iPad Buyers Guide

Everything you need to know before choosing your perfect iPad Air and Retina iPad mini color, capacity, carrier, and more!

Everything you need to know before choosing your perfect iPad Air and Retina iPad mini color, capacity, carrier, and more!

There's a lot to consider before you buy or upgrade to a new tablet, even a new iPad Air or Retina iPad mini. What's more important, portability or productivity? Can you live with an older, cheaper model or do you really need a newer, more expensive version? Which color, what capacity, and if you want cellular data, on which carrier? There's never been more to choose from, which means it's never been harder to choose!

Enter iMore's 2013 iPad buyers guide. We'll go over all the details, all the options, and help you decide on which iPad is perfect for you. And if you've already decided, just bookmark, email, Facebook, or Tweet this so we can help your friends and family and you can get on with enjoying your new iPad!

Note: The iPad buyers guide has been updated for spring 2014 to reflect the discontinuation of the iPad 2 and the return of the iPad 4 to Apple's lineup.

iPad buyers guide podcast

Rene, Peter, and Richard discuss whether you should upgrade your iPad, what the alternatives are, which model is best for you, and options for color, capacity, carrier, AppleCare+, and more! If you'd rather watch or listen before you read, start here!

iPad evolution

iPad iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad mini iPad 4 iPad Air iPad mini Retina
iPad iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad mini iPad 4 iPad Air iPad mini Retina
Code Name K48 K94 J1, J2 J65 J72 J85
Model Name iPad 1,1 iPad 2,1 iPad 3,1 iPad 2,5 iPad 3,4 iPad 4,1 iPad 4,5
Launch OS iPhone OS 3.2 iOS 4.3 iOS 5.1 iOS 6 iOS 6 iOS 7 iOS 7
Screen Size 9.7 inches 9.7 inches 9.7 inches 7.9 inches 9.7 inches 9.7 inches 7.9 inches
Screen Resolution 1024x768 (132ppi) 1024x768 (132ppi) 2048x1536 (264ppi) 1024x768 (163ppi) 2048x1536 (264ppi) 2048x1536 (264ppi) 2048x1536 (326ppi)
Screen Type IPS LED IPS LED IPS LED IPS LED IPS LED IPS LED IPS LED
System-on-a-chip Apple A4 Apple A5 Apple A5X Apple A5 Apple A6X Apple A7 Apple A7
CPU 800MHz ARM Cortex-A8 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 1.4GHz dual-core Swift (ARM v7s) 64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone (ARM v8) 64-bit dual core Apple A7 Cyclone (ARM v8)
GPU PowerVR SGX535 PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP2 PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP4 PowerVR dual-core SGX543MP2 PowerVR quad-core SGX554MP4 PowerVR G6430 PowerVR G6430
Co-processor none none none none none M7 Motion M7 Motion
RAM 256MB 512MB 1GB 512MB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB 16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB 16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB
Cellular Data HSPA LTE LTE LTE LTE LTE LTE
SIM Micro Micro Micro Nano Micro Nano Nano
Rear Camera none 1.3MP/720p 5MP/1080p 5MP/1080p 5MP/1080p 5MP/1080p 5MP/1080p
Front Camera none 0.3MP/VGA 0.3MP/VGA 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p 1.2MP/720p
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1+EDR Bluetooth 2.1+EDR Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n MIMO
GPS aGPS aGPS aGPS, GLONASS aGPS, GLONASS aGPS, GLONASS aGPS, GLONASS aGPS, GLONASS
Sensors Ambient light, accelerometer, compass Ambient light, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope Ambient light, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope Ambient light, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope Ambient light, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope Ambient light, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope Ambient light, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope
Speakers Mono Mono Mono Stereo Mono Stereo Stereo
Connector 30-pin Dock 30-pin Dock 30-pin Dock Lightning Lightning Lightning Lightning
Height 9.56 inches (242.8 mm) 9.5 inches (241.3 mm) 9.5 inches (241.3 mm) 7.87 inches (199.9 mm) 9.5 inches (241.3 mm) 9.4 inches (238.8 mm) 7.87 inches (199.9 mm)
Width 7.47 inches (189.7 mm) 7.31 inches (185.7 mm) 7.31 inches (185.7 mm) 5.3 inches (134.6 mm) 7.31 inches (185.7 mm) 6.6 inches (167.6 mm) 5.3 inches (134.6 mm)
Thickness 0.53 inches (13.5 mm) 0.34 inches (8.6 mm) 0.37 inches (9.4 mm) 0.28 inches (7.1 mm) 0.37 inches (9.4 mm) 0.29 inches (7.4 mm) 0.29 inches (7.4 mm)
Weight 1.5 lbs (680 g) 1.33 lbs (603 g) 1.44 lbs (653 g) 0.68 lbs (308 g) 1.44 lbs (653 g) 1.0 lbs (454 g) 0.73 lbs (331 g)
Battery 6600mAh 6930mAh 11560mAh 4440mAh 11560mAh 8820mAh 6471mAh
Colors Black Black/White Black/White Black/White Black/White Space gray/Silver Space gray/Silver
Launch Price Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $629, $729, $829
Wi-Fi: $329, $429, $529
Cellular: $459, $559, $659
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699, $799
Cellular: $629, $729, $829, $929
Wi-Fi: $499, $599, $699, $799
Cellular: $629, $729, $829, $929
Wi-Fi: $399, $499, $599, $699
Cellular: $529, $629, $729, $829
Release Date 4/3/2010 3/11/2011 3/16/2012 11/2/2012 11/2/2012 11/1/2013 11/12/2013

