Help me decide on a new tablet!
November 2, 2012 6:21 PM   Subscribe

A friend wants to buy my iPad Gen 1 from me, and I'm ready to upgrade to a newer device (I like new shiny gadgets!). Which iPad (Gen 2 or Gen 3) should I buy? Or another tablet altogether?

I would love to get rid of my iPad Gen 1 and have the perfect opportunity to sell it to a friend for $200. Which helps me justify purchasing a new device that's a bit thinner and lighter (and has a camera for video Skyping cause that would be fun). But I'm not exactly sure what would be best for me or how to figure that out.

I'm a PhD student in online courses, so having a portable device that can access the internet at any time has been a HUGE bonus (I have the 3G iPad). Keeping that portability is important...but should I get an iPad with the 3G/Cellular built in? Or get a WiFi only and get a hotspot device? Or use my cell phone to hotspot (which is close to upgrade time...I have an android phone with Sprint service and don't want to change carriers for my phone).

So help me choose:
1: iPad or another OS device (I'm not really tied to Apple, but I'd hate to repurchase apps. I use GMail and Dropbox for school stuff and am starting to use Mendeley).
2: With or without 3G/Cellular built in (what's the difference between Gen 2 and Gen 3 on that anyway)?
3: WiFi hotspot device or use my cell phone (or get it built in and have one less device to fiddle with)?

Thoughts? What should I be considering? (I have a Kindle and Kindle Fire already so eBook access isn't an issue, and school requires real textbooks anyway).

Help me not get sucked in to "oooohhhh SHINY!!! when I go to the store!
posted by MultiFaceted to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's no point buying the iPad 3rd gen now, and while we're starting to see high quality tablets from Google and Microsoft, there is virtually no ecosystem at the moment. They'll get there, but I think they're still about 1-2 years away from being useful to more than early adopters.

I would say either iPad 4th Gen or iPad Mini. You're going to have to figure out which you prefer in terms of size. The iPad 4 is very fast, but the mini is so cute and light. If this is a laptop replacement, I'd definitely get the 10" version.

If you think you'll use it, I'd probably go for built in 3G. I'm personally not a big fan of tethering, I find it to be unreliable. Quality data everywhere would be really pleasurable if you're a big online user. However, if it's going to be more of an unused gimmick, skip it and save the cash.
posted by Magnakai at 6:34 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love love love my iPad, I'm an engineering student and I use it constantly. If you already have a kindle and kindle fire, go full size and not mini.

2) Get built-in cellular. You don't have to buy the plan, but you'll always have the option to do so. It's a additional cost that will last the life of the device.

There are two differences between the main models now: Screen and Speed. The "new new" iPad has retina display (soooo pretty) and an A6X processor, which will launch apps pretty much instantly, even graphics-heavy games. The iPad 2 has a lower resolution screen and slower processor, but is still a great tablet. I would go with the nicer one, just because it will last longer (it will be more time before it can't run the latest iOS versions or newer apps)
posted by nickhb at 6:39 PM on November 2, 2012

How many hardware accessories/cables do you have for your iPad 1? Because the 4 and mini use the new connector, so you won't be able to repurpose any old connectors, etc. Not sure if that's a factor for you (would be for me), but worth a mention.
posted by devinemissk at 8:00 PM on November 2, 2012

I would hold off and wait for a Surface Pro to be released and get some reviews. The ability to run real programs and not just apps on a tablet has a lot of potential, and there are some very solid ultralight netbooks that seem to be close to the specs of the Pro.
posted by ellF at 8:11 PM on November 2, 2012

To answer the iPad accessories question, I have quite a few cables that are shared with my iPod Touch (one permanently in the car, one for the house, one in the travel pack), but since I'm keeping the Touch they won't all go to waste. Having to buy new extra cables would suck though.

I didn't even realize there was an iPad Gen 4 (is that the "new new" one?). Guess I missed that since I didn't really pay attention to the latest Apple announcement because I didn't think I'd be buying one anytime soon.

Off to research the Surface Pro...haven't heard of that!
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:20 PM on November 2, 2012

The new iPad.

The other tablets don't have big app ecosystems yet, whereas if an academic resource you want has an electronic variant available at all, it probably works on iPad. All the major textbook manufacturers sell e-textbooks that work on iPad and are crap on other platforms.

