Which iPad Should I Buy?

If you are reading my blog you most likely already know that Apple last week announced a couple of new iPads. So the current line-up of the Apple iPads is:

  • iPad Air (New)
  • iPad 2
  • iPad mini (only in 16 Gb wifi or wifi + cellular)
  • iPad mini with retina (New)

So what's new and why should you care? If you are thinking about buying your 1st iPad, upgrading your current iPad or buying an iPad as a gift for someone then you probably do care and because there are more options from which to choose it can be a bit confusing. I'm going to try and break down the current iPad line as simply as possible for you.

iPad 2

Let's start with the easy one. The iPad 2 is still being sold for 1 main reason. There are a lot of educational and business institutions that have invested a lot of money in accessories or infrastructure to support all the iPads they own and quite a few of those iPads are still using the old 30-pin dock connector. So for those large organizations that still aren't ready to make the jump to the new lightning dock connector (and aren't ready to buy all the new accessories or infrastructure that goes along with a new dock connector type), Apple is keeping an iPad in the line-up that still has the old style dock connector.

Should you buy an iPad 2? No. Not unless you absolutely need an iPad with a 30-pin dock connector.

iPad Mini

The iPad mini has finally gone retina! What does that mean to most people? Not much. Don't get me wrong, the higher resolution of the retina screen is amazing. However, unless you are a gamer, a graphics artist, a photographer, someone who uses their iPad to watch a lot of HD video or just a tech geek like me the retina screen shouldn't be the determining factor for which iPad you get. With one exception...if you do A LOT of reading with your iPad, the extra resolution can really help cut down on eye strain. No, the real enhancement to the iPad mini with retina display is the new A7 processor (64 bit architecture) along with the A7 motion coprocessor. So what does all this processor technical jargon mean? It means a much faster iPad for the consumer with more technical capabilities that developers can use to publish apps that can do even more amazing things than they can do with already existing hardware.

So which iPad mini should you buy? It really boils down to price and capacity. If you don't need more than 16 Gb of storage and the $100 price difference is a big deal for you then just get the regular iPad mini for $299. Otherwise, I would recommend going with the iPad mini with retina display, not so much for the higher resolution but for the faster processor and the new 64-bit architecture (it's a more future-proof iPad).

iPad Air

The totally new device (it even got a completely new name) announced by Apple was the iPad Air. The iPad Air is replacing the 4th generation iPad as the "full-sized" iPad (has a 9.7" screen instead of the smaller 7.9" iPad Mini screen). This really is a brand new device when compared to the 4th generation iPad just simply because of how much lighter this new iPad is. I think people are underestimating just how big of deal this new iPad really is. This new iPad is essentially the same as the new iPad mini with retina display except for a larger screen. The iPad Air weighs only 1.05 lb, compared to the 0.75 lb of the iPad mini. Weight is no longer a distinguishing factor between the full sized iPad and the mini anymore...it is truly only about screen size and the $100 price difference. Virtually every other technical spec is identical between the iPad Air and the iPad mini with retina.

So who should buy the iPad Air over the iPad mini with retina? If you regularly use your iPad for tasks that would benefit from a larger screen (content creation, writing, watching videos, reading and in particular lots of website consumption) then it is worth the extra $100 for the larger screen of the iPad Air. However, if the above tasks are not something you do on a very regular basis and extreme portability is important than the iPad mini with retina display is the clear choice.

4th Gen iPad (Refurbished)

Most people aren't aware that this is still an option. Yes, Apple is still selling the 4th generation iPad in the Apple Refurbished Store. For just $379 you can pick up a refurbished 4th generation iPad ($120 less than the iPad Air).

Why would you get the 4th gen refurbished iPad? If you have any kind of substantial case on your iPad now then you probably won't even notice the weight different between the 4th gen iPad and the iPad Air. If you don't carry your iPad around much and primarily use your iPad for the basic email and web browsing then the 4th gen iPad is a great deal. A majority of iPad users out there won't notice the difference between the 4th gen iPad and the iPad Air and should take advantage of the $120 savings.

What am I doing?

I've done two things with this latest iPad announcement. I am upgrading my wife's iPad 2 to a refurbished iPad 4th generation and I am switching from my current iPad mini 64 Gb Verizon iPad to the iPad Air 64 Gb wifi only. I'll be posting soon about why I switched back from an iPad mini to a full sized iPad. If you are curious about why I switched to a mini to begin with, read my blog post about the switch. As for my wife, she currently carries her iPad 2 around in a BookBook for iPad case and really doesn't HAVE to have the latest in technology. In fact, she is perfectly happy with her iPad 2, but its getting old enough I would rather upgrade her to a new iPad and sell the iPad 2 while it still has some value. So the 4th gen iPad gets her a retina iPad with the new lightning dock connector and she will see a huge bump in speed all while getting to keep using her beloved BookBook for iPad case. Don't overlook the value of the 4th generation iPad!

If you need more help deciding if you should upgrade you iPad then the Mac Observer has a really nice article comparing current and previous generation iPad models along with advice on upgrading.

Post a comment below about what you decided to do, I'd love to hear from you!

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