Preparing for student life can be exciting and stressful. To make things easier, it’s good to know that you have the right tech to help you write your essays, take notes in lessons, and be able to kick back with Netflix and games when all the work is done. The iPad has evolved in recent years to something that can now act as a laptop replacement for many students, with accessories like the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil making it one of the most versatile devices you can buy.
Choosing one can be tricky though, as Apple currently offers a wide range of models with different prices and features. No problem, here’s our guide to buying an iPad for your student days.
Before you decide, you should also know that you can get money off a new Apple product by shopping in Apple’s education store. You can read all about
how to get an Apple Student Discount here.
Plus, if you buy an iPad (or a Mac) from Apple and you are a student you might be able to get a free gift, such as a pair of AirPods, while
Apple’s Back To School Promotion is running (usually June to September in the US, from July to October in the UK).
Here’s a link to
Apple’s Education Store (in the UK you will need to verify your student status via UNiDAYS). Click
here to visit the Education Store if you are in the US. If you are a student here’s
how to get Apple Music for half price.
Best iPad for students
iPad 10.2in (9th-gen, 2021) – Best For Bargain Hunters
Since we expect that students are likely to be looking to save money where they can, we’d suggest that the 10.2in iPad is the closest you can get to a bargain iPad – especially once you apply the student discount (more on
how to get a student discount from Apple here.)
While this is the cheapest iPad, it still has enough performance and features to make it an excellent choice for many students. Apple upgraded the device in 2021, adding the powerful A13 that previously powered the iPhone 11 range, plus there were signicant improvements to the front-facing camera which now has an Ultra-Wide lens and support for Centre Stage.
It can happily run the the Micosoft Office apps for iPad, plus there are various productivity apps from Apple that will make note-taking and working on assignments a doddle. Add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you have a very workable laptop that should cope with most coursework demands. Support for Apple Pencil and you can annotate documents, sketch, and of course practice your handwriting.
The iPad 10.2in (9th gen) is a great iPad if your demands aren’t too onerous. It will handle academic life with ease, and provides plenty of entertainment for when the lessons are over. One word of caution though. The base model only comes with 64GB of storage (costing , which in this day and age seems pretty mean of Apple. With that in mind we’d recommend opting for the 256GB version as it would be more practical.
To see more, you can read our full
10.2in iPad (9th Gen) review.
best deal on a new 10.2in iPad
Read our full
Apple iPad 10.2in (2021) review
iPad mini (6th gen, 2021) – Most Portable iPad
If the most important factor to you is portability there’s one iPad in particular that you might want to consider.
The iPad mini, updated in September 2021 with an A15 Bionic and a brand new design, is the smallest and lightest iPad you can buy. It weighs in at 293g, while the 10.2in iPad is 487g and the iPad Air is 461g. Of course the low weight is a result of the iPad itself being smaller, thanks to the 8.3in display and Apple getting rid of the Home button and relocating Touch ID in the Power button on the top edge. The result is a compact but powerful device that doesn’t feel too small. We think that this screen size is perfect for reading books or taking notes (especially with an Apple Pencil) so it may well be ideal for you if that’s what how you intend to use the iPad.
Don’t let the diminutive form fool you though, as the mini boasts an A15 Bionic chip, the same as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, so there’s no shortage of power on tap. Connectivity is top-notch too, with support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 and LTE 5G networks available, depending on the model you choose.
The front-facing camera is an Ultra-Wide lens, so it can track you and keep you in the centre of the frame on video-calls thanks to Centre Stage, while the 12Mp Wide camera on the back can capture great photos and videos that could be used in presentations or for more media-based assignments.
There are two storage options available – 64GB and 256GB – and as with the 10.2in iPad we’d recommend the larger of the two as it allows you to store more apps, downloading music and movies, plus all those photos and videos.
One disadvantage is that the mini only works with Bluetooth keyboards, rather than Apple’s range of iPad-specific keyboards – but whether that is a disadvantage is debatable. It will probably save you money.
Prices start at £479/$499 for the 64GB model, with the 256GB option raising the cost to £619/$649. This is an increase over the previous generation, but you do get some serious up-to-date tech in the new iPad mini.
Here’s our full review of the
best deal on a new iPad mini.
Read our full
Apple iPad mini (2021) review
iPad Air (2022) – Best All-Rounder
We think the iPad Air, last updated in March 2022, with its 10.9in display, modern design, light weight (461g), great cameras and hugely powerful processor – is a good choice for students.
Unfortunately it’s not as cheap as it once was, with the new format and construction methods bringing the costs up to £569/$599 for the 64GB model and £719/$749 for the 256GB variant (which is the one we’d recommend).
Because of the price increase it’s no longer our top choice iPad for students, but if you can afford it then it really is worth the investment.
There are lots of things that the iPad Air has going for it. The design allows for a bigger screen and slimmer bezels, as the Home button is replaced by Touch ID embedded in the Power button on the side of the chassis. There are plenty of colours to choose from, but the biggest feature of the 2022 model in the inclusion of the M1 processor. This is same chip that powers the iPad Pro models, not to mention several of the new Macs. In an iPad Air, it makes the device fly.
