Best iPad for playing Apple Arcade iMore 2021
Apple Arcade offers unlimited access to unique games across all your Apple products, including Mac, iPhone, Apple TV, and of course, iPad. When it comes to finding the perfect Apple tablet to play those games, we recommend the iPad Air 4. The 10.9-inch tablet offers hefty internals at a price that's right. There are other options, however, which we've included below.
- Best overall: iPad Air 4 (2020)
- Runner-up: iPad eighth-generation (2020)
- Best premium: 11-inch iPad Pro (2021)
- Best for portability: iPad mini 5 (2019)
Best overall: iPad Air 4 (2020)
The iPad Air 4 was introduced in September 2020, and it features a new design for the iPad Air line. The home button is gone, Touch ID is now integrated with the power button, USB-C has replaced the lightning port, and it features a powerful A14 chip.
The iPad Air 4 is a step up from the eighth-generation iPad, which was released on the same day. With this model, you get a larger display (10.9-inches versus 10.2-inches), an advanced chip, and more available storage. Unlike the latest iPad, the iPad Air 4 has a fully laminated display with an anti-reflective coating, making it perfect for gaming.
The only downside? Being better means you'll pay more.
- Better storage
- Latest internals
- Screen with anti-reflective coating
- Compatible with Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2
- USB-C port replaces the lightning port
- Pricier compared to iPad
Runner-up: iPad eighth-generation (2020)
With the introduction of the seventh-generation iPad in 2019, Apple changed its standard tablet size for the first time. The eighth-generation iPad, released in September 2020, features updated internals. The iPad measures 10.2 inches across versus the 9.7 inches found on older models. The extra real estate is ideally suited for Apple Arcade games.
In the latest iPad, you receive many of the same features found on our top pick for less. Highlighted features include Apple Pencil (1st generation) support, Smart Keyboard and Bluetooth keyboard support, and much more.
The biggest drawback to selecting the iPad over the iPad Air is the older chip, the A12 Bionic chip, instead of the A14 Bionic chip. The difference could influence the speed of some Apple Arcade games. Another consideration is the storage available. The iPad maxes out at 128GB versus 256GB on our top model. The beginning storage option of 32GB is very limited, and you will not be able to hold many of your favorite Apple Arcade games.
- Excellent price
- At the iPad's new signature display size
- Supports Apple Pencil (1st generation)
- Limited storage options
- Older internals could slow games
Best premium: 11-inch iPad Pro (2021)
If you're a professional who also likes to play games, you can't go wrong with the third-generation 11-inch iPad Pro. Inside, you'll find a blazing-fast M1 chip. There's also a speedy USB-C port with Thunderbolt support for quick charging. The larger display is certain to make games pop.
The 11-inch iPad Pro is expensive; however, ranging in price from $799 to $2,099, depending on the storage option you choose and whether you want access to 5G cellular connections.
- Easy to travel
- Includes Face ID, Apple Pencil support
- Largest display
- Perhaps overkill for gaming only
Best for portability: iPad mini (2019)
The current fifth-generation iPad mini was introduced in 2019 and was the first new iPad mini since 2015. Weighing just 0.68 pounds, the iPad mini includes nearly everything you can find on the third-generation iPad Air (2019), but in a smaller body.
The 7.9-inch tablet has the same A12 chip as the standard iPad, a True Tone fully laminated display, first-generation Apple Pencil support. It also comes in 64GB and 256GB storage capacities.
Don't confuse a smaller screen size with spending less, however. If you're looking for a 7.9-inch iPad, it's the only game in town. Expect to pay around $70 more than the iPad.
- Fully laminated display with anti-reflective coating
- Easier to carry than other models
- Storage up to 256GB
- Pricey for its size
- Too small?
Apple Arcade gives you instant access to exclusive games across multiple devices. When it comes to mobile gaming, consider getting the iPad Air 4. Yes, it's a little bit more expensive than the standard iPad. However, the price difference gives you a slightly larger and better display, incredible internals, and more.
With the iPad Air 4, you have a choice of five colors (silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue) and two storage sizes (64GB and 256GB). Whichever you choose, happy gaming!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. On Apple Arcade, he enjoys playing all the latest games. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.