How to pick the perfect iPad mini, iPad Air, or iPad Pro for you!

Apple offers more iPad options then ever. There's the ultra-portable iPad mini 4, the full-sized iPad Air 2, and now the ultra-powerful iPad Pro. It's not just the screen sizes that vary either, the processors go from ridiculous to ludicrous, and the prices... they go up too. So, do you go with small, big, or bigger? Portable or powerful? Which iPad should you get?

iPad models and price points

Apple's 2015 iPad lineup consists of 5 different models: iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad mini 4, and iPad mini 2. They all have Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + cellular options. The iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 4 come in space gray, silver, and gold. The iPad Air and iPad mini 2 come in space gray and silver. The iPad Pro has 32 GB and 128 GB options. The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 have 16 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB options. The iPad Air and iPad mini 2 have 16 GB and 32 GB options. Prices range from $269 to $1079.

And yes, that makes for a dizzying array of choices.

iPad specs

iPad Air iPad mini Retina iPad Air 2 iPad mini 3 iPad Pro
Pad Air iPad mini 2 iPad Air 2 iPad mini 4 iPad Pro
Code Name J72 J85 J81 J96 J98
Model Name iPad 4,1 iPad 4,4 iPad 5,3 iPad 5,1
Screen Size 9.7 inches 7.9 inches 9.7 inches 7.9 inches 12.9 inches
Screen Resolution 2048x1536 (264ppi) 2048x1536 (326ppi) 2048x1536 (264ppi) 2048x1536 (326ppi) 2732x2048 (264ppi)
Screen Type IPS LED IPS LED Laminated IPS LED Laminated IPS LED Laminated IPS LED
System-on-a-chip Apple A7 Apple A7 Apple A8X Apple A8 Apple A9X
CPU 64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone 64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone 64-bit triple core Apple A8 Typhoon 64-bit dual core Apple A8 Typhoon 64-bit Apple A9 Twister
GPU PowerVR G6430 PowerVR G6430 PowerVR GXA6850 PowerVR GX6450
Co-processor M7 Motion M7 Motion M7 Motion M8 Motion M8 Motion | M9 Motion (integrated)
RAM 1GB 1GB 2GB 2GB 4GB
Storage 16GB/64GB 16GB/64GB 16GB/64GB/128GB 16GB/64GB/128GB 32GB/128GB
Cellular Data LTE LTE LTE Advanced LTE Advanced LTE Advanced
Rear Camera 5MP/1080p 5MP/1080p 8MP/1080P 8MP/1080P 8MP/1080P
Front Camera 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.2 Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac MIMO
Sensors Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope, barometer
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope, barometer
Ambient light, accelerometer,
compass, gyroscope, barometer
Speakers Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo (rotational)
Connector Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning
Height 9.4 inches (238.8 mm) 7.87 inches (199.9 mm) 9.4 inches (238.8 mm) 8 inches (203.2 mm) 12 inches (305.7 mm)
Width 6.6 inches (167.6 mm) 5.3 inches (134.6 mm) 6.6 inches (167.6 mm) 5.3 inches (134.8 mm) 8.68 inches (220.6 mm)
Depth 0.29 inches (7.4 mm) 0.29 inches (7.4 mm) 0.24 inches (6.1 mm) 0.24 inches (6.1mm) 0.27 inch (6.9 mm)
Weight 1.0 lbs (454 g) 0.73 lbs (331 g) 0.96 lbs (437 g) 0.65 lbs (298.8 grams) 1.57 pounds (713 grams)
Battery 6471mAh 6471mAh 7,340mAh 5124mAh
Colors Space gray/Silver Space gray/Silver Space gray/Silver/Gold Space gray/Silver/Gold Space gray/Silver/Gold
Price Wi-Fi: $399, $449
Cellular: $529, $579
Wi-Fi: $269, $319
Cellular: $399, $449
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $399, $499, $599
Cellular: $529, $629, $729
Wi-Fi: $749
Cellular: $949, $1079

Up-front vs. total cost of ownership

The iPad mini 2 now starts at $269, making it the cheapest iPad ever. The iPad Air starts at $399, as does the new iPad mini 4. The iPad Air 2 starts at $499 and the iPad Pro at $799. That's a big range, and it only gets bigger as you add storage and LTE. That's real money, in your pocket, for rent, for food, for car payments, for school, and for other important things in your life.

However, if you keep an iPad over the course of a year or two—or three or four—the distributed difference can be as little as a $10 or even $5 a month over the course of those years. Which may make a bigger screen, faster chipset, or other options more affordable than you think.

If you have absolutely no money to work with, the iPad mini 2 is a good starting tablet and the iPad Air is a very good one. If price is less of a concern than speed or size, the iPad mini 4 and iPad Air 2 are terrific tablets, and the iPad Pro is arguably the best ever.

iPad pixels and display density

What's the difference between iPads?

The iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 4 both have 7.9-inch screens and 2048x1536 resolution, which works out to 326 pixels per inch (ppi). The iPad Air and iPad Air 2 have 9.7-inch screens at the same 2048x1536, which works out to 264ppi. The iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch screen at 2732x2048, which is the same 264ppi.

That means the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 4 have the highest display density, the same as the iPhone 6s. That's because it's the same number of pixels shrunk down to even smaller size. Since you might have to hold it closer, it probably won't make much real-world difference. On paper, however, it's the sharpest iPad Apple makes.

