When it comes to new Apple products, it can often be difficult to decide which model to buy. You know you want an iPad, but this year there are so many options, it’s hard to decide which you should go far. I live and breathe iOS and earn my bread from writing about it all day every day, and even I’m confused about which model to get. To make it a little easier, I’ve put all currently available iPads in to a handy chart comparing all the key specs and features.
I think the key question you should use to narrow down your choices is a simple one. How big an iPad do you want/need. If your primary aim is to get a really portable device that’ll almost fit in your back pocket, the iPad mini really is the way to go. But portability is only one consideration. Having a smaller display also means that you can more easily use it in hand. The mini is light enough and small enough that you don’t need to rest it on your lap or grip on to it with both hands. Particularly handy if – for instance – you want something to browse/read books/game on when you’re commuting to and from work each day.
If mini is the way your going, your next questions are: What will you use it for and how much can you afford to spend? I’ll tell you know, if you want to use it to read comics, magazines or books, you are going to benefit a huge deal from having the iPad mini with Retina. But if your budget is pushing it at $300, then you really only have one option.
If you want the biggest and best quality screen on the iPad market, you know where you’re heading already – iPad Air. The deal clincher here is that if you’ve owned a full size iPad before, it’ll be a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) stepping up to the latest model. It has a brilliant 9.7″ Retina display, but is incredibly light, thin and much smaller than your previous model.
If budget is your main decision point (which for many it will be) there’s more flexibility than there used to be. You might look at the $399 iPad 2 and think “ooh, a full size iPad for less than $400″ and I’d stop you there. Personally, I cannot see any reason why anyone, for any reason would want the iPad 2. Yes, it has a large screen, but every other piece of technology inside it is – in today’s market – sub par. Running iOS 7 is slow and sluggish, the tablet is big and heavy, the camera is woeful. There are two other tablets either at the same price point, or below.
If I was your tablet sales advisor (unless you were desperate for the 9.7” screen and were unwilling to budge) I’d do everything I could to push you towards the new iPad mini with Retina ($399 for Wi-Fi only) or the first generation iPad mini ($299 for Wi-Fi only). Both will offer you a much better experience for the same or lower initial outlay. They’re more portable, easier to hold and perform much better at almost everything.
If you’re main priority is getting the most powerful, and the fastest iPad out there – for the first time – you now have two options. You can now either get the iPad mini with Retina or iPad Air. Apart from size, both have identical specs. They have the same processor, the same battery life, the same camera, the same resolution displays. It then comes down to which size you want, and how much you want to spend. The advantage to the iPad mini with Retina is that you can get more internal storage and wireless connectivity options for your money. For instance, if you needed 32GB, for $599 you could get your Wi-Fi only iPad Air. But for $30 more you’d get an iPad mini with Retina, Wi-Fi plus Cellular giving you much greater freedom and not limiting your connectivity to the Wi-Fi hotspots in cafés or your home wireless network.
This year, the fact that you now have the option to go mini without losing any specs or performance is the best thing about the new lineup. Last year, if you really wanted to have a small, portable iPad, you had to compromise and lose the chance to have Retina quality resolution and the more powerful internals. However much I love my iPad mini, making that trade-off to lose the iPad’s Retina display was something that bugged me for the entire 12 months. Now, there are no compromises. You want the best specs, you can have it at two sizes, four storage capacity options and the best wireless connectivity on the market.
Personally, I’m going to order the 32GB iPad Air. I need a tablet that I can use as my portable work solution. I don’t have a laptop, and the extra screen real estate is very handy for creating documents and editing articles online. I love the Retina display, and I’m delighted that there’s a full size iPad that weighs so little and has so little added bulk around its frame. The 32GB storage is crucial for me too. I currently have the 32GB iPad mini, and have around 8-9GB free. And that’s without any apps I don’t use, or any media stored on it at all. Having the spare space means I can download movies and entertainment for road trips. Helps keep the kids entertained. If it doesn’t work out as a productivity school, and I still prefer the mini’s size after using it for a couple of weeks, I’ll more than likely return it and swap it for a higher spec iPad mini with Retina.
Personally, I’m really confused as to why the iPad 2 still exists. Like the iPhone 4s, it’s an old design and still features the 30-pin connector. Apart from absolutely having to have the 9.7″ screen at as low a price as possible, there’s little else that could persuade me that it’s necessary.