Which iPad is right for you?

Apple iPad AirApple’s iPad range is proving irresistible for many. The company has sold more than 170 million of them. The new models will be on plenty of Christmas wish lists, but how do you work out which iPad is right for you? We’re here to help. In this comparison we’ll take a look at the four models of iPad that are on sale right now and discuss the pros and cons.

iPad Air

240 x 169.5 x 7.5 mm
469 g (478 g for cellular)
9.7‑inch display, 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution
64-bit A7 chip and M7 coprocessor
5MP main camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera

The headline act is the iPad Air. It has a big display in a stunningly svelte body. This is a seriously slim and lightweight device. The respectable resolution works out at 264 pixels per inch (ppi). The new processor is lightning fast and the potential of the move to 64-bit will become clear over the next few months. It also has the standard 10 hour battery life you’ll get from all iPads. The camera is nothing to write home about, but who buys a tablet for the camera? If you’re after the best big tablet around then it’s very hard to see past the iPad Air.

What might give you pause is the price. It starts at £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, but we would caution you against getting that. Apps are growing larger all the time, even Apple’s free apps will eat a few GB, plus you might want some HD movies on there, maybe some music, you’re going to be out of space fast. The 32GB Wi-Fi version is £479 and that’s probably your bottom line. You could get the 32GB cellular version for £579, but it’s only worth the extra cost if you’re going to be out and about with your iPad a lot, and you have to factor in the additional monthly fee for data. Most people primarily use their iPads around the house, and you can get Wi-Fi in a lot of places now, so the extra outlay probably isn’t worth it for the majority.

iPad 2

241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm
601 g (613 g for cellular)
9.7‑inch display, 1024 x 768 pixel resolution
A5 chip
0.92MP main camera, VGA front-facing camera

Your only other option for a large tablet from Apple is the two year-old iPad 2. This rapidly aging tablet is showing serious signs of decline and it really can’t keep up with the bright young things on the market. The display is comparatively poor at 132 ppi, the processor is comparatively slow, the camera is a complete joke, and it’s comparatively bulky and heavy. There are many unhappy owners complaining about the performance of iOS 7 on the iPad 2 and that should set alarm bells ringing. It doesn’t support Siri either.

Apple usually brings out the new model and drops the old model to the lower price point, but the iPad line has broken with that tradition. Remember that the iPad 3 and the iPad 4 have come and gone and the only reason Apple discontinued them is profit margin – it figures it can’t make enough selling them cheaper, so it tries to palm you off with the iPad 2. Even at £329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, or £429 for the cellular version, the iPad 2 is not worth it. You can’t get more storage than 16GB and the cellular version is 3G only, it won’t support the new 4G LTE networks. If you need something cheaper than the iPad Air, but you still want a big tablet then check out refurbished and second-hand iPad 4 and iPad 3 deals.

iPad mini with Retina display

200 x 134.7 x 7.5 mm
331 g (341 g for cellular)
7.9-inch display, 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution
64-bit A7 chip and M7 coprocessor
5MP main camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera

This is basically the same tablet as the iPad Air, but in a smaller package with a 7.9-inch screen. Since the resolution is the same, that smaller screen gives you 326 ppi and it looks fantastic. It has exactly the same specs and features as the iPad Air, but it is slightly cheaper and a bit more portable.

It kicks off at £319 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, but once again we’d advise against going lower than the £399 32GB version. Since it’s more portable, you might be more interested in a cellular contract to go with it. £499 will get you the 32GB version with the latest 4G LTE support. If you want LTE then you’re going to end up paying a premium for it. If you can get by on 3G for now then you can probably get a nano-SIM deal for around £7.50 for 1GB of data. To give you an idea, EE is charging £16 per month for 8GB of 4G LTE data with a nano-SIM right now, but that’s a special offer so the price might go up. Don’t pay for LTE without checking coverage in your area first!

iPad mini

200 x 134.7 x 7.2 mm
308 g (312 g for cellular)
7.9-inch display, 1024 x 768 pixel resolution
A5 chip
5MP main camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera

The original iPad mini has the same disappointing resolution as the iPad 2, but because the screen is smaller it works out at 163 ppi. On the plus side it does have the better 5MP main camera and the 1.2MP front-facing camera. It also supports Siri. It’s very slightly slimmer and lighter than the new iPad mini, but there isn’t much in it.

You can only get a 16GB version, which is a shame. It starts at £249 for the Wi-Fi model. It’s £349 for the cellular model, which does support the latest 4G LTE, but as we discussed you’ll pay a premium for that. If you want the smaller size and your budget is limited, then the original iPad mini is not a bad choice, it certainly represents better value for money than the iPad 2.

About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced tech writer with a background in games development. He has been covering the world of mobile technology for several years now and writes for a variety of popular websites.