apple brings out a new version of each of these, broadly once a year. And sometimes these come in different sizes; for example, the latest iPad Pro comes in 12.9 inch and 11 inch versions. To complicate matters further, there are often differences between these models beyond just the screen size.
To help you know what you're looking at, Apple usually include all these details in the product name: for example iPad Pro 12.9 (2022) is the model of iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch screen from 2022. However, sometimes rather than the year they'll put the generation number: for example, the model we just mentioned is the 6th generation. To make things easier for you, we've listed both.
In our article, you'll find details of every single iPad available to buy today, as well as the facts and figures you need to choose between them. So whether you want to do heavy-duty photo and video editing or just watch Netflix in bed, our guide to iPad generations will help you make the right purchase.
Meanwhile, if you're thinking of holding off on an iPad purchase for a while, check out our predictions for what to expect from Apple in 2023, including the widely predicted iPad Pro M3.
iPad generations: the different iPad Pro models
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The iPad Pro line is, as the name suggests, aimed at professional content creators. The most powerful of iPads, these devices give the best performance when it comes to resource-intensive tasks such as photo and video editing.
By the same token, they may be overkill if all you want to do with an iPad is just check your emails and streaming music and video. In that case, we'd suggest you skip to the best basic iPads.
The one sure thing about Apple is that every iteration of each iPad range is an improvement on its predecessor. And that continues to be the case with the release of its latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro M2.
The big news with this latest iPad Pro is that, as the name suggests, it's upgraded with the M2 processor, which will make everything run faster than the M1 chip in the previous model. Basically, then, it's as powerful as a MacBook and if you want to team it with a Magic Keyboard (sold separately) you'll have a very advanced tablet-laptop hybrid. And that's not all. The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro M2 also features USB-C ports, a more advanced Wi-Fi set up, called Wi-Fi 6E, and a camera that can record Apple ProRes video.
Finally, if you use an Apple Pencil 2 (sold separately), there's a new feature called Hover, which detects the Apple Pencil when the tip is 12mm (0.47 inches) away from the screen. Depending on how the app uses this information, you can do a number of cool things. For example, if you hover over the Markup toolbar in Notes, you can touch the tool you want to use (eg pencil, pen, or brush), then pull away to select it.
The iPad Pro M2 also comes in an 11-inch version, and the most obvious difference from the 12.9-inch version is the smaller screen. While that might be a negative for some people, it also makes it lighter and more compact, so choosing between them will really depend on how much you prize portability.
Also bear in mind, though, that it's not just the size of the screen that sets these two iPad Pros apart. The 11-inch Pro's display, a Liquid Retina IPS LCD offering 600 nits of brightness, is less high quality than the 12.9-inch version's Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED LCD, which delivers up to 1600 nits of brightness. On the plus side, the 11-inch model also comes in at a more affordable price.
The iPad Pro (2021) 12.9 has been put in the shade a little by its 2022 M2 successor, but it's still very capable nontheless. Housing Apple's M1 processor, its 8-core CPU is 50% faster than previous models, and the 8-core GPU delivers 40% faster graphics. You also get up to 2TB in storage and support for 5G, so it's great for photographers on the go.
The rear camera's pretty good too, featuring a 12MP ultra-wide front-facing camera with a 122º field of view, and an ISP and LIDAR scanner for extra low-light detail. Its selfie camera was also the first to get the Center Stage function, which tracks your movement when recording video, and follows you to keep you in the centre.
Unlike the 2022 iPad Pros, you won't get the Apple Pencil 2's Hover function, a USB-C port, Wi-Fi 6E, or the ability to shoot ProRes video. You won't get the super-fast M2 processor either. But if these things don't bother you too much, you'll also get to save a bit of money on the price.(opens in new tab)
The 2021 version of the iPad Pro also comes in a more compact 11-inch version. That means the screen and overall is slightly smaller, it's lighter, and it's also cheaper. Apart from that, as with the 2022 iPad Pros, the main difference between the two versions is the quality of the screen, particularly the brightness (600 nits on the 11-inch compared with 1,600 nits on the 12.9). Otherwise, though, you get everything else on offer with the 12.9-inch version: the same M1 chip, the same generous storage, and the same excellent cameras.(opens in new tab)
The iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) may not have the latest M1 or M2 chip, but it does have a A12Z Bionic chip that's still very fast. So if you're not doing anything very heavy duty with your iPad, such as editing 8K video or massive RAW image files, you're unlikely to notice any difference between this and the 2021 version. That makes the more affordable price of this slightly-old-but-still-kind-of-new iPad a very tempting buy.
This iPad also offers supports the Magic Keyboard and offers a very nice camera setup. On the rear you get 12MP wide and 10MP ultra-wide sensors, along wth ToF LiDAR scanner for depth, and support for video up to 4K at 60fps. On the front, there's a 7MP camera for calls and selfies.
