iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air, or iPad Pro: Which iPad to buy at any price point

Posted:
in iPad edited March 12
Apple's catalog of iPad models covers an extremely wide range of price points for its customers. Here's what iPad you should be getting for your budget.

The iPad mini is a great buy at the value end of the catalog.
The iPad mini is a great buy at the value end of the catalog.


Apple's coverage of the price spectrum from budget to premium has a lot of coverage, enabling anyone with a budget in mind for their iPad purchase to get something at their thought-of price.

With the introduction of the iPad mini 6 and the updated ninth-generation 10.2-inch iPad in September, Apple upgraded the lower section of its catalog with more performance, and in the case of the mini, a whole new design.

In March, Apple enhanced the more premium end of the spectrum with an update to the iPad Air, with the fifth-generation model now sporting the M1 chip found in the iPad Pro range.






As there are so many products on offer, there are quite a few situations where customers have to choose between one iPad with specific features or another with a different configuration. There's always a trade-off, and sometimes it's hard to decide.

The fall upgrades, coupled with the fifth-generation iPad Air, make the decision even harder at the two extremes of the scale.

The iPad to iPad Pro price range: $329 to $2,399

Apple's complete range in prices starts from $329 for the base iPad, a model that is in its ninth generation, and still a strong seller for the company. At the other end of the spectrum is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Cellular, which breaks the bank at $2,399 with its highest capacity option.

The current range of iPad pricing, as of March 2022
The current range of iPad pricing, as of March 2022


That means there's a difference of $2,070 between the most expensive and the cheapest iPad options Apple sells. You could feasibly buy seven of the cheapest-available iPads for the same cost as the most expensive option possible and still have $96 remaining for accessories.

Looking at the range as a whole, there is a distinct section beyond $750 where the iPad Pro range dominates the graph. Lower down the price range, you could reasonably say that there's a bit of a jump from the iPad to the iPad mini and iPad Air, which gives us another two ranges to consider.

The three ranges we're looking at are iPads under $600, the $600 to $750 range, and iPads beyond $750.

iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro: Storage and Cellular

There are many features of each iPad model to consider when selecting which version to buy, but there are two distinct areas to bear in mind when considering all of the trade-offs between models. The size of the ranges is determined by cellular connectivity and storage capacity.

Storage capacity pricing for Apple's iPad range, as of March 2022
Storage capacity pricing for Apple's iPad range, as of March 2022


Apple offers versions of its iPads as having only Wi-Fi connectivity or additional cellular service. However, the importance of Internet connectivity has led to the cellular option being a more significant consideration than before, potentially at a par with storage.

Some people may value having Internet access wherever they are more than bumping up storage. Others may not want the extra expense of cellular, which goes beyond the upgrade itself and into paying for cellular plans.

Of course, you could rely on an iPhone or another device to serve as a personal hotspot if you want the benefits of cellular without paying for the upgrade. This does, however, pass any data plan-related costs to your smartphone's plan, as well as using extra power via the hotspot-hosting device. Still, these could be considered a reasonable compromise.

For ease of comparison, we are classifying the cellular-equipped models as a separate variant, costing between $130 and $200 as an upgrade to the non-cellular version.

The more significant element that varies the cost is storage, as the more you buy, the more the iPad will cost. The need for storage can also be a factor in determining whether to go for the higher model, as the extra features may not necessarily benefit the user as much as having more capacity on hand.

Handily, Apple has made the storage question simple for the iPad range, even more so than what it does for its iPhone catalog. For all non-Pro models, Apple has limited capacities down to two options: 64GB and 256GB.

On the Pro range, Apple still offers a lot of choices, with five options between 128GB and 2TB. Arguably, these models can justify the extra capacity options over the non-Pro tablets.

This does discount the idea of using cloud storage as extra off-iPad capacity, which could be helpful for those with extensive photo collections.

Under $600 - iPad, iPad mini

The entire range starts at $329 with the iPad, which has its 10.2-inch display, A13 Bionic, and 64GB of storage.

iPad price ranges below $600 as of March 2022
iPad price ranges below $600 as of March 2022


There's no competition here until you get to $459, when you can get the same model with 4G LTE cellular, but even then the question is whether you want Internet wherever you go, or not. Saving money on not including cellular could easily pay for an Apple Pencil.

