Best Cheap iPad iMore 2020
Selecting an iPad that's right for you can fast become a frustrating process. Throw in a small budget and making a decision can become even harder. The iPad (2018) is currently our favorite budget tablet from Apple, but we've gathered other noteworthy models to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.
- Best Overall: iPad (2018)
- Runner-up: iPad Air (2019)
- Best for Portability: iPad mini (2019)
- Best Budget Pro: 10.5-inch iPad Pro
- Best Alternative: iPad (2017)
Best Overall: iPad (2018)
When the sixth-generation iPad arrived in March 2018, it became the first non-iPad Pro model to support Apple Pencil. Given the price difference between it and the more premium iPad offerings, this was and continues to be a big deal. Perhaps the last Apple iPad to feature a 9.7-inch display, the iPad (2018) offers plenty of great features that make it our top choice for budget seekers.
When looking at the iPad (2018), it's important to note that many of the features on the newer (and more expensive) iPad Air 3 are available here. The similarities include the same 8-megapixel back camera with f/2.4 aperture and 1080p HD video recording with slo-mo video support for 720p at 240 frames per second (FPS). Both models also include Apple's second-generation Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the Home button. Battery life is also similar; up to 10 hours of surfing the web and watching a video.
Why shouldn't you consider the iPad (2018) versus the iPad Air 3 (2019)? The older model offers a slower A10 Fusion chip compared to the A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine found on the newer model. Additionally, the 2018 version only offers storage up to 128GB, versus up to 256GB. Beyond this, the tablets are nearly identical, again starting with the first-generation Apple Pencil support.
- Nice regular price with occassional discounts
- Apple Pencil support
- At the iPad's signature display size
- Limited storage options
- Aging internals, such as slower chip
- No Smart Keyboard support
Apple Pencil support for much less
When bells and whistles aren't important, you can't go wrong with this impressive iPad model.
Runner-up: iPad Air (2019)
Earlier this year, Apple surprised many by introducing the first new iPad Air in nearly five years. With this third-generation iPad Air, Apple also resurrected the 10.5-inch display size previously found on the smaller of the two discontinued 2017 iPad Pro models.
The iPad Air (2019) is a great budget tablet for students or other workers because it has a few updated or better parts than our overall pick, which should keep it up-to-date longer. If these differences don't interest you, by all means, stick with the iPad (2018) and save yourself some cash.
With the iPad Air 3, you get a larger display, a newer chip, and more available storage than the iPad (2018). This iPad also supports a Smart Keyboard thanks to its Smart Connector. Although iPad screens aren't ideal for outdoor use, some are better than others. Unlike the iPad (2018), the iPad Air (2019) has a fully laminated display with anti-reflective coating. It also includes a wide-color (P3), True Tone display. The newer tablet also has a better front-facing camera.
For these extras, you'll pay around $130 more at each price point. Again, you'll need to decide whether the difference is worth it.
- Better storage
- Super internals
- Nice display size
- Smart Keyboard support
- Screen with anti-reflective coating
- No Face ID
- Pricey compared to iPad (2018)
There's something in the Air
Apple's newest iPad is a nice step up from the current entry-level model, but only if you actually want the extra features.
Best for Portability: iPad mini (2019)
On the day Apple revealed the third-generation iPad Air, it also introduced the first new iPad mini since 2015. Weighing just 0.68 pounds, the iPad mini (2019), includes nearly everything you can find on the latest iPad Air, but in a smaller body. The 7.9-inch tablet has the same A12 chip for better performance, a True Tone display, first-generation Apple Pencil support, and also comes in 64GB and 256GB storage capacities. The only thing it's missing is a Smart Connector.
Don't confuse a smaller screen size with spending less, however. We've included the iPad mini on this list for one simple reason; if you're looking for a 7.9-inch iPad, it's the only game in town. Expect to pay around $100 less than the equivalent iPad Air (2019) and $70 more than the iPad (2018).
- Much like the iPad Air (2019), but with a smaller display
- Easier to carry than other models
- Storage up to 256GB
- Pricey for its size
- No Smart Connector support
Best for Portability
The small one
When convenience and portablity matter, consider the 7.9-inch iPad mini (2019).
Best Budget Pro: 10.5-inch iPad Pro
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro was first introduced in June 2017 and was quietly replaced earlier this year by the iPad Air (2019), which offers the same display size but without the Pro internals. The Pro model remains on sale across multiple supply chains, including Amazon, for much less than the original price. For those looking for an iPad Pro on a budget, this is the one to get.
Featuring an A10X Fusion chip, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is available with storage up to 512GB. For this, you receive a 12-megapixel back camera with f/1.8 aperture and a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera. With video recording up to 4K and slo-mo video support for 1080p at 120FPS and 720p at 240FPS, the model is comparable to the current iPad Pro models.
With these extras, while discontinued, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is still an expensive proposition. It's just less costly than it once was.
- Packs a punch for less
- Nice discounts remain
- Will support iPadOS 13 too
- Still expensive compared to regular iPad models
- More than you need?
- Only supports first-gen Apple Pencil
Best Budget Pro
Go Pro for less
Yes, you can still purchase this iPad Pro model. Though still expensive, the model is available for much less than before.
Best Budget Alternative: iPad (2017)
Every iPad on this list up until this point offers support for the first-generation Apple Pencil. Unfortunately, none come with the input device, which adds another $100 to the cost of your purchase. Because not everyone wants an iPad that supports the Apple Pencil, we've also included the iPad (2017) as another budget option.
Officially the fifth-generation iPad, the 2017 tablet edition is surprisingly similar to the model which replaced it. Like the iPad (2018), the earlier model has a 9.7-inch display and is available with up to 128GB of storage. Inside, you'll find an 8-megapixel back camera with f/2.4 aperture and functional 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera. The tablet also supports 1080p HD video recording.
Other than not supporting the Apple Pencil, the older iPad model also has an older chip (A9 versus A10 Fusion) and comes without "Hey Siri," although it generally does support Apple's voice assistant. It's also the only iPad on this list that is no longer being sold by Apple, although Amazon has plenty of renewed models in stock.
Renewed products are not Apple certified, but have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers. These products come with the 90-day Amazon Renewed Guarantee.
- Great battery life
- Great discounts
- Will support iPadOS 13
- No Apple Pencil support
- Weak FaceTime camera
Not everyone wants to use an Apple Pencil
You can save big money on this iPad, which was officially retired in March 2018, but is still available at some retailers.
If you're in the market for an iPad on a budget, you'll quickly notice there's a wide selection from which to choose. Our favorite inexpensive model, the iPad (2018), is a terrific choice for anyone looking for a tablet with a traditional 9.7-inch display, Apple Pencil support, and Touch ID.
The iPad (2018) is noted for having many of the same features as the newer and more expensive iPad Air (2019), including the same 8-megapixel back camera, 1080p HD video recording, and more. For the many reasons mentioned above, we feel the 2018 iPad is the best cheap model on the market today. Happy shopping!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe
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