This might be a hard decision in 2 years. Right now it's not.
posted by grudgebgon at 9:08 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

As you've already bought iOS apps to do real work, you'd have to buy new apps for the Surface or Android-based alternatives, assuming any equivalents are available. There just aren't many apps available for those devices, yet. As grudgebgon says, in a couple years this might be a different proposition, but you'd probably be better served sticking with an iPad for now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:31 PM on November 2, 2012

Here's a quick breakdown on the various iPads that are for sale now:

(iPad 1: not for sale, except by you, to your friend)

iPad 2: This is still for sale. It's the cheapest full-sized iPad. It does not have the retina display, nor does it have the latest, fastest processor/graphics.

iPad "3" no longer for sale, as the iPad "4" has replaced it (confusing, I know).

iPad "4" (on Apple's site as 'iPad with retina display') well, it is much like the 3, but faster. It has retina display. It also has the new dock connector that everyone's all honkin' mad about.

iPad Mini: basically an iPad 2 that is a bit smaller. Also has the honkin' connector.

Hope this helped somehow! Edit: as for a recommendation - I have a 2 and love it, but it's had a long product life already ... if you want something that is more future-proof, the 4 is your best bet, although since the mini just came out, and is essentially a 2, Apple MIGHT support it for a bit longer?
posted by destructive cactus at 1:36 AM on November 3, 2012

The reason you haven't heard of Surface Pro is that it's vaporware for the moment. It's also possessed of a new operating system (Win8), has no apps, and has no price advantage over the Apple alternatives that ARE shipping. The RT version (real) is wifi only as of today and is widely reviewed as very nice, but not ready for prime time AND, of course, entirely devoid of apps. it will be a while before MS hits the 1/4 MILLION app count of Apple. Also, unlike the droids, Apple continually updates their OS. droid is good for hackers, for the cost-sensitive, and for folks who reflexively hate apple.

also, all your apps/tunes move over at no cost to a newer iPad, perhaps its biggest advantage over a new platform.

3G for sure. As much storage as you can afford. 4th gen if you can swing it. I have a 2nd generation unit and while the size isn't single-handed like the mini, it's as you know, about sheet of paper sized and almost completely replaces my other portable tools. the 4th gen will net you a lot... better cameras, display, speed and it a lot less risky than buying unvalidated hardware from MS too early in the intro phase.
posted by FauxScot at 5:48 AM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also keep in mind that you can buy refurbished iPads from the online Apple Store.

The store offers a 1-year warranty like with a new brand new iPad. I believe Apple's refurbs have a good reputation and I have a good experience with them. What might make this more compelling is that the iPad 3rd gen which was introduced in the spring is now being offered at a discount even though it is not a very old model. In part this is because of the need to offer a model with the new connector as well as tech improvements that make up the 4th gen. If you are using the 1st gen iPad you will likely find substantial improvements with the 3rd gen and save with a refurb.

Maybe someone else who has switched from a 3rd gen to 4th can comment on whether the tech improvements are worth the new price premium.
posted by Athanasius at 7:02 AM on November 3, 2012

Get the 3rd gen refurb. It's selling for $379 which is a great price. (Normally previous gen refurbs are $419)

I see no real need for the 4th gen unless you are willing to pay for $120 more for the speed increase.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:55 PM on November 3, 2012

Edit: as for a recommendation - I have a 2 and love it, but it's had a long product life already ...

Phooey. It's been two-and-a-half years. Only in mobile would that be considered a long product life -- for just a little more than that you could get a friggin' Mac Mini.

On iOS, go for the 4 -- the 3 has become Apple's 32X. If you're looking for something smaller I would suggest the Nexus 7, which is much cheaper and I have used a lot more than my iPad lately. It is true, it doesn't have the software library that iOS has, but it's slowly getting there. There is little problem with Android software updates so long as you get a Nexus device; Google's pretty good about updating its own machines. But even then, Google has announced new devices that'll be out before long.

One advantage with sticking with iOS: you'll be able to use your old software with the new machine.
posted by JHarris at 2:24 PM on November 3, 2012

I agree with most of the recommendations here, but I'll put a different spin on it. I'm a little confused by your question because it sounds like you already have a 3G iPad and you are considering buying another one?

I have an iPad 2, iPad 3 w/LTE, Android Nexus One and Galaxy Nexus, and also a heavy Mac user.

