Best iPad for students 2023: leisure and learning in one tablet

iPad Pro 2021 and AirPods Max
(Image credit: iMore/ Daniel Bader)

As a student, there isn't a much better idea than investing in an iPad. Having one of Apple's tablets under your belt will make sure you've got a tool that has all the best bits of each part of the world of computing. As powerful these days as laptops, slimmer than pretty much anything else out there, and more convenient than a pen and paper, an iPad is the ultimate productivity tool for a student. Grab a keyboard cover, and you've got, in essence, a touchscreen MacBook.

There is an iPad for every student out there, although it can be tricky to choose one that fits your exact use case. You'll likely have a whole host of questions and needs that need filling, most of which will probably boil down to "What model do I need?", "how big should it be?", "do I need WiFi or cellular?" or "what even is a smart connector?". Worry not, there really is an iPad out there for you, and we'll help you find the one that fills all of your needs.

Our pick for number one is the most recent iPad model, the iPad (2022). It's got a lovely redesigned chassis to go with its bigger screen and improved chip. It looks like its bigger cousin, the iPad Air, but comes in at a much lower price. You'll still be able to connect it to keyboard covers with the smart connector at the bottom, and the camera on the front is a new landscape model. That should make all those video calls a little easier to take.

It's also well worth looking into the iPad 9th gen. It's starting to get a little long in the tooth now, but it's the perfect lower-cost iPad for students. You still get the iPad experience, with a big screen and connectable keyboards, but you pay a lot less to get it. It comes in at the lowest price you can find an iPad, which is great news for students on lower budgets. Want to know the rest of our picks? Let's take a look at the best iPads for students.

The best iPad for students

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Blue iPad (2022) laying screen side down with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)
Best Overall iPad for students

Specifications

Display: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina, 1640 x 2360
Processor: A14 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
RAM: 4GB
Rear Camera: 12MP Wide
Front Camera: 12MP Ultrawide
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
Weight: 461g

Reasons to buy

+
New 10.9-inch display
+
Redesign is gorgeous
+
A14 Bionic is till a solid chip

Reasons to avoid

-
Significant price increase over the iPad (2021)
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No Face ID
-
No support for Apple Pencil 2

This is the latest new iPad model, and our review makes it clear how much we love this colorful tablet. We also reckon that it's going to be the best iPad for students, with all the features you could ever need for a great price. For $150 less than the iPad Air, the only thing you’re really going to miss out on is the M1 chip and perhaps second-generation Apple pencil support. For $449, however, you’re going to get everything you need out of an iPad, wanting for nothing.

The screen is a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina piece with a healthy 2360x1640 resolution. It’ll make pretty much everything you do with it look great, and is fantastic for reading digital texts for school, taking notes during class, and, in the post-lockdown era, watching prerecorded lectures. It features true tone too, making everything look warm and rich, and there’s a nice oleophobic coating over the top to stop fingerprints from making the surface of the screen an oily mess.

On the inside, there’s now the A14 Bionic - which may not be the M1, but is plenty powerful enough for pretty much everything a student could be doing. There’s a new Magic keyboard accessory, and you can hook up an Apple Pencil first-generation to take those handwritten notes. It charges over USB-C now, which also means you can hook in dongles to get more ports and even plug in external drives. Helpfully, the front camera has been shifted to the side of the device to make those weekly facetime calls in landscape mode a lot easier. 

There have been some cost-cutting measures here - there’s no lamination to the screen, so it can sound a little hollow when you’re tapping around, and there’s only Touch ID instead of Face ID. No matter what, you’re getting an experience close to the iPad Air for a lot less money.

An iPad air with a magic keyboard

(Image credit: iMore/ Luke Filipowicz)
Best for students who want a little more

Specifications

Display: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina, 1640 x 2360
Processor: Apple M1
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
RAM: 8GB
Rear Camera: 12MP Wide
Front Camera: 12MP Ultrawide
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
Weight: 461g

Reasons to buy

+
10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display
+
12MP front-facing camera with Center Stage
+
Smart Connector with Magic Keyboard support

Reasons to avoid

-
No Face ID
-
Only 64GB or 256GB storage options

It’s undeniable that the iPad Air 5 is one of the best iPads of all time. It brought a new design to the line, with its bezel-less, edge-to-edge display and the M1 chip to a lower price point. It was also, for a while, the best iPad for students. Now, it has been dethroned by the new iPad 2022, but that doesn’t mean that it's still not a great option for students who might need a little extra from their tablet.

