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Which iPad should I buy?

Lex Friedman | Oct. 29, 2012
For a product not yet out of toddlerhood, the iPad sure comes in an awful lot of variations. With the new iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad each unveiled this week, and with the iPad 2 still on sale, potential customers are faced with more iPad questions than ever: Should you get an iPad? If so, which model? And after you decide on a model, which size? And should you buy one with cellular connectivity?

Many existing iPad owners may lust after the new iPad mini. Apple would certainly love for them to buy that new, 7.9-inch tablet. But Apple's key aim with the iPad mini is to attract buyers who don't yet have an iPad. Unless you're constantly bemoaning your current 10-inch iPad's size or weight, the case for existing iPad owners to buy an iPad mini is tough to make. And unless your family could benefit from an additional iPad--or you're a gadget hound for whom money is no object--you may want to sit this release out.

I have the third-generation iPad. Should I buy the fourth-generation version now?

Probably not. Your third-generation iPad is the same powerful, Retina-display-sporting iPad it was a week ago. Sure, the fourth-generation iPad boasts a faster processor and further improved Wi-Fi speeds. Remember, though, your third-generation iPad is no slouch--in fact, it's downright speedy.

Predicting Apple's plans and being right 100 percent of the time is impossible, but this week's fourth-generation iPad release is most likely an indicator that Apple is shifting the tablet's release cycle from March to October. It can't hurt that an October release pushes the new product out in time for the holiday season. In other words, you probably needn't fear that yet another new iPad will show up in March of next year; we'll probably have to wait until October 2013 for the fifth-generation iPad to appear.

I have an iPod touch or an iPhone. Isn't the iPad mini redundant?

Nope! Your iPhone and iPod touch run iPhone apps. The iPad mini runs iPad apps. Yes, when Apple first unveiled the iPad, people called it a big iPod touch, and the iPad mini is a smaller big iPod touch. But they're different devices, geared toward different uses.

I'm buying a new iPad. Should I pick the fourth-gen, the iPad mini, or the iPad 2?

Frankly, I think it's increasingly difficult to make a compelling argument for buying the iPad 2. The iPad 2 starts at $399; the iPad mini starts at $329. Internally, every spec on the iPad mini matches or surpasses what the iPad 2 offers, and it costs less money. You sacrifice a couple inches of screen real estate, but the iPad mini released in 2012 will surely support more iOS releases than the iPad 2 first released in 2011. The forward-thinking purchase is the more powerful iPad mini--if cost is a key concern for you.

The fourth-generation iPad starts at $499. If you don't mind spending the $170 difference between the iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad, this model is certainly worth considering: It's the fastest, most powerful iPad that Apple has made to date. Just as the iPad mini will surely outlive the iPad 2, the fourth-generation iPad's beefier internals suggest that it could outlive the iPad mini.


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