You MIGHT want to consider one of the Google Nexus tablets (either the 7 or the 10) if you use Google services heavily. I use Google Voice, Google Drive (docs), GMail, Google Apps a lot and I find that the integration on Android devices is very seamless, in the same way that Apple iTunes support is seamless on iOS devices. The Nexus 7 and 10 have very good reviews and are highly regard with being competitive with iPads in terms of the quality of hardware. Since you already have a 3G iPad you might want to consider getting the Nexus 7 with built in HPSA+.

Tethering is fine but it really takes away from the convenience of using a tablet. To use it you have to take out your phone, activate wireless tethering, wait, open up the wireless settings on the tablet, wait again for the wifi to connect. The built-in 4G data is very convenient because you basically just turn on your tablet and you can start surfing, checking mail, or whatever. Also WiFi tethering uses a lot of power on your phone so you would only want to use it a lot if you are near a power source.

On the other hand data seems to be relatively expensive for iPad. With Verizon LTE you pay $20/mo for 1 GB for or $30 for 2 GB. My T-Mo monthly prepaid phone has 5 GB of data for $30/mo. If you are viewing streaming video for online courses you will burn through the 1 or 2 GB data plans very quickly.

I would not get the Microsoft Surface even if I was a Microsoft fanboy because it is a totally new device with no existing ecosystem.

Between 2G and 3G iPad the 3G iPad supports 4G data networks.
posted by kenliu at 3:41 PM on November 4, 2012

BTW, if you have an Android phone, it probably already functions as a hotspot. There's really no difference between an Android phone and one of those hotspot devices, they're basically just phones that can't take voice calls.
posted by kenliu at 6:57 PM on November 4, 2012

Kenilu, I currently have an iPad 1 (the very first one). I thought about a Nexus...I wouldn't say I'm a heavy Google user but I do use it. Also, I don't have to watch videos for school on a regular basis (very rarely actually) but I can plan to watch those at home with the laptop. The cellular access is most important because I have several places that I travel to (work being one) where I don't have access to Wifi. So that is now considered a necessity (first world problem, I know!).

I think I'll go to Best Buy today and get hands on with some tablets...see which ones load up my online class environment better, etc. I would love to save money by buying a refurb iPad but don't want to regret getting the slower model.
posted by MultiFaceted at 4:13 AM on November 5, 2012

The Surface Pro may have "no apps" (which is not true), but it is still not yet released. However, there are Windows 8 tablets out that mirror the Surface Pro, and they all run every x86/windows program out there. The beauty of the OS is that it runs well on tablets, has a UI that is good for the form factor, and supports everything that a regular laptop does, too.
posted by ellF at 4:35 AM on November 5, 2012

The 4th Generation iPad is much faster on paper but the 3rd generation is plenty fast for most apps; most likely the speed improvement would only be noticeable with CPU intensive apps like 3D games. If money is tight go with the refurb and you could spend the difference on your wireless data plan. It's nice to get the latest and greatest gadget but the next version is always just around the corner.
posted by kenliu at 8:53 AM on November 5, 2012

Latest I heard (today, but can't find the link) is that Surface Pro will release in January/February time frame (missing xmas) and will likely be about $1100-1200.

I guess we can call that the "Microsoft premium"? Seems steep compared to my 64GB 3G iPad2 at about $800.

Still, it ain't real until it ships and it certainly isn't a contender for anyone until they start talking prices. It's also rev 0 of an MS device.

What I'm wondering, too, is how this will play with current MS OEM customers. Their hardware, if comparable, has to cost about the same. Their OS, however, has to be licensed. Huge competitive disadvantage for them, and a poke in the eye from their supplier.

So your current options are the RT, or a two-three month wait for an expensive, unreleased, untested, admittedly nice tablet, or today for an Apple in about any form you want. By the time the MS tablet is real, you could have several months evaluation of Apple hardware under your belt, AND a decent resale price if you want to switch.
posted by FauxScot at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2012

For those of you waiting with baited breath to see what I chose, I went with the iPad 3rd Gen with ATT 3G/LTE and 16GB. I didn't need the bigger size because I wasn't even remotely close to filling up half of my old one.

I freaking LOVE IT!!! It's faster and smoother than my old one and I'm so glad I upgraded! (And I'm posting from it now!). Thanks to all who gave suggestions!
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:34 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

late to this thread but relevant.

looks like you may have made a good decision!
posted by FauxScot at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2012

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