Which iPad should I buy? The new iPad, the iPad mini 4, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro or the 12.9-inch iPad Pro? Or should I wait for the iPad mini 5 or the iPad Pro 2? I'm not sure how powerful an iPad needs to be, how big a screen I need, or how much money I should spend. And how much storage should I get - will 32GB be enough?

Our iPad buying guide - updated for 2017 - will get into all of these questions, but before we do, some quick links. If you're just looking for where to buy a new iPad, you can go directly to the Apple Store:

View the new iPad on Apple Store
View iPad mini 4 on Apple Store
View iPad Pro 9.7 on Apple Store
View iPad Pro 12.9 on Apple Store

When it comes to buying an iPad there are a few different questions, but they all come down to one main consideration: what do you need from an iPad? We'll help you work out your requirements and whether you should get a mini-size 7.9-inch iPad (the iPad mini 4 - Apple has discontinued the mini 1 mini 2 and mini 3), a standard-size 9.7-inch iPad (the iPad or 9.7-inch iPad Pro), or the extra-large 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

We'll then talk about further options, such as storage capacity, cellular capabilities and colours. We'll even talk about whether you should be getting an iPad at all, as perhaps an Android or Windows tablet be a more cost-effective option. We'll also discuss second-hand and refurbished alternatives that will save you money.

Finally, for each category of iPad we consider whether an updated version of that device is likely to be unveiled in the near future, and whether the threat of obsolescence should influence your buying decision.

When you've decided which iPad you want to buy, take a look at our best iPad deals for detailed advice on the best places to buy, the best deals, second-hand and refurbished options and more.

The current iPad line-up

Apple currently sells four iPad models altogether, and each of those offers two to four colour options, one to three storage capacities, and the option to get Wi-Fi and cellular or just stick with Wi-Fi. That's a lot of configurations: clearly we've got work to do.

iPad Pro 12.9 prices

  • iPad Pro 12.9 (WiFi, 32GB): £729
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (WiFi, 128GB): £819
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (WiFi, 256GB): £909
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (3G, 128GB): £939
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (3G, 256GB): £1,029

iPad Pro 9.7 prices

  • iPad Pro 9.7 (WiFi, 32GB): £549
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (WiFi, 128GB): £639
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (WiFi, 256GB): £729
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (3G, 328GB): £669
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (3G, 128GB): £759
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (3G, 256GB): £849

iPad prices

  • iPad (WiFi, 32GB): £339
  • iPad (WiFi, 128GB): £429
  • iPad (3G, 328GB): £4469
  • iPad (3G, 128GB): £559

iPad mini 4 prices

  • iPad mini 4 (WiFi, 128GB): £419
  • iPad mini 4 (3G, 128GB): £549

Size

We can break the range down pretty quickly. First of all, you can divide it into three size categories. You've got one mini-size, 7.9-inch iPad, the iPad mini 4; two standard-size, 9.7-inch iPads, the iPad and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and there's the super-sized 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which is the biggest and costliest option.

Age

The mini 4 came out in September 2015 and should still be expected to run the latest apps and iOS updates.

The iPad is the rebranded version of what would have been the iPad Air 3, and replaces 2014's iPad Air 2. The iPad was announced in March 2017 and is the newest iPad on the market.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which came out in March 2016, is the newer of the iPad Pro models.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro came out in September 2015 along with the mini 4. It's an exceptionally powerful device and the most expensive iPad of all, thanks mainly to its giant screen, but is actually less advanced than the 9.7-inch Pro in a few respects.

Budget and requirements

Your choice of the individual models will depend on how much money you're willing to spend, how portable and powerful you need your iPad to be, how long you need to be able to use your iPad (and for it to support the latest software), and in what areas (if any) you are willing to compromise.

Let's get started. First of all we'll decide if you should buy a standard-size, a mini or an extra-large iPad, and then we'll narrow down your choice from there.

Which size should you get?

The first decision will cut our options drastically. Do you want a mini, 7.9-inch iPad (the mini 4), a standard-size, 9.7-inch iPad (the iPad or 9.7-inch Pro), or a big-screen, 12.9-inch iPad Pro?

Screen size

The most obvious aspect of this decision comes down to screen size. The iPad mini 4 comes with a 7.9-inch screen (measured diagonally); the mid-size iPad and 9.7-inch iPad Pro both have - fairly obviously in the latter's case - 9.7-inch screens; and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is also pretty self-explanatory, packing a stunning and spacious 12.9-inch screen.

