The iPad Pro just went the Apple Silicon route like recent Macbooks, and that’s enough reason to be excited about owning an iPad 2021. Among tablets, there is none that you can say realistically challenges iPads for the top spot, and the recent update to Apple’s in-house M1 chip just moves the goalposts further for the competition. Let’s get into it. These are the best iPads you can buy in 2021 and the reasons why each is a great candidate for your next iPad.

Best iPads to Buy in 2021 – Excellence on a Budget

iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2021

If you want laptop grade performance in a more portable form factor, then look no further than the iPad Pro 2021.  It is the most impressive iPad to date, but it’s easy to see why.  The design hasn’t changed from the glass slab look of modern iPads, and it’s on the inside where Apple’s M1 chip makes its presence known.  It also comes with a new Liquid Retina XDR display with Mini LED technology which offers a brighter and more colour-accurate display. It uses Apple’s ProMotion technology to adapt the 120Hz refresh to the activity for seamless graphics and still uses FaceID as the primary security. Also included is a new Thunderbolt 4 port which means you can use your iPad to power an external display and transfer data much faster between your devices.  This iPad will still function as a secondary display for your Mac/Macbook setup, and it is now possible to extend the display to work seamlessly as one display. 

It still supports Apple pencil 2, which attaches to a magnetic slot on the iPad Pro. Of course, magic keyboard support still exists now with the option to get a backlit keyboard and trackpad. It is the ultimate iPad to get if you use your iPad for productivity and game heavily on your devices. For your media, you will love the upgrades to the 4 speakers and more microphones, which deliver crisp and punchy sound for a device this size.

iPad Air 2020

The 4th generation iPad Air came with a ton of features, and before the release of the iPad Pro 2021, it was the value champion. The iPad Air 2020 features the same A14 Bionic chip as the iPhone 12. It also shares the straight lines, thin bezels, and uniform look of the iPad pro.  That said, it does not have the Mini LED screen and instead uses a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina IPS LCD with TrueTone technology.

It does not use FaceID and instead has TouchID integrated into the power button. This means you can use your finger to secure your phone and authorize payments like on the iPhone 8 and iPhone SE 2. Internal storage options are 64GB and 256GB, but they each come with 4GB RAM. It does not have the audio jack but will support stylus input from Apple Pencil 2 and use the detachable magic keyboard. Charging is via USB-C, and you get up to 10 hours of use on a single charge. If you need a powerful tablet but can’t find the use for all the power of the M1 chip on the iPad Pro, this is the perfect alternative.

iPad 2020

With the recent headlines coming out of Apple, it is easy to forget they still manufacture the basic iPad. In its standard form, the iPad is still an impressive device using the A12 Bionic chip like the iPhone XS.  It runs on iPadOS and will work with your favourite apps and games without breaking a sweat. It will also multitask effortlessly, and those who want a no-frills,  no-fuss tablet will like that this 10.2-inch device still has the tried and tested home button with TouchID.  It will support the first-generation Apple Pencil and smart keyboard. For a basic device that’s not claiming benchmarks, it has an incredibly smooth operation and maximizes all the benefits of Apple’s ecosystem. It supports USB-C charging and file sharing, and having storage options ranging from 32GB up to 1TB makes this device hard to fault.  It is an affordable way to use an iPad, and if you have budget concerns, this will deliver the performance and value to justify the investment.

iPad Mini 5

Not everyone needs a giant screen, and the reasoning behind the iPad mini 5 is similar.  It is totable, incredibly light, and deceptively powerful. It sports a modified A12 Bionic chip from the iPhone XS and mates it to 3GB RAM for a highly understated device. It still has the trademark premium construction from Apple, and the 7.9-inch IPS LCD makes the whole device the true definition of a pocket rocket.  You can get the iPad Mini 5 as a refurb and get better value for your money.

2021 is a great time to buy an iPad, and the devices above give the best reasons why. That said, you can get better value by opting for a refurbished iPad from retailers like Phonebot, Jb Hifi, Big W or Officeworks in Australia. This way, you have the performance minus the high cost of buying a new one.

iLounge author Lucy Bennett

Lucy Bennett is a Contributing Editor at iLounge. She has been writing about Apple and technology for over six years. Prior to joining iLounge, Lucy worked as a writer for several online publications.