Best iPad for students iMore 2022
As a student, you'll want the best tools to help you get through classes, including a tablet. And Apple's iPad can be an essential tool to have in your arsenal since it lets you take notes by typing them out or even sketching them out. You could annotate text in digital copies of textbooks, work on your research papers, give a presentation, and basically do anything else needed in the classroom right on an iPad. Of course, one problem a lot of students face is a limited budget. That's why we recommend the iPad Air 5 as the best iPad for students because it packs in most of the features of an iPad Pro at a mid-range price point. It's perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
- Best Overall: iPad Air 5 (2022)
- Best Value: iPad mini 6
- Best on a Budget: iPad 9th-generation (2021)
- Best Power: iPad Pro (2021) - 11-inch
Best Overall: iPad Air 5
Our review makes it clear that the iPad Air 5 is the best iPad for students, and for good reason. For just $599, you get almost all of the features of the iPad Pro, but for a few hundred dollars less. It also comes in a mid-range 10.9-inch size, making it perfect to take with you everywhere, but offering enough screen space for whatever you need.
With 2360-by-1640 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (PPI), everything's going to look great, from your digital books to handwritten notes to educational videos. The display features P3 wide color and True Tone, making everything look vibrant and the fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating means fewer smudges from your fingers.
Inside, the iPad Air is now powered by the M1 chip — the same one that the top-end iPad Pro runs — meaning you'll have plenty of power for any tasks you need to complete in the classroom. Other great features include Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard support, a USB-C port with up to 10Gbs data transfer speeds, and a Center Stage-supporting front-facing camera which will be great for FaceTime calls with family back home. With the fifth-generation model, the iPad Air also gained 5G support for the first time, making it a great device to tote around everywhere.
Where the device saves money, versus the Pro, is in the lack of ProMotion in the display, Touch ID instead of Face ID, and a less advanced rear camera setup. That being said, a lot of the iPad Pro bells and whistles are aimed at power users and may be overkill for a lot of students who just want a killer note-taking device.
- 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display
- 12MP front-facing camera with Center Stage
- Smart Connector with Magic Keyboard support
- Compatible with Apple Pencil 2
- M1 chip
- Speedy USB-C port
- No Face ID
- Only 64GB or 256GB storage options
Best Value: iPad mini 6
If the iPad Air 5 is a little too much, then you may want to consider the new iPad mini 6, as long as you don't mind having a smaller screen. As our review points out, the iPad mini looks a lot like a smaller iPad Air and they share a few similarities feature-wise, too.
With iPad mini 6, you're getting an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display in a newly redesigned body with flat edges, which means no more Home button! While there is no Home button, the iPad mini 6 still has a Touch ID sensor housed in the top button just like the iPad Air. Apple also eliminated the Lightning port and replaced it with USB-C for faster charging and data transfers. Its data speeds aren't quite as fast as those offered by the iPad Air 5 which uses a newer USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port, but it's still enough for most folks.
You get the A15 Bionic chip in the iPad mini 6, which has a 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. Though the A15 is what you'll also find in the iPhone 13 lineup, the one in the iPad mini 6 is slightly under-clocked. Still, it's 40% faster in terms of raw power and has 80% improved graphics over its predecessor. Plus, the iPad mini 6 comes in four beautiful colors: space gray, pink, purple, and starlight.
Like the iPad Air and iPad Pro, the 2021 iPad mini can make use of the second-generation Apple Pencil, which magnetically attaches to the side of the device, though there's no Smart Connector on the back for attaching a keyboard accessory like its larger counterparts have. You get a 12MP rear camera but, possibly more importantly, the front camera has also been bumped up to 12MP with a larger field of view for Center Stage. And on the audio front, the iPad mini 6 comes equipped with a new set of landscape stereo speakers, making it a great device for watching movies or making video calls on.
And for the first time, the iPad mini has 5G connectivity, so you can stay productive anywhere, anytime. The only bad thing about the new iPad mini 6 is that it starts at $100 more than its predecessor, making it $499 for Wi-Fi-only models and $649 for Wi-Fi + Cellular. But still, it's a great combination of value and power if you don't mind the smaller screen size compared to the iPad Air 5 and iPad Pro models.
