The 256GB 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best all-around iPad for readers, artists, teachers, writers, and anyone who wants a more approachable computing experience.

Best overall

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Whether you're looking to purchase your first iPad or upgrade from a previous model, the 256GB Wi-Fi-only 10.5-inch iPad Pro provides a great entry point into iOS tablet computing. With it, users get the latest features of the iPad line (like its True Tone display, ProMotion technology, and support for Apple Pencil); enough storage to enjoy apps, games, music, photography, and videos; a solid 12-megapixel iSight rear camera for scouting photography and the occasional quick picture; and a speedy A10X processor to tie everything together. And it comes in Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Gray for the color-conscious.

Bottom line: For readers, artists, teachers, and writers, the 256GB Wi-Fi-only 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet you can buy.

One more thing: If you can't regularly tether to your phone and on-the-go internet access is a must, you can add a cellular option to your iPad for $130 more, upgrading it from a pretty nice Wi-Fi tablet to a self-sufficient computing device.

Why the 256GB Wi-Fi-only 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best

Best of both worlds.

The beauty of tablet computing is just how well it fits into a multitude of different situations. You can use an iPad to draw or take notes, create presentations for your class, play games, film or snap photos with the iSight camera, read novels, correct term papers, chat with your faraway family, or any other number of activities suited to a multi-touch computer.

As such, the perfect iPad for most people has to fit into a lot of use cases: It needs to be fast. It needs to have enough storage. It needs to work with accessories that make it a better computer, like the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. It should have a bright, clear screen for both text and photographs, and powerful speakers for watching video.

Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Pro has all of these features and more, all in a compact one-pound package and ten hours of battery life. It sports an automatically adjusting Wide Color display with True Tone and ProMotion technology, a 12-megapixel iSight rear camera for 4K video and high-resolution photography, a 7-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing and silly selfies, a quad-speaker setup that automatically adjusts acoustics based on how you're holding the iPad, and all the other features that make an iPad an iPad.

Apple's 9.7-inch base model iPad isn't too shabby in this department either, but the 10.5's screen, processor, and accessories are what elevate it from "great iPad" to "must buy."

Apple's new screen refresh technology, ProMotion, takes the iPad Pro's already beautiful Wide Color Retina display and adds speed: With it, the iPad Pro screen just feels blazingly, blisteringly fast. Scrolling feels more responsive, it's faster to open apps, and Apple has made another gigantic leap forward in digital sketching technology with low-latency support for Apple Pencil. It gives budding artists a reasonably priced entry into the iPad Pro line without having to pay upwards of $1000 for a drawing tablet. Drawing with Apple Pencil still won't feel exactly like drawing on paper, but the company is inching ever-closer to that goal.

If faster screen technology wasn't enough, the new iPads Pro also get a super-powered processor in the form of the A10X. Every year, Apple iterates on its chipset, but this year is particularly impressive for the iPad: The chip now has three fusion cores and a 12-core graphics processor, and uses that technology to blow away the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's previously rather impressive metrics:

  • Single-core: 3,935 (9.7-inch: 2,675)
  • Multi-core: 9,299 (9.7-inch: 5,015)
  • Metal: 27,131 (9.7-inch: 15,161)

That chip is paired with Apple's M10 motion co-processor and a standard 4GB of RAM across both iPad Pro sizes, giving the device even more power and memory to work with. If you need a tablet that can hit faster speeds than some of Apple's entry-level Macs, this is the iPad Pro for you — no question.

The included Smart Connector also opens the iPad up to the entire range of Connector accessories — mostly keyboards and docks at present, but both can be valuable for students and others who plan to use their iPad as their main computer.

Though the iPad Pro's minimum storage size is now 64GB, we're still reticent to recommend the baseline option unless you're really pinching pennies. Between apps, drawing creations, offline music, photo libraries, and 4K video, 256GB is a much more reasonable storage tier for most users — though this may also open you up to paying for more iCloud storage to back up said iPad.

The only ding I can really throw against the 10.5-inch model? It's a little pricey if you don't truly need all of its features. With a starting price tag at $649, it may be too much computer for some users — and if that's the case, you'll love Apple's base-model 9.7-inch iPad, below.

Best on a budget

32GB Wi-Fi-only 9.7-iPad (fifth-generation)

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If you want to dip your toe into the iPad world and don't need features like the Smart Connector or Apple Pencil, the fifth-generation iPad offers the best bang for your buck. Its internals have been updated to an Apple A9 processor — the same one found in iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus — and its entry price starts at just $329 for 32GB — more than $320 below the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

In going for a regular iPad over the Pro line, you sacrifice some of Apple's best iPad features, including the ProMotion-accelerated Wide Color display, quad speaker system, vastly improved camera, and the aforementioned accessories.

But most users won't need all that power — they just want an iPad that can run great apps and games, and, when iOS 11 launches in the fall, it'll offer a ton of additional multitasking functionality, too.

Bottom line: For an introduction into the iPad world on a budget, check out the fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad.

Best pro tablet

512GB Wi-Fi + Cellular 12.9-inch iPad Pro

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The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has all the internal power of its 10.5-inch sibling, and combines it with some truly massive screen real estate. It's the biggest tablet in Apple's lineup, and uses that to great effect when paired with a hardware keyboard. Split-screen apps in iOS each have a pane as big as the 9.7-inch iPad in portrait mode, giving you ample space to work.

Add an Apple Pencil, and you have a top-tier drawing tablet; add third-party software like Astropad or Astropad Studio, and you can turn that tablet into a Wacom Cintiq-style second screen workspace with your Mac.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro does these tasks admirably, but if screen size is your top priority, bigger truly is better. And if you're looking for the ultimate portable computer, we recommend tacking on a Wi-Fi + Cellular plan if your smartphone either doesn't offer tethering or your personal data pool is too small to tether effectively. The iPad offers multiple pay-as-you-go cellular plans both local and internationally, and all can be activated or canceled at whim.

Bottom line: If you want a high-powered drawing tablet to tote around in lieu of your Mac, go for broke with the Wi-Fi + Cellular 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Conclusion

For most people, first time buyers and upgraders alike, the Wi-Fi only 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best Apple tablet you can buy.

Best overall

256GB Wi-Fi only 10.5-inch iPad Pro

See at Apple

Whether you're looking to purchase your first iPad or upgrade from a previous model, the 256GB Wi-Fi-only 10.5-inch iPad Pro provides a great entry point into iOS tablet computing. With it, users get the latest features of the iPad line (like its True Tone display, ProMotion technology, and support for Apple Pencil); enough storage to enjoy apps, games, music, photography, and videos; a solid 12-megapixel iSight rear camera for scouting photography and the occasional quick picture; and a speedy A10X processor to tie everything together. And it comes in Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Gray for the color-conscious.

Bottom line: For readers, artists, teachers, and writers, the 256GB Wi-Fi-only 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet you can buy.

One more thing: If you can't regularly tether to your phone and on-the-go internet access is a must, you can add a cellular option to your iPad for $130 more, upgrading it from a pretty nice Wi-Fi tablet to a self-sufficient computing device.