iPad gift guide: Pick the best tablet to give your loved ones


iPad gift guide: Pick the best model to give your loved ones
We have expert advice on choosing the best iPad to give as a gift.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

iPad makes a spectacular gift. Apple tablets are very popular, and everyone from little Billy to Grandma will enjoy one.

But there’s a wide array of models to choose from. In this guide, we go through all the options to explore their pros and cons as gifts.

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iPad gift guide

Apple tablets are wonderful for watching videos, scrolling through social media or playing games. They make great ebook readers, too. But that barely scratches the surface of the possibilities.

Add a stylus and an iPad can produce great art or help a small child learn to write. Or add a keyboard, so businesspeople or college students can use an Apple tablet for email, word processing, spreadsheets, etc., when traveling. An iPad can serve as a recipe book, a handy guide for DIY projects and/or a screen for video calls.

With so much potential, it’s not surprising there are many options to choose from, with an array of screen sizes and prices ranging from $329 to $1,099. Somewhere in there is the right iPad for the person on your gift list.

iPod buying guide: Table of contents

Best overall: iPad 10

Best overall: iPad 10
When in doubt, iPad 10 is probably the best choice.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

For someone getting their first tablet, iPad 10 is probably the best option. It’s reasonably priced at $429, and while it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of more expensive models, it’s nevertheless a very capable tablet.

The feature set starts with a 10.9-inch display – about as much as some more pricy iPads. And the iPad 10 has an A14 Bionic processor that is powerful enough to handle everything from educational software to games.

The computer offers everything K-12 students need, and can do everything most adults need for their personal lives, too.

iPad 10 is the one to beat. When considering gifting any other Apple tablet, ask yourself “Is this a better option than iPad 10?”

iPad 10 downsides: The screen isn’t laminated so it doesn’t look as good as pricier models. And while the A14 is no slouch, the processor is also from 2020 so this isn’t Apple’s most powerful tablet. It can’t handle iPadOS’s Stage Manager user interface, for example. That means its access to external monitors is limited.

Buy iPad 10 from: Amazon

Most affordable: iPad 9

Gift guide: Most affordable: iPad 9
iPad 9 is both inexpensive and capable.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

As much as we love people, price is a big factor in gifting. The iPad 9 is an older model that stays in Apple’s product lineup as an inexpensive alternative. At only $329, it’s about a third of the cost of the cheapest MacBook.

It has a 10.2-inch screen — large enough to be usable. It’s just a bit cramped for side-by-side multitasking, but it’s bigger than the 9.7-inch display that was the standard for years.

The low price makes the ninth-gen iPad a fine gift for younger users who have the potential to accidentally break it. But it can also be right for anyone who would enjoy a light-duty tablet for social media or watching videos.

iPad 9 downsides: This budget tablet uses an A13 processor that debuted in 2019 – it offers decent performance but it’s no speed demon. And the tablet itself is from 2021, which means it’s maybe about three years away from no more iPadOS updates. And it’s the only model that still has a Lightning port rather than USB-C.

Buy iPad 9 from: Amazon

Best upgrade: iPad Air

Gift Guide: Best upgrade: iPad Air
Longtime iPad users might want to step up to an iPad Air.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

If the person on your gift list has heavily used a basic iPad for years, they’ll appreciate stepping up to the iPad Air. This offers most of the features of top-of-the-line tablets but at a lower price: $599.

It has a 10.9-inch screen, which is close to the standard for Apple tablets these days. And its speedy M1 processor makes it ready for above-average demand, like playing advanced games. Add a click-on keyboard and it’s certainly up to writing a novel. It’s almost as powerful as the iPad Pro series, and offers Stage Manager and full support for external displays.

iPad Air downsides: There are very few drawbacks to Apple’s Goldilocks tablet. Just be sure the person you’re buying for needs the extra capabilities to justify this model over the more-affordable iPad 10.

Buy iPad Air 5 from: Amazon

Best for ebook fans: iPad mini

Buying guide: Best for ebook fans: iPad mini
iPad mini is a go-anywhere, content-consumption tablet.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

iPad mini is a great consumption device, and is well-suited for the ebook fan on your gift list. It’s small enough to go almost anywhere, and the 8.3-inch screen proves much better than a smartphone for reading ebooks, watching videos or playing games.

While it’s certainly possible to add a stylus or a click-on keyboard to make the iPad mini into a content-production device, a user would need very good eyesight for that.

iPad mini downsides: Don’t expect a smaller tablet to be cheaper. At $500, the mini costs more than the larger iPad 10.

Buy iPad mini 6 from: Amazon

Best over-the-top gift: iPad Pro

Buying guide: Best over-the-top gift: iPad Pro
iPad Pro: when you care enough to give the very best.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

iPad Pro is Apple’s biggest and most powerful tablet, whether you choose the 11-inch or 12.9-inch version. As such, it’s overkill for little Billy to take to fourth grade, especially as prices start at $799.

A typical iPad Pro user owns a desktop Mac and therefore doesn’t need all the capabilities of a MacBook. The tablet does all they need when away from the Mac. Attach a keyboard/trackpad and you have a powerful convertible computer.

The iPad Pro is built around the Apple M2 processor, the same chip used in many MacBooks. A college student or businessperson is someone who might need the extra performance over cheaper Apple tablets.

Another benefit is the 120Hz ProMotion display. (All other iPads have a max refresh rate of 60Hz.)

The 11-inch version makes a good gift for someone who needs (or just wants) the extra capabilities of the Pro models. The 12.9-inch version is also a good gift for someone who wants the largest iPad available. Or someone who must frequently refer to large drawings, images or databases. Or show videos and images to clients.

iPad Pro downsides: $799 or $1,099 is a very generous gift. There’s no doubt iPad Pro is Apple’s premium tablet, but be sure the recipient really needs all the additional features before putting down top dollar.

Buy 11-inch iPad Pro from: Amazon

Buy 12.9-inch iPad Pro from: Amazon

iPad 10 iPad 9 iPad Air iPad mini iPad Pro
MSRP $449 $329 $599 $499 $799, $1,099
Screen size 10.9 inches 10.2 inches 10.9 inches 8.3 inches 11 inches, 12.9 inches
Processor A14 A13 M1 A15 M2
USB-C Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Stage Manager No No Yes No Yes
Full external display support No No Yes No Yes


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