The 2360x1640 display is very similar to the display on the new iPad 10th-gen, with great color reproduction and stellar display angles. It is glossy, so it will suffer in direct sunlight, but it is still great for work, research, and relaxation. It also features P3 and True Tone, so everything will look vibrant and colorful, while the oleophobic coating negates finger smudges.

The biggest thing is going to be that M1 chip. It’s the same as you’ll find in the far more expensive (and now outdated) iPad Pro, and it’ll power everything more than you could ever need in a student tablet. That will mean that with the latest version of iPadOS, you’ll be able to make use of stage manager, making the iPad a little more laptop-like. You’ll also be able to use Apple Pencil 2, as well as the associated Magic Keyboard accessory that you can get separately. Opt for the 5G model, and you’ll be able to use the internet on the go - but you’ll also have to pay a fairly hefty premium.

The main differences between the Air and the new Pro are the lack of ProMotion on the display, no Face ID, and a less impressive rear camera setup. The new iPad Pros also feature M2, which is a fair bit more impressive compared to the M1 chip. These are by no means completely necessary for students, and you’ll still be getting more power than the standard iPad 2022, so it's great for students who need something a little beefier.

iPad Mini 6 with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Future/ Luke Filipowicz)
Best for students on the go

Specifications

Display: 8.3-inch Liquid Retina, 1488 x 2266
Processor: A15 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
RAM: 6GB
Rear Camera: 12MP Wide
Front Camera: 12MP Ultrawide
Dimensions: 195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3mm
Weight: 293g (WiFi), 297g (WiFi + Cellular)

Reasons to buy

+
Redesigned body with 8.3-inch display and USB-C
+
Still retains Touch ID on top button
+
A15 Bionic

Reasons to avoid

-
No Face ID
-
Smaller screen than the other iPads
-
More expensive than previous generation

If the rest of the iPad line is a little too big for you, then you should take a look at the iPad Mini 6. It looks an awful lot like a smaller iPad Air and shares a good few similarities and features with the new iPad 10th gen. If you need an iPad that will fit easily in any bag, then this is the one for you.

The iPad Mini features an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display with a body that looks like a smaller version of the iPad Air or, more recently, the iPad 10th generation. There’s no home button, instead relying on the touch screen for home screen navigation. This also means no Touch ID on the front - but worry not, for Apple has simply shifted it to the top edge on the power/lock button. There’s also a USB-C charging port on the bottom, so if you’ve got a MacBook or your phone charges through USB-C, then you’ll never have to worry about not having a cable. The data speeds offered by that port aren’t quite as speedy as those on the iPad Air, but they’ll be plenty speedy enough for most people.

The A15 Bionic in the iPad Mini 6 is a very powerful little chip, capable of some impressive performance. It's one thing to look at Apple’s claims of "40% faster than the last model" with "80% more graphics performance", but it's also important to think about what this means for students and their workloads. Whatever happens, the iPad Mini is going to smash through pretty much all but the heaviest workloads, dealing with paper writing, video watching, and even some light photo editing.

Those photos you’ll be editing could well be from the little 12MP rear camera, which is more than capable of taking some fantastic shots. The front camera is also 12MP and has a larger field of view for Center Stage, making those class meetings a little more visually appealing for everyone you’re talking to. There’s also support for Apple Pencil 2, so art students rejoice, and there are some really solid landscape speakers for when you fancy listening to some tunes or watching a spot of Severance.

The biggest issue with the iPad Mini 6 is the price - it now sits just between the iPad 10th-gen and the iPad Air, costing around $499 full price. It is frequently reduced, though, so make sure you check out the best iPad deals to find the best price for you.

Space Gray iPad (2021) with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)
Best iPad for students on a budget

Specifications

Display: 10.2-inch Retina, 1620 x 2160
Processor: A13 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
RAM: 3GB
Rear Camera: 8MP
Front Camera: 12MP Ultrawide
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
Weight: 487g (WiFi), 498g (WiFi + Cellular)

Reasons to buy

+
Most affordable iPad
+
10.2-inch display
+
12MP front-facing camera with Center Stage

Reasons to avoid

-
Uses older A13 chip
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No Face ID and still has bezels
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Only has 64GB or 256GB capacities

On a tighter budget? The 9th-generation iPad is still a solid tablet option for students. That 10.2-inch screen is still excellent for reading notes and textbooks, taking lecture notes, and sketching quick diagrams. There’s support for Apple Pencil 1, and you’ll find a smart connector on the back to connect it to accessories like Apple’s smart keyboard, helping you be a little more productive.