Since Steve Jobs first unveiled it at a special event in 2010, the iPad has improved steadily in one way or another. The iPad 2 was thinner, lighter, and faster. The iPad 3 got a Retina display and LTE. The iPad 4 went Lightning. The iPad mini dropped back to iPad 2 tech, but in a much smaller form factor. The above chart shows the evolution of the iPad from the original to the latest Retina iPad mini and iPad Air, including pricing and capacity at launch. While what you paid for it when you got it might vary, you can check your current model and see how it compares to the ones available now.

iPad Air and Retina iPad mini: Should you upgrade?

iPad Air and Retina iPad mini: Should you upgrade?

When a new iPad hits the market - or two iPads, as is the case right now - one of the hardest decisions we face is whether or not to upgrade from and original iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad mini, or iPad 4 to the latest and greatest. If you have unlimited funds, you can just buy everything, all the time. Most of us don't, however, so we need to check out the new features of the iPad Air or Retina iPad mini, see how they compare to what we already have, and decide if the difference is worth the price of an entirely new device, a price that starts at $399 and $499 and goes well up from there. So, is there enough value to justify the cost?

How to sell your old iPad

How to sell and get the most money for your old iPad before upgrading to an iPad Air or Retina iPad mini

If you plan on upgrading to an iPad Air or Retina iPad mini, selling your old iPad is a no brainer. Apple products hold their resale value very well. If you've taken good care of your iPad, you should have no problem finding it a new home and putting some cash in your pocket while doing it. Selling the old really does help you afford the new. If you're not sure how to sell, or if you just want to make sure you get the most money, or save yourself the most time and effort, possible, here's everything you need to know!

iPad vs. Galaxy vs. Nexus vs. Kindle vs. Surface: Which tablet should you get?

iPad vs. Galaxy vs. Nexus vs. Kindle vs. Surface: Which tablet should you get?

Apple has flipped the tables - er, tablets - and not only managed to cram a 2048x1536 display into the 7.9-inch Retina iPad mini, but managed to cram a full-sized 9.7-inch display into the new iPad Air. But is either of them to right tablet for you? While everyone here at iMore certainly believes the iPad is still the best tablet for most people, most of the time, there are rare exceptions where an alternative tablet might suit your specific needs better. The iPad may have the best overall user experience, the highest quality apps and games, the widest range of services, the biggest selection of accessories, and the best customer support, but there are also things the iPad doesn't offer that other tablets do, like subsidized hardware pricing, digitizer support, Microsoft compatibility, or simply no Apple about them. How do you know which one is for you?

iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple portable should you get?

iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple portable should you get?

Apple now has two products designated as "Air", the MacBook Air, updated last June with the latest generation Intel Haswell processors, and the brand new iPad Air, introduced in October with a custom Apple A7 chipset. Both are ultra light, super thin, and incredibly long lasting, but one has a keyboard and runs OS X and the other a multitouch and iOS 7. Both can be absolutely killer on a plane, in an office, or around the house. But which one is better for you?

iPad Air vs. Retina iPad mini vs. iPad 4 vs. iPad mini: Which iPad model should you get?

iPad buyers guide spring 2014 update: iPad Air vs. Retina iPad mini vs. iPad 2 vs. iPad mini: Which iPad model should you get?

