iPad Pro vs iPad Air vs iPad mini: Which tablet should you buy?

Since the iPad Pro arrived, choosing an iPad is now exactly 33.3%* trickier than before. You’ve now got to make your decision between the iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro – and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that you can still buy the iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3 and the original iPad Air.

iPad Pro vs iPad Air vs iPad mini: Which tablet should you buy?

In this article, we’ll run through the various members of the iPad family, and explain the key differences that you need to know about before taking the plunge. 

*This figure may not be mathematically accurate.

iPad mini vs iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Price

As you probably suspected, bigger is pricier when it comes to iPads. Of the new generation, the 16GB iPad mini 4 kicks off proceedings at £319, while the 16GB iPad Air costs £399. Upgrading from 16GB to 64GB storage costs £80 extra whichever you choose, and moving up to 128GB adds another £80 again. Fancy 4G? That’s a flat fee of £100 on top.

Apple iPad mini 4 review: Rear, at an angle

“Apple’s 12.9in iPad Pro costs twice as much as the other iPads.”

That’s pocket money in comparison to the iPad Pro, however – Apple’s 12.9in tablet starts at £679 for the 32GB model. Unusually, the iPad Pro only comes in 32GB or 128GB flavours, though, and the 4G-enabled 128GB model bumps the price to £899. Oh, and you’ll need to factor in extra for the Apple Pencil (£79) and more again for the Smart Keyboard (£139). Factor those in, and you’ll be looking at £897 for a 32GB model with Pencil and Smart Keyboard, or £1,117 for a 128GB 4G-equipped iPad Pro with all the accessories. Basically, when you’re buying an iPad Pro, you’re choosing between an Apple MacBook, Apple MacBook Pro or an iPad Pro – it’s in a whole different price category to the rest of the iPad family.

If this is all sounding just a tad too expensive, then fear not – the older iPad Air and iPad mini 2 are both sound alternatives. They might have inferior cameras, lack Touch ID fingerprint security, and are a tad slower overall, but they’re still great tablets. The 16GB iPad Air is £319, and £359 for the 32GB version, but the iPad mini 2 is a bargainous-sounding £219 and £259 respectively. Adding mobile broadband to the mix still costs an extra £100, though. Bear in mind that you can still buy the Touch ID-equipped 16GB iPad mini 3, but not direct from Apple – and while it is occasionally possible to pick it up at a bargain price, several retailers are sneakily selling it for the same price as the new iPad mini 4. Beware.

iPad mini vs iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Design

All three iPads share the same design – sleek, rounded metal bodies cast with toughened glass displays – and they’re all similarly thin, too, with the 6.9mm-thick iPad Pro proving only 0.8mm thicker than its smaller stablemates. If you’re worried about one looking better than the other, then you shouldn’t be. They’re all very handsome and feel fantastically well-built.

Apple iPad mini 4 review: Front, at an angle

The iPad mini 4 is the most pocketable of the bunch by far. At 6.1mm-thick, 20cm tall and weighing in at 299g, this compact iPad is perfect for someone who wants a tablet they can sling in a small bag, handbag or a (large) jacket pocket. Given that it runs most of the same apps as its big brothers, you shouldn’t worry too much about making the compromise in screen size – and especially not if you plan to take it everywhere you go. However, if you already have a big-screened phone in your pocket, such as the iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6s Plus, then you may not find a 7.9in screen enough of an upwards leap to be really worthwhile.

iPad Air 2 review: On a coffee table

The 9.7in iPad Air 2 adds another 3.5cm to the mini 4’s width, and is 4cm taller. At 437g, it’s still pretty darn light, but it is that much more bulky to carry around – trust us, you’re never going to get this in a jacket pocket. Unless, maybe, you’re a World’s Strongest Man contestant and you have your jackets made to order. You can get away with carrying it under your arm (although we’d recommend shelling out on a protective case, just to be on the safe side), but most people will want to pop the Air in a bag rather than have to handle it all-day.

ipad pro front

The iPad Pro. It’s really, really big. As tablets go, it’s absolutely massive. With a 12.9in screen, and weighing a far heftier 713g, the iPad Pro sacrifices portability for a screen that’ll embarrass many laptops, and adds a range of accessories (magnetic keyboard and pressure-sensitive stylus, for instance) that make it much more suitable for serious work. Think of it more as a laptop substitute, though, and it’s actually pretty light and compact. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Continues on page 2: iPad mini vs iPad air vs iPad Pro: How do the displays differ?

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