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

iPad Air Smart Case review

Apple typically releases two types of cases for the iPad, the Smart Cover and the Smart Case. While the Smart Cover only protects the screen and attaches magnetically, the Smart Case provides full body protection in a variety of different colors. The last generation Apple Smart Case left us disappointed to say the least. Let's see if the new version is any better...

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How fast is your iPad Air data? (Spoiler: I'm getting 50 down, 90 down on tether!)

Apple claims that the iPad Air as their best-ever LTE 4G radio, with support for more bands in more places in a single model than ever before. While that's great if you live in one of those "more places", what most of us want to know is - how fast and how consistent is it on our networks of choice. I took my brand new iPad Air out for some LTE testing earlier today, and the results were stunning. I averaged between 30 and 50mbps on the device itself, which is on the good side of typical. When I tethered to my 2013 Haswell 13-inch MacBook Air, however, I got between 75 and 95mbps. Yeah, it not only blew the doors off the place, but blew them clear across town. That was on the Rogers network outside of Montreal, and everyone's bands and bandwidth will vary, of course. So, question time:

How fast is your iPad Air data? Let me know what carrier you're on, where, and if you can, try to run a few tests just to get a better sense of range. Either type the results below or, better yet, go post a screenshot in our official iMore forums iPad Air data speed thread.

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iPad Air launch sees 200% boost in AT&T activations over last year

AT&T has announced that they saw a 200% increase in iPad activations during the iPad Air launch weekend, compared to that of the iPad 4 and iPad mini last year. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega credited the excitement over the iPad Air, the carrier's Mobile Share plan, and the carrier's new Next program. AT&T:

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iPad Air vs iPhone 5s: iSight and FaceTime camera shootout!

While the iPad Air now has the same, improved front-facing FaceTime HD camera as the iPhone 5s - and every other 2013 iOS device - its rear-facing iSight camera remains very much unchanged from the iPad 4 and original iPad mini. What has changed however is the software and hardware that power it. With iOS 7 and the very same Apple A7 found in the iPhone 5s - and the very same image signal processor (ISP) - the iPad Air could see an overall boost in quality anyway. To measure how it stacks up, we put the 5 megapixel iPad Air camera up against the 8 megapixel camera, not see if it would win - it doesn't have a chance - but to see how close it can come!

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Best apps new iPad Air owners should download right now!

Just get a brand new iPad Air or anticipating picking up a new Retina iPad mini when it ships later this month? While both tablets, large and small, certainly provide enormous value all on their own, what with iOS 7 and the great built-in apps like Safari and FaceTime, when you combine them with the best of the best of the nearly half-a-million apps in the iPad App Store, the value becomes nearly limitless. But given that there are so many apps, how do you know where to start? How can you possible find those best-of-the-best ones? Two word: right here!

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Yup, iPad Air still gets insanely good 24-hours of battery life as Wi-Fi hotspot

One of the most remarkable things about the iPad is that its 10 hours of battery life as a tablet translates into 24 hours of battery life a Wi-Fi hotspot. With the screen on doing things, it lasts almost half a day. With the screen off simply feeding data to a tethered computer, it lasts a day with room to spare. Not surprisingly, the iPad Air, which despite being considerably thinner and lighter, enjoys the same 10 hours of tablet battery life, also enjoys the same 24 hours of tethered Wi-Fi hotspot battery life. And lest there be any doubt, Anand Lal Shimpi, has proved it. AnandTech:

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UK Government reportedly bans iPads from secret meetings for fear of spying

For fear of them being 'hacked' and used to 'listen in' on secret meetings, the UK Government has reportedly banned iPads from all sensitive talks. Multiple UK newspapers have run the story this weekend, and while these are just reports, fear of spying is allegedly topic number 1 for their removal

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

Along with the brand new iPad Air, 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, and you're interested in one of Apple's accessories, which one should you get - Smart Cover or Smart Case?

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iPad Air photo gallery: Silver and Space Gray!

The iPad Air is Apple's latest and greatest full sized tablet offering. It comes equipped with an Apple A7 processor and weighs in at only a pound, making it ultra light and responsive. We'll have more on performance in our full review but for now, if you're undecided on what color iPad Air you'd like and want to see both models side by side as well as how it stacks up to other iPad models, follow along and check out our image gallery!

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T-Mo CEO: 'No strings' on 200 MB iPad deal; $10 surcharge was a mistake

T-Mobile is carrying the iPad for the first time with the release of the new iPad Air, and the company is offering a unique enticement: 200 MB of free data every month. People trying to take advantage of the deal on Friday ran into a stumbling block, however: a $10 charge per month surcharge. The CEO now says that's wrong.

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