But how big a screen do you really need?

You can get an idea of the comparative sizes in the picture above (which goes, left to right, 12.9-inch Pro, 9.7-inch Pro, iPad, mini 4). But you can also think of the tablets in terms of print publications: the mini models are roughly the size of a paperback; the 9.7-inch iPads are closer (in length and width, even though they are very much thinner) to a hardback or Private Eye-style mini-magazine; and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is more like a standard magazine: PC Advisor, for example.

The larger screen is obviously better for immersive entertainment. Whether watching films or playing games, it's a more enjoyable, richer experience. The iPad mini has only about two-thirds of the screen area of the 9.7-inch iPads; the 12.9-inch Pro has in turn about 78 percent more screen space than the mid-size models.

If you're worried that an iPad mini will feel cramped, we'd point out that the mini screen feels much closer to the mid-size iPads than you might think. And we're getting increasingly used to watching films and TV shows on phone screens. Don't discount the mini as an entertainment device - it'll do you proud.

This is simply a question of priorities. Are you more set on getting maximum screen space, or are you willing to compromise on that front in order to get a lower price tag and improved portability?

Your choice of iPad depends to a huge extent on personal feeling, and it's worth trying to get your hands on the various models, whether in an Apple Store or at a friend's house, to get an idea of what you're looking for.

If it's impossible to do this, try the trick we've used occasionally in videos when trying to give viewers an idea of the dimensions of an unreleased product: check the height, width and so on (they're listed below) and use them to knock up a cardboard cutout to play around with.

Portability

One of the payoffs for settling for a smaller screen comes in the form of portability. For one thing, the iPad mini 4 is a lot lighter - there's a big weight gap between the lightest mid-size iPad and the mini model: 437g to 299g, looking at Wi-Fi-only models.

All variations of cellular capable iPads weigh a tiny bit more than their Wi-Fi-only counterparts thanks to extra components, but it is a barely noticeable difference of around 10g.

The mini 4 is more portable, then, as you'd expect. As well as its markedly lower weight it also has a smaller body, which slips easily into a rucksack or jacket pocket (or even a trouser pocket, although it does stretch the material rather ridiculously). If you plan to mainly use your iPad out and about, on holiday or commuting, the iPad mini is your best bet.

The iPad and 9.7-inch Pro (they're physically virtually identical) are pleasingly portable, but they still can't match the mini for portability.

The 12.9-inch Pro, as you'd expect, is considerably less portable than its smaller cousins, but we think Apple has done well to keep it down to 713g. It's actually 0.6mm thinner than the newest iPad, the one that replaced the iPad Air 2. It certainly won't go in a pocket (unless you're a clown), but the 12.9-inch Pro remains a slender, relatively lightweight and portable alternative to a laptop.

Speed

The newer the iPad you're looking at, the faster it's likely to be in terms of both general processing and graphics. But you'll also find that the larger iPads tend to be faster than their smaller equivalents.

Here are some benchmarking scores, to give you some idea of the comparative speeds:

If you want to use highly demanding apps such as video and image editors, or if you're into graphically advanced games, you should be edging towards the larger models.

If you're going to be using your iPad for the odd bit of email and web surfing, you should be leaning towards the minis (and the mini 2 at that), because the power of the 12.9-inch Pro, for example, will be wasted on such gentle workloads.

Battery life

iPad buying guide: Battery life

While we're talking benchmarks, let's reiterate the probably well-known fact that bigger iPads have bigger batteries, and last longer away from a power supply.

For all four currently available iPads, however, Apple makes precisely the same claim concerning battery life: that they will last "up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video or listening to music" or "up to 9 hours of surfing the web using a mobile data network."

Despite the fact that Apple doesn't release this information officially, we know that the iPads have different battery capacities:

  • iPad mini 4: 5,124 mAh
  • iPad 2017: 8,827 mAh
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro: 7,306 mAh
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro: 10,307 mAh

Different models have different generations of battery technology, and different demands are placed on their power consumption, resulting in drastically different battery life performance in our experience. Here are the results of our battery tests:

Price

Traditionally, the biggest mark in favour of buying from the iPad mini range is the price. However, since the new iPad was announced that is no longer the case. The only model of iPad mini available is the iPad mini 4, and it's only sold by Apple in 128GB versions. The Wi-Fi only model costs £419, while the cellular version will set you back £549 - the same price as the cheapest 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

The new iPad starts from £339, £80 cheaper than the Wi-Fi only mini 4.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at £729 for the 32GB (Wi-Fi only) model, and moves up to a dizzying £909 and £1,029 for the Wi-Fi and cellular versions of the 256GB model. We're getting into MacBook Air price territory, then (for comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Air starts at £949) and clearly not for casual or budget buyers.

