You've decided to get an iPad, but you're not sure if you need to spring for the $499+ new 2012 iPad, or if you'd be okay with the older, $399+ 2011 iPad 2. First, yes, those names are wicked confusing, but the names aren't the only confusing thing. There are a lot of factors to consider. Let's go over them one by one, and help you decide.
While Apple has left older iPhone and iPod touch models on the market several times, this is the first year they've left an older iPad model on the line. It may be a year old, but it's still a respectable device and it's $100 cheaper than the cheapest new model.
The 2011 iPad 2 with 16GB of storage is the first "budget" iPad designed to ease the barrier of entry for price-concious first-time buyers and for bulk buyers like schools and businesses. It doesn't have the crystal clear, high density Retina display or 4G LTE data, or the new, super-fast Apple A5X processor, and the cameras are terrible, but it runs the same iOS 5 operating system, and has access to the App Store and Safari, and can do most everything the new iPad can do. And it looks almost identical.
If price is more of a concern to you than getting the latest and the greatest, and $100 makes a big difference in your budget, the iPad 2 is still a great choice.
The new iPad (no number) is the new king of the tablets, and Apple's latest iOS device. It has everything last year's iPad 2 had, and a lot more. Notably, the screen is a double-resolution Retina display at 2048x1536, which is more pixels than a 1080p TV scrunched down into a 9.7-inch size. In other words, you can't see the pixels. Speaking of 1080p, it supports both 1080p video playback, and has a 5mp camera on the back that can shoot 1080p video. (It looks like the iPhone 4 camera with the iPhone 4S photo processing software)
Apple offers the new iPad Wi-Fi at three price points depending on the amount of storage:
If you want it with 3G GSM/CDMA, and 4G LTE in the U.S. and Canada, the prices go up $120:
If you know you want a top of the line iPad, with the latest and greatest features and every bit of cool technology Apple has to offer, then get the new iPad.
If you're still not sure, hit up our iPhone Forums to get the help you need to make up your mind.