It may not have the newest hardware inside, but the A13 Bionic chip keeps things buzzing away nicely under the hood, and the two 64GB or 256GB storage options should be plenty for most. For those who aren’t a big fan of the new home screen-less iPads, then this is a great option too - it retains the touch ID home button of old, sat below the screen. The most svelte iPad this is not, however, with its large bezels around the screen. The 12MP camera on the front is Ultra Wide, with support for Center Stage, while the rear camera remains, alas, an 8MP shooter. 

Rear of an iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: iMore/ Luke Filipowicz)
Most powerful iPad for students

Specifications

Display: 11-inch Liquid Retina, 1668 x 2388
Processor: Apple M2
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
RAM: 8GB, 16GB
Rear Camera: 12MP Wide, 10MP Ultrawide, 3D LiDAR scanner
Front Camera: 12MP Ultrawide
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
Weight: 466g (WiFi), 470g (WiFi + Cellular)

Reasons to buy

+
Comes in 11 or 12.9-inch sizes
+
Face ID
+
Has Apple's M2 chip

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Only comes in two colors

If you have money to spare, then you can’t go wrong with the iPad Pro (2022). It’s available in two large sizes, in the form of an 11-inch version and the 12.9-inch option, so you can pick a size that's good for you. If you want lots and lots of power, then the 11-inch version is the option you want. If it's a full laptop replacement, then the much larger 12.9-inch is the one you wanna go with. Keep in mind that the iPad Pro 11-inch only has a Liquid Retina display, while the larger 12.9-inch variant has a Liquid Retina XDR display which will be better for HDR and is even more impressively colorful. Either way, you’re going to get a display with ProMotion, which ups the response to 120HZ, smoothening your experience even further.

The iPad Pro (2022) has also got a pretty cool feature up its sleeve - an M2 chip. That chip is super duper impressive in testing, and for students, it's mostly going to be overkill - unless you’re going to be doing loads and loads of video editing. There are loads of storage options, too, going all the way up to 2TB. For doing normal, everyday college or school work, this is a lot, but it's also going to last a long time, so you might not have to upgrade quite as much - spending more now may save you some money in the future.

The rear cameras remain the same as from the previous model, with wide and ultrawide options, so you can take photos of all your documents, presentations, and other school work. The camera on the front of the device features Center Stage, so you’ll always be in the picture when you’re chatting with coursemates or watching online lectures and remotely joining study groups.

The M2 chip will also let you play with one of the coolest new features of iPadOS 16 - Stage Manager. Stage manager only works on M-chip-equipped iPads, and organizes your apps and windows as tiny screenshots along the left side of the screen, becoming more like a Mac or laptop than ever.

You’re also going to want some of the best iPad Pro accessories to with it, such as the Apple Pencil 2, smart keyboard, or Magic keyboard. The biggest drawback of the iPad Pro (2022) is the price - the iPad Pro (2022) 11-inch starts at $799, and the iPad Pro (2022) 12.9-inch will cost you upwards of $1099 - that’s a lot to ask from any student.

Study better with the best iPad for students

Every single iPad has something for a student, but our pick is the iPad (2022). It’s got almost all of the best features of the line for a great price, such as the new screen and form factor, along with some great colors. It may not be the powerhouse of the iPad Pro or the iPad Air, but you’ll get everything you need.

The new design and edge-to-edge display give you tonnes of room for reading and taking notes, and the storage options give you plenty of room for all your work. Support for Apple Pencil lets you take handwritten notes, and the smart connector will let you hook up a keyboard case. The chip may not be cutting-edge, but it is plenty for almost everyone. 

The rest of the range has highlights for students too. Students looking to save some money will do well with the budget-friendly iPad 10.2 (9th gen), and space savers will find plenty to love with the iPad Mini 6. Those who want a little more power will find exactly what they want in the iPad Air, while students who need the most power will be very happy with the iPad Pro. There really is an iPad for everyone.

Tammy Rogers
Buying Guides and Deals Writer

As the Buying Guides and Deals writer for iMore, Tammy puts over a decade of experience in finding the best prices of Apple products to work, helping you save money on the equipment that you want. An audiophile at heart, she loves all things audio and visual, but you’ll also find her drooling over the latest Macs and MacBooks. With a Masters in screenwriting, Tammy likes to spend her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays or driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.