As we mentioned in the portability section, the larger iPad Pro is more something to consider as an alternative to a laptop. For these reasons it calls for more pre-purchase research, trying a sample out in an Apple Store and so on.

Hopefully by now it's become clear whether a mini, mid-size or large iPad is right for you, which means you can proceed...

What next? iPad mini buying guide9.7-inch (iPad/Pro) iPad buying guide | 12.9-inch iPad Pro buying guideReturn to top of article

Which iPad mini should you buy?

Okay, so you've settled on either an iPad mini, a mid-sized iPad or Pro, or the big-screen 12.9-inch iPad Pro. We'll look at the iPad mini first to narrow things down further. (If you'd prefer one of the larger models instead, skip ahead to the mid-size iPad section or the iPad Pro section.)

If you've settled on an iPad mini, then Apple has made things easy for you: there's only the iPad mini 4, and it's only available in two different models, and three colours: silver, grey, and gold. 

Either way, you'll get an A8 processor chip with an M8 motion co-processor, 2GB of Ram, 128GB of storage, a Retina screen, and an 8MP rear camera. 

Beyond colour, the only thing to decide is whether you want to grab the Wi-Fi only model (£419) or the 3G version (£549). The £130 price difference might seem steep, but if you expect to travel with your mini 4 (surely one of the main benefits of the smaller model) then 3G support might be worth the extra cost. 

Best iPad buying guide 2016: iPad mini with Retina display

Future releases

It's always annoying to buy a product only for the manufacturer to announce its successor a few weeks later. Which makes the release date of the iPad mini 5 an object of some interest to prospective iPad mini buyers. Sadly, only Tim Cook and a few of his closest advisors know for sure when the iPad mini 5 (or iPad Pro 7.9-inch, perhaps) will be announced, although we can make some informed predictions.

The iPad mini 4 came out in September 2015, and Apple has tended to update that line on a yearly basis; but Apple's September and October 2016 press events came and went with no word about the next iPad mini. Then again, if the 18-month gap between the launches of the iPad Air 2 and 9.7-inch iPad Pro has anything to teach us, it's possible that Apple will update its tablets less frequently from now on. 

With no iPad mini announced in March 2017 alongside the 9.7-inch iPad, there will be a longer wait to see if the line is updated.

For the time being, then, don't worry about the iPad mini 5 coming out and making your brand-new device obsolete. If you need an iPad mini now, go for it.

Take a look at our round-up of the iPad mini 5 (or iPad Pro 7.9in) release date rumours to find out more.

What next? Pros and cons of each iPad model | Conclusion: which iPad is right for you? | Storage capacity options | Colour options | 3G/cellular | Return to top of article

Which mid-size iPad should you buy?

Okay, you've settled on a mid-size iPad or 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Which is the better choice for you?

If you've got lost and would prefer a smaller or larger tablet, jump back to the iPad mini section or ahead to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro section. Alternatively, jump to the top of the page.

What are the differences between the iPad and the iPad Pro 9.7in?

First, let's sum up the main differences between the iPad and 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Take a deep breath, because there are lots.

Best iPad buying guide 2016: iPad Pro 9.7 and iPad Air 2

Physically there's almost nothing in it: the Pro 9.7 is 1.4 mm thinner and 41g lighter than the iPad, although the Pro 9.7 loses some marks for its camera lens sticking out annoyingly at the back. But that speaks to a more significant difference, which is that the Pro has a far better camera setup.

Apple has added a flash to the rear-facing camera (the Pro 9.7 remains the only iPad ever made to feature a flash), while the front one gets the Retina flash feature, which lights up the screen as a reasonable-quality improvised flash substitute. The Pro's cameras themselves are rated at 12Mp and 5Mp respectively, compared with the new iPad's 8Mp and 1.2Mp.

(On megapixel rating alone, the Pro 9.7's front camera is as good as the rear camera on the iPad mini 2. Phwoar.)