A slightly bigger decision is offered at $20 more, as it's either a 64GB cellular iPad or a non-cellular 256GB version. 64GB is a little small for everyday computing, so you're probably better off going for the storage unless you feel cloud storage services offer enough of a benefit to go for that version.

The iPad mini comes into play at $499, with its 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, A15 Bionic chip, and 12-megapixel rear camera offering a tempting proposition, aside from its new styling. It's certainly a better option than the 64GB iPad with cellular, and probably just beats out the 256GB non-cellular iPad as well.

For the next $100, the decision will be between those two models, until you reach $599.

$600 to $750 - iPad with Cellular, iPad mini, iPad Air

At $600, the iPad Air becomes an option. A tablet that slots into the gap between the iPad range and the iPad Pro, the cheapest iPad Air could be considered a compromise between multiple different ranges at the same time.

Between the iPad and iPad mini, the Air offered a 10.9-inch display in a form that was close to the iPad mini and iPad Pro in general appearance. While offering iPad mini niceties with a larger display, it did suffer from a smaller 7-megapixel FaceTime HD and slower A14 Bionic. At least, before the fifth-generation release.

Apple's upgrade of both the FaceTime HD camera to a 12-megapixel version with Center Stage, as well as the use of the M1, means the iPad Air is now feasibly more than an iPad mini in specification.

In both the iPad mini and iPad Air, you have very capable and quite evenly-matched devices if your budget is $600 to almost $650. Your decision here is pretty much about form factor, in whether you want a compact tablet or one with more screen and a fair bit more power.

If screen size is important, the iPad Air makes a lot of sense at this particular price point.

iPad price ranges between $600 and $750 as of March 2022
iPad price ranges between $600 and $750 as of March 2022


It gets really tough at $649, as you have to decide between the 256GB iPad mini vs a 64GB iPad mini with 5G, and the 64GB iPad Air with a bigger screen and M1. Again, it's primarily that tradeoff between storage and connectivity, but those needing performance may err towards the iPad Air's M1 than 5G connectivity.

At the top end of this small scale, anyone with a budget of at least $749 will have to choose between the $749 64GB iPad Air with 5G connectivity or the 256GB iPad Air without 5G, or the 5G-equipped 64GB iPad mini. The storage-connectivity argument is still at play, but if getting Internet anywhere is more important, either 5G model should work for you.

If you really want the M1 performance bump and the bigger screen, then the iPad Air will be better than the iPad mini for you.

$750 or more - iPad mini, iPad Air, 11-inch iPad Pro, 12.9-inch iPad Pro

While the range from this point onwards is dominated by iPad Pro, there is a small section at the start where both the iPad Air with cellular and iPad mini with cellular are actually viable options.

iPad price ranges above $750 as of March 2022
iPad price ranges above $750 as of March 2022


At first, the range points to the 64GB cellular iPad Air and 64GB cellular iPad mini as the only iPads on offer at the earliest price points, at least until the $799 11-inch iPad Pro comes into play.

From there on in, the extra features of the iPad Pro lineup make it very difficult to justify getting either the iPad mini or iPad Air, regardless of storage capacity and the availability of cellular access. With the bigger display, increased base storage to 128GB, better camera system, and other niceties, the 11-inch iPad Pro is simply too good not to choose.

Sure, you could argue that the iPad Air is still a viable competitor to the 11-inch iPad Pro, since it uses the same M1 chip. However, the extra benefits of the iPad Pro make it a convincing argument otherwise.

At $799 point, you could go for the 256GB iPad mini with 5G, but given the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at 128GB, there's arguably enough capacity there to nullify a lot of the attraction of more storage.

At the upper end of the iPad Air range of $899 with 256GB of storage and 5G cellular, it's simply outclassed by the 256GB 11-inch iPad Pro for exactly the same price.

Firmly into iPad Pro territory, the cellular problem arrives at $999, which puts 128GB and 5G against 256GB for $899. The thing is, 128GB of capacity is actually quite good and not too "low," so you're not losing too much by opting for cellular here.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro with 128GB of capacity enters the battlefield at $1,099, equalling a 512GB 11-inch iPad Pro and a cellular 256GB 11-inch iPad Pro. At that point, it becomes whether you value screen size, storage, or connectivity, but really it's between the 12.9-inch and the cellular 11-inch.

