With a choice of five different iPads, choosing between the three versions of the iPad mini, and two different iPad Airs, is a tricky proposition. We offer a helping hand with our expert buying advice.

If you're in the market for an iPad, you probably thought it would be easy deciding which one to buy. With Apple's recent launch of the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2, things just became more difficult: this is the first time Apple has offered five different versions at once. See also: Best iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 deals.

Chances are you've already discovered that choosing an iPad isn't as straightforward as you thought. For each of the five models, there are different capacities, those with 3G (or 4G) and those without, and different colours. See also: Apple iPad Air 2 first-look review.

All bar the iPad mini have Retina displays, and older models are available with only a small amount of internal storage. However, as we'll discuss, there are ways to boost an iPad's storage so you don't necessarily need to fork out for extra capacity.

Which is the best iPad?

Which is the best iPad: 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi only?

First up, decide on the basics. Do you need mobile data or not? If you want to use Facebook, email or YouTube in the car or on the train, you're going to want a 3G version (or 4G if you're buying one of the two newest iPads). 4G models are backwards compatible with 3G, so you won't have to pay over the odds for a 4G data SIM. Currently, there are some good deals on data-only SIMs, from Three and giffgaff. One change with the latest iPad Air 2 and mini 3 is an in-built SIM card, but you can remove this and insert your own. 

Stick with a Wi-Fi only iPad if you'll mainly use your tablet at home on your wireless network or when connected to your office Wi-Fi. Read: iPad mini 3 first-look review.

If you're after an internet connection when abroad, it will typically be cheaper to find a Wi-Fi hotspot in a café or hotel than roaming on a UK SIM. However, buying a pre-paid foreign SIM from a supplier such as Dataroam can also work out fairly cheap.

One important factor to bear in mind is that Wi-Fi only iPads do not have a GPS receiver, so can only approximate your location using Wi-Fi hotspots. This means that if you want to use your iPad for directions (or as a large satnav) you will need to buy a 3G / 4G iPad.

Which is the best iPad: 7.9in or 9.7in?

The iPad mini was the first to have a screen smaller than 9.7in. Although the difference is less than 2in, it has a bigger effect than you might think. For one thing, you can hold an iPad mini in one hand - you can only balance a 9.7in iPad on one hand, or struggle to hold it at one edge (and that's still true for the Air 2).

The iPad mini 2 and 3 have the same resolution as an iPad Air or Air 2, so everything is the same but in miniature.

The good news is that you have the same choice of apps regardless of which iPad you choose.

Which is the best iPad: How much storage do I need?

It's tempting to opt for the base 16GB version, since it's so much cheaper than the other models. If you know that you won't want to store your music and video collections on your iPad, 16GB should be enough. However, you might be surprised how quickly apps eat up the storage space. There are so many free apps, it's sometimes hard to resist installing them.

Which is the best iPad?

Games in particular can occupy more than 1GB so it won't take many before you run out of space. Plus, now that the cameras are much better quality, you'll probably take more photos and videos than you may have envisaged.

As we said at the start, there are ways to increase your iPad's storage. One is to buy a Wi-Fi hard drive which works with iOS devices. An example is Kingston's Wi-Drive, which is available in various capacities up to 128GB. This battery-powered drive can store your files, including videos, music, photos and documents and make them accessible to your iPad (and two other devices simultaneously) as if they were stored locally.

However, you can't install apps on an external drive.

We're not saying you shouldn't buy a 16GB iPad, but make sure it will be sufficient for your needs, since you can't change your mind later. iPads don't have a memory card slot for adding more storage.

Which is the best iPad: Isn't the iPad mini old hat now?

Some people say they can't tell much of a difference between the iPad mini's 1024 x 768 screen and the Retina displays of the newer iPads. We'd beg to differ, but if you're happy to settle for a quarter of the new model's pixels, the iPad mini is certainly cheaper at only £199.