The Pro 9.7 also gets, unlike the iPad, the Live Photos feature, where short snatches of video are captured before and after still photos so they can be animated, that we've previously seen on iPhones only; 4K video recording (up from 1080p); a sort of 'super slow-mo' option (240fps, up from 120fps) as well as the option to shoot 120fps slow-mo at 1080p, up from 720p; a True Tone flash; larger panoramas (63Mp, up from 43Mp); auto HDR; and a focusing feature that Apple calls Focus Pixels.

The Pro 9.7 has a processor that's one half-generation more advanced than the iPad: the A9X to its A9. And this resulted in clear speed advantages in our lab tests, even though you won't see much real real-world difference until app developers release software that's designed to harness the latest Apple hardware.

The Pro 9.7, like the larger Pro model, is compatible with the Apple Pencil, and it has a discreet connector on its lefthand edge that allows you to attach and power the Smart Keyboard or a third-party equivalent. These two options, while they can be expensive (the Apple Pencil and 9.7-inch Smart Keyboard cost an extra £99 and £149 respectively) make the Pro 9.7 a far more appealing option for business and creative users.

And, while for many buyers this won't be a huge priority, audio is a huge difference. The Pro 9.7 has four speakers, compared to the iPad's two, and can fill a small room with warm, immersive sound that makes watching films or listening to music a pleasure.

The iPad's audio output is thin in comparison - we would always previously have recommended buying separate wireless speakers if you want to use your iPad as a sound-based device, but the Pro 9.7's enhancements make this largely unnecessary.

And the iPad Pro 9.7 is available in pink, as well as the three colours (silver, gold, Space Grey) that the iPad comes in.

But what do these differences mean in terms of your day-to-day experience?

Display

The screens of the iPad and Pro 9.7 are the same in most respects. They are both Retina displays (to understand what that means, see our guide to Retina displays) and both have a resolution of 2048x1536 and pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. In sharpness they should be identical.

There's one enhancement to the iPad Pro 9.7's screen: a new (optionally enabled) feature called True Tone. This is designed to adjust the screen's colour output to account for environmental light conditions. 

True Tone is very subtle in effect, but sitting at a desk under electric light in late afternoon with the iPad Pro 9.7 and the iPad side by side, it is fairly clear that True Tone is gently warming things up and increasing the amount of yellow in the screen - a kind of watered-down version of Night Shift.

The nice thing is that you don't need to worry about this feature, you just get slightly better and more context-appropriate screen performance.

Processor power

With its A9X processor chip, the iPad Pro 9.7 is quicker at general processing and handling graphical tasks than the iPad (which has an A9 chip). Let's look again at those benchmark scores, focusing this time on the mid-size models - including the now obsolete Air and Air 2

As expected, whether in single-core or multi-core, the iPad Pro 9.7in has a clear performance edge over the 2017 iPad, even though it's a more recent model.

Now a graphics benchmark:

Once again, the Pro is comfortably ahead in every test. The two models are closest in the T-Rex test - though that's because it's the simplest and least demanding of the three, giving the new iPad a chance to close the graphics gap.

The JetStream browser test also shows a noticeable performance gap between the two models, reflecting likely real-world performance games when it comes to loading and browsing web pages.

Cameras

The Pro 9.7 has a much better photographic setup than the new iPad, and indeed than any other iPad, with superior specs on the front and back cameras and a range of additional features. 

The Pro 9.7's back and front cameras are rated at 12Mp and 5Mp respectively, compared with the new iPad's 8Mp and 1.2Mp, and the Pro gets a flash (on the back camera) and the Retina flash feature (on the front).

The Pro 9.7 also gets Live Photos, 4K video recording (up from 1080p); slow-mo at 240fps (up from 120fps) and the option to shoot 120fps slow-mo at 1080p (up from 720p); and 63Mp panoramas (up from 43Mp).

In some of our test shots - the ones in the most favourable conditions - there wasn't a noticeable difference between the two iPads' camera performance. But when the conditions became slightly more overcast, the Pro began to demonstrate clearer, sharper detail and better contrast.

The front-facing camera is also much sharper on the Pro model. And having a flash, or a feature that approximates a flash, is a huge convenience.

Of course, we always feel like undercutting any praise of an iPad camera by speculating on exactly how many people really rely on an iPad for camera work (isn't it rather inconvenient, size-wise?). But if you do - well, then the iPad Pro 9.7 is right up your street.

