Apple releases new iPads each year. Whether you want to learn about the 2020 lineup or the iPad updates coming in the new year, you can read up on the various models here.
● iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro in 2020
● iPad mini last updated in 2019
● Rumored mini LED and new Apple Silicon in 2021 iPads
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Perhaps you're considering buying your first tablet and are researching which iPad to buy. Or maybe you're wondering if you should upgrade now or wait for the next new iPad. This always-up-to-date guide will give you the information, features, and rumors to help you make the best decision.
Apple's tablet line has evolved through the years considerably, going from a relatively thick and heavy slate with wide bezels to a light and thin full-screen device with keyboard and stylus support. Today, a couple of iPad models can easily replace laptops for many people, something that would have been a stretch during the tablet's first several generations.
10.2-inch iPad (Eighth-generation)
The 10.2-inch iPad, sometimes known simply as "iPad," is Apple's budget tablet. It's designed for many of the same uses as the first several generations of Apple's tablet: more casual consumption than a high-end laptop replacement. It's also a popular choice in education.
Unlike the all-screen iPad Pro and iPad Air, the new iPad still has a Touch ID home button and wider bezels surrounding its display. It's a dated design, similar to the iPad Air line from 2013 to 2014. The older design is one of the ways Apple has kept the price down on its entry-level tablet.
The new iPad runs the A12 Bionic Apple Silicon, including Apple's Neural Engine. The tablet works with the Apple Smart Keyboard and first-generation Apple Pencil, giving it some basic productivity capabilities.
The 10.2-inch iPad comes in 32GB and 128GB storage tiers and silver, space gray, and gold color variants. It starts at $329.
iPad mini 5
The iPad mini has only seen subtle redesigns since its 2012 debut. The iPad mini 5, released in 2019, brought Apple's smallest tablet up-to-date with modern specs that fell only a little short of the high end. Many customers use it for tasks like reading e-books and comics or playing games. It's a popular Apple device for parents to buy for their children.
The new iPad mini runs the A12 Bionic chip, still a capable-enough performer in 2021.
It has a 7.9-inch Retina Display with 2048 x 1536 resolution at 326 ppi. The display supports True Tone and the P3 wide color gamut.
The tablet supports the first-generation Apple Pencil for sketching and note-taking. It only works with third-party Bluetooth keyboards, as Apple doesn't make a Smart Keyboard for the tiny tablet.
The iPad mini 5 starts at $399.
iPad Air 4
In 2020, the iPad Air became nearly equal to the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. The new iPad Air redesign added a full-screen display and support for the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil.
The iPad Air 4 has a 10.9-inch screen with 2360 x 1640 resolution at 264 pixels per inch. One of Apple's cost-cutting differences is that the iPad Air lacks the high-frame-rate ProMotion Display from the iPad Pro. The iPad Air's screen is also a bit smaller, with slightly wider bezels.
Another way Apple reduced the bill of materials was by using Touch ID instead of Face ID. The company accomplished this by putting the biometric sensor in the new iPad's power button, the first time Apple has used that setup on an iOS or iPadOS device. Modern MacBooks also have Touch ID power buttons.
Powering the iPad Air 4 is the A14 Bionic chip, the speedy Apple Silicon also found in the iPhone 12 series. The A14 in the new iPad Air outscores the A12Z in the iPad Pro in single-core and Metal benchmarks. Only in multi-core tests does the chip in the new iPad Pro slightly edge out the A14. In that respect, the new iPad Air has what's arguably the faster and more future-proofed chip.
The Magic Keyboard includes Mac-quality keys, a glass trackpad, and a mounting mechanism that makes the iPad appear to float above the keyboard. Combined with iPadOS's cursor support and multitasking, the Magic Keyboard can transform the iPad Air into a powerful laptop-like device.
Apple sells the tablet in 64GB and 256GB variants. It's available in silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue. The new iPad Air starts at $599. The Magic Keyboard adds an extra $299, and the Apple Pencil 2 costs $129.
Apple launched the iPad Pro line for people who want a 2-in-1 device that functions as both tablet and laptop. Its high-end hardware, larger-screen option, and support for pro-level accessories lend themselves to that task.