As the capacities rise up, it basically falls into deciding between a bigger screen or having cellular, or if you can wing it, both. At the high end, the storage values are more than sufficient for most people, making it just a screen and 5G issue for the buyer.

Is it really worth having 2TB of storage on an iPad Pro? Probably not, unless you absolutely need it.

Buying your iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air, or iPad Pro

Exclusive discounts are in effect on Apple's iPad product line, with the best iPad deals at your fingertips in our Price Guide.

Easily compare discounts across popular Apple resellers on current and closeout models, plus markdowns on AppleCare. At press time, Expercom is offering 5% off every iPad model it sells exclusively for AppleInsider readers using this cost-saving activation link. Amazon also regularly offers aggressive deals on the iPad range through instant rebates and/or on-page coupons.

Compare iPad prices

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    For our family, the iPad Mini is the best form factor. Our use-case is gaming and media consumption. Our Mini 4s are long in the tooth and I'm happy with the new form factor and the A15 chip. 
    williamlondondewme
  • Reply 2 of 13
    I'm a little surprised this article mentions nothing about using (if you have one) your iPhone's Hotspot for iPad internet connectivity, offsetting the need to get the cellular version and plan costs. We use the Hotspot all the time on our iPad Air. 
    muthuk_vanalingamdewme
  • Reply 3 of 13
    pairof9 said:
    I'm a little surprised this article mentions nothing about using (if you have one) your iPhone's Hotspot for iPad internet connectivity, offsetting the need to get the cellular version and plan costs. We use the Hotspot all the time on our iPad Air. 
    I've found that maintaining the hotspot on my phone is about on par with the advertised cost for a cellular connection on an iPad.  There's ways to lower it, I think, but my phone hotspot gives me more flexibility than the cellular connection on an iPad would seem to do.   
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 13
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,183member
    pairof9 said:
    I'm a little surprised this article mentions nothing about using (if you have one) your iPhone's Hotspot for iPad internet connectivity, offsetting the need to get the cellular version and plan costs. We use the Hotspot all the time on our iPad Air. 
    I've found that maintaining the hotspot on my phone is about on par with the advertised cost for a cellular connection on an iPad.  There's ways to lower it, I think, but my phone hotspot gives me more flexibility than the cellular connection on an iPad would seem to do.   

    Some carriers like Verizon play throttling games with mobile hotspot usage even on "unlimited" phone plans. You'll have to see whether this impacts your choice of models, which will depend on how much data you're consuming via the hotspot. The lack of GPS on the WiFi models may also be a purchase consideration.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 13
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,991member
    For me the criteria were thus
    I use an apple pencil
    I had a 105 inch iPad Pro and didn't want to go any smaller. 
    That narrowed it down to tue Air or the Pro
    Then I decided on the Pro. The Air is a fine machine but I plan on keeping mine for five years at least. The M1 chip may be overkill right now but it’ll handle whatever Apple or I throw at it for the foreseeable future. 
    I decided to splurge and go for the 12.9 inch. Yes its big but I use it all day every day. The bigger screen will make writing, painting, videos, games, everything easier to see. 
    As far as capacity my old iPP had 256 and I barely filled 100 of that. I store most things on iCloud. Indeed after clearing some movies off that I can always sownload again I have only got about 60gb used. I did ponder it for a bit though because if I had gone with 1TB the RAN goes up to 16gb. But I'm already doubling it from the 4 my old one had so I didn’t. 
    Lastly cellular. I so seldom need it, wifi is everywhere I go, that it was an unnecessary luxury and I skipped it. 
    On the 27th I took delivery of my 12.9 inch, 256gb wifi only iPad Pro. My Apple Pencil arrives on Tuesday and the Brydge keyboard case. Spendy? Yes but it’s going to be my primary computer until the late 2020s. It’s worth the investment. 
  • Reply 6 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    pairof9 said:
    I'm a little surprised this article mentions nothing about using (if you have one) your iPhone's Hotspot for iPad internet connectivity, offsetting the need to get the cellular version and plan costs. We use the Hotspot all the time on our iPad Air. 

