What IPad do I need to get?
July 22, 2014 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Wife got gift certificate from work. Decided we could get Ipad since the certificate must be used at Amazon. We will share the Ipad. I have desktop at home and wife has laptop, so this is an addition and not the sole device for us.

Alas, so many models, generations etc. and we are confused as to which to order...the certificate is for $500.00, so that pretty much covers a number of devices, and we can always add a few bucks if it is a bit more.
Advice, please, on what is current, best deal, and something useful for reading, writing, pictures...we do not need tablet for gaming.

All advice appreciated.
posted by Postroad to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have purchased several iPads. I recommend going someplace where you can physically check out both the iPad and the iPad mini (e.g. an Apple store). I prefer the mini form factor for my use which is watching videos (especially on an airplane), reading Kindle books, and playing games. I like the more compact form factor.

Next thing you will need to decide is how much memory. If you are going to load a lot of stuff like videos or games, you will want the most memory for your budget. Memory is not upgradable.

Finally, you will need to decide if you want/need cellular data or if WiFi is good enough. Advantages of cellular data is that you will have internet coverage everywhere. Disadvantage is higher initial cost and monthly charge for the data plan. You cannot add cellular data later.

My current iPad is the mini form factor, largest memory capacity, and WiFi only.
posted by elmay at 6:31 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Wirecutter has a good rundown on iPads and tablets in general; they suggest the current mini as the best one.

I do love my mini, but I've never played with a current-gen full-size one, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
posted by Maecenas at 6:38 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another consideration about WiFi vs. WiFi+cellular is that only the cellular models have GPS; worth considering if you plan to use it for navigation.
posted by TedW at 6:46 AM on July 22, 2014

I was surprised to find my Verizon store only had non-Retina display iPads out on the floor this past weekend. Don't get one of those. Get the Retina display.
posted by annathea at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Apologies if this is a stupid question, but just to make sure: do you mean Apple's iPads specifically, or any kind of iOS/Android/Windows tablet?
posted by trig at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2014

Just a recommendation to get at least 32gb. 16gb fills up pretty fast, and that's with no music or videos.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:19 AM on July 22, 2014

trig: wife thinking of apple, which I always use, though i imagine a non-apple could work since they too are sold on Amazon. at this point, I would like to limit to apple so as not to confuse my tired very old mind...
posted by Postroad at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2014

You either want the current generation Retina iPad or the Retina iPad mini. They are roughly identical on the inside, so it's just a choice about whether you prefer a bit larger text at the cost of a bit more weight/size/cost or if the smaller screen works for you. The best thing to do here is visit an Apple store and handle them both - the differences are all notably small in this generation. I still prefer the mini for how easy it is to hold in one hand all day.

If you are both in the smart phone generation, then you can probably forgo cellular. If one of you isn't smart phone equipped, then the iPad is a great opportunity to get an inexpensive data only plan. T-Mobile in particular is offering a very nice low cost promotion for iPad data. Data is remarkably handy the further you are from home.

I find 16gb to be fine. But it can fill up quickly, so you may want 32gb.

And it's obligatory to point out that now it's late July, we're getting closer to the New iDevice season. Last year's releases were huge upgrades, so I'd expect the new devices to look very similar to the old ones, and not to be much more capable. But you might stumble over a sale or something. I wouldn't bother waiting.
posted by wotsac at 9:06 AM on July 22, 2014

Our household in the past 3 years has been over-run with iPad devices; I was initially so skeptical of any such 'mainly consume media' device but now have some 5 of these (across 3 people in our household!) and do have a few thoughts.

- Check out the iPad mini (regular or retina) vs. iPad (Air or retina) in person, elmay's advice is right-on about the other stuff as well. You won't know what you prefer until you poke around it for a while, doing what you plan to do (i.e. eBooks, surf the web, watch video or movies, etc.)

- You may find in-person that the retina (higher resolution) isn't worth the add'l funds, only you can weigh that; having an iPad that was 'Generation 1' in 2010 (we are now at Generation 5) even my aging eyes can readily tell the difference (but only when you compare; the iPad 1 still gets a lot of use in our household).

- The wireless function (i.e. cellular service) can add a lot to the overall cost over time (some $20 or $30/mo), and that needs to be weighed carefully. Can you 'tether' your smartphone cell service (if you have that already)? It's what our household does when on the road, I've tethered some 3 iPads at once while on road trips to a single iPhone and it has worked great for us.