Once you're sure you're buying an iPad and now, the next step is to decide which iPad you're going to get. And right now it's a tougher decision than ever. The new iPad Air and Retina iPad mini are identical in every way but screen size, 7.9- vs. 9.7-inches the only differentiator. If money is incredibly tight, though the old iPad 4 is a bit cheaper, and the old iPad mini, a bit cheaper still. No matter which one you choose, however, you'll be paying hundreds of dollars. Either a few, or a lot. So do you go with big or small, old or new, cost or value? Which iPad should you get?

Silver vs. space gray: Which iPad Air and Retina iPad mini color should you get?

Silver vs. space gray: Which iPad Air and Retina iPad mini color should you get?

Unlike the pop-art inspired iPhone 5c, Apple's iPad line remains discreetly metallic when it comes to color schemes. It's not as bad as 2010, mind you, when you could have your choice of color, as long as it was black. Now you can get a silver back with white faceplate, or a space gray back with a black faceplate. And you can get either finish on either new iPad, the iPad Air or Retina iPad mini. (The space gray replaces last year's slate gray, likely because it's tougher and easier to anodize.) So which color is better for you?

16GB vs. 32GB vs. 64GB vs. 128GB: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini storage capacity should you get?

16GB vs. 32GB vs. 64GB vs. 128GB: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini storage capacity should you get?

Apple offers four different storage sized options for the new iPad Air and Retina iPad mini, ranging from a paltry 16GB to an enormous 128GB - literally 8 times the capacity! Every step up in capacity, however, comes with a matching $100 step up in price. That might seem like a pretty straightforward bit of math, but it really isn't! Figuring out how much storage you really need, and how much you can afford is really important. It's the difference between a great experience and a lot of frustration. So what's the deal?

Speed vs. reliability vs. value: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini carrier should you get?

Speed vs. reliability vs. value: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini carrier should you get?

AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile in the U.S. Rogers vs. Bell vs. TELUS in Canada. Three vs O2 vs EE vs Vodafone in the U.K. And many more around the world. Then there are various discount carriers, regionals, and MVNOs. It's a mess! How do you know which carrier will give you the fastest data speeds, or the most reliable connections, or simply the best value for your money? It all comes down to where you live, work, or go to school, and what options work best in your specific area. However, there's a lot of broad generalities that can apply. Here are some of the most important, broken down by country!

AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini protection plan should you get?

AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini protection plan should you get?

If you plan on picking up a new iPad Air, a Retina iPad mini, or one of the cheaper, previous generation iPads, one of the last - but most important - things you have to decide is whether or not you'd like to get some kind of insurance to protect your investment, whether it be AppleCare+, third party, or something else. There are lots of factors that can play a part in your decision, such as how long you plan on keeping your iPad before upgrading, and how careful you are with it. Here's what you need to know!

Smart Cover vs. Smart Case: Which should you get?

Along with the brand new iPad Air and Retina iPad mini, Apple has also released two different accessories designed to protect and preserve it - Smart Covers and Smart Cases. Smart Covers attach via magnets and protect only the screen. Smart Cases wrap around and protect both the back and the screen. The cover leaves more exposed, but is lighter and sleeker. The cover keeps more safe, but at the expense of added bulk. So, if you've got an iPad Air or Retina iPad mini, and you're interested in one of Apple's accessories, which one should you get - Smart Cover or Smart Case?

Need more help?

If there's any detail you're still not 100% sure about, or any question you'd still love to get answered before you buy your brand new iPad Air or Retina iPad mini, we have fantastic information pages that are always kept up-to-the-minute, and amazing community forums filled with experts for you to talk with. Bookmark them and check back often! And once you've decided, let us know in the comments - which iPad did you get and why?

More coverage

Three UK announces iPad Air pricing, starts at £119 up front

In less than 24 hours, the first UK iPad Air customers will be walking out of stores across the land with their new hotness, but for those looking for something a little more subsidized, Three might have you covered. Leaving it almost as late as possible, the carrier has announced pricing for the iPad Air and associated data plans. If you're going subsidized, then you're looking at dropping at least £119 up front.

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iPad Air and Retina iPad mini buyers guide

There's a lot to consider before you buy or upgrade to a new tablet, even a new iPad. What's more important, portability or productivity? Can you live with an older, cheaper model or do you really need a newer, more expensive version? Which color, what capacity, and if you want cellular data, on which carrier? There's never been more to choose from, which means it's never been harder to choose!

