The holidays have come and gone, no new iPad models are available for purchase as yet in 2017. We are hopeful of at least two updates, and maybe even a brand new size in a brand new iPad in the coming months, but until the expected March announcement, nothing new to report this month.
Are you looking for a new tablet? Have you settled on the offerings from Apple? If Android and Windows are not on your radar, the next best step is to look at which is the best iOS powered mobile device for your needs. From the iPad mini to the iPad Pro, let’s discuss what is the best iPad.
September 2016 Let me be honest, I was convinced that Apple would drop a new iPad on us at their September 7th event. I was fully prepared to see the iPad mini 5 sneak in there. It stands to reason that an October announcement and release is more likely, so be sure to stay tuned, we’ll get our hands on any new iPad the moment they drop. For now, here are our expectations of the next iPad models to hit the market:
Which is the best iPad?
Before we dive in, we have to express a few things – first, except in the case that we think a discontinued iPad belongs on a best list, we will focus on current models only. Second, I hope by now you are not still mistaken into thinking that the word “iPad” refers to all tablets. Depending on your needs, there are many Android tablets and Windows tablets out there that may better suite you, my point is, iPad is just one tablet range from one mobile device manufacturer, be sure to explore if you would like to know more:
Before we name a winner, let’s look at the iPad line, as it currently has a few options for you. The traditional iPad is a slab of metal and glass with a 9.7-inch display. Now several generations in, the current in this size is the iPad Pro 9.7. Which just happens to be the latest iPad released.
Apple introduced a more mobile friendly, almost pocket sized, iPad a few years ago, the iPad mini 4 is the current rendition, and, as the name implies, is their fourth attempt with an 8-inch tablet. We think they did pretty good with it.
Finally, the latest size of iPad did more than just make things large, the iPad Pro was Apple’s introduction to a much more productive and versatile iOS existence. With a 12.9-inch display, this is a large tablet, and with a powerful A9X chipset, it is the most powerful iPad on the market today.
Other iPad models currently still selling at Apple include the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 2. We thought it strange that Apple should continue to sell the iPad Mini 2 instead of the iPad Mini 3, but we suspect that the differences between the mini 3 and mini 4 were too few to justify. On the other side, the iPad Air 2 is the previous model in the size, good on Apple for keeping it up at a nicely discounted price.
Enough explaining, let’s look at those top models.
iPad Pro 9.7
As the latest iPad in the line, the iPad Pro 9.7 has proven itself an excellent tablet option. This is not the most powerful tablet on the market, it’s not even the most powerful tablet in the iPad line, but it is an absolute solid performer with a great display, top of the line Apple camera and it includes the latest features and accessories for your productivity needs.
The Pro line of tablets take advantage of the multi-tasking features introduced with iOS 9, in addition to some software treat, this includes support for the new Apple Pencil smart stylus and Smart Keyboard. The magnetically connected keyboard snaps on to quickly add a new level of productivity to your iPad, and the pressure sensitive stylus provides one of the most authentic hand writing experiences around.
On the spec sheet, the iPad Pro 9.7 houses the Apple A9X chipset with M9 graphics coprocessor, the 9.7-inch display rocks 2048 x 1536 pixels of resolution, and that panel is tweaked to be brighter and more colorful than any iPad before it. The back side has that 12MP camera sensor, making this the first iPad to be able to capture 4K video or up to 240 fps slow-mo.
As far as user experience goes, the added refinements and functionality in the iPad Pro 9.7 make for a significant upgrade over the iPad Air 2 before it.
iPad mini 4
For those of us that enjoy the smaller form factor of tablet, it was a near disappointment in the fall of 2015 when Apple only barely announced the iPad mini 4. Don’t get me wrong, their was no issues with availability or other hardware concerns, I speak only of the actual announcement, in which the mini felt little more than an after thought.
Despite the weak introduction, the iPad mini 4 hit store shelves as a worthy update to the iPad mini 3 before it. Admitting that this was an iterative update, with an updated processor and bigger camera sensor, we very much enjoy the newer device over the old. The similarities, however, we believe are evident enough that Apple decided to remove the mini 3 from their stores. This remains today, as the iPad Mini 2 and iPad mini 4 remain for sale. The largest outward difference being the added fingerprint scanner on the mini 4.
Specifics include the Apple A8 processor, with M8 coprocessor. The camera jumped up to the 8MP sensor that was popular at the time. Performance, while noticeably short of the iPad Pro and iPad Pro 9.7, managed to keep pace with the iPad Air 2, despite technically being slower.
Perhaps the most important fact of the iPad mini 4 is that it is the first small form factor iPad capable of running most of the multi-tasking features first introduced in iOS 9. Of course, on an 8-inch display, split-screen viewing may not be ideal for your productivity needs.
It’s how big? That’s right, in the fall of 2015, Apple finally released a newer, larger form factor of tablet. The iPad Pro measures in with a 12.9-inch display, and the pixel density remains high with a 2732 x 2048 resolution.
