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Each iPad display compared: a pixel-by-pixel analysis

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Since its first generation in 2010, the iPad display has always been impressive. And this out of necessity. It’s the first thing that draws people to the tablet, the part of the user interface you spend the most time with, the hub of the device.

As the iPad has matured and expanded over the years, however, the number of choices has also grown, somewhat confusingly. Someone walking into an Apple Store will surely have questions: What makes the 10.9-inch iPad Air different from the 11-inch iPad Pro? How is the 10th generation iPad display different from the iPad Air? Can I connect a 9th generation iPad to an external display? We’re here to help demystify things a bit. We’ve broken down the iPad displays for events to help you decide which one to buy:

What every iPad display has in common

Before we get into the differences, there are a few features that every iPad display has:

Retina: All Apple iPads have at least 264ppi, so the pixels aren’t visible at normal viewing distance. Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating: With touch devices, it’s important to keep fingerprints off the display. IPS technology: Plane switching is used to provide the best color quality and wide viewing angles. True Tone: Apple technology to adjust colors to appear more natural on the display based on the ambient light in your surroundings.

What is a Retina display?

For its displays, Apple uses the term Retina as a brand identifier for display pixel density. Apple uses modifiers with the term Retina to differentiate between different levels of pixel density (pixels per inch, or ppi). As you’d probably expect, the more modifiers they used the more “awesome” the display was. Apple’s specs for Retina are somewhat fluid, but it means that pixels on the screen aren’t visible when held at a normal viewing distance. So the ppi of iPad is much lower than that of iPhone. In order from least dense to densest, these are the Retina terms used for the iPad lineup:

Retina (9th generation iPad) Liquid Retina (10th generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, 11-inch iPad Pro) Liquid Retina XDR (12.9-inch iPad Pro)

iPad built-in display specs compared

iPad (9th generation)

Despite the release of a new refurbished iPad in 2022, the 9th generation iPad is still around for the same $329 price. It’s still a fast contender, and you get the full 10.2 inches of screen real estate. The display doesn’t look as modern as on the new model, but it can still send an impressive picture via AirPlay or to an external display. For general use (watching videos, playing games, browsing the web, productivity apps) it might be all you need.

External display support: The 9th generation iPad has a Lightning connector, so it won’t connect to a USB-C display. Also, its video output is limited to 1080p on a single display. It can connect to a display via VGA, HDMI, and DVI using an adapter, such as Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter ($49/£49 on Amazon) or Lightning to VGA adapter ($49/£49 on Amazon). This iPad also has AirPlay 2 and can connect to an AirPlay 2 equipped TV.

iPad (2021, 9th generation)

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MSRP: $329 (Base Model) Best Prices Today:

$269.99 at Best Buy

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$309 at Newegg in the US

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$329.00 at Adorama

iPad (10 generation)

This newly released iPad has a bright and beautiful Liquid Retina screen. While there are some setbacks in the form of the tablet that only supports the first generation Apple Pencil and an uncomplained design, this iPad is more flexible than its predecessor with external display support. Combine that with a starting price of $449 and the 10th generation iPad is starting to look like a serious contender for mobile work and presentations.

External display support: This iPad mini has USB-C with native DisplayPort, so it can connect directly to a USB-C/DisplayPort monitor. It can be used with an external display with resolution up to 4K at 30Hz or a 1080p external display at 60Hz. To connect to VGA, HDMI, or DVI, you’ll need an adapter, such as the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($69/£69 on Amazon) or USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($59/£59 on Amazon). It also has AirPlay 2 and can connect to AirPlay 2 equipped TVs.

10.9-inch iPad (2022)

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MSRP: $449 (64GB) | $599 (256GB) Best Prices Today:

$399.00 Best Buy

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$448.00 on Amazon

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$449.00 at Adorama

iPadAir

The iPad Air appears to have exactly the same display as the 10th generation iPad, but offers features aimed at more demanding users. The attractive Liquid Retina display is fully laminated so it’s thinner and more responsive, and the display supports P3 color, both of which are significant upgrades over the 10th generation iPad.

External display support: The iPad Air has USB-C with a native DisplayPort, so it can connect directly to a USB-C/DisplayPort monitor. It can drive an external 6K display at a whopping 60Hz. To connect to VGA, HDMI, or DVI, you’ll need an adapter, such as the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($69/£69 on Amazon) or USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($59/£59 on Amazon). It also has AirPlay 2 and can connect to AirPlay 2 equipped TVs.

iPad Air (2022)

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MSRP: $599 (64GB); $749 (256GB) Best Prices Today:

$499.99 at Best Buy

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$599 from Apple

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$749 at Walmart

iPadmini

The iPad mini offers an excellent, bright, beautiful and clear Liquid Retina display with rounded corners that looks great but eats into the viewing area slightly. The mini also manages a single external display, but with a starting price of $499, it’s a small but powerful tablet worth considering.

External display support: The iPad mini supports an external display with resolutions up to 4K at 30Hz. The iPad mini has USB-C with native DisplayPort, so it can connect directly to a USB-C/DisplayPort monitor. To connect to VGA, HDMI, or DVI, you’ll need an adapter, such as the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($69/£69 on Amazon) or USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($59/£59 on Amazon). It also has AirPlay 2 and can connect to AirPlay 2 equipped TVs.

Apple iPad mini (2021)

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MSRP: $499 (64GB) | $649 (256GB) Best Prices Today:

$389.00 at Adorama

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$399.99 on Amazon

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$499.00 at Apple

iPad Pro 11 inch

With the 11-inch iPad Pro starting at $799, we’re at the high end of the iPad spectrum. The iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina display is a bit brighter than any non-Pro iPad at 600 nits. The P3 color space used by the iPad Pro is the one favored by the film industry, and together with support for ProMotion (adaptive high refresh rate), this iPad has one of the best tablet displays anywhere.

External display support: The 11-inch iPad Pro has USB-C with native DisplayPort, so it can connect directly to a USB-C/DisplayPort monitor. It can drive an external 6K display at 60Hz. To connect to VGA, HDMI, or DVI, you’ll need an adapter, such as the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($69/£69 on Amazon) or USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($59/£59 on Amazon). It also has AirPlay 2 and can connect to AirPlay 2 equipped TVs.

iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

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MSRP: $799 (128GB, Wi-Fi Only) Today’s Best Prices:

$729.00 on Amazon

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$799.00 at Adorama

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$799.00 Best Buy

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

Apple’s top-of-the-line iPad starts at $1,099, and its Liquid Retina XDR display is impressive in every respect. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the only iPad to support high dynamic range (HDR) video and also the only one with the ability to work in reference mode and reach 1,000 nits of maximum brightness. Like the 11-inch model, it supports P3 color space and ProMotion and is a fantastic option for anyone who makes or watches a lot of video.

External display support: The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has USB-C with native DisplayPort, so it can connect directly to a USB-C/DisplayPort monitor. It can drive an external 6K display at 60Hz. To connect to VGA, HDMI, or DVI, you’ll need an adapter, such as the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter ($69/£69 on Amazon) or USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter ($59/£59 on Amazon). It also has AirPlay 2 and can connect to AirPlay 2 equipped TVs.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2022)

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MSRP: $1,099 (128GB, Wi-Fi Only) Today’s Best Prices:

$1,069.99 on Amazon

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$1099.00 at Adorama

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$1099.00 at Apple