Weight and dimensions

Physically the iPad and Pro 9.7 are virtually identical. They weigh nearly the same (iPad 41g more), and their dimensions are nearly the same (iPad 1.4mm thicker). Both devices are magnificently slender and convenient to tote around. They can be easily held in one hand, although you'll need two to use the screen.

One negative point: the Pro 9.7's high-powered camera lens sticks out a bit at the back. (This isn't an issue with the iPad.) If you lay the Pro flat on its back, particularly on a hard surface, then one corner is raised up awkwardly, and the camera lens scratches against the desk if you push it around. If you equip your iPad Pro with a case or cover, however, this will be far less of a problem.

Best iPad buying guide 2016: iPad Pro 9.7

Accessories

In a move that will be highly significant to some potential buyers (particularly creative and business users respectively) but trivial to others, Apple has made the iPad Pro 9.7in compatible with the Apple Pencil stylus and Smart Keyboard (in a smaller size).

The former is an unalloyed joy: the Apple Pencil, while extremely expensive as styluses go, is about the best stylus any iPad owner could want. It's nicely balanced, lag-free and nice to look at. It only works with iPad Pros.

The Smart Keyboard, on the other hand, is less of a home run. In the 9.7in size it's quite hard to type on accurately, and we distinctly prefer the experience with the 12.9in model. Still, it's better than the onscreen keyboard - and indeed than other iPad keyboards we've tried in this size - and therefore a solid option to have.

iOS 10 (and beyond)

Finally, both iPad and Pro 9.7 come with iOS 10 preinstalled if you buy them now, and both receive a full complement of its features - with a couple of exceptions.

You should expect a similar period of full iOS update support if you buy either a new iPad or an iPad Pro 9.7.

Price

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a lot more expensive than its older sibling, although its higher range of storage allocation options exaggerates this difference somewhat. It costs:

Wi-Fi: £549 (32GB), £639 (128GB) and £729 (256GB). Cellular/3G: £669 (32GB), £759 (128GB) and £849 (256GB).

The iPad costs:

Wi-Fi: £339 (32GB), £429 (128GB). Cellular/3G: £469 (32GB), £559 (128GB).

Future releases

One last thing to bear in mind before we reach a conclusion: when will the next mid-size iPad come out?

Well, the new iPad was announced in March 2017, one year after the iPad Pro 9.7-inch in March 2016. Therefore an immediate educated guess is that a new, updates 9.7-inch iPad Pro is due ion March 2018. But it's never usually that simple. 

Apple also dropped the Air moniker for the new iPad, which is essentially the iPad Air 3 in all but name. 

Either way, don't expect any more mid-size iPad launches until 2018.

Conclusion

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a lot more expensive than the iPad, yet there are so many significant improvements that we reckon it's worth it. As usual, however, this depends on personal needs.

If you're into iPad photography, the greatly superior camera specs and range of photographic features makes the Pro 9.7 a better choice. Detail is better in overcast conditions, and the rear-facing flash lets you shoot in low light; there's 4K video; selfies are far sharper, and can be lit using the Retina flash feature; you can create animated wallpapers with Live Photos.

If you're a designer or other creative type, having access to the excellent (if costly) Apple Pencil stylus will be a major plus, and the 9.7-inch Smart Keyboard, while harder to type on quickly and accurately than its 12.9-inch sibling, is a nice option for business users. (We suspect that Logitech will release a more usable keyboard for the Pro 9.7 in the near future, so it might be worth hanging fire for the time being.)

And the processor is a tad quicker, which doesn't mean much right now but will allow you to run processor-intensive apps and graphically demanding games for years to come. Then again, the iPad has the A9 chip, an upgrade on the Air 2's 8X, so the difference between the iPad and Pro 9.7-inch will only be obvious to the most intensive users.

Those who have light use in mind (email, browsing the web, simple games etc) should be absolutely fine with an iPad, and would do well to save the extra cash. The A9 processor is no slouch, either. 

We'll run through the pros and cons of each model, and discuss final decisions (such as storage allocation, 3G and colour choice) in the section called Decision Time. Here are some other sections you might want to read next:

What next? Pros and cons of each iPad model | Conclusion: which iPad is right for you? | Storage capacity options | Colour options | 3G/cellular | Return to top of article

Which 12.9-inch iPad Pro should you buy?

