The Apple iPad comes in a variety of models with a range of options and price points.
To see the most up to date information around price and specifications please refer to the Apple Website.
There are three basic models of the iPad currently:
- iPad Mini
- iPad 2
- iPad Air
Each model is available with a choice of Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + Cellular and varying storage capacity and some models come with a choice for a Retina Display.
The iPad Mini is the smallest device with a 7.9-inch screen and the others have a 9.7-inch screen. Apple provide a good tool to get an overview of the different models and the prices on the Apple Store Website
Pixels Per Inch
One of the most notable difference between models at the moment is the number of Pixels Per Inch. This is essentially a measurement of how clear and sharp the screen appears to be. The more pixels there are in a square inch the better the clarity and quality of the image.
The iPad2 has 132 pixels per inch (ppi) which matches a standard computer screen. The iPad Mini is slightly higher at 163 ppi. The iPad Air has a massive 264 ppi and the iPad Mini with Retina Display has 326 ppi and these resolutions provide a clarity comparable to a higher resolution printed page. Text is extremely crisp and clear and photos are exceptionally detailed.
Wi-Fi vs Wi-Fi + Cellular
The first major decision point is if you want a Wi-Fi only model or if the additional money it worth gaining the ability to connect from virtually anywhere via a mobile network.
The first thing to understand is that you want most of your data going via Wi-Fi regardless. Wi-Fi is faster and often far more reliable making it suitable for downloading system and app updates and rich media content. While it is possible for a mobile network to handle this, their nature, price per gigabyte and overall speed may not be best suited.
From a portability perspective the cellular data option extends the range of use and untethers you from requiring any existing infrastructure. This means being able to work (or play) anywhere, anytime. This is all dependant on your location too – if you have difficulty with mobile reception already then this option might not suit and only add expense to your woes.
Another options to consider is that many smartphones allow you to create and connect devices and share mobile data so this could be a preferable option.
Be aware that the cellular option does require a sim and sign up to a telco. This can be done as part of a monthly contract or via pre-paid – but there is an extra expense involved. The mLearn project found that the yearly pre-paid options available was a great alternative to a contract and provided increased flexibility of use.
The next big choice is storage capacity. For most uses 16 gigabytes is more than adequate, however there is a dependency on how you use the device.
If you plan on using the device without regularly syncing with a desktop or laptop (travelling for example) or you wish to carry large amounts of data such as videos and images then you may wish to consider a higher capacity model.
The iPad Mini suits those who want a tablet but prize portability. It would appeal to those who want to primarily consume content as the device is lighter and better fits the hand. They are fantastically portable, have large data capacity and long battery life. They are extremely popular for those wishing to read, watch and listen, and offer a far more immersive and rich media experience than an eReader. The smaller size however impacts their ability for typing, sporting a small keyboard more suited to thumbs than a traditional ergonomic typing position.
If you are looking for a cheap entry full-sized tablet then iPad 2 is the choice. It has been superseded from a specifications perspective but is still a viable choice for those wishing to start using an iPad.
The iPad Air the optimal blend of size and performance. It is far more portable and lighter than a laptop and has a much longer battery life. The retina screen makes it a pleasure for reading and watching videos and high resolution images.