The 128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best iPad for readers, artists, teachers, and writers.

Best overall

128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-iPad Pro

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Whether you're looking to purchase your first iPad or upgrade from a previous model, the 128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad Pro provides a great entry point into iOS tablet computing. With it, users get the latest features of the iPad line (like its True Tone display and support for Apple Pencil); enough storage to enjoy apps, games, music, photography, and videos; a solid 12-megapixel iSight rear camera for scouting photography and the occasional quick picture; and a speedy A9X processor to tie everything together. And it comes in Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Gray for the color-conscious.

Bottom line: For readers, artists, teachers, and writers, the 128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet you can buy.

One more thing: If you can't regularly tether to your phone and on-the-go internet access is a must, you can add a cellular option to your iPad for $130 more, upgrading it from a pretty nice Wi-Fi tablet to a self-sufficient computing device.

Why the 128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best

Best of both worlds.

The beauty of tablet computing is just how well it fits into a multitude of different situations. You can use an iPad to draw or take notes, create presentations for your class, play games, film or snap photos with the iSight camera, read novels, correct term papers, chat with your faraway family, or any other number of activities suited to a multi-touch computer.

As such, the perfect iPad for most people has to fit into a lot of use cases: It needs to be fast. It needs to have enough storage. It needs to work with accessories that make it a better computer, like the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. It should have a bright, clear screen for both text and photographs, and powerful speakers for watching video.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has many of the latest and greatest features of Apple's tablet line: It sports an automatically adjusting True Tone display, a 12-megapixel iSight rear camera for 4K video and high-resolution photography, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing and silly selfies, a quad-speaker setup that automatically adjusts acoustics based on how you're holding the iPad, and all the other features that make an iPad an iPad, including iOS 10.

The included Smart Connector opens the iPad up to the entire range of Connector accessories — mostly keyboards and docks at present, but both can be valuable for students and others who plan to use their iPad as their main computer. And support for Apple Pencil gives artists a reasonably priced entry into the iPad Pro line without having to pay upwards of $1000 for a drawing tablet.

Perhaps the only thing missing from the 9.7-inch model is its bigger sibling's USB3 charging port — a notable and unfortunate omission for both quick charging and data transfer, but shouldn't be a deal-breaker for the majority of iPad users.

Though Apple has recently retired the 16GB storage size for iPads and bumped the minimum storage size to 32GB, we're still reticent to recommend the baseline option unless you're really pinching pennies. Between apps, drawing creations, offline music, photo libraries, and 4K video, 128GB is a much more reasonable storage tier for most users — though this may open you up to paying for more iCloud storage to back up said iPad.

Best on a budget

iPad Air 2

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If you want to dip your toe into the iPad world and don't need features like the Smart Connector or Apple Pencil, consider an iPad Air 2. Its internals are a few years old at this point — it rocks the A8X processor compared with the A9X and the iPhone 7's A10 Fusion chip — but it still offers tremendous power for your pennies; the Air 2's entry price of $399 for 32GB is a full $200 below the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

You do sacrifice some of the more recent iPad features, including the True Tone wide color display, quad speaker system, vastly improved camera, and the aforementioned accessories. But if you're looking at the iPad Air 2, chances are you're looking for an introduction to the iPad ecosystem, rather than a computer replacement or full-featured tablet setup. (If you are looking for such things, we highly encourage checking out the baseline 9.7-inch iPad Pro, instead.)

Bottom line: If you're on a budget and don't care about Apple Pencil support or a better screen, check out the iPad Air 2.

Best pro tablet

128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular 12.9-inch iPad Pro

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The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is missing some of the 9.7-inch model's screen and camera improvements, but what it lacks in fancy features it makes up in sheer screen real estate. It's the biggest tablet in Apple's lineup, and uses that to great effect when paired with a hardware keyboard. Split-screen apps in iOS 10 each have a pane as big as the 9.7-inch iPad in portrait mode, giving you ample space to work.

Add an Apple Pencil, and you have a top-tier drawing tablet; add third-party software like Astropad, and you can turn that tablet into a Wacom Cintiq-style second screen workspace with your Mac. For photographers, while the 12.9-inch iPad lacks support for wide color, it makes up for that in support for USB 3 transfer speeds over Lightning, which allow speedy file transfers for camera cards.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro does many of these tasks admirably, but if screen size is your top priority, bigger truly is better. And if you're looking for the ultimate portable computer, we recommend tacking on a Wi-Fi + Cellular plan if your smartphone either doesn't offer tethering or your personal data pool is too small to tether effectively. The iPad offers multiple pay-as-you-go cellular plans both local and internationally, and all can be activated or canceled at your whim.

Bottom line: If you want a high-powered drawing tablet to tote around in lieu of your Mac, go for broke with the Wi-Fi + Cellular 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Conclusion

For most people, first time buyers and upgraders alike, the Wi-Fi only 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best Apple tablet you can buy.

Best overall

128GB Wi-Fi only 9.7-iPad Pro

See at Apple

Whether you're looking to purchase your first iPad or upgrade from a previous model, the 128GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad Pro provides a great entry point into iOS tablet computing. With it, users get the latest features of the iPad line (like its True Tone display and support for Apple Pencil); enough storage to enjoy apps, games, music, photography, and videos; a solid 12-megapixel iSight rear camera for scouting photography and the occasional quick picture; and a speedy A9X processor to tie everything together. And it comes in Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Grey for the color-conscious.

Bottom line: For readers, artists, teachers, and writers, the 128GB Wi-Fi only 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet you can buy.

One more thing: If you can't regularly tether to your phone and on-the-go internet access is a must, you can add a cellular option to your iPad for $130 more, upgrading it from a pretty nice Wi-Fi tablet to self-sufficient computing device.