Here’s my current goal: My two daughters are increasingly capable of using an iPad for reading, writing, drawing, and, well, entertaining. We have one iPad in the house — my 2021 M1 iPad Pro — and that iPad is now used about 75% of the time for my daughters’ needs. I’d like to get a second iPad so I can get back to using mine for my own work, or to hand it off officially to my wife.

So which iPad is best suited for my two daughters, considering the fact I have a 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and a Magic Keyboard already in the house?

The purchase process for this particular need is surprisingly difficult right now.

The latest iPad — dubbed iPad 10 — seems like a big win, but I would have to buy a new 1st-generation Apple Pencil, a Lightning port adapter, and the Magic Keyboard Folio. This is quite an expensive path forward. Nope.

A 6th-generation iPad mini makes some sense right now. It uses a 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and is small, light, and portable. However, it’s also due for an update I’m thinking. And it doesn’t support the Magic Keyboard. Nope.

The current M1 iPad Air makes some sense as well. It supports all the accessories I currently have. But it’s also that weird lame duck right in the middle of the lineup which is somewhat hard to recommend to anyone purchasing right now. Nope.

I could look at refurbished models, but by golly is it difficult to nail down whether these iPads work with my accessories:

  • The 5th-generation iPad mini does not work with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil. Nope.
  • The 3rd-generation iPad Air uses a Lightning port and won’t work with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil. Nope.
  • The 4th-generation iPad Air appears to work with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard. Maybe?
  • The widely-loved 2018 iPad Pro comes with USB-C and works with both the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard, but it won’t support external displays (if this became a long-term goal for their education) and it’s running an A12X Bionic, a 4-year old chip. This is also on the more expensive end of the spectrum. Nope.
  • There’s also a 2020 iPad Pro, but this has the same shortcomings as the 2018 iPad Pro above. Nope.

All in all, I think my best option is to go with the 4th-generation iPad Air. This is on the cheaper end of the scale, works with both the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard I already have, and has one of the later A14 Bionic Chip (the same as the current iPad 10), ensuring it should have some support life to it.

I could also consider getting myself an iPad mini and giving the girls the iPad Pro. This seems counter-intuitive to the whole process though, doesn’t it?

But most importantly here is the amount of time it took to determine this was the best option and the hoops you have to jump through to determine which accessory works with which iPad and which iPad is capable of running which software.

Most iPad-geeks already know which is which is which. The average consumer looking for an iPad for their 5-year-old daughter, though? It’s got to be pretty difficult to be an Apple salesperson right now when an eager parent walks through the door.