    From the article:
    "Some people may value having Internet access wherever they are more than bumping up storage. Others may not want the extra expense of cellular, which goes beyond the upgrade itself and into paying for cellular plans.

    Of course, you could rely on an iPhone or another device to serve as a personal hotspot, if you want the benefits of cellular without paying for the upgrade. This does, however, pass any data plan-related costs to your smartphone's plan, as well as using extra power via the hotspot-hosting device, but these could be considered a reasonable compromise."

    bonobob
  • Reply 7 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    DAalseth said:
    For me the criteria were thus
    I use an apple pencil
    I had a 105 inch iPad Pro and didn't want to go any smaller. 
    That narrowed it down to tue Air or the Pro
    Then I decided on the Pro. The Air is a fine machine but I plan on keeping mine for five years at least. The M1 chip may be overkill right now but it’ll handle whatever Apple or I throw at it for the foreseeable future. 
    I decided to splurge and go for the 12.9 inch. Yes its big but I use it all day every day. The bigger screen will make writing, painting, videos, games, everything easier to see. 
    As far as capacity my old iPP had 256 and I barely filled 100 of that. I store most things on iCloud. Indeed after clearing some movies off that I can always sownload again I have only got about 60gb used. I did ponder it for a bit though because if I had gone with 1TB the RAN goes up to 16gb. But I'm already doubling it from the 4 my old one had so I didn’t. 
    Lastly cellular. I so seldom need it, wifi is everywhere I go, that it was an unnecessary luxury and I skipped it. 
    On the 27th I took delivery of my 12.9 inch, 256gb wifi only iPad Pro. My Apple Pencil arrives on Tuesday and the Brydge keyboard case. Spendy? Yes but it’s going to be my primary computer until the late 2020s. It’s worth the investment. 

    Obviously a well thought out purchase.   That's how everyone should do it -- but few actually do...
  • Reply 8 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    My grandson's 128Gb Gen 6 iPad (with a bluetooth keyboard/case and Apple pencil) is going strong and does everything asked of it without any problem.   Basically, it's running as well now as when it was new (except I the battery may be a little weak -- I need to get it to an Apple Store for them to check it.  But, since it's covered with AppleCare+, that should not be a problem.)

    So, that raises the question of who needs an Air or a Pro and why?
    Are they doing things that my grandson isn't?  (Especially high demand tasks like video editing?)

    Sure, an Air or a Pro is "nicer", "better" machine.  But then so is a Lexus compared to a Toyota -- but either one will get you where you want to go.
    ...  So, maybe that is the difference:  For *most* people, it's not what they do but how they do it.
    ..........  But I suspect that most people couldn't tell the difference between the A10 and the M1.  Both are fast.
    MisterKit
  • Reply 9 of 13
    My grandson's 128Gb Gen 6 iPad (with a bluetooth keyboard/case and Apple pencil) is going strong and does everything asked of it without any problem.   Basically, it's running as well now as when it was new (except I the battery may be a little weak -- I need to get it to an Apple Store for them to check it.  But, since it's covered with AppleCare+, that should not be a problem.)

    So, that raises the question of who needs an Air or a Pro and why?
    Are they doing things that my grandson isn't?  (Especially high demand tasks like video editing?)

    Sure, an Air or a Pro is "nicer", "better" machine.  But then so is a Lexus compared to a Toyota -- but either one will get you where you want to go.
    ...  So, maybe that is the difference:  For *most* people, it's not what they do but how they do it.
    ..........  But I suspect that most people couldn't tell the difference between the A10 and the M1.  Both are fast.
    I understand where you are going with this post, and I completely agree with you on this topic. Forget iPad Pro, even the iPad Air is hamstrung due to lack of adequate progress by Apple on the iPad OS. Hopefully, that changes this year and Apple announces significant improvements to iPad OS in the WWDC in June this year.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 13
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,991member
    My grandson's 128Gb Gen 6 iPad (with a bluetooth keyboard/case and Apple pencil) is going strong and does everything asked of it without any problem.   Basically, it's running as well now as when it was new (except I the battery may be a little weak -- I need to get it to an Apple Store for them to check it.  But, since it's covered with AppleCare+, that should not be a problem.)

