With over 900,000 games available on the App Store and more exclusives coming via Apple Arcade (which currently offers just over 100 games to subscribers), it makes sense that gamers are looking to the iPad to provide the high-end, portable gaming experience they want. The issue is that the iPad range isn’t as simple as it used to be, with five models currently on-sale, each with a different design, price point and internals, making the decision of which to buy a little more difficult.
That’s where we at Macworld UK come in; we’ve spent many hours playing games on iPads of all shapes and sizes, and here’s our definitive list of the best iPads for gaming, along with buying advice on what to consider when on the market for a gaming-focused iPad.
What to consider when buying an iPad for gaming
Your decision on which iPad to buy comes down, in part, to the display size you’re after. If you want something portable to carry around with you, that limits you to the smaller 7.9in display of the iPad mini.
The 10.5in iPad Air is actually lighter than the 10.2in iPad if you were considering either of those models for portability (the measurements are otherwise practically identical).
If you want a display that can really show off the intricate details of the variety of games available on Apple’s App Store, a larger display – like those of the 10.5in iPad Air and 11/12.9in iPad Pro range – may be more suited to your needs.
As well as size, you have to consider the type of display – Retina displays are fairly standard across Apple’s iPad range, while Liquid Retina displays are exclusive to the high-end iPad Pro range. The Liquid Retina displays provide a more premium visual experience with increased resolution and Apple’s ProMotion technology, offering a more refined gaming experience.
Chipset is another important aspect to consider when buying an iPad for gaming, as you’ll want to make sure that it can handle the magnitude of games available right now, but ideally, you want to make sure it’s powerful enough to last for a few years.
Right now, you’ve got the choice between the three-year-old A10 Fusion, A12 Bionic and A12X Bionic. All three should be able to provide a great gaming experience right now, but the A10 Fusion may struggle to keep up as games become more graphically demanding. The Bionic – whether A12 or A12X – provides more futureproofing and may be worth spending the extra bit of money on.
You might think battery life is another important element to consider when on the market for a gaming-focused iPad – the last thing you want is for the tablet to die mid-way through a game of PUBG Mobile right? While battery life usually plays a big part in buying decisions, Apple claims that all iPads – no matter whether cheap or high-end – offer around 10 hours of use per charge. That’s one less thing to worry about!
Apple Refurbished Store
It’s also worth noting that while you might be able to find a great deal on an iPad that’s no longer officially available from Apple. These deals are usually found in Apple’s Refurbished Store, and can offer great savings if you don’t mind not having the latest-gen device.
It also makes large storage options more budget-friendly. Take the 128GB iPad (2018) for example – it’s only £349 on the Refurb Store at the time of writing.
We regularly keep an eye on all the best iPad deals. Take a look at our guide to the best iPad Deals right now.
Best iPad for gaming 2020
1. iPad Air (2019)
The iPad Air (2019) is our top pick for gaming-focused consumers, offering a great blend of design, power and value for money. It features Apple’s A12 Bionic chipset – the same as in the iPhone XS – and is more than capable enough of providing a high-end gaming experience.
You’ve also got the benefit of the lightweight design that the Air brand offers, and a gorgeous 10.5in display that, while not bezel-less, is perfect for showing off the high-quality games available on the App Store.
The £479/$499 starting price means it’s a little more budget-friendly than Apple’s iPad Pro range too.
Read our full Apple iPad Air (2019) review
2. iPad Mini (2019)
While the small form factor of the iPad mini may not be for everyone, if you’re looking for a portable gaming powerhouse, the iPad mini (2019) is our recommendation. The 7.9in display and lightweight design make it easy to transport, and the A12 Bionic chipset provides all the gaming power you’ll need to enjoy the ever-more-complex iPad games appearing on the App Store.
It’s also budget-friendly at £399/$399, and that’s something we can all appreciate.
Read our full Apple iPad mini (2019) review
3. iPad Pro 11in (2018)
The iPad Pro 11in (2018) is a powerhouse that, of course, provides a truly premium gaming experience. It sports a gorgeous high-res 11in display that makes games look incredible, the A12X Bionic chipset can handle anything you throw at it, and quad-speakers provide an immersive audio experience without the need for headphones.
There’s even Face ID, and while that doesn’t enhance the gaming experience per-say, it does make the iPad experience more convenient in general.
The reason it isn’t in the top spot of our chart is simply due to the high price, starting at £769/$799. That being said, if you’re planning on using the iPad for work, school, graphic design or anything else as well as gaming, you may be able to justify the premium price tag.
We'd also suggest that you wait until March or April 2020 before buying as we expect Apple to update the iPad Pro in the spring.
Read our full Apple iPad Pro 11in (2018) review
4. iPad (2019)
Apple revealed its 2019 update to the iPad alongside the iPhone 11 range in September 2019, and while it still features the same A10 Fusion chipset, it now features a larger 10.2in display. The A10 Fusion chipset isn’t the most powerful Apple-powered chip on the market by any means, and it may struggle to run some of the more graphically demanding 3D games on the App Store, but it’s a great option for casual gamers.
It’s also the cheapest iPad of Apple’s tablet range at £349/$329, which explains the lack of a more powerful processor. If you’re looking to get into the world of iPad gaming on a budget, the iPad (2019) is the one to go for.
5. iPad Pro 12.9in (2018)
The 12.9in display of the larger iPad Pro provides a best-in-class visual experience that is perfect for playing the variety of beautifully designed games on the App Store. Like the iPad Pro 11in, it features the impressively powerful A12X Bionic chipset to power high-end gaming experiences, and we’re confident that it’ll stay speedy for years to come. It also sports the immersive quad speakers and Face ID.
The issue is the price – at nearly double the cost of the iPad Air and £200 more than the iPad Pro 11in, we can’t recommend the iPad Pro 12.9in as a dedicated gaming device.
But if you can find multiple uses for the iPad Pro – as a replacement laptop, for example – then you may be able to rationalise the £969/$999 starting price.
As with the other iPad Pro we'd suggest that you wait until March or April before buying as we expect Apple to update the iPad Pro in the spring.
Read our full Apple iPad Pro 12.9in (2018) review