This one won't take long, because the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is still on its first generation - we don't have to worry about choosing between new and old models. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is available in five versions:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi-Fi-only, 32GB): £729
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi-Fi-only, 128GB): £819
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi-Fi, 256GB): £909
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (cellular, 128GB): £939
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (cellular, 256GB): £1,029

iPad buying guide: iPad Pro

The iPad Pro offers the biggest screen ever on an Apple tablet (12.9 inches), a super-fast processor (the A9X), a solid 8Mp rear-facing camera (if you can imagine using a device as big as that for photography), and a user experience that looks more than capable of replacing a laptop.

But on the down side, it's far less portable than even the mid-size iPads (even though it remains admirably slim, the sheer screen area makes it a handful) and ruinously expensive.

As has become an annoying tradition with iOS devices lately, the storage options for the iPad Pro have a big hole in the middle. There's no 64GB option: it's either go budget, with 32GB (probably a little on the low side for a work, creative, or gaming device); or go big with either 128GB, which we can confirm can be filled up but only if you spend a year reviewing games and make a real effort not to delete anything; or the new and frankly alarming 256GB, which is for serious film editors and creative design users only.

This is a personal decision, of course, but we can offer a little guidance. The things that tend to take up all the space are (in order of size, starting with the biggest): movies; TV shows; games; music; photos and other images; documents.

If you plan to use your tablet for lots of things near the start of that list, 32GB may not be enough. Keen gamers, those who like to watch films on the go or keep large music libraries, will find themselves juggling space. Mobile workers may be fine, especially if they store documents in the cloud. (Other cloud-based strategies, such as iTunes Match, can help you cope with a smaller storage allocation.)

But bear in mind that plenty of people coped with just 16GB on their entry-level iPhones, iPad minis, and iPad Airs before Apple cut the 16GB option, and it can be done. 32GB is more of a mid-level storage option than a bargain-basement bare minimum.

We look at the question of storage in slightly more detail in a later section of this article: How much storage does my iPad need?

What next? Pros and cons of each iPad model | Conclusion: which iPad is right for you? | Storage capacity options | Colour options | 3G/cellular | Return to top of article

Decision time!

Phew! Are we close to a decision? Here are the pros and cons of each iPad model, and the people for whom it would be the ideal choice:

Best iPad buying guide 2016: iPad mini 4

iPad mini 4: Pros, cons, and who is it for?

Pros: Very portable. Decently powerful. 8Mp rear-facing camera, and some new camera/video modes. Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Barometer. Anti-reflective screen finish. Gold colour option.

Cons: Small-screen reservations. Extra £80 on top of the new iPad (but still a good deal).

Ideal for: The portability-conscious with a higher budget. Gamers on the go. Tablet photographers. Ebook enthusiasts.

Read more: iPad mini 4 review

View iPad mini 4 on Apple Store

iPad: Pros, cons, and who is it for?

Pros: Beautifully thin and light. Strong camera makes it a legitimate photographic option (although it is surpassed by the camera on the Pro 9.7). Natty gold colour option. Powerful enough to handle pretty much anything on the App Store.

Cons: Powerful enough to handle pretty much anything on the App Store right now. The more time developers spend working with the A9X, the more apps and games you'll see that are pitched at a higher level than the iPad's A9 - but this is really nitpicking. Can't use Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard. No natty pink colour option.

Ideal for: Anyone who needs a big screen (not a huge screen - they'll want the 12.9-inch iPad Pro) but is on a budget, and can cope without the very latest in processing muscle and camera megapixellage. Still a great all-rounder, but slightly less future-proofed than the Pro 9.7.

Read more: New iPad 2017 review and Inside the new iPad 2017 - component teardown

View iPad on the Apple Store

9.7-inch iPad Pro: Pros, cons, and who is it for?

Pros: More powerful than the iPad - only the 12.9in iPad Pro is a more powerful iOS device, thanks to its extra RAM. The best camera setup on any iPad, including rear flash, Retina flash feature for the front camera, numerous other photographic features and the best megapixel ratings. Gets a pink colour option (which we actually like!). Can use Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard.

Cons: Expensive. Overkill for many situations - current apps will run happily on the iPad Air 2's A8X processor. Camera lens sticks out at back. Smart Keyboard is hard to type on quickly and accurately at this size.

Ideal for: Gamers and iPad photographers, and anyone who wants to be able to run the most demanding apps now and in the future. Power users. Those who are boastful and/or rich - if they're not distracted by the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Business users (if the range of apps meets their approval). Creative design types.

