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iPad comparisons: Which Apple device is best for business users?

If you can’t decide which iPad model is best for your work and personal needs, here’s a rundown of the key specs and pricing for the available options.

Apple iPad models

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Apple iPad models

Image: Apple

The iPad has come a long way since being introduced in 2010. Back then, it was more like a giant iPhone that couldn’t make phone calls, and now it has its own souped-up version of iOS, multiple models, and functionality that rivals a laptop. 

If you’re considering an iPad, the options can be a bit overwhelming: There are five models to choose from, each with different features and a different ideal niche. If you want to use your iPad for work, some models won’t be ideal; if you just want a device to use as a portable screen, getting the more expensive versions may be overkill.

The purpose of this guide is to compare the iPad Pro, iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Mini models currently available so you can make the best investment. 

SEE: Top 10 iPad tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Comparing the iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad, and iPad Mini

Before diving into specific questions about the suitability of different iPad models to different tasks, it can help to see what each model offers in terms of hardware, ports, screen size, and the like. 

Note: The iPad Pro comes in two sizes, 11″ and 12.9″, but aside from the difference in size the hardware is the same, so this table won’t differentiate between the two.

iPad Pro (12.9″ 4th gen, 11″ 2nd gen)

iPad Air (3rd gen)

iPad (7th gen)

iPad Mini (5th gen)


12.9″ or 11″
Liquid Retina display
2732 x 2048 
Promotion technology
True Tone display

Retina display
2224 x 1668
True Tone display

Retina display
2160 x 1620

Retinal display
2048 x 1536
True Tone display


11.04″ x 8.46″ x .23″ (12.9″)
9.74″ x 7.02″ x .23″ (11″)
1.41lb (12.9″), 1.04 lb (11″)

9.8″ x 6.8″ x .24″
1 lb

9.8″ x 6.8″ x .29″
1.07 lb

8″ x 5.3″ x .24″
0.66 lb


A12Z Bionic, Neural engine, embedded M12 coprocessor

A12 Bionic, Neural Engine, embedded M12 coprocessor

A10 Fusion, embedded M10 coprocessor

A12 Bionic, Neural Engine, embedded M12 coprocessor

Storage options

128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB

64 GB, 256 GB

32 GB, 128 GB

64 GB, 256 GB


12MP wide, 10MP ultra-wide, 4K video, 7MP front camera

8MP wide, 1080p HD video, 7MP front camera

8MP wide, 1080p HD video, 1.2MP front camera

8MP wide, 1080p HD video, 7MP front camera

Login security

Face ID

Touch ID

Touch ID

Touch ID

Battery life

10 hours on Wi-Fi, 9 hours on cellular network

10 hours on Wi-Fi, 9 hours on cellular network

10 hours on Wi-Fi, 9 hours on cellular network

10 hours on Wi-Fi, 9 hours on cellular network

Apple peripheral support

Apple Pencil (2nd gen)
Magic Keyboard
Smart Keyboard Folio

Apple Pencil (1st gen)
Smart Keyboard

Apple Pencil (1st gen)
Smart Keyboard

Apple Pencil (1st gen)


Smart Connector

Headphone jack
Lightning connector
Smart connector

Headphone jack
Lightning connector
Smart connector

Headphone jack
Lightning connector


Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, cellular, LTE

Wi-Fi (ac), Bluetooth 5.0, cellular, LTE

Wi-Fi (ac), Bluetooth 4.2, cellular, LTE

Wi-Fi (ac), Bluetooth 5.0, cellular, LTE

Starting price

$999 (12.9″), $799 (11″)




Fully loaded price

$1,649 (12.9″)
$1,449 (11″)




The starting prices on each model are Wi-Fi only iPads with the lowest available storage capacity; fully loaded prices include cellular capability and maximum available storage. You can click on the link in the column headers to see Apple’s full tech specs rundown for each model.

