It’s been a year since the last iPad refresh, and Apple’s (AAPL) new tablet line-up doesn’t disappoint.
As we noted in our review round-up for the new iPad Air, the consensus is that this year’s model is the best tablet Apple has ever made — and by extension, the best tablet on the market.
With that said, those looking at buying a new tablet next month will have to make a number of decisions. Air or Mini with Retina? Black or white? Wi-Fi or LTE? How much storage do I need? Where should I buy it?
We’ve rounded up the most common questions people have regarding the new iPads to compile the ultimate buyer’s guide. If there’s anything we haven’t addressed, feel free to bring it up in the comments and we’ll see how we can help.
You can click the links below to skip to your specific question:
Should I buy the iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina?
This one depends on your screen-size preference, budget and patience.
Internally, the iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina are essentially identical: same screen resolution, same processor, and same battery life.
So the main differentiator in terms of the hardware itself is the screen size — and the change in weight that brings with it. The Mini with Retina’s 40% smaller display makes the package lighter and easier to hold in one hand, while the Air’s larger display makes text clearer and video enjoyable from farther away.
With that said, the Mini with Retina model costs $100 less than an Air with equivalent storage and wireless options. We also don’t have a specific date for its release; all we know is that it’s coming “later in November.”
What about the iPad 2 or older iPad Mini?
While the idea of buying a full-sized iPad for only $399 might seem appealing at first glance, the truth is that the iPad 2 is a major rip-off at that price point.
It’s running the same hardware as it did back in 2011 (though a change to its processor has improved battery life some), meaning that it’s going to have an increasingly difficult time over the next two years or so as apps are made to take advantage of Apple’s new 64-bit mobile architecture. While its current performance is passable, the iPad 2 simply isn’t a good long-term purchase.
The $299 iPad Mini is a somewhat different story. It has the same internals as the iPad 2 but weighs significantly less, making for a decent bargain if you’re in the market for a smaller iOS tablet and don’t mind being a bit behind the curve on specs.
Should I get a Wi-Fi model or step up to LTE?
To get the cheapest iPad possible, go Wi-Fi only. LTE connectivity immediately adds $130 to the cost of your new device and most likely an extra charge on your monthly wireless carrier bill. (More on this later).
If you’re willing to pay the premium, adding LTE really is a great option on this year’s new iPads. As Engadget’s Brad Molen notes in his review of the Air, the iPad is able to pull off download and upload rates competitive with many Americans’ home broadband connections with only average signal strength.