The best iPad for students is an essential tool for anyone who is going to school, college or university. Thanks to their thin and light designs, Apple's range of tablets are ideal for carrying around campus, and if you pair them with some great peripherals, such as a keyboard or stylus, then you end up with a very flexible device that can be used for all sorts of tasks.
So, by adding one of the best iPad keyboards (or using a keyboard case that both protects the screen and also can be used as a keyboard), students can use the iPad like a laptop - which is great for writing long essays.
For creative students, using a stylus with the iPad turns it into a fantastic drawing tablet, allowing you to create digital art in a responsive and natural way – and it means you don't need to buy a separate drawing tablet (but if you'd like to see some, here's our guide to the best drawing tablets). And of course, they're brilliant for watching content and surfing the web.
The versatility of the iPad means that it can be used in place of several different devices, and that means that even if iPads aren't the cheapest tablets on the market, they could actually save you money.
We've tested all the iPads on this list personally, trying them out for all the features students need like power, battery life and durability (here's our how we test guide if you'd like to know more), and look out for the individual product reviews throughout, too. Need more info? Read all about the different iPad generations.
The best iPad for students
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If you're serious about getting the best iPad for any student then there's really only one choice. The latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro is an absolute creative powerhouse with an M1 processor, laptop-size screen and storage options up to 2TB. And if you go the full hog and pair it with a Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Folio, what you effectively have is a super-slimline laptop with plenty of capability.
Our testing found it'll tear through demanding apps such as Photoshop and Illustrator or their Affinity counterparts, and all your business needs will be taken care of through Apple's own bundled apps. And at the end of a hard day's studying, it's still an iPad, ideal for chilling on the sofa. Sorted! Here's our 12.9-inch M1, 2021 review if you'd like more details.
The basic iPad is looking a little underpowered compared with the rest of the range right now, but it's still a decent tablet and a strong all-rounder, and if you're after the best iPad for playing games, you can't go far wrong with it. Plus, in our Apple iPad 10.2-inch (9th Gen) review, we deemed it ideal for use as a budget drawing tablet.
It'll cope happily with all the popular games (although it could struggle with the latest heavyweight 3D titles), and you'll be spoilt for choice with thousands of options available on the App Store.
For students, this iPad is a great value choice that isn't as expensive as the iPad Pro, or even the iPad mini, but can still easily cope with most day-to-day tasks - and there's still plenty of accessories and peripherals available for the iPad, which turns it into a versatile tablet for any student.
Just when we were suspecting that the iPad mini was on its last legs, this comes along. The new iPad mini 6 is properly impressive, outperforming the 2020 iPad Air and leaving the basic iPad standing – for now at least.
When we were hands-on with it, we found it great for drawing, sketching and painting (if you can cope with the small display), and with iPadOS 15 it's also a fantastic device for note-taking, which is especially useful for students. With an Apple Pencil you can take notes by hand, and the iPad uses smart OCR software to convert your handwriting into text. (You could use your finger or an ordinary stylus, but the lack of palm rejection means adopting an unnatural writing position; it's fun to try but we wouldn't recommend it for any length of time.) Find out more in our Apple iPad mini (6th Gen) review.
Nearly every current model except for the vanilla iPad is compatible with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, so they're all ideal for drawing, right? Well, yes, but some iPads are more ideal than others. For the smoothest, most fluid drawing experience you're going to need an iPad Pro, because of its 120Hz display. Other models refresh at 60Hz, which is fine for most things, but it means a tiny but noticeable delay in seeing the results of your Pencil strokes.
So if drawing and painting is your priority, we'd recommend the 11-inch iPad Pro for super-smooth strokes without the additional cost of the 12.9-inch model (although if you don't mind paying extra then you'll love that extra-large display). Here's our iPad Pro 11-inch (M1, 2021) review for more.
The iPad Air is fantastic choice if you want something that's almost an iPad Pro, and its 10.9-inch P3 wide colour display makes it just the thing if you want the best iPad for watching films. It's lovely and bright, and the Air's anti-reflective coating means you won't be bothered by unwanted reflections.
While you can hook up a pair of AirPods Pro or Max to enjoy spatial audio with Dolby Atmos on supported video, the iPad Air 2020 punches out pretty decent sound without the need for headphones, with two-speaker audio in landscape mode. Our only real criticism of the Air is that we found the battery life isn't quite all that; we've learned to live with it, though. See our iPad Air (2020) review.
Need the perfect iPad for young students? While the more recent iPad mini 6 seems the obvious choice, it feels a bit pricey as an option for kids. We'd instead opt for 2019's iPad mini 5, which can be had at a much more reasonable price (especially if you can find a refurb) and which is still a thoroughly capable little tablet.
It'll run all the creative and learning apps and games that kids will love, it has a great-quality camera for them to take snaps with, and with the money you save you could also invest in a first-gen Apple Pencil to get them drawing and sketching. In our iPad mini (2019) review, we love it for its portability and affordability.
Those iPad Pros powered by Apple's M1 chip (the same found in new MacBooks) are pretty irresistible, but you're going to pay for the privilege of owning one. If you're happy to put up with not quite as much power and still get that 12.9-inch iPad Pro experience, then there are some decent savings to be found on 2020's model if you look around.
The screen isn't quite as nice, storage only goes up to 1TB, the front-facing camera is just a little less capable and the cellular version doesn't do 5G, but unless you were planning to push its capabilities to the absolute limit then we very much doubt that you'd notice the difference. And when we tested it, we liked it very much indeed (see our iPad Pro 12.9 review here).
The same rules as above apply with the 2020 11-inch iPad Pro; in fact, there's even less to differentiate between the two in this case. As with the 12.9-inchers, there's the lack of M1 power, no 5G capability, a lesser front-facing camera and storage options only go up to 1TB, but everything else – including the screen technology – is largely identical.
And again if you shop around you should be able to find it at a pretty sweet discount. For students who don't have a lot of money to splash out on cutting edge tech, this is a great alternative. It still offers brilliant performance and build quality, but at a lower price than the newest iPad Pro models.