Buy vs upgrade vs skip: Should you get the new iPad?

If you don't have an iPad, should you make the new iPad  your first? If you already have an original iPad or iPad 2, is it worth upgrading to the new iPad? How about if you're using a BlackBery, webOS, or Android tablet, or a Windows netbook? To buy, to upgrade, or to skip and wait for the next one (or something else) is the bottom line for all of us. Is the new iPad just an iterative update or a must have, and for whom?

Here's what to consider.

Should you buy the new iPad as your first tablet?

The new iPad: Everything you need to know!

Yes.

That's not being facetious. If you're in the market for a tablet, there are smaller options, cheaper options, and option that even do one or two very specific things better.  As a complete devicee, however, no one else is giving away this much technology in this easy-to-use  package at this good a price. Not even close.

  • If price is an issue, consider the $399 iPad 2. You'll miss out on some fantastic specs, but it's ease of use and supporting ecosystem are second to only one.
  • If price and size are an issue, consider a $199 BlackBerry PlayBook or Amazon Kindle Fire. You'll miss out on the ecosystem but get a lot of bang for your buck.
  • If you really need a certain feature the iPad lacks, like a more desktop-style interface, consider one of the many Android tablets or wait for Windows 8 slates. Less ease of use, smaller ecosystem, but typically more flexible and configurable.

But seriously, if you're considering your first tablet, get the new iPad.

Should you upgrade from the original iPad?

If you're currently using the original, 2010 iPad and have absolutely no problems with it -- you're not annoyed by Safari reloading pages when it runs out of memory, you're not annoyed by the latest graphically-intensive games and video or photo editing apps crashing or just plain refusing to run, if you don't need to ever take photos with it, then you're fine. Keep rocking the original iPad until it gives out.

If you're original iPad is starting to feel a little long in the tooth, however, you may want to consider an upgrade.

There's 4x the amount of RAM in the new iPad, which makes everything last longer and go smoother. The optional HSPA+ 42mbps and LTE 72mbps radio literally runs rings around the old GSM radio. It has a good rear facing camera as opposed to none at all. And that Retina display will be like taking your smudged up old glasses off and cleaning them for the first time in years.

You'll also have access to all the latest, greatest, most cutting edge apps with nary a compatibility issue to frustrate or stymie you.

Unless you're an incredibly low-maintenance user, the new iPad is a no-brainer update from the original.

Should you upgrade from the iPad 2?

iPad 2 Hero

If the iPad 2 is currently your weapon of choice, you have the biggest dilemma on your hands, and the hardest decision to make.

Physically the new iPad looks almost exactly the same as the iPad 2. If you're an average user who simply has an iPad for some light reading, browsing, emailing, gaming, video watching, etc. and you enjoyed it enough on the iPad 2 yesterday, you'll likely keep enjoying it the same on the iPad 2 tomorrow.

If you had any pain points, however, especially any big ones, it's worthwhile to consider the new iPad.

  • If you're a hardcore gamer or productivity maven whose tolerance for lag is less than zero, the 2x RAM boost and quad-core graphics boost likely make it a done deal
  • If you're a photo and video enthusiast who really wants a real camera, that 5mp, F2.4, 1080p lens might tempt you to upgrade.
  • If you've gotten used to dictation on the iPhone 4S and want it on your iPad, you'll find it on the new iPad.
  • If you live on mobile data and need the fastest 4G LTE speed possible, you'll be screaming on the new iPad (at least in Canada or the U.S.)
  • If you do nothing but read and wish the iPad screen looked as good as the iPhone 4S, you've got a Retina-equipped upgrade coming your way.

Most people will be fine sticking with the iPad 2 most of the time. If any one of the new features, or a combination of the new features solve a significant problem you've been having  -  it's a worthwhile upgrade.

Should you upgrade from webOS, Android, or BlackBerry?

BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 vs. iPad 2 feature comparison

If your current tablet of choice runs Android, webOS or is a BlackBerry PlayBook, here's where it gets tricky.

  • The iPad isn't as customizable as Android unless you Jailbreak it (think root), and that's not always possible at first when a new device comes out.
  • The iPad won't play Flash videos, only H.264 HTML5 videos. So if you absolutely have to have Flash, you're out of luck.
  • The iPad has a slick interface and excellent user experience, but in terms of multitasking and notifications, it's still not as elegant as webOS on the TouchPad. (Then again, they aren't making TouchPads any more.)
  • The iPad only comes in one style and screen size. 9.7-inches slab. No minis, no maxis, no clamshells, nothing fancy.
  • No Sprint support, no LTE support outside North America. (Though it does support HSPA+ 42mbps)

But the iPad has a lot going for it as well.

  • The iPad has multiple layers to it; the first layer is that it is so incredibly easy to use that the most non-tech savvy of people, people who find computes too complex or intimidating, can pick it up and get going with it immediately. At the same time, it's highly appealing to expert and veteran users users who want to spend their time getting things done, not getting their tablets to do things.
  • Apple was the first to put a usable web browser on a tablet and absent Adobe Flash; Safari is still the most powerful HTML5 browser in the business. Likewise, the built in Mail app shows rich content with pictures. VPN, ActiveSync, and other enterprise-friendly features are also built right in.
  • It's become a cliché but there really is an app for almost everything on the iPad. While other platforms are struggling to field tablet-optimized apps, the iPad App Store is drowning in them. Pretty much every major app and currently all the best games are easily available in the App Store and are so functional people actually use them more than the great web browser these days.
  • iTunes and now iCloud, which does a lot of what iTunes used to but without the cable, lets you easily sync your existing content and also gives you access not only to the App Store but iTunes music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes U (University) and overall more content in more parts of the world than any other service.
  • Google services, Microsoft services, Dropbox, and other services are also well supported by Apple and/or apps.
  • If you live near an Apple Store, and you have a problem with your iPad, there's no passing the buck between retailer and manufacturer - there's no sending your tablet away for lengthy repairs. You make a Genius Bar appointment, you show up, they fix your iPad or swap it for a new one (if you're still under warranty or Apple Care). They'll also help you set it up and teach you how to use it. If you're new to tablets, this is the single best reason to go Apple.
  • Apple also creates a ton of other products to supplement the iPad, including Mac computers, software for Mac and Windows, and together with their partners provide more cases, chargers, docks, car kits, and accessories of every kind. No other smartphone has the quantity or quality of extras, from fashionable to functional, that iPad has.

If you've only been using another platform because you were waiting for the 2012 iPad to make the jump... jump!

If there's something your current platform does that you know for sure the iPad doesn't do, then stick with your current platform, you'll only frustrate yourself.

Should you upgrade from a netbook?

This is more difficult to answer and a lot will depend on your personal use case. Flippantly, I'd say "yes, in a heartbeat". Netbooks have failed as a product category because aside from being small and cheap they were simply really bad computers.

For specific things like surfing the web (sans Flash), email, watching hi-def video, playing games, reading eBooks, etc., the new iPad simply smokes a netbook. Add a Bluetooth keyboard and you can even pound out significant amounts of content just as well as netbook.

About all you can't do is run Windows or Office. If those two things are vital to you (and they are to a lot of users), you'll be happier with a netbook.

If you don't depend on Microsoft and apps that run on Microsoft, get the new iPad.

Any questions?

If you've already decided to get the new iPad, let us know which one you got and why. If you need more advice or want some other opinions, just ask!