The company released the new iPad Pro during the early stages of the pandemic when many people were shopping for work-from-home devices. While the 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are still Apple's top-of-the-line iPads, they saw only minor updates in this latest model.
The latest tablet has only slightly updated Apple Silicon. Its A12Z chip has an additional activated GPU core compared to the otherwise identical A12X in the 2018 models. The latest iPad Pro also has 6GB of RAM across the board. The older model had 4GB of RAM in the entry-level variants.
The new iPad Pro added LiDar sensors for better AR experiences as Apple prepares to dive further into mixed-reality products.
Both the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models work with Apple's Magic Keyboard. The tablet also works with the second-generation Apple Pencil.
The iPad Pro has a ProMotion Display, capable of up to a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother graphics and more responsive Apple Pencil support. It also supports Face ID and has a four-speaker audio setup.
The 11-inch iPad Pro has 2388 x 1668 resolution at 264 ppi. The 12.9-inch model is at 2732 x 2048 resolution, also equaling 264 ppi.
While only Apple knows for sure what the 2021 iPads have in store, supply-chain leaks help us narrow down the possibilities. The company's tablet sales saw a healthy boost in 2020, and Apple may want to seize on that momentum and make this a banner year for new iPads.
"iPad (Ninth generation)"
Apple's budget iPad is rumored to see a redesign this year, with one leak suggesting Apple will base it on the iPad Air 3 design. The new iPad could stick with a 10.2-inch Retina Display but become noticeably thinner and lighter at 6.3mm and 460 grams.
That same report suggests the tablet will stick with a Lightning port and Touch ID home button. It added that its display would gain True Tone and P3 wide-color gamut for the first time.
In 2020, top analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had a different take, suggesting the new iPad will have a full-screen design with a 10.8-inch display. However, in hindsight, he may have been alluding to the iPad Air 4 that arrived months later.
Apple launched its first 5G iPhones in 2020, and we expect all of the 2021 iPads' cellular variants to support 5G.
"iPad mini 6"
With the iPad mini seeing its last update in 2019, the small tablet could be due for a 2021 refresh. In 2020, Kuo had suggested the new iPad mini would move to an all-screen design, with an 8.5-inch to 9-inch display and thin borders.
The current iPad mini is much like a shrunken-down iPad Air 3, and these rumors point to the new iPad mini serving as a miniaturized iPad Air 4. That could also mean using the A14 chip, offering a significant performance increase over the current iPad mini's A12.
Apple Smart Keyboard support is unlikely on the new iPad mini, given how its size would constrain typing. However, it may support the second-generation Apple Pencil.
"iPad Air 5"
Apple waited about 18 months between the last iPad Air updates. Given that the latest model launched in September 2020, it's uncertain whether we'll see another new iPad Air in 2021.
The new iPad Air won't likely bring a significant redesign after the current model moved to an all-screen design in 2020. The new model could potentially serve as a spec-bump update with "A15" Apple Silicon and new display technology.
Rumors suggest Apple will transition its high-end iPads to mini LED display tech in 2021. Mini LED can be more power-efficient than current displays, and it offers better contrast and more accurate color reproduction. Apple would move its iPad Pro line to mini LED first, but the iPad Air may soon follow.
"iPad Pro (2021)"
The new iPad Pro could be the first tablet Apple launches in 2021. The company will reportedly release an updated 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a mini LED early in the year. An 11-inch model may accompany it or follow soon after.
The iPad Pro is due for a significant processor update, given that the 2020 tablet uses 2018 chip architecture. That could mean moving to an A14X or A14Z chip, or perhaps Apple would use a variant of the M1 chip found in the latest MacBooks. The latter would likely stand as the biggest ever processing upgrade to the company's tablet line.
We don't expect Apple to make any significant design changes to its pro-level tablet line apart from updated screen tech and performance. The new model would still have an all-screen design and Face ID, and it would include a Smart Connector to work with the Magic Keyboard or Apple Smart Keyboard.
New iPad pricing
Apple would likely stick with the same price points for its new iPads. The company typically retires older tablets after it releases new models.