What is the best iPad ever? It’s a question that we’ve asked before about iPhones, but this may be the more interesting version. After all, the iPad line has been so great throughout the years that narrowing it down to one overall best model can be quite challenging.
But at the end of the day, the best iPad ever must check all of the same boxes that we outlined when justifying our ranking of the best iPhones:
- Historical Significance
- How It Felt To Use
Once again, no one category determined the winner, which proved to be particularly tough in the case of the iPad. There are several iPad models we would still recommend to this day. Ultimately, determining the best came down to trying to find the iPad that stands as the standard for the device to this day.
Without further delay, here are the best and worst iPads ever.
Technically, the iPad 2 is better than the original . As you’re going to see throughout this list, though, that only matters so much.
To be fair, the 2 may have been bumped up a few spots if it had featured better resolution. The fact Apple couldn’t even offer that feels damning.
As we mentioned above, the iPad’s biggest enemy is time. It simply looks archaic compared to what we have now.
Actually, one of its biggest selling points at the time was iOS. Tablets at the time suffered from some less than ideal operating systems. iOS instantly made it much more accessible than many of its counterparts. It also felt like its own thing at a time when tablets were being marketed as laptop killers.
However, the iPad certainly had problems keeping up with laptops. Some reviewers at the time noted that enthusiasts and professionals were still better off using a laptop. While Apple would eventually figure out what the iPad was, the original model was indeed bulky, limited, and reliant on the gimmick of the device.
Here’s a tough one to rank. If nothing else, the iPad mini was certainly a welcome device.
The Mini was certainly that. On their first try, Apple made a smaller model just felt right. They would tweak the size later, but the Mini felt good to hold without feeling like a lesser device. In that respect, it felt like a consumer-friendly device. More importantly, it felt like an exciting glimpse into the future.
For its time, though, the iPad Mini suffered from a lack of features. The most important of those features was the lack of a Retina display. The iPad 3 made the Retina display a must-have (more on that later). The fact that the iPad Mini didn’t have that sent a strong message that the real iPad Mini was still to come.
iPad Mini 3
We’re about to take a brief detour into the “average” portion of the program, but before we do, let’s look at the last “below average” iPad.
In and of itself, the Mini 3 was fine. It featured many of the upgrades you’d expect to see from a new Mini, and it performed reasonably well. It even featured Apple’s (then) new Touch ID technology. You probably liked one if you owned one and have fond memories of it.
Even at the time of its release, though, the Mini 3 felt outdated. It actually wasn’t that much smaller than the Air 2 (relatively speaking) and its hardware was a generation behind. WIth the Mini 3, Apple was sending a clear (and troubling) message that you’re buying a mini for its size. It certainly wasn’t their most ambitious release.
iPad (4th Generation)
The best and worst thing you can say about the iPad Gen 4 is that it gave people about what they expected.
Apple fans, generally speaking, want new devices to be sleeker, faster, and more reasonably priced. Well, the Gen 4 ticked most of those boxes. Actually, it aced the “faster” portion. Tests at the time confirmed that the 4 was significantly faster than its predecessor. In fact, it was generally believed to be even faster than most comparable devices.
The problem was that people at the time couldn’t help but raise their expectations. The 3 had clearly raised the bar and the Mini
iPad Pro 1st Generation
As you’re soon going to discover, Apple’s iPad Pro line has always been problematic. The core problem with this line is that each device in it sports a price tag that’s simply hard for most people to ever justify.
That was especially true of the first Pro. One of the device’s biggest selling points was the versatility of the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories. The problem was that buying
The good news is that the device itself was fine. It was appropriately powerful and felt like a noticeable upgrade from its counterparts at the time. It’s just hard not to look back on this device and think that it could have been more.
It feels bad to say so, but the iPad 2018 feels like one of those models that doesn’t leave you with much to say. That’s kind of a bad thing, but it’s not really all that bad.
In fact, the best thing you can say about
However, the i2018 doesn’t really impress when stacked up against its predecessor and other competition. Actually, this model feels eerily similar to the previous model and lacks noteworthy features limited to the Pro. It’s a logical successor to a device that arguably was still doing fine.
iPad Pro 2nd Generation
Some of the most-criticized iPad models on this list are the ones that only offered incremental (and often expected) improvements. In that sense, it feels strange to praise the Pro 2 which is very much that device.