If you’re thinking that this thing is just a little larger, do keep in mind that the diagonal measure can be deceiving. In actuality, the display of the iPad Pro is just shy of double the actual surface area as the iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro 9.7. As far as pure surface area is concerned, the iPad Pro is nearly three times larger than the iPad mini 4 that was announced alongside.
Enough about how big it is, let’s talk about how powerful it is instead – in short, it’s powerful. It’s the most powerful iPad there is.
As the largest and most powerful iPad around, not to mention that it is the flagship device for Apple’s pro features and accessories, it is hard to not be impressed by this tablet. The Apple A9X processor with M9 graphics coprocessor are matched in the smaller pro tablet, but this monster has double the amount of RAM, which accounts for the increased speeds.
Attach this tablet to its keyboard and the only thing you’re missing for a desktop computing experience is, well, a truly desktop class OS and a mouse. I know this isn’t supposed to be a fight between Android, Windows and iOS, but Apple, you really need support for all the random Bluetooth mice out there.
That’s right, the absolute latest out of Apple is simply named iPad. This is a tablet that picks up where the iPad Air 2 left off, but does not go so far as to match the iPad Pro, or iPad Pro 9.7 in terms of specs or features. Instead of introducing the latest and greatest, Apple made a move that we were not really expecting, but we applaud, they introduced an affordable tablet from day one. iPad for our intents today, is what the iPad Air 2 would be with the Apple A9 processor and M9 graphics coprocessor.
Related reading: Apple announces new iPad
You can pick up the new iPad for just $329 for the base unit with 32GB of internal storage, $429 for 128GB, $459 for 32GB with LTE or $559 for 128GB with LTE.
iPad Air 2
When viewed as a standalone device, and considered for its merits alone, the iPad Air 2 is probably the best bang for the buck iPad right now. It is an older tablet that lacks much of the latest accessories, admittedly, but what it lacks in features it more than makes up for in being a solid tablet at a reasonable price, at least as far as Apple’s tablets go.
We may give the iPad Air 2 honors for being the best bang for the buck, but we certainly cannot give it the honor of being the best iPad, not anymore. The iPad Pro 9.7 is hands down the better device between these two. Let’s just say, if you own the iPad Air 2, don’t touch the iPad Pro 9.7 until you are ready to upgrade – they may look alike and have only minor differences on paper, but you most certainly will return to your Air 2 and wonder why it feels so slow.
To be clear, if you are just looking for a generic tablet to play games and surf the web, the iPad Air 2 is a solid option.
Which is the best iPad?
I hope you know we’ve already counted out the iPad mini 4. Don’t get me wrong, on a personal basis, I reach for the iPad mini 4 before either Pro tablet almost every time, but I do so for my simple couch surfing needs. As far as being a well rounded tablet, able to operate as easily and productively in hand as on a desk, the mini 4 is just too small, and the lack of multi-tasking features takes it out of the running to be the best.
I hope that the previous statement got you thinking, where the iPad mini 4 is the best iPad for me, it certainly isn’t the best iPad. My point is, the best iPad may not be the best iPad for you either.
Bringing this all home, we are left with the iPad Pro and the iPad Pro 9.7. Which should take top honors?
The iPad Pro 9.7 is our choice for the best iPad on the market today!
While the iPad Pro is the larger and more powerful tablet, there is an undeniable fact that iOS doesn’t quite fit it correctly. Those home screen icons are way too large and many apps are still not adjusted to look great on the larger display. It is not impossible to use the iPad Pro in-hand for prolonged lengths, but it is a much larger tablet, and weighs a fair amount, I know I get tired of holding it after a time.
Instead, the slightly reduced hardware performance of the iPad Pro 9.7 we find negligible, actually, maybe it is purely our perception, but we swear the smaller tablet, with fewer display pixels to manipulate, is faster. Add to this perceived speed boost the upgraded camera in the more manageable, if only due to familiarity, size factor, and we have a winner.
What should also be take into consideration is the display capabilities. When compared to the iPad Air 2, Apple claims the new panel to be 25% brighter and produce a far greater color gamut. The result, which you will notice with both devices in hand, is far more saturated and vibrant colors. Not to say that they are truer colors, but the True Tone color temperature capabilities on the new tablet certainly try their best.
To be fair, we tried being scientific about this all, we can read spec sheets, measure device output and perform speed tests, but our choice is based on a feeling. Passing the iPad Pro 9.7 around to our team members, the reaction was almost always the same, a smile and something mumbled that resembles the word “wow.”
We will not suggest that the iPad line and iOS are where they need to be, we see plenty of room for growth, but we certainly believe that the iPad Pro 9.7 is a device that will be hard to take to the next level without overhauling our concept of a tablet.
What do you think, is the iPad Pro 9.7 the sure winner here, or should the larger and more powerful iPad Pro have taken home first prize?