The iPad Air and iPad Air 2 aren't quite as dense. That's because, while they're the same resolution as the mini, they're slightly larger to fill the bigger space. Since you might hold it further away, it also won't make that much real-world difference. Likewise the iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro, however, has the biggest physical screen. It's as tall in landscape as the iPad Air is in portrait... which is as tall in landscape as the iPad mini is in portrait. And the bigger the iPad, the bigger the window into internet and apps. Same for the iPad Pro's resolution—you don't just get bigger you get more.

The iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2, and iPad Pro also all have laminated displays with anti-glare coating, which makes them better. The pixels don't look like they're painted on the back of the screen, but embedded into the glass, and they're easier to use in direct light than any iPad before them.

Weight and size

The iPad mini 4 is the lightest iPad Apple makes. At 0.65 pounds (298.8 grams), it's is around two-thirds the weight of the 0.96 pound (437 grams) iPad Air 2 and less than half the weight of the 1.57 pounds (713 grams) iPad Pro. The lighter the iPad, the easier it is to use one-handed and to hold up for long periods of time.

Likewise smallness. It would take roughly two iPads mini 4 side-by-side to equal the size of an iPad Pro. That's twice as much to fit into your bag and carry around.

If you travel or commute a lot and you just want something to throw in your bag, purse, or jacket pocket, the iPad mini 4 could be ideal. If you need the biggest canvas possible and you're going to use it at a desk or on a couch or bench, the iPad Pro could still be fine, and the iPad Air, right in between.

Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard

The iPad mini 4 and iPad Air 2 can use Bluetooth keyboards and capacitive styluses, but the iPad Pro takes it to another level. Though optional, you can get the Smart Keyboard which attaches to and is powered by new Smart Connectors right on the iPad Pro. That means it's not dependent on Bluetooth. Third party keyboards can also attach the same way.

The Pencil isn't just a stylus either. It not only feels like a real pen or pencil, it provides pressure sensitivity and can even tilt for things like shading. If you've been waiting for an iPad experience as good or better than a Wacom, the iPad Pro could offer it.

Split View multitasking

One of the new, headline features in iOS 9 is multi-app multitasking for iPad. It includes picture-in-picture (PiP), which lets you keep watching video while you work on something else; slide over app access, so you can quickly do a few things in a sidebar and then go right back to your main workspace; and split view, which lets you run two full-blown apps side-by-side. All of them are huge boons to iPad productivity, but due to chipset and memory requirements, they're not all available on all older iPads.

Picture-in-picture (PiP) and slide over only work on iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad Air, and iPad Air 2. And, thanks to the need for 2 GB of memory, split view only works on iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2, and iPad Pro.

Who should get the iPad mini 2?

The iPad mini 2 comes with 7.9-inches of 2048x1536 Retina display and a fast Apple A7 processor. It's identical in most ways to the original iPad Air. It's just $130 cheaper than both the original iPad Air and the iPad mini 4.

The iPad mini 2 does not have the Touch ID, Apple Pay, a laminated screen, Apple A8 processor, fast networking, 128 GB or gold finish options, or split view multitasking, but if all you want a small tablet at the lowest price possible, you want the iPad mini 2.

Buy now from Apple


Who should get the iPad Air?

The original iPad Air has a 9.7-inch, 2048x1536 Retina display and fast Apple A7 processor. It does not have the Touch ID, Apple Pay, a laminated screen, Apple A8X processor, fast networking, 128 GB or gold finish options, or split view multitasking. But it's $100 cheaper than the iPad Air 2.

If you want a full-sized iPad but don't want to pay a full-sized price, you want an iPad Air.

Buy now from Apple


Who should get the iPad mini 4?

The iPad mini 4 is almost identical to the iPad Air 2. It's just smaller and denser, with a 7.9-inch, 2048x1536 Retina display, and an Apple A8 instead of an Apple A8X chipset. It also costs $100 less.

The lightest iPad Apple has ever made, if you want a small but powerful tablet that you can easily take anywhere, can run split view multitasking, and has both 128 GB and gold finish options, you want the iPad mini 4.

Buy now from Apple


Who should get the iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 is a bigger, more powerful version of the iPad mini 4, with a 9.7-inch, 2048x1536 Retina display, and a really fast Apple A8X processor.

It's no longer the biggest or most powerful—that distinction now belongs to the iPad Pro—but if you want a larger display that's still light and easy to carry around, can run split view multitasking, and has both 128 GB and gold finish options, you want the iPad Air 2.

Buy now from Apple


Who should get the iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is the biggest and most powerful iPad Apple has ever made. It has a huge 12.9-inch, 2732x2048 display and a monstrous Apple A9X processor that's starting to make "desktop class" seem like an insufficient descriptor.

If you want an iPad that can use the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboards, that isn't as portable but is primed for productivity and creativity, and is as powerful as many laptops, you want an iPad Pro.


Still undecided?

If you're still having trouble choosing between the iPad mini 2, iPad Air, iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2, or iPad Pro, jump into our iPad discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out.

Bottom line, don't spend money you don't have, but don't skimp if you don't have to. Your iPad will be one of the most often-used, most important possessions in your life for months and maybe years to come. Get as much iPad as you can reasonably afford, has the best balance of portability and power for you, and then enjoy!