The camera is 12Mp Wide lens (also like on the iPad Pro), which can record video up to 4K/60fps, and as with other iPads on this list, the front-facing camera has been upgraded to the 12Mp Ultra-Wide that allows for Centre Stage.
Essentially, this new iPad Air is an iPad Pro for a cheaper price. The only major feature it’s missing is the 120Hz Pro-Motion screen refresh rate, but that’s hardly something most people will even notice.
We highly recommend the iPad Air for students.
To find out more details, read our full
iPad Air (2022) review.
best deal on a new iPad Air.
Read our full
Apple iPad Air (2022, 64GB, Wi-Fi) review
iPad Pro 11in (2021) – The Best High-Power Option
Maybe you have no money concerns (or you’ve just got your hands on your loan and are feeling flush) should you consider the more expensive, and more powerful, iPad Pro?
Sure, if you have the money to spend, the iPad Pro is a great choice. It starts at £749/$799 for the entry-level 11in model, but there’s also a 12.9in model that starts at £999/$1,099 and goes all the way to £1,999/$2,199 for 2TB storage (if you have particularly generous parents!)
There’s no real difference between the two models, so it really is just a choice between an 11in and 12.9in display.
Internally, there’s the powerful M1 chip that is one of the fastest pieces of silicon around at the moment, and the displays benfit from the ultra-smooth ProMotion (120hz refresh rates) that are reserved only for iPads that have Pro in their name. To be honest, buying a Pro for a student that will only play a few games, stream netflix and type up some essays would be a bit of a waste of money, as the iPad Air offers plenty of the same features and will leave you with a chunk of change compared to a Pro.
That being said, when you get into these price territories, especially when you add in something like the ludicrously expensive Apple Magic Keyboard, then we’d suggest giving serious thought to whether you’d be better off with an M1 powered MacBook Air instead.
But, if you want the most powerful iPad with the best looking display, the Pros are where it’s at.
Read all the details in our reviews of the
iPad Pro 11in and
iPad Pro 12.9in.
best deal on a new iPad Pro.
Read our full
iPad Pro 11in (2021, M1) review
Should students buy an iPad or a laptop?
Before you go ahead and buy your iPad you may want to consider its suitability for your purpose.
As a student you probably have a few requirements:
- Low price
- Great apps for things like note taking, recording lectures and revision
- Light enough to carry around all day
- Keyboard and stylus support
- Suitable for making video calls home
You might be wondering whether a tablet or a laptop would be better for those needs, and if you lean towards the latter, take a look at our guide to
the best Macs for students.
We think, however, that an iPad is a great choice. It runs many of the apps you’ll find on a laptop, including Office apps like Word and PowerPoint and the Apple equivalents, and in some cases an iPad is actually more powerful than a laptop thanks to the super-fast processors Apple uses.
Another benefit is that you can have all the books you need for your course on your iPad and carry them with you to lectures and tutorials. You could even photograph pages from books in the library and use optical character recognition to save the text to your iPad.
Not only do you not need to lug all your books around with you, an iPad is far lighter than even the lightest laptop, so you won’t be getting backache from carrying it to lectures and the library.
With battery life of 10 hours – plenty for a day on campus – you aren’t going to need to find a space beside a plug socket in order to get though a day at uni.
Think that having an iPad will mean you have to type on an on-screen keyboard? No! You could sync any Bluetooth keyboard or plug in one of Apple’s own
iPad keyboards and effectively turn your iPad into a laptop. There’s also the Apple Pencil, which could come in useful if you wanted to jot down some notes on your iPad screen in a lecture. See
Best stylus for iPad.
And when you’ve finished studying there are loads of games, and apps for video calling your parents.
Still not sure? We have more information
comparing a MacBook laptop and an iPad.
Are iPads good for students?
The next question you might want some reassurance on is whether the iPad is the best option for a student. There are a lot of other tablets available, many of which are cheaper than an iPad. So you might be thinking of saving some money.
We think if you do so you will regret it. There are many reasons why Apple’s iPads are so popular:
- The App Store is heaving with great apps designed specifically for the iPad.
- Many of those apps will be ideal for students: note taking apps, apps for converting handwriting to text, apps for recording lectures, timetable management, and of course video calling (so you can stay in touch with mum and dad).
- There is an ecosystem of great accessories designed to work with the iPad.
- Apple’s iPadOS is stable and easy to use, especially if you already have an iPhone.
- If you’ve got a Mac you can use an iPad as a second screen, provided you are runing Big Sur or Catalina, or, when it lauches, Monteray.
How to get an iPad student discount
If you’re still thinking that the price of an iPad is a little more than you want to spend, here’s some good news: you don’t have to pay full price at all.
Apple offers a student discount via its
Apple UK Education Store or
Apple’s US Education Store. Sign up with details of your student status and course, and prove your identity. We explain how to do this in our article
How to get an Apple student discount.
If you can’t get a student discount that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get money off a new iPad. Read our round up of
best iPad deals.
That’s all of our student-related buying advice, but if you’re buying for someone younger, check out our guide to the
best iPad for kids.