- For accessories (add'l chargers, cases, what-have-you) buying on Amazon is 'the' place to go. If you are seriously wanting to write a lot on the iPad the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a recommended one (although frankly I just take my MacBook instead when needing to write).

- Lastly if you have some funds left over some additional considerations arise, namely AppleCare (two years of telephone technical support as well as hardware warranty). However for accidental damage protection you can purchase something called AppleCare+ (only from Apple or an Apple Store) for $99 that needs to be purchased within the first 30 days of ownership. Something to consider. Another Apple Store Only item is something called One To One, which I took advantage of a few years ago. (This is only if you are local to an Apple location.) I thought it was worth the $99 for workshops and the one-on-one training sessions.
posted by scooterdog at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2014

I love my non-retina iPad mini. Didn't see the point in spending the extra cash on retina display or the larger models and after using ones belonging to other people, I still don't. And I find the regular size iPads too big for my liking but the mini can be held comfortably in my hand.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:11 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Retina part itself is nice, but more important is that the Retina models have the latest CPU, etc.

The internals on the non-Retina mini are getting quite long in the tooth -- if they are strong enough to run iOS 8 (which is coming in Septemberish), then they will probably be struggling on iOS 9 and support is liable to be dropped for iOS 10. Because Apple strongly encourages the iOS developers to only support the latest version or two of iOS, you may not be able to get the latest apps.

This year's Retina devices have the latest Apple CPUs, and so you ought to get at least a year or two more out of them before support is suspended and they start slouching down the road to obsolescence.
posted by wotsac at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2014

I just dropped in to say that the cellular plan is available on a month-to-month basis. When I travel with my iPad, I purchase 30 days worth of cellular data (starting at $15 on AT&T) directly from the device and set it to not auto-renew. There is no limit to how often you can do this.
posted by DrGail at 12:43 PM on July 22, 2014

When I bought my iPad Air back in the fall (which I love and recommend, but I know a lot of people appreciate the smaller form factor of the Mini), T-Mobile had some kind of crazy deal where I get free data from them, for life. No strings, no fees, no up-front cost other than the device itself, just... 250MB of data per month, for free. It's wonderful. They even cut it off when I hit the limit instead of automatically charging me for more.

I think the idea is that I'll get used to using data on the go and start voluntarily paying for more above the 250MB limit, but since I already have a smartphone with data from Verizon, I've never felt the need. It's just a nice extra.

Might be worth seeing if that deal is still available or if they've come to their senses.
posted by Ryon at 2:40 PM on July 22, 2014

I would test them out at an Apple store first before buying. See if you like it, see which size feels good, etc. The Apple store leaves them out, begging for you to test drive it. Don't buy one without doing that at least. Everyone will have an opinion but only your opinion matters.

But I also wouldn't waste an Amazon gift certificate on an iPad, which will probably end up as a wasted device you don't need since you both have computers and, presumably, smart phones. From the way you phrased your question, you seem to think Amazon is just for electronics. You can buy literally anything on Amazon. I've even bought groceries on there. Just something to consider. I'd buy a kitchen appliance or nice DSLR camera or something. Something I'd never buy for myself but would use if I had it and will last many years.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:13 PM on July 22, 2014

I have a later version of the large iPad. I wish I had bought the mini instead, for the following reason: I read in bed, and the thing gets heavy in my hands after some time. The mini would have been so much lighter. Next one will be a mini !
posted by seawallrunner at 6:49 PM on July 22, 2014

I like the bigger screen myself. I do have a kindle as well though - i tend to use the ipad for videos, pdfs and webpages. You need to try it for yourself really, but as a guide the difference in sizes is like the difference between a paperback and a magazine.
posted by tinkletown at 12:56 PM on July 23, 2014

How quickly do you need to spend the money?

I ask because Apple will release updated iPads in the fall and so, if you can cope, then I would recommend waiting until then and picking up one of the newer versions.

I've got no experience in predicting what Apple will and won't do, however if past experience is to go by then expect to see something slightly slimmer and slightly lighter with a slightly faster processor, slightly better battery life and a slightly better camera.

If we're really lucky we may see slightly more internal memory (which will be good as you won't have to have tabs reload when you navigate back to them in Safari as they do today) and they may even drop the 16GB option and make 32GB the base version.

If you want to spend money today, then lots of good comments above. Definitely recommend going to an Apple store to play with them first.
posted by mr_silver at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2014

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