the best iPad for almost everyone

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

  • Apple’s 2021 iPad is the tablet to buy if you want a decent, simple and inexpensive tablet.
  • It offers fast, reliable performance and a thin screen that’s great value for $330.
  • This iPad is perfect for using popular apps and streaming videos, so it’s ideal for most people.

I could end this review pretty quickly: Apple’s standard 10.2-inch iPad is the best iPad for the vast majority of people who want to use a tablet. But I will give you much more than that.

It’s the cheapest iPad you can buy, and it doesn’t seem to skimp on anything. For $330, it’s a worthy companion to your phone that gives you a bigger screen to run typical common apps and even graphics-rich games whether you’re on the couch or on the go.

Specifications of the Apple iPad 2021


The 2021 iPad sitting, leaning against a wall with blue tiles.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

The standard iPad comes with the classic Apple iPad design with large top and bottom bezels, a Touch ID home button, and a metal casing. It’s also available in classic Apple colors, including silver/white and space gray/black.

It’s a tried-and-true design, but the large bezels mean the iPad with a 10.2-inch screen has a similar overall size to the iPad Air, which has a larger 11-inch screen.


Close-up of the iPad 2021 screen on a blue carpet.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

The standard Retina LCD display is Apple’s most basic display in the iPad lineup, but it comes with the True Tone feature that adjusts the screen’s colors and intensity to the ambient lighting of a room. room, for a more natural and comfortable viewing experience.

Everything on the screen is crisp and clean, and the colors are bright too. The iPad Air’s Liquid Retina display offers slightly bolder colors, but it’s also almost twice as expensive.


The metallic back of the 2021 iPad against a blue mat.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

Apple’s standard iPad runs on the company’s mobile processors found in iPhones. The 2021 iPad runs on the A13 Bionic processor from the iPhone 11 series. It’s an older processor than the A15 Bionic from the iPhone 13 series, and it’s not as powerful as the computer-grade M1 processor from the iPad Air, but it’s still fully capable of running any app and game you throw at it.

Benchmark scores using the Geekbench 5 app show the iPad Air to be more powerful, especially for tasks that use more than one of the M1 processor’s eight cores. The iPad scored 1,330 for single-core and 3,470 for multi-core. For comparison, the 2022 iPad Air scored 1,721 for single-core performance and 7,333 for multi-core performance, which perfectly matches our results for the M1-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 2021 iPad Pro.

That said, there’s little noticeable difference between the standard iPad and the iPad Air when opening and running apps and games. The real difference in performance would become apparent with power-intensive tasks, like editing high-resolution videos on your iPad compared to the iPad Air.

There’s also the argument that the iPad wouldn’t stay as snappy and powerful as long as the iPad Air, as more demanding apps and OS updates are released. While that may be true, the verdict is still out because Apple’s M1 processor is still hot and I haven’t seen how long it can last before it starts to feel slow, which probably won’t be for at least two or three years. .

You can read my review of the iPad Air 2022 here.

FaceTime camera improvements

The low-quality, front-facing FaceTime cameras on previous standard iPads were a bummer, but the 2021 iPad got a major upgrade from just 1.2 megapixels (MP) to 12MP – that’s a bump 900% loyalty.

Images produced are much sharper and clearer, and it’s also an ultra-wide camera with Apple’s Center Stage feature that follows your face as you move through the video frame. Between the megapixel boost and the ultra-wide capabilities, this is a significant upgrade over the 2020 iPad.

In this respect, the standard iPad’s front-facing FaceTime camera is similar to that of the iPad Air, except for Apple’s Smart HDR 3 technology which improves lighting for photos, but not for FaceTime calls. — only selfies.

Battery life

The 2021 iPad Touch ID button on the bottom bezel.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

The 2021 iPad lasted five hours and 25 minutes on our battery test, where I streamed a YouTube video at maximum iPad brightness at 1440p resolution, which is closest to 1620p resolution. the iPad.

That’s similar to the iPad Air’s four-hour, 53-minute result in the same test.

iPad continues to use Apple’s Lightning port rather than a


Port. It’s good if you also have an iPhone, because you can charge the iPad with the same charger and cable that your iPhone uses.

Still, it would be nice to have more cohesion within Apple’s ecosystem. All of Apple’s other iPads use USB-C, as do the company’s laptops.

What accessories can you use with the standard iPad?

The top back of the 2021 iPad showing the volume buttons, power button, cellular band, and headphone jack.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

The standard iPad is compatible with Apple’s first-generation Pencil, which is fine for taking notes and drawing, although the second-generation Pencil is more responsive and has a more pencil-like design.

The iPad also supports mouse input for more precise and faster control, but Apple doesn’t make a keyboard cover with an integrated trackpad for the standard iPad. You can find third-party keyboard cases that offer this functionality, such as the Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard Case with Trackpad.

What are your alternatives?

iPad Air 2022 laying on a stand in an upright position showing its display on the Home screen with app icons.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

The first alternative that comes to mind is the $600 iPad Air. At nearly twice the price of the standard iPad, however, I’d be hard pressed to look you in the eye and say you should buy the iPad Air instead. Unless you need the computer-grade performance of the iPad Air, you won’t regret picking up the standard iPad for $330.

Otherwise, I highly recommend the latest iPad Mini. If the standard iPad is the “best” iPad, the iPad Mini is the “perfect” iPad, at least subjectively. Its smaller size means iPad Mini is lighter and more portable, while offering a larger screen than your phone. The only reason the iPad Mini isn’t the “best” iPad is because of its hefty $500 price tag. Still, the iPad Mini runs on the A15 Bionic processor from the iPhone 13 series, which makes it more powerful and more durable than the standard iPad.

If you are a Samsung phone user, it may make more sense to buy a Samsung tablet now that you can take calls and send texts on company tablets. the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is a nice, feature-rich tablet, but it’s pricey at $900. The $700 Galaxy Tab S8 is a viable alternative, but also much more expensive than the standard iPad. You can read my Galaxy Tab S8 Plus review here.

There’s also Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A series of tablets which are more affordable and offer texting and calling, but I haven’t reviewed them yet so can’t comment on them specifically.

The bottom line

The 2021 iPad resting on a beige couch surrounded by couch pillows.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Initiate

For $330 you get a really excellent tablet that comes with a decent display and efficient performance.

If you plan to browse the web, stream videos, run common popular apps, and even play graphics-rich games, there’s no reason to spend more on the iPad Air, let alone of the iPad Pro series. In this case, the base iPad retains its position as the best Apple tablet for most people.

Lance B. Holton