How to Buy an iPad

Find the right iPad for your at the right price

iPad Pro
Product Images & Info - iPad / Apple Inc.

There are now four different iPad models in four different sizes listed on the Apple website, all of which are available in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular configurations with different storage options. And once you throw in the different color options, you are presented with an overwhelming number of configurations when shopping for a new iPad. As intimidating as that might sound, it isn't hard to narrow your choices based on how you plan to use the iPad. You just need to consider several options:

  • Model - pick from four models and price ranges
  • Size - choose a Retina display size from 7.9 inches to 12.9 inches
  • Memory - varies by model, but the range begins as 32 GB for all models and goes up to 256 GB on some models
  • Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + Cellular - decide whether you want cellular capability in addition to Wi-Fi
  • Color - a simple choice of silver, space gray, gold and rose gold, which varies among models
  • Power - do you need or want the most powerful processor on the market?

Current iPad Models

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (2018)
  • iPad mini 4

12.9-inch iPad Pro and 11-inch iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is designed to be a powerful laptop-replacing iPad great for both power users an the enterprise. In addition to processors that would rival most laptops, the iPad Pro has an advanced "True Tone" HDR display that supports a wider gamut of colors than previous iPads. It also supports a smart keyboard and the Apple Pencil.  

A woman with an external monitor connected to her iPad
One great feature of the 2018 iPad Pro models is the ability to hook up an external monitor using USB-C. Apple 

The newest iPad Pro models ditched the Home Button and went (mostly) all-screen. This bezel-less design creates a smaller form factor and increased portability. New features include Face ID and a USB-C port instead of Apple's proprietary Lightning connector.

iPad (2018)

The 2018 iPad is the first to add Apple Pencil support for a non-Pro model. This 9.7-inch iPad is a continuation of the original line of iPads and uses the same A10 Fusion processor as found in the iPhone 7. At $329, it is the cheapest iPad. 

iPad mini 4

The iPad mini 4 is the old man of the group. The mini has not been updated since 2015, and it is likely the mini 4 is the last of the line. While it is more expensive than the 2018 iPad ($399 vs $329), it does come with 128 GB of storage. However, with an older processor and no support for the Apple Pencil, most may want to choose the 9.7-inch iPad instead.

Shop Apple's Refurbished Section

Apple offers a refurbished section on its website where you can find Apple's refurbished iPads. The selection changes daily, but if you find the model you want, you'll save a lot of money. Apple's refurbished iPads come with the same 1-year Apple warranty as new iPads,so you don't need to worry about getting one and having it break the next week.You can even buy Apple Care for the refurbished iPad.

Look for: A nice deal on an iPad Pro. You can currently get $90 off on a 32 GB 9.7-inch iPad Pro and $120 off the price tag of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, so if the Pro line was just out of your reach, this is a good way to sweeten the deal.

Avoid: The iPad Air 2. The discounts aren't enough when you can pay $10 for a faster (and brand new!) 5th-generation iPad.

Note: Prices on refurbished iPads may change.

Shopping for Used iPads

For the more adventurous, buying an iPad on Craigslist or another similar site may be the ticket to getting the best deal. However, this is buyer-beware territory, likely with no warranty or return policy. If you are buying used, it is best to stick to one of the iPad Air models, one of the iPad Pro lineup or any iPad mini that is not the original mini iPad.

The original iPad Mini, the original iPad and the iPad 2 are now considered obsolete. They are no longer supported by the most current operating system, and they are definitely much slower than newer iPads. These models should be avoided.

About Storage

Apple has bumped up the minimum storage on all its iPads to 32 GB from 16 GB. Even better, the jump up to 128 GB from 32 GB is only $100 more. So how to decide between 32 GB and a higher storage model? If you are upgrading from an older iPad, this is an easy question.

A man sketching on an iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil
The newest iPad Pro models support up to 1 TB of storage, which rivals most laptops. Apple, Inc.

If you never needed to delete stuff from your iPad to clear up space, you can probably go with the same storage model. If you have often needed to purge some stuff from your iPad to give it a more breathing room, go for a model with more memory this time around.

An iPad with 32 GB is big enough for many people, but not all. Here are reasons you may want to buy a model with more storage capacity.

  • If you are planning to completely replace your laptop and desktop computers with the iPad
  • If you plan on loading all your music onto the iPad to have access to it when you don't have data access. (Remember, you canstream music without using up storage space when you have a connection.)
  • If you plan on shooting a lot of videos or storing a lot of movies (rather than streaming them) on the iPad, 32 GB will not be enough.
  • The 32 GB model can hold about 10,000 photos shot with the camera on the newest iPad Pro. But you wouldn't have much room for anything else. If you believe you may store over 4,000 photos on the iPad, you should upgrade to a model with more memory. Of course, you can always store your photos in iCloud's Photos app.
  • Games can also use up a lot of storage space. If you play a lot of games—especially if you play "hardcore" games—the 32 GB model might not work for you.

The 1 TB storage option for the 2018 iPad Pro (11-inch or 12.9-inch) also boosts the RAM memory available for apps from 4 GB to 6 GB.

Do You Need Wi-Fi + Cellular for Your iPad or Just Wi-Fi?

Every iPad comes with Wi-Fi capability. If you want your iPad to also connect to cellular signals, you need to buy a Wi-Fi+Cellular model, which adds to the cost. The cellular models of the iPad require a cellular network plan, which varies among suppliers. Theyalso contain an A-GPS chip, which allows for more accurate location services than the iPad with Wi-Fi only.

If you have Wi-Fi in your home or place of business, getting on the internet won't be a problem. When you travel, many hotels come with free Wi-Fi, and it is easy to find a coffee shop with Wi-Fi access. The main areas where the cellular data connection comes in handy are in the car (unless your car is a mobile hot spot) and at places without Wi-Fi hotspots, like at a picnic or park. For families that are going to enjoy road trips, the cellular version provides a source of entertainment for kids. It also acts as a GPS device, which saves you from buying a dedicated GPS.

Should You Wait for a Next Generation iPad?

Apple generally releases a new iPad each year, so a newer-and-better model is always around the corner. The next iPad is rumored to ditch the Home Button for Face ID, but until the announcement, there is no way to know which rumors will be true or not. Generally, you should buy a new iPad when you need a new iPad and not worry about the next generation.

What Accessories Should You Buy?

Your iPad purchase isn't finished when you pick out your iPad model. You'll also need to decide on accessories. The one true "must-have" accessory you should buy is an iPad case. Even if you use the iPad only around the house, a case keeps a drop from turning into a cracked screen. All other accessories are optional depending on how you plan to use your iPad. Popular choices include the wireless keyboard and the new Apple Pencil. Just check to make sure the iPad model you bought supports the accessory.