- Redesigned body with 8.3-inch display and USB-C
- Still retains Touch ID in top button
- A15 Bionic
- 12MP front-facing camera with Center Stage
- Apple Pencil 2 support and 5G connectivity
- No Face ID
- Smaller screen than the other iPads
- More expensive than previous generation
- No Smart Connector or related accessories
Best on a Budget: iPad 9th-generation (2021)
If you're on a tight budget, then you can't beat the regular iPad 9th-generation. As noted in our review, it has a beautiful 10.2-inch Retina display that should be plenty big for reading and marking up your digital textbooks, annotating documents, and sketching diagrams. While it won't work with the newer, second-generation Apple Pencil, it does work with the first-generation Apple Pencil just fine. The 9th-generation iPad also has the Smart Connector, so it will work with accessories like Apple's Smart Keyboard, which is still a great productivity booster.
Of course, with the 9th-generation iPad being the most inexpensive iPad to choose from, you do have to compromise on some features. It still uses the older A13 Bionic chip, which is about two generations behind, but it should still be plenty fast for school work. It also only comes in either 64GB or 256GB storage capacities, so you may need to be more diligent with data management, but this should be fine if you lean more towards cloud storage anyway. You'll also still have the Home button, so there will be larger bezels on the display, but the 10.2-inch size should still be plenty to work with. The front-facing True Depth camera has also been bumped up to 12MP Ultra Wide, with a 122-degree field of view with Center Stage. The rear camera is still at 8MP, unfortunately.
If you are fine with the compromises, then the 9th-generation iPad is an excellent iPad for students.
- Most affordable iPad
- 10.2-inch display
- 12MP front-facing camera with Center Stage
- Supports 1st-generation Apple Pencil
- Has Smart Connector for Smart Keyboard and more
- Uses older A13 chip
- No Face ID and still has bezels
- Only has 64GB or 256GB capacities
Best Power: iPad Pro (2021)
If you have the money to spare, then you can't go wrong with the iPad Pro (2021). Our review pointes out that comes in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch varieties, so you can pick whichever size suits you the best. For example, if you want the power but in a more portable package, the 11-inch size is what you want. But if you want an iPad that replaces an actual laptop computer, then the 12.9-inch is the way to go. However, keep in mind that the 11-inch still uses the Liquid Retina display from last year, while the 12.9-inch has the new Liquid Retina XDR display, which is better for showcasing high dynamic range (HDR) content and more vibrant colors.
The iPad Pro (2021) also features a bezel-less design, so it makes the most of the screen size you choose. It utilizes Face ID for biometrics, and it has the latest M1 chip from Apple. This means you get a total of eight cores — four for performance and four for energy efficiency. You also get 8GB of RAM with the 128/256/512GB models or 16GB of RAM with the 1TB or 2TB version. If you need to move large files in and out of the iPad's storage regularly, you'll also benefit from the Thunderbolt / USB 4 port that the iPad Pro has with up to 40Gbs throughput.
The rear cameras (Wide and Ultra Wide) are 12MP, so you can take the best photos of documents, presentations, and other school necessities. There is also a 12MP camera on the front, so you can chat with schoolmates and brainstorm for group projects and have Center Stage keep you in the frame the whole time.
With the advent of iPadOS 16 in fall of 2022, the gulf between the iPad Pro and the others on this list widens further. Perhaps the feature of iPadOS 16 that folks are most excited about, Stage Manager, only works on M1 iPads. Stage Manager organizes your apps and windows as tiny screenshots along the left side of your screen, allowing your iPad to work more like an Mac than ever before.
The only real negative about the iPad Pro is that it isn't cheap and may be out of range for most students. But if you can afford it, it's the best iPad to get in terms of power and features.
- Comes in 11 or 12.9-inch sizes
- Face ID
- Has Apple's M1 chip
- Compatible with second-generation Apple Pencil
- Can go up to 2TB for storage
- Thunderbolt port
- iPadOS 16 brings Stage Manager
- Only comes in two colors
Study better with the best iPad for students
Even though Apple is currently selling four different iPad models right now, the iPad Air 5 is the best iPad for students, at least most of them. That's because it packs in Pro-level features at a modest price that is within reach for plenty of students. Plus, it runs the latest iPadOS flawlessly.
The 10.9-inch screen allows for plenty of space, you can go up to 256GB of storage, and it even has a Smart Connector and supports the second-generation Apple Pencil. Apple's M1 chip provides crazy power for anything you need to do for school with fast USB-C speeds, support for 5G in the cellular models, and super Center Stage camera setup for FaceTime calls back home.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Christine Romero-Chan has been using iPads since they first came out a decade ago. She knows the ins and outs of iOS and the hardware and can give the best iPad recommendation for everyone. You can follow her musings on Twitter and check out her photography on Instagram.
Adam Oram, Senior Writer at iMore, is a media graduate and former Apple Genius. He has been writing about technology since 2013 with a focus on Apple hardware. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.
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