SEE: Apple iPad (7th generation): A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How all the current generation iPads are the same

If you looked at the iPad comparison table above in any detail, you probably noticed all of the devices have a few things in common, which may make your decision on which iPad to buy a bit more complicated. 

Apple’s spec sheets say that all the iPads have the same battery life: 10 hours “surfing the web on Wi‐Fi, watching video, or listening to music,” and nine hours “surfing the web using a cellular data network,” so whichever you plan to buy, you should get the same amount of use on it before needing to recharge.

All four iPad lines also support the Apple Pencil, with only the iPad Pro supporting the newer second generation model. Graphic designers and people who plan to use their iPad for drawing or taking notes won’t be able to narrow down their choice if Pencil support is a necessity, either. 

SEE: Apple iPad Pro 2020: Cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Which iPad is the best laptop replacement?

If you’re considering an iPad as a replacement for a laptop, there’s really only one practical choice: The iPad Pro. 

The iPad Pro has the Magic Keyboard case, which adds a floating iPad Pro stand and a keyboard as well as a trackpad, making it feel a lot more like a laptop than some of the smaller iPad models that don’t have the trackpad option on their keyboard cases. 

The iPad Pro also has a USB-C port that makes it much easier to attach an external display than with previous iPad generations that only had a Lightning Port, which required a dongle adaptor. External displays on iPads aren’t new, but the iPad Pro not only makes it simpler (especially on monitors with USB-C ports), but it also supports 5K resolution, which other iPads don’t. 

Apple recently transformed the iPad operating system into iPadOS, which is a souped-up version of iOS that puts it somewhere between a mobile and desktop operating system. On an iPad Pro, TechRepublic sister site CNET said, that brings a lot of desktop-style features to the iPad, including

  • Homescreen widgets and additional room for icons

  • The full desktop version of Safari, optimized for touch (that means a full Google Docs experience as well)

  • Improved multitasking with side-by-side apps, multiple slide-over apps, and support for two instances of the same app in side-by-side

  • An improved Files app with column view and support for removable drives

  • Support for additional fonts

  • Sidecar mode that allows Mac users to use the iPad Pro as a drawing tablet or desktop extension when connected to a Mac

  • Mouse support

If any iPad will act like a desktop computer, it’s a fully specced-out iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard case and Apple Pencil. There is one big caveat, though: It’s still a mobile device that won’t run desktop apps.

If you use resource-intensive software like Final Cut Pro, or need to run locally-installed Linux developer tools, you can’t do that on the iPad Pro. For some professionals, the iPad Pro will be a good fit, but don’t forget that it’s not a laptop.

Which iPad is best for work? 

The answer to this question is the iPad Pro. This doesn’t mean the other iPad models won’t suit business needs, only that those Apple devices are not designed to offer as much of a desktop experience as the iPad Pro.

The only iPad that isn’t suited for use as a work device is the iPad Mini, for which Apple doesn’t offer a keyboard case. I have an iPad Mini with a keyboard case, and I’ve tried using it for work when on the road, and it’s a serious pain, both for my productivity and my neck. The screen is too small to provide the necessary space to work, the keyboard is too cramped for writing anything more than an email, and I pretty much had to be hunched over to see what I was doing. An iPad Mini might work in a pinch, but it is definitely designed to be an after-hours device for watching movies in bed and playing iOS games on a larger screen, not for accomplishing anything that requires several hours of focus.

The iPad and iPad Air are suitable for the task but not as powerful or feature rich as the iPad Pro. In the case of the iPad and iPad Air, that means no built-in trackpad on the Apple-branded keyboard cases, but third-party keyboard cases with trackpads do exist

The desktop-class version of Safari is available on every iPadOS product, which means cloud-based productivity tools like GSuite and Office 365 should work just as well on an iPad as they do on a laptop or desktop.

So, as long as you can deal with a small keyboard, both the iPad and iPad Air could be used for work, provided you don’t mind giving up ergonomic options to use them.

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