Read more: iPad Pro 9.7in review

View 9.7-inch iPad Pro on the Apple Store

Best iPad buying guide 2016: iPad Pro 9.7

12.9-inch iPad Pro: Pros, cons and who is it for?

Pros: Huge screen (12.9 inches). Extremely fast processor. Four speakers. Can use Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard.

Cons: Least portable iPad yet (although it is admirably slim). Punishingly expensive. Processor speed could be overkill for many prospective buyers.

Ideal for: Creative types, most of all, but anyone who needs a big screen will be interested. Gamers will be intrigued by that insanely fast chip. Those who enjoy consuming media on the go will like the combination of a sumptuous screen and a quad-speaker audio system.

Read more: iPad Pro review

View 12.9-inch iPad Pro on Apple Store

Best iPad buying guide 2016: 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Final conclusion

The iPad mini 4 is the tablet to go for if you're looking for a super-portable tablet and are willing to compromise on screen size and processing power - but it now costs £80 more than the iPad. 

The iPad Pro 9.7in is a strong choice if you need a 9.7-inch screen - it is still more powerful than the newer iPad of the same size. Now that the iPad is £339 at its cheapest compared to the 9.7-inch Pro's £549, you really need to weigh up if you need the Apple Pencil support, True Tone display and better speakers.

The extra money is overall just about worth it in our opinion. But you'd be fine with the iPad if you're willing to make some sacrifices on the cameras and processing speed, and don't need the Apple Pencil. And the Pro 9.7 is an expensive choice.

And what of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro? This behemoth will serve you well as a laptop replacement, and seems targeted at three distinct groups: business users, gamers and (most of all) creatives. It's going to cost you, but if you want that big, big screen, that super-fast processor, and those tasty new accessories, it should be worth it.

Should you buy your iPad on contract?

We'd generally say not - it'll be cheaper up front but you'll end up paying more in the long run. But it all depends on your budget and the most convenient way to pay for your device. (Businesses often prefer to pay for employees' tablets on contract.) And if you find a good deal, that may be enough to swing the decision.

Remember that you won't be able to switch to a different data provider until you've finished paying off the contract, as the iPad is likely to be locked to the original contract provider. Here's how to unlock an iPad from its network, once you've fulfilled your contractual obligations.

We discuss the best iPad contract deals in a separate article: Best iPad deals.

What storage capacity should my iPad have?

The four iPads offer anywhere from 32GB to 256GB. How much storage capacity will you need?

Well, first of all remember that you can't upgrade the storage capacity of an iPad at a later date: this is your storage limit from now until you buy another iPad, so aim high and buy as much storage as you can afford.

Apple is probably a little cheeky in how much more it charges at each storage point (this stuff is relatively cheap for a manufacturer to upgrade), but it's better to spend an extra few pounds now than to buy an entire new iPad in six months' time. Also bear in mind that the true storage capacity of an iOS device is less than the advertised capacity, partly because of the space taken up by pre-installed software.

Storage capacity is in our experience mainly used up by three things: music, photos, and videos, in increasing order of storage drain. If you want to keep lots of films - or even a few, to be honest - then you need high storage: probably 64GB or higher for video fans.

Same applies to large photo or music libraries, to a lesser extent, although Photo Streams and iTunes Match respectively make it practical (if perhaps not preferable) to keep your stuff in the cloud and access it remotely. Luckily 32GB is the base storage capacity now, so you'll be OK if you want to keep any sort of media library on your iPad.

The other thing that will fill up your storage is apps, but the amount of space they take up varies enormously. Those heavy-duty games we talked about earlier will use up a lot of space, and gamers should aim high on storage - 64GB is a good bar to aim at, with 32GB the new low end.

Colour options

We're not sure we can help too much on this one. But the basic gist is this: if you're getting the iPad mini 4, new iPad, or iPad Pro 12.9, you can buy it in grey, silver, or gold. And if you're getting the iPad Pro 9.7in, you get all three of those options and pink (or rather Rose Gold) too.

We really like the iPad in gold, as we mentioned earlier - it's quite bronze-like in its warmth - and the pink, while a bit of an opinion divider, is nowhere near as bold as that sounds. But grey or silver are the more conservative options.

Here's what they look like:

Best iPad buying guide 2016: Pink and gold

iPad buying guide: Colour options

The 3G/4G/Cellular option

Finally, do you need 3G/4G/cellular connectivity?