However, there are times when a small step forward
While the device lacks a truly jaw-dropping feature, the Pro 2 is a more than
iPad Pro 3rd Generation
The iPad Pro 3 is dividing its audience. Some feel that the latest iPad is also the greatest iPad. Others will tell you that it’s a very good iPad which highlights the problems with the Pro series.
Let’s be clear about one thing: if you’ve got the money to buy one, you’re going to love the iPad Pro 3. It’s stunningly beautiful, wickedly powerful, and surprisingly versatile. By any reasonable metric, it’s a desirable device that sports some industry-leading features.
However, and this is key, this is also the iPad that raises questions about what an iPad Pro really is. In some circumstances, it can replace a laptop, but at this price point, that shouldn’t even be a question anymore. In reality, the iPad Pro 3 is more accurately named the iPad Enthusiast 3. If you really want one, you’ll be happy with it.
iPad Mini 4
Released less than a year after the iPad Mini 3, some fans worried the iPad Mini 4 would sport the outdated problems that plagued the previous model. As it turns out, the 4 was everything the 3 should have been.
While that still stings a little bit, it’s hard to hold it against the iPad Mini 4 for too long. The iPad Mini 4 was released at a time when increasingly larger phones had people wondering if they should just buy a tablet. Well, the Mini 4 gave that market an appealing alternative. It wasn’t quite as powerful as it should have been, but the iPad Mini 4 was a capable device once again made sure that buying a smaller iPad didn’t feel like buying a lesser iPad.
This still feels like a fantastic representation of what you want from an iPad mini.
When Apple decided to lean harder on its Pro line, they needed to figure out what to do with the base iPad model. Their solution was simple, but genius: they made the base iPad cheaper but no less powerful or appealing.
At just $329, the iPad 2017 was cheaper than many people thought an iPad would ever be. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as powerful as the iPad Pro, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be an iPad for the average user, and it succeeded in that regard. This was an iPad aimed at those who bought Android tablets largely due to the price difference. Now, they had to reconsider other factors.
The iPad 2017 helped realize a future where Apple offers the best high-end and low-end tablet options. That’s pretty exciting.
The iPad Air was not a universally beloved device. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak stated it was a step in the wrong direction. What the Air was, though, was Apple’s first attempt at finding a design middle-ground between the larger tablets at the time and their Mini line.
The result was the iPad Air; a device that often felt like the best of both worlds. The iPad Air was thinner and lighter to the point where some iPad Mini enthusiasts began to question whether or not the line would remain relevant in the coming years. That didn’t quite come to pass (not immediately), but the Air sent the message that tablets didn’t need to be these bulky things. They could take on a life of their own.
The iPad Air represented a significant step forward in Apple’s approach to tablet design.
iPad (3rd Generation)
As you no doubt noticed based on these rankings, Apple struggled to come out of the corner swinging. People were excited about the iPad, but it was an excitement tempered by the reality of the product line’s shortcomings.
The iPad 3 was the first iPad that felt like a fully-realized product. While it suffered from some mobile connectivity issues, the device’s revolutionary display and sleek design meant that most who held one or saw one wanted one. Indeed, the introduction of the Retina display is often cited as the turning point for the iPad line. The iPad finally had a selling point that was clear to everyone and often indisputable.
The iPad 3 was a solid device, but it’s best remembered as the model that justified the desire for the iPad and generated much more.
iPad Mini 2
The evolution of the iPad eventually led to the iPad Mini being phased out. That decision has its benefits, but it’s also created a void in some Apple fans’ lives. It’s a void that some people still fill with the iPad Mini 2.
Billed as the “Mini With Retina,” the Mini 2 was actually so much more than that. Its display was incredible but what’s truly amazing is that the Mini 2 was basically an iPad Air. All of a sudden, users were able to buy a sleek and smaller iPad that offered no real hardware drawbacks. This prompted new questions regarding whether or not the bulk of most tablets was necessary or simply optional.
The Mini 2 was the kind of beautifully designed device that makes Apple…well…Apple.
iPad Air 2
The holy grail of iPads had a lot working against it. It lacked all of the features of the Pro and didn’t offer the incredible size of the Mini, was a device that was, conceptually, stuck in the middle, and was seemingly destined to be the middle child.
Instead, the Air 2 managed to capture everything great about the iPad as a product. It was smaller, but not too small. It was powerful enough to handle all applications with ease. Its screen was perfect for the vast majority of users. It was the equivalent of that film scene where the sword maker holds a perfectly balanced blade on their hand.
It wasn’t the most revolutionary device, but the