With an increasing number of iPads to choose from, and a selection of new ones released on a regular basis, it can be hard to decide which iPads you really need for your classroom. Is one iPad really any different from another? This quick guide aims to resolve that problem and help you pick between Apple’s current lineup of tablet devices – the iPad Mini, the 10.2-inch iPad, the iPad Air, and the iPad Pro. (Prices are listed in US Dollars).
The 2021 iPad (64Gb or 256Gb)
Education Pricing: starts at $299 each, or $2,940 for a 10-pack.
There is little doubt that Apple’s 9th-generation iPad is aimed squarely at schools and colleges. It was released in September 2021 and was built to meet a price point that would help it compete with the deluge of cheap Chromebook laptops. Essentially, that means a few compromises along the way, but the new iPad is still better than the device it replaced, (the 8th Generation iPad), not least because it supports the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard.
It has a large, 10.2-inch screen. The 2021 iPad has a faster A13 processor and retains previous features like Touch ID, a 10-hour battery life, a great rear camera, and it weighs just one pound. It also has a brand new 12MP front camera that supports Apple’s Center Stage technology, which is useful for video calls. What more could you want?
Recommendation: This is Apple’s best-selling iPad, and for good reason. If iPads are the device you are looking for, then this is the one to get.
The 2021 iPad Mini (64Gb or 256Gb)
Education Pricing: $449 each. 10-pack: TBA
Apple’s smallest iPad now has an 8.3-inch screen and although it could be a great choice for younger students, it costs significantly more than the base 10.2-inch iPad. It was released in September 2021 and is a significant update on the model it replaced. It’s now priced at $449 for education, ($499 retail), which is $150 more than the 10.2-inch iPad.
However, these are not comparable devices. The 2021 iPad Mini has a new design with no home screen. Touch ID is in the power button and there are new cameras front and rear for better image quality and to support Apple’s Center Stage technology. The A15 processor is the same chip that you will find in the iPhone 13 Pro, and you can now use the second-generation Apple Pencil with the iPad Mini. It also has a USB-C port for charging and accessories. However, these upgrades come with a price increase of $100 over the previous model.
Recommendation: The new iPad Mini is a great device, but it is really not something that Apple expects to sell a lot of to education customers. If portability is your goal, then this is the one you want. Otherwise, the 2021 iPad is cheaper and still very capable.
The 2020 iPad Air: (64Gb or 256Gb)
Education Pricing: $549 each ($5,440 for a 10-pack)
Apple refreshed the iPad Air line in October 2020 with the launch of the 4th generation Air model. It retails for $599 or $549 for school. Essentially, it is a larger iPad Mini that also supports Apple’s Smart Keyboard. However, because it was released a year before the iPad Mini it has an A14 processor, as opposed to the newer A15 on the iPad Mini.
The iPad Air has a 10.9-inch edge-to-edge screen design with True Tone to automatically adjusts to the ambient light. Like the iPad Mini, it supports the second-generation Apple Pencil and is also compatible with the Magic Keyboard or the Smart Keyboard Folio. It is positioned as a step in-between the consumer and iPad Pros. It could very well meet the requirements of your teachers and students. However, many schools will likely feel that the higher price tag is harder to justify, especially when the new iPad will still perform well in almost all other scenarios.
Recommendation: If you think your students will benefit from a larger screen and a bit more performance, the new iPad Air is a great choice. Again, it is more expensive than the 10.2-inch iPad, but it gives you most of what an iPad Pro is capable of for less money.
iPad Pro: 2021 (128Gb, 256Gb, 512Gb, 1TB, 2TB)
Education Pricing: 11-inch $749 ($7390 10-pack), 12.9-inch $899 ($4445 5-pack)
The 2021 iPad Pro is available with either an 11 or 12.9-inch screen. It was released in April 2021. This latest update to the iPad Pro line was notable because it saw the introduction of Apple’s M1 CPU, the same chip that is used to power the MacBook Air and their entry-level iMacs. This gives the iPad Pro more power than you will likely ever need, and makes it a true Pro level machine, at least in terms of the hardware. iPadOS is still iPadOS and you can essentially do 90% of the same tasks you would do on an iPad Pro on a $329 iPad.
Both the 11 and 12.9-inch models are available with 5G, but only the 12.9-inch model comes with a mini-LED screen design for better brightness, colors, and contrast. As you might expect, the 11-inch Liquid Retina screen with ProMotion is no slouch either and is still a significant upgrade over anything else below it in the lineup.
Recommendation: This iPad is the embodiment of Apple’s vision for the future of computing. In terms of materials and finish, it’s as good as you can get, but many argue that the software is not powerful or flexible enough to take advantage of everything the M1 can do.