The 2020 iPad Pro also comes in an 11-inch version, which is as you'd expect, smaller, lighter and more portable. That's literally the only difference: in terms of specs, the two iPads are otherwise the same. So the choice between them comes down to how much the extra screen space of the 12.9-inch version is worth to you, and whether it's worth paying the extra cost or not.(opens in new tab)
The 2018 iPad Pro, which comes in both 12.9 and 11 inch versions, is now looking a little old-fashioned. But if you spot one at a cheap price, it's definitely worth considering. While its A12X processor isn't quite as fast as the A12Z Bionic one in the 2020 iPad Pro, it's not far behind.
Another difference that might be more of a deal breaker is the rear camera; while it does have 12MP wide sensor, it lacks both an ultrawide and a LIDAR scanner. Other negatives to this iPad Pro are that you can't attach a Magic Keyboard, and the audio's not quite as good as later models. That said, if a good discount is to be had, those are compromises many will be willing to make.
iPad generations: Older iPad Pros
These older iPad Pros may also still be available as second-hand or refurbished models.
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch, 2nd generation: 12MP Wide camera with Auto HDR and 4K video at 30 fps; 7MP FaceTime HD front camera with Auto HDR; 12.9-inch Retina display with ProMotion technology and True Tone
- iPad Pro 12.9 inch, 1st generation: 8MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera with Auto HDR; 12.9‑inch Retina display
- iPad Pro 11 inch, 2nd generation: 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide cameras with Smart HDR and 4K video at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps 7MP; TrueDepth front camera with Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting and Smart HDR; 11‑inch Liquid Retina display with ProMotion technology and True Tone
- iPad Pro 11 inch, 1st generation: 12MP Wide camera with Smart HDR and 4K video at 30 fps or 60 fps 7MP; TrueDepth front camera with Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting and Smart HDR; 11‑inch Liquid Retina display with ProMotion technology and True Tone
- iPad Pro 10.5 inch: 12MP Wide camera with Auto HDR and 4K video at 30 fps; 7MP FaceTime HD front camera with Auto HDR; 10.5-inch Retina display with ProMotion technology and True Tone
- iPad Pro 9.7 inch: 12MP Wide camera with Auto HDR and 4K video at 30 fps; 5MP FaceTime HD front camera with Auto HDR; 9.7‑inch Retina display with True Tone
iPad generations: the different iPad Air models
Until recently, things were pretty simple. The iPad Air sat in between the iPad Pro and the basic iPad in terms of price and performance. It was cheaper than the former, but more capable than the latter. Which meant that if you use an iPad regularly, but not for anything particularly resource-intensive, it would probably offer you the best value overall.
Since March 2022, however, that's all changed. The latest version of the iPad Air is something else entirely....
In March 2022, Apple set the cat among the pigeons with this new 10.9-inch iPad Air. Equipped with the Apple-designed M1 chip, it delivers a massive leap in performance, making it a serious alternative to the iPad Pro for creatives.
Compared with its predecessor, you also benefit from an upgraded USB port for up to two-times-faster transfer speeds. There's an improved selfie camera featuring an Ultra Wide front camera, with Centre Stage. And you now get 5G on cellular models.
Whether that justifies the extra price of this iPad Air really depends on how powerful a processor you need. If you're not running any heavy-duty software or games, you'll probably find that an earlier, cheaper iPad Air is just as good for things like surfing the web and watching movies.
That said, for photographers, photo editors, video editors and graphic designers, as well as hardcore gamers who want to run AAA titles smoothly, the iPad Air 2022 is definitely worth considering. See our Apple iPad Air (2022) news story for more info.(opens in new tab)
The iPad Air provides more power than a basic iPad, but at a lower price than an iPad Pro. And with this version of the iPad Air, you're getting quite a decent amount of power.
Featuring Apple's A14 chipset, which is also used in the iPhone 12, it's pretty darned fast. You get a sophisticated Liquid Retina IPS LCD display, 10.9 inches in diameter, with a resolution of 2360 x 1640 and up to 500 nits of brightness; a smidge below the 600 nits on the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021). There's a 12MP wide camera on the rear, and a 7MP camera on the front supporting HDR.
Yes, the iPad Pro 2021 is a cut above in all these respects, but we're not sure a lot of people will notice in practice, making this an excellent choice when it comes to value.
The 2019 iPad Air is cheaper than 2020 version, so what are the main differences? Firstly, the display is smaller, at 10.5 inches in diameter, and the resolution is a little lower, at 2224 x 1668. You're dropping down from the A14 Bionic chip to the A12 Bionic chip. And you're going from a 12MP rear camera to an 8MP one.
In most other respects, though, they're pretty similar. And so if you can find this model at a bargain price, you shouldn't rule it out.
These older iPad Airs may also still be available as second-hand or refurbished models.
- iPad Air 2: 8MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p HD video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera; 9.7‑inch Retina display
- iPad Air 1st generation: 5MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p HD video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera; 9.7‑inch Retina display
iPad generations: the different basic iPad models
As well as the iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad mini, Apple also offers a basic line that's just called 'iPad'. If you want to do a lot of work on your iPad, especially if that involves photo or video editing, we wouldn't recommend these particular devices. However, they are a lot cheaper than other iPad lines, and so if all you want to do is a bit of light web surfing, play music and stream video, they're a great value choice. That said, the latest 2022 version of the 'basic iPad' isn't actually so basic...
