What generation are the latest iPads? We break it down

If you’ve recently decided to get yourself a new iPad, you may be left a bit overwhelmed by all of the available models. You’d be forgiven for not even being sure which model is the newest. To the untrained eye, they often look nearly identical. Recently, however, there have been some major changes. We break down all the newest devices in Apple’s iPad lineup, explain what generation is the latest iPad, and expand on what makes each one stand apart from the others. To see which one’s for you, see our iPad buying guide.

Latest generation for each iPad category

Before we dive in, here’s a quick summary of what generation the latest iPads are in each category.

  • iPad Mini: Fifth generation
  • iPad: Eighth generation
  • iPad Air: Fourth generation
  • iPad Pro: Fifth generation

iPad 10.2-inch (2020)

The latest iPad (2020).

The new iPad looks pretty similar to the 2019 iPad, with its 10.2-inch screen and chunky bezels. Packing either 32GB or 128GB of storage, there’s support for the first-generation Apple Pencil, although buying one will set you back an extra $99 — as well as Apple’s Magic Keyboard. This iPad ships with iPadOS 14, which adds Scribble, a handwriting-to-text recognition feature that lets you use the Apple Pencil to take notes, sketches, and more.

The latest iPad has an A12 bionic processor and 32-watt-hour cell battery, with Apple promising up to 10 hours of battery life. It is heavier than the iPad Pro and the iPad Air, weighing in at 1.08 pounds, but you can still hold it in one hand for video calls or web browsing. With it coming in at just $329 for the 32GB model, you might think it’s a foregone conclusion that this is the best choice for you, but read on to be sure.

iPad Mini (2019)

The iPad Mini 5 in hand with Apple Pencil.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re looking for a smaller-than-average Apple iPad, then the fifth generation of the iPad Mini is the tablet you want. At first glance, the iPad Mini 5 appears aesthetically identical to the iPad Mini 4 — and that’s because it is. It packs the same 7.9-inch display with the same resolution, and though it’s a great display, it’s hard not to feel disappointed when you see the edge-to-edge designs other tablets are adopting.

While those waiting for an iPad Pro-style redesign of the Mini range may be disappointed, anyone looking for a powerful tablet won’t be. The iPad Mini packs the same powerful A12 Bionic processor as the iPhone XS and XR series, and there’s 64GB of storage in the base model. That’s plenty of space for movies and loads of processing power for smooth performance in the latest 3D games, and paired with iPadOS 14, your day-to-day experience on the device will be silky smooth. Keep in mind that with the iPad Mini you’ll be limited to the bottom speakers, so use headphones if you’re an audio-lover.

When it comes to power, the battery life was pretty good during our testing, but the charging speed really disappointed. On the plus side, it comes with eSIM support, and it’s also the smallest iPad that offers Apple Pencil support — though you’ll need a first-generation Apple Pencil. Still, if you’re looking for a powerful pint-sized tablet, then the $399 iPad Mini is absolutely what you want. Of course, you might want to wait until the fall to see if the rumors about the iPad Mini 6 launching turn out to be true.

iPad Air 4 (2020)

The iPad Air 4 in hand showing the screen.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The iPad Air 4has plenty in common with the iPad Pro when it comes to looks, thanks to its flat-edge design and slim bezels. It packs a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina screen, and under the hood, you’ll find Apple’s latest A14 Bionic processor, which Apple claims provides a 40% improvement in CPU performance and a 30% increase in graphics performance. It was the first device to get this chip as Apple begin broad upgrades, although the iPad Air has yet to get an M1 chip upgrade for 2021.

If the standard iPad is for casual use and the iPad Pro is meant for serious enterprise, then the iPad Air 4 sits somewhere between the two. It boasts USB-C charging rather than Lightning, for up to 10 times faster data transfer speeds, comes with 64GB or 256GB of storage, and is slimmer and lighter than the iPad, weighing just one pound. With support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard and the second-generation Apple Pencil — which is easier to hold, charge, and keep track of, and docks magnetically to the side of the tablet for charging — you can pick up the iPad Air 4 for $599 from Apple. If you’re looking for a step up from the standard iPad but not quite ready for an iPad Pro, the iPad Air 4 is an excellent choice.

iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch (2021)

The Apple iPad Pro side view with keyboard case.

We’ve finally made it to Apple’s most powerful iPads to date, and these are strikingly different from the others. With one glance you’ll notice the fifth-generation iPad Pro follows the same design as Apple’s flagship phones, so it’s certainly attractive. Aside from simply being the largest in the iPad lineup, the newest iPad Pro continues the tradition of being a powerhouse all-in-one tablet, bordering on the usability of a laptop. Apple has made sure this comparison is on your mind by offering a Magic Keyboard with a full trackpad.

The latest version of the iPad Pro received a significant upgrade with Apple’s new in-house M1 processor chip, which our tests found to be an improvement when it comes to performance. The model also got a better, smarter camera with Center Stage technology, which can pan and zoom to keep a subject in the center, ideal for voice chats and video conferences. If you’re interested in the larger version, it comes with a significantly upgrades Liquid Retina XDR display for better visuals, too

We want to note; this choice is still the most expensive iPad by far, starting at $749 for the 128GB Wi-Fi 11-inch and skyrocketing to $2,299 for the 2TB (yes, it can really have that much storage) cellular 12.9-inch model. It’s the price customers have to pay for a premium product.

Price aside, this latest iPad Pro is by far the best choice for consumers if what you’re after is the biggest and most powerful tablet on the market. It’s so powerful and so capable, you may even be able to finally leave the laptop at home.

Conclusion

The newest iPads are on display right now on the Apple website’s seasonal roster. That said, you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest product if you don’t want it. Most in-person stores and third-party sellers online still have former iPad models available. iPads have been relevant since they were first introduced a decade ago. It’s up to you to decide which features are most important to you, to determine which table may be best. Our list hopes to assist you with a helpful, detailed, and practical approach to finding the best tablet you can buy.

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