It's a luxury, even if it's a nice one to have. For an extra £100 or so, you'll be able to access the web and email, and use connected apps, away from a Wi-Fi network. (You also need to factor in the cost of a data plan.)

Consider carefully how often you're going to do that - with an iPad mini there's likely to be more on-the-go use than with a full-size iPad, but it's still a lot to pay for something you may only use from time to time. Have you got a regular (overground) commute where you'd enjoy catching up on news headlines or email? Then it could be worth the extra.

Just bear in mind, as a commenter called Chromejob points out below, that the cellular option also brings with it a GPS radio - meaning that you'll be able to pull in accurate location data when using your device on the go.

So that's it - hopefully we've walked you through the iPad buying decision without too many tears. We wish you many happy hours of iPad use.

Bonus 1: The refurbished option

We'll mention this only briefly because it's covered elsewhere, but one option you should absolutely consider is Apple's Refurbished store. It's a sort of halfway house between new and second-hand: the devices are pre-owned, but Apple has checked them thoroughly, replaced any worn-out components, and rated them as good as new (and you get a warranty to prove it).

If this sounds appealing, have a look at our in-depth article: Should you buy a refurbished iPad: The differences, pros and cons of refurbished and brand-new iPads

Bonus 2: The laptop option

The launch of the ultra-slim 12-inch MacBook has presented Apple customers with a new dilemma: for certain types of buyer, and certain uses, this thin-and-light laptop is a legitimate alternative to a tablet.

If you're going to pick a laptop instead of a tablet, the 12-inch MacBook is one of the better options out there. On the plus side, you gain an integrated hardware keyboard (very handy if you're likely to use your device for long-form typing) and the ability to run full desktop software thanks to the MacBook's use of macOS. On the down side, it's considerably more expensive than the iPad Pro 7.9, for example, and twice as heavy.

For a direct comparison look at our iPad Pro vs MacBook Air comparison review. For more general discussion of the Mac range, including Apple's various laptops, take a look at our Mac buyers' guide.

Bonus 3: The Android option

We're calling this section the Android option, but there are also Windows tablets to consider. In short, should you be looking at non-Apple tablets as well as iPads?

Yes, you should. On balance we prefer iPads to pretty much any company's rival tablets, but Android tablets (and even Windows tablets) have plenty to offer and are a better options for some buyers.

Android tablets are designed and manufactured by a variety of companies, but they are united by the fact that they all run a version of Google's Android operating system. There is therefore a lot of variety between these tablets, in terms of their design, features and price tags.

Android tablets tend to be (but are not always) cheaper than iPads of comparable power, so you could view them as better value for money - although they also tend to be less attractively designed, and your software options are less appealing.

There's plenty of debate over the relative merits of Android itself and the iPad's iOS operating system - we think iOS is easier to use - but it's hard to argue with the statement that the apps available for iOS are on average better than those for Android.

Apple curates its App Store more strictly than Google polices the Google Play store, so there's more junk on Google's platform. And because iOS users have proved more inclined to spend money on apps than their Android counterparts, app developers frequently release their wares on iOS first.

iOS is also more secure, but not by a huge margin any more - see iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?

For those who are comfortable with Android's (arguably!) more difficult and rough-edged operation - and we're not talking rocket science, just a bit more potential for customisation and slightly greater scope for installing something dodgy if you're not paying attention - then an Android tablet could well be a better budget option.

For one thing, if you want something basic for extremely light use, going outside of Apple's product line-up brings in some super-budget options (such as Amazon's Fire tablet) that may fit what you're looking for.

We discuss some of these options (including our opinion on the debate, but looking at both sides) in a separate article: Why iOS beats Google Android.

If you do decide to plunge into the Android ecosystem, our colleagues at PC Advisor are well equipped to walk you through the buying process. Take a look at their list of the best Android tablets.

Black Friday sales

For the first time in the UK since 2013, Apple participated in 2016's Black Friday event. For those that don't know (where have you been?), Black Friday is an event that originated in the US and takes place the day after Thanksgiving and entails retailers giving ridiculous discounts on a range of products.

What's not so good is the crowds (and arguments) that come along with it - but never fear, many Black Friday sales take place online, allowing you to shop from the comfort of your own home.

Ahead of next year's Black Friday discounts, you can take a look at our Black Friday deals hub where we'll be covering the best Black Friday iPhone deals, iPad deals, MacBook deals and more.

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