The latest version of the base-level iPad is not just the best to date, it's quite a big jump up from its 2021 predecessor. This reimagined iPad offers a much cleaner, more modern design, a faster chip (A14 Bionic), a bigger screen (10.9 to 10.2 inches), and Wi-Fi has been upgraded to the Wi-Fi 6 standard.
You'll also benefit from a better camera set up. On the front there's an ultrawide 12MP sensor with a 122-degree field of view (on the landscape side for better video calling), and on the back a 12MP back camera that can record up to 4K at 60fps, or 240fps slow-motion video.
In short, this is certainly the most advanced 'basic' iPad to date, although with a signficantly higher price to match. Note, however, that like all the basic iPads, it does not support the Apple Pencil 2, only the Apple Pencil 1. (For details of the difference between these styluses, see our article Apple Pencil 1 vs 2).
The 2021 iPad is a step down from the pricier 2022 version. But it's still got a lot to offer. Most notably, it uses the A13 Bionic chip, making it 20% faster than the previous 8th-gen (2020) 10.2-inch iPad, and enabling machine learning features like Live Text, which can recognize text in a photo.
It uses Apple's True Tone display technology to automatically adjust screen colours to react to the ambient lighting in your physical space. And it starts at 64GB storage, double that of the previous version. On the rear there's an 8MP camera, which is the same as the previous iPad, but the ultra-wide 12MP front camera is the range's best to date, capable of recording video in Full HD and supporting the Center Stage video feature.(opens in new tab)
The 2020 version of the iPad 10.2 is cheaper still than the 2021 one, so what are you losing? There are two main differences that really matter. Firstly, the front-facing camera is a lot poorer, slumping from 12MP to just 1.2MP, and not supporting Center Stage. And secondly, the A12 Bionic chip is not as fast as the more zippy A13 Bionic Chip in the current version.
We're talking degrees, though, rather than a massive slowdown. And so as long as you're not bothered about using the front camera much, this older model is still worth considering if the price is right.
Now this 2019 version of the basic iPad is ageing, you should be able to pick one up for a cheap price. But what will you be getting? Well, it's actually not that different from the 2020 model. The dimensions are exactly the same. The screen resolution is exactly the same. And the front and rear cameras are exactly the same, too.
The main difference between the 2019 and 2020 iPads comes with the processor. The A10 Fusion chip in this older model isn't quite as fast, so if speed and responsiveness are important to you, this might be a saving too far. If you can live with waiting the odd second or two for stuff to load though, you might prefer to save the money as there should be some pretty good discounts out there right now.
iPad generations: Older iPads
These older iPads may also still be available as second-hand or refurbished models.
- iPad 6th generation: 8MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p HD video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera with HDR; 9.7‑inch Retina display
- iPad 5th generation: 8MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p HD video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera with HDR; 9.7‑inch Retina display
- iPad 4th generation (2012)
- iPad 3rd generation (2012)
- iPad 2nd generation (2011)
- iPad 1st generation (2010)
iPad generations: the different iPad mini models
While the iPad mini is smaller than the basic iPad line, it's not cheaper but actually more expensive. That's because this line has a more powerful processor and more sophisticated display. So if you want a high-end iPad, but in a compact and portable form, these are the ones to go for.(opens in new tab)
If you do a lot of travelling, and like to travel light, a standard iPad can be too bit big and bulky. So the iPad Mini is a great choice, combining a compact size and light weight with impressive specs.
This latest version comes with Apple's A15 Bionic processor, which also powers the iPhone 13, so it's a fast worker. It's got a lovely 8.3 inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone, and supports 5G (unless you opt for the Wi-Fi only version).
The cameras are pretty great too. On the rear, you'll find a 12MP wide camera with Smart HDR 3 that supports 4K video at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps. And on the front there's a 12MP ultra wide camera with Centre Stage and Smart HDR 3.
The 2019 iPad mini is worth considering, either if you want to save money or you want a slightly smaller device.
This compact iPad, which sports a 7.9 inch Retina display with True Tone, has a slightly slower processor, in the form of the A12 Bionic chip. It's also a step down in terms of cameras, featuring an 8MP Wide camera with Auto HDR and 1080p HD video on the rear and a 7MP FaceTime HD front camera with Auto HDR on the front.
But although this isn't quite as high-end as the 2021 iPad mini, these are quite impressive specs overall. And so if it were considerably cheaper than the latter, you wouldn't want to dismiss it.
iPad generations: older iPad Minis
These older iPad Minis may also still be available as second-hand or refurbished models.
- iPad mini 4: 8MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p HD video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera with HDR; 9.7‑inch Retina display
- iPad mini 3: 8MP Wide camera with HDR and 1080p HD video; 1.2MP FaceTime HD front camera with HDR; 9.7‑inch Retina display
- iPad mini 2nd generation (2013)
- iPad mini 1st generation (2012)
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