Here's how to decide which iPad to buy — it's actually pretty simple

I have struggled with this one for YEARS. Big and medium-sized iPads both have their advantages. I ended up buying the 12.9" iPad last year, the big one, for reasons I have discussed elsewhere on this board. And I’ve often second-guessed the decision, because it certainly is an ungainly beast.

Then, not long ago, I had an insight which made the decision easy:

  • Buy the 12.9" iPad if you’re primarily going to be using it as a laptop replacement, or for visual creative work — illustration, video, etc.
  • Buy the medium-sized iPad (10.5" Air or 11" Pro) if you’re primarily going to be using it as a handheld device.

That’s it. That’s the whole decision there. Simple, right?

I ordered a new iPad Air today. I’ll trade in the 12.9" iPad Pro. The net out of my pocket will be $600. That’s a big financial bite, but I’m grateful we can afford it. So many people can’t.

Amazingly, btw, even though I ordered the Air a few minutes ago, and it’s now past 3:30 pm local time, that sucker is going to come between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm today! Holy cow!

If you’re struggling between the iPad Pro and iPad Air — get the Air. If you don’t know why you’d need the Pro, then you don’t need it.

The iPad mini is a good choice for many people if you REALLY want something small.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.


I’ll be having that argument with myself in a couple (?) of months from now, when Apple releases its 9 inch iPad mini.

That’s a good rule of thumb. Thanks for sharing!

1 Like

Did you get the magic keyboard? I was pleasantly shocked to realize that worked, and am considering it… in a while. I just got a M1 mini

I couldn’t decide so bought iPad Mini after finding iPad Pro heavy to be portable carrying around when visiting customers or going to cafe. Not one of those who use “man bag” and iPad Pro was not convenient; even found iPad Mini is used more at home for reading. Both devices have their advantages.


Less than three hours after making the final decision, I’m now typing on my new iPad. That kind of delivery is amazing.

The iPad itself is, of course, more amazing. But I take that for granted.

@Ted_Martin Yes, I did get the magic keyboard. I’m typing on it now. I think I missed a selection when I was ordering, because I ended up getting the white keyboard, which would not have been my first choice. But I think I can live with it. And it types great!

I have the Magic Keyboard for the 12.9” iPad and that’s great too. This one is, of course, smaller, but it’s quite usable. For me at least. I’m told others find it cramped.

I know you later mention the next decision could be which smaller iPad to get, but still, Apple sells 3 variants!

In a world where (some) people bemoan the fact that iPad Pro hardware is outpacing software, I still stand firm that the cheaper iPad is a great starting point for choosing which machine to get (but I’m not trying to convince you, you’ve made a great choice)

1 Like

I have an iPad Air 3 and love, :two_hearts:, love it! Now I’m looking at MacBook Airs but I still want to keep my IPad Air. It is truly a near perfect machine although as mentioned there are gadgets for a myriad of needs.

I cannot believe you received it so fast! Congratulations!

1 Like

I wish it was that simple. :slight_smile: This works great if the vast majority of one’s iPad usage can be placed in one of those categories. In my case, my iPad usage is ~60% with the keyboard as a “laptop”. The remaining ~40% of usage time is with the iPad used for reading, annotating, and speaking notes when giving a talk. In the first use case, the 12.9 is ideal. In the latter use case, the 12.9 is large and, depending on the podium size and configuration, can be a bit unwieldy. The 11" pro, or even mini, would be better. At this point I’ve concluded that the 12.9, though not ideal for all uses, is the better overall “fit.” I could go the two iPad lifestyle, 12.9 and 11 or mini, but that just seems excessive. So, for now I’ll probably stick with the 12.9. I plan to purchase the newest model this fall.

1 Like

MultiPad lifestyle FTW!


Sir, you say you disagree with me but then you follow my guidelines. :slight_smile:

I concede that whatever size device you buy, there will be times you wish you bought the other size.

Update: Very happy with my decision to trade in for the smaller model.

Today, I made another trade-in: I knew that white keyboard with the space-gray iPad was going to drive me crazy, so I arranged to get a refund on that. And rather than get another Magic Keyboard in a color to match my iPad, I went for the Folio keyboard.

The Folio is less expensive. It seems easier to get the iPad in and out of. The keyboard folds back so you don’t need to remove the iPad from the case at all if you want to use the iPad as a tablet.

The absence of a trackpad is, for me, not a big negative. For every time I used the trackpad, there was another time I accidentally brushed my thumb against it and sent the cursor flying to the wrong place.

So far I like it. The spacebar seemed stiff, at first, but I’m getting used to whacking it with greater force.

The keyboard arrived within 2.5 hours of my ordering it. Amazing!

I’mstillgettingusedto that stiff spacebar.

I wasn’t actually intending to disagree with you, just observing that the bright lines between those categories aren’t always that bright. :grinning: That said, it would appear that I am in fact following your sage advice. That just goes to prove how smart you are. :+1:

I may be going in the other direction. I may order a new 12.9 inch iPad Pro next week. I’m going to give it a bit more thought before deciding. :grinning:

Failure to disagree is considered rude on the Internet. I’ll let it pass this time though. :slight_smile:

Which is why I don’t do social media. Ha!

1 Like

Uh, I use my 11 inch Pro as a laptop replacement and for photography work when traveling. :muscle:

With all due respect to Mr. Mitch, bright guidelines are not the answer because there will inevitably be exceptions. The best way to decide which iPad (or any device really) is best for a particular person is to have that person do some hard, honest, and thorough thinking about how they intend to use the device, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and what they want to do with it. A balancing of all the factors of each device against intended personal use and desires is the only way to effectively decide.