What generation are the latest iPads? We break it down

Mark Jansen

If you’ve recently decided to get yourself a new iPad, you may be left a bit overwhelmed by all of the models that are available. You’d be forgiven for not even being sure which model is the newest. To the untrained eye, they can sometimes 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: seventh generation
  • iPad Air: third generation
  • iPad Pro: fourth generation

iPad 10.2-inch (2019)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re looking for the cheapest iPad on the block, then the 10.2-inch iPad is the tablet you want. The chunky look may not have changed from last year’s iPad, and neither have the internal specs, but that doesn’t mean the new iPad is just a bigger version of last year’s model. The larger 10.2-inch display is joined by Apple’s smart connector, meaning the iPad 10.2-inch is the first basic iPad to ship with native support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard.

There are options for 32GB or 128GB of storage, and you can also get an LTE-connected model for the usual additional fee. There’s support for the first-generation Apple Pencil, too, and the software has been upgraded to decrease the Pencil’s latency by 50% so it’s much more responsive. Speaking of software, this iPad is fully compatible with Apple’s first-ever iPad-only operating system, iPadOS. That means you’ll get multi-window and mouse support, much better file systems, and other productivity-boosting improvements.

So the basic iPad offers you keyboard, mouse, and Apple Pencil support — and comes in at just $329. When the basic iPad is this great of a device, you might think it’s a foregone conclusion that this is the best choice for you, but read on to be sure.

$279 from Amazon

iPad Mini (2019)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It only took four years, but we finally got a new iPad Mini. If you’re looking for a smaller-than-average Apple iPad, then the fifth generation of the iPad Mini is the tablet you’re looking for. 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 new 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 Apple’s latest mobile firmware in iOS 13, 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

$279 from Amazon

is absolutely what you want.

$279 from Amazon

iPad Air (2019)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

This one took us by complete surprise when it was launched alongside the latest iPad Mini. Long considered defunct in a world where slim builds don’t inspire awe the way they once did, we thought the iPad Air range had ended with the iPad Air 2 from 2014. However, we now have a third generation of the iPad Air, giving you yet another iPad to consider.

So what sets the iPad Air apart from the standard iPad 9.7? It’s certainly not looks, as the iPad Air is missing the modern edge-to-edge design from the latest generation of the iPad Pro. However, it’s packing a large 10.5-inch Retina screen, and some extremely powerful hardware tucked away inside. You’ll find Apple’s powerful A12 Bionic processor in the iPad Air — the same chip that provides super-smooth performance in the iPhone XS and XR series, and it’s just as good here, providing grunt for handling a variety of tasks.

If the standard iPad is for casual use and the iPad Pro is meant for serious enterprise, then the iPad Air is meant to sit between the two. It’s cheap enough

$279 from Amazon

to work as a casual tablet, but it also has support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard and the first generation Apple Pencil if work needs to be done. The LTE variants also have eSIM support, making world-hopping a breeze. You can think of this offering as a level up from the standard iPad.

$279 from Amazon

iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch

Apple iPad Pro 2020 Keyboard

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 fourth-generation iPad Pro follows the same skirt design as Apple’s flagship phones. 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 full trackpad.

Apple has dressed up the internals as well, equipping the iPad Pro with its high-end A12Z Bionic chip that breezes through any heavy app or multitasking challenge you throw at it. The new iPad Pro also features a LiDAR scanner, which Apple says is for augmented reality applications. The tablet can come packed with up to 1TB of internal storage and sports a gorgeous retina display screen.

As with the recent iPhone models, the new iPad pro is packing heat in the camera. The rear of the device is rocking a 12-megapixel main lens supported by a 10MP wide angle lens. While it’s doubtful that you’ll be lugging your 12.9-inch $1,000 tablet around for photography purposes, Apple wants to make sure the power is there if and when you need it. Capturing images this good could be particularly useful in job applications out in the field.

By the way, did we say $1,000? These are still by far the most expensive iPads on offer. Starting

$279 from Amazon

for the 128GB Wi-Fi 11-inch and skyrocketing all the way to $1649 for the 1TB cellular 12.9-inch model, this beauty clearly comes at a premium.

That aside, if it’s the biggest and most powerful tablet in the world you’re after, look no further than the new iPad Pro. It’s so powerful, you may finally be able to leave the laptop at home.

$279 from Amazon

Conclusion

While older generations of iPad may still be available at some major retailers, these latest versions make up Apple’s current lineup, and can be found on the Apple website. Eight years after iPad’s initial launch, sifting through each size and model to determine which iPad is best has become an arduous chore. We hope this guide will help you make the right decision when purchasing what’s objectively one of, if not the best tablet you can buy.