Enter iMore's 2013 iPad buyers guide. We'll go over all the details, all the options, and help you decide on which iPad is perfect for you. And if you've already decided, just bookmark, email, Facebook, or Tweet this so we can help your friends and family and you can get on with enjoying your new iPad!

More →

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Anomaly 2 arrives for iOS with promises of PC-quality gaming on mobile

11 Bit Studios made no secret about their intent to bring Anomaly 2 to mobile and keeping good on their word of a fall release, the game has now arrived in the iTunes App Store. Anomaly 2 takes the RTS tower offense concept from Anomaly Warzone Earth to the next level.

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History of iPad 2: Thinner, lighter, faster, and more smartly covered

On March 2, 2011, Steve Jobs returned to the keynote stage after a long period of medical leave. It was the second-to-last keynote he'd ever conduct, and he received a long, loud standing ovation. He and Apple had been working on something for a long time, and he didn't want to miss it. The original iPad was supposed to have been magical, but no one, not even Apple, had known exactly how it would weave its spell. A year later and they had a much, much better idea. Where previously they'd known they'd had something, now they were beginning to understand just exactly what they had. It was thinner. It was lighter. It was faster. It was more smartly covered. And it could hold an entire band in its garage. It was the iPad 2.

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O2 vs Vodafone vs Three vs EE: Which UK iPad Air or iPad mini carrier should you get?

If you're in the UK with eyes on a new cellular iPad Air or iPad mini, the decision on which carrier to go with is more difficult than ever. This time around 4G LTE is a factor, with three of the four big carriers having recently flipped the switch, with one more to come before the end of the year. As such, getting the most bang for your buck while accessing this superfast mobile data on your new iPad is likely top of the agenda. But it doesn't end there.

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iPad Air reviews

Those outlets blessed with early iPad Air review units by Apple have now posted their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and if our iPad Air preview didn't do it for you, these had better!

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iPad Air preview

3 years after Steve Jobs introduced the first magical and revolution iPad, Apple has kept the same unbelievable price but once again set the bar higher when it comes to their most advanced technology. It's still 9.7-inches. It's still a Retina display. It still runs the over one million apps - almost half of which are now tablet optimized - in the App Store. But it's once again thinner, lighter, and faster. Only this time it's even thinner and lighter, and the speed boost? On paper at least, insane. If you're thinking of upgrading to an iPad Air, however, or of buying one as your first full-sized iPad, what does that mean to you?

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Rogers vs. Bell vs. TELUS: Which Canadian iPad Air or Retina iPad mini carrier should you get?

Once you've decided you're getting a new iPad Air and picked your capacity and color, now you have the option of picking a carrier if you want wireless data. The vast majority of users just stick to Wi-Fi networks for their fix, but you can also get data over cell towers. If you're in Canada, that means going with one of the big three carriers: Rogers, Bell, or TELUS, or one of their lower-price subsidiaries. All of the big three have confirmed that they'll be offering the latest and greatest iPads and Apple announced the iPad Air with cellular connectivity would start at $649. So which carrier should you go with? We've chewed through the plans and coverage, and here's what we've found!

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Vector 18: Ben Thompson on missing the iPad magic

Ben Thompson of Stratechery, formerly of Apple and Microsoft, talks about the tablet market, including the seeming loss of ‘magic’ in iPad marketing, the inability of PC-makers to see beyond the PC, and the opportunity for true revolution.

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Apple hasn't demoed an iPad on stage all year

Speaking of Ben Thompson, here's an interesting response and extrapolation to his iPad event piece on Stratechery from Pavan Rajam on the rajam report:

The iPads didn’t get much stage time and weren’t featured in any demos. What is particularly disconcerting is that Apple has not done a single on-stage demo for the iPad this year. Nothing at WWDC, nothing at last month’s iPhone event, and nothing at the Fall Event. Perhaps if they moved the iPad reveal to the middle of the keynote they could have done demos showing off how the iPad and Mac apps work together. By waiting to reveal the iPad at the end of the event, they weren’t able to demo the new apps and the benefits of 64-bit without outing the new products. Imagine if Xander Soren had demoed GarageBand with 32-tracks on an iPad Air. That’s something that’s never been done before, and would have showed what the product can do in a very meaningful way.

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