    So, that raises the question of who needs an Air or a Pro and why?
    Are they doing things that my grandson isn't?  (Especially high demand tasks like video editing?)

    Sure, an Air or a Pro is "nicer", "better" machine.  But then so is a Lexus compared to a Toyota -- but either one will get you where you want to go.
    ...  So, maybe that is the difference:  For *most* people, it's not what they do but how they do it.
    ..........  But I suspect that most people couldn't tell the difference between the A10 and the M1.  Both are fast.
    A fair question.
    I went with the Pro because I wanted the larger screen. It will make writing, and page layout much easier. If it weren't for that the Air would have been a much closer call. Also I do a lot of painting and my old iPad had 4GB of RAM, the same amount I believe the Air has. That was noticeably limiting the size of canvases and the number of layers I could work with. I had one project where I was working with 5100x5100px and I could only have about a dozen layers. That was a real handicap. The Pro has 8GB which should help that a lot.

    But you are right. for most people the Air would work just fine, and few will encounter a situation where they can notice the difference.
    edited January 3 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 11 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    DAalseth said:
    My grandson's 128Gb Gen 6 iPad (with a bluetooth keyboard/case and Apple pencil) is going strong and does everything asked of it without any problem.   Basically, it's running as well now as when it was new (except I the battery may be a little weak -- I need to get it to an Apple Store for them to check it.  But, since it's covered with AppleCare+, that should not be a problem.)

    So, that raises the question of who needs an Air or a Pro and why?
    Are they doing things that my grandson isn't?  (Especially high demand tasks like video editing?)

    Sure, an Air or a Pro is "nicer", "better" machine.  But then so is a Lexus compared to a Toyota -- but either one will get you where you want to go.
    ...  So, maybe that is the difference:  For *most* people, it's not what they do but how they do it.
    ..........  But I suspect that most people couldn't tell the difference between the A10 and the M1.  Both are fast.
    A fair question.
    I went with the Pro because I wanted the larger screen. It will make writing, and page layout much easier. If it weren't for that the Air would have been a much closer call. Also I do a lot of painting and my old iPad had 4GB of RAM, the same amount I believe the Air has. That was noticeably limiting the size of canvases and the number of layers I could work with. I had one project where I was working with 5100x5100px and I could only have about a dozen layers. That was a real handicap. The Pro has 8GB which should help that a lot.

    But you are right. for most people the Air would work just fine, and few will encounter a situation where they can notice the difference.

    Good point!  Screen size -- especially when one is limited (like my grandson's 9.6" screen) or if you are doing something that requires a lot screen real estate can make a very big difference.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    My grandson's 128Gb Gen 6 iPad (with a bluetooth keyboard/case and Apple pencil) is going strong and does everything asked of it without any problem.   Basically, it's running as well now as when it was new (except I the battery may be a little weak -- I need to get it to an Apple Store for them to check it.  But, since it's covered with AppleCare+, that should not be a problem.)

    So, that raises the question of who needs an Air or a Pro and why?
    Are they doing things that my grandson isn't?  (Especially high demand tasks like video editing?)

    Sure, an Air or a Pro is "nicer", "better" machine.  But then so is a Lexus compared to a Toyota -- but either one will get you where you want to go.
    ...  So, maybe that is the difference:  For *most* people, it's not what they do but how they do it.
    ..........  But I suspect that most people couldn't tell the difference between the A10 and the M1.  Both are fast.
    I understand where you are going with this post, and I completely agree with you on this topic. Forget iPad Pro, even the iPad Air is hamstrung due to lack of adequate progress by Apple on the iPad OS. Hopefully, that changes this year and Apple announces significant improvements to iPad OS in the WWDC in June this year.

    Actually, I wasn't going there -- but I fully agree with you and hope that you are correct about "significant improvements" to the OS  That would really change the equation.
  • Reply 13 of 13
    narwhalnarwhal Posts: 86member
    It's great that Apple offers an iPad at around $300 -- everyone I've bought these for thought they were wonderful. Those devices work great for consumption -- media playback, email, internet. For more creative users I'd buy the Air or Pro with bigger screens, pencils and keyboards. Especially for drawing with pencils on the screen or editing video, I really don't want any lag at all.
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