However, we'd argue that it's well worth spending the extra £40 on an iPad mini 2, since its screen and processor are significantly better. The mini 2 has the same processor as the iPad Air, which is 64-bit and very fast. The iPad mini shared the same processor as the iPad 2 - two generations behind the iPad Air. We'd be surprised if the iPad mini is upgradeable to the next version of iOS.

Bottom line: don't buy an iPad mini unless your budget is so tight that you really can't afford more than £200. Even then, you'd do well to look at Android tablets where you get better hardware for your money.

Which is the best iPad: Buy refurbished from Apple

A little-known fact is that Apple often sells refurbished iPads which are as good as new. Right now, you can buy a 16GB iPad mini 2 (Wi-Fi only) for £199, the same price as the 16GB iPad mini. Going for the mini 2 is a no-brainer, and it's well worth keeping an eye on the deals, as you can buy a refurbished 16GB iPad Air as well for £269. That's £130 cheaper than when it was new - a great deal.

Refurbished models look like new, have a new battery and come with a one-year warranty, so there really isn't a reason to avoid them. The same can't be said of second-hand models bought from ebay or similar.

Which iPad is best: refurbished

Which is the best iPad: price list

iPad Air 2

iPad Air

iPad mini 3

iPad mini 2

iPad mini

Wi-Fi model:

Wi-Fi model:

Wi-Fi model:

Wi-Fi model:

Wi-Fi model:

16GB £399

16GB £319

16GB £319

16GB £239

16GB £199

64GB £479

32GB £359

64GB £399

32GB £279


128GB £559


128GB £479


Wi-Fi + Cellular model:

Wi-Fi + Cellular model:

Wi-Fi + Cellular model:

Wi-Fi + Cellular model:

Wi-Fi + Cellular model:

16GB £499

16GB £419

16GB £419

16GB £339

16GB £299

64GB £579

32GB £459

64GB £499

32GB £379


128GB £659


128GB £579


Which is the best 9.7in iPad?

The best iPad, in terms of performance and quality, is the iPad Air 2. It's hugely powerful, and also the thinnest and lightest iPad. But not everyone needs this much power, and some would say it doesn't need to be that thin. The iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly the new benchmark to which other tablets will be measured.

One of the niggles is that Apple has dropped the 32GB version, so instead of 32GB, 64GB or 128GB, the choice is 16, 64 or 128GB. As we've said, 16GB isn't enough for many people, but the other way to look at it is that you're getting double the storage that Apple offered with the iPad Air for the same price - i.e. 64GB costs £479, the same price as the 32GB iPad Air last year.

But, because the iPad Air has now dropped in price, the 32GB version costs just £359, £120 less than you'd have paid for it a month ago. Unless you really need the iPad Air 2's Touch ID fingerprint scanner, then there aren't many other reasons to spend the extra money.

Our pick of the 9.7in iPads: 32GB iPad Air (Wi-Fi only) - £359

Which is the best 7.9in iPad?

We've already discounted the original iPad mini, so what about the iPad mini 3? Unlike the new iPad Air, the iPad mini 3 is identical to the iPad mini 2 aside from its Touch ID sensor. That may be important for some - businesses mostly - but unless you just can't live without it for unlocking your iPad (those with a Touch ID-equipped iPhone have been hankering after the feature on an iPad ever since the launch of the iPhone 5s) then it's really not worth the premium.

The iPad mini 2 still has the same processor, same fantastic screen and same design. The only other difference is that you can't buy the 64GB or 128GB models, which leaves the 32GB as the highest capacity, when bought from Apple at least. A quick check reveals the 64GB and 128GB versions available from certain retailers, albeit at their pre-discounted prices. If you keep your eyes peeled, watching the discount forums such as hotukdeals.com, you just might see a high-capacity mini 2 going cheap.

Our pick of the 7.9in iPads is therefore the same as for the big iPads: 32GB iPad mini 2 (Wi-Fi only) - £279

You may also be interested in: Best cases and covers for the iPad Air

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