This was an easy, straightforward article about which iPad to buy.
By By SAM GROBART
Published: March 10, 2011
If you are in the market for an iPad, here's some guidance about which model is best for you.
Like the original tablet, there are three variables to consider: storage capacity, whether the iPad has built-in 3G connectivity and — if you go for a 3G-enabled unit — which carrier to sign up with.
Let’s address these one at a time. First, storage capacity:
The iPad comes with three different amounts of flash memory. This is what stores your music, photos, apps and videos. You can get an iPad with 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes (GB) of storage.
Each rung up the storage ladder costs $100. So the base 16GB model starts at $499, the 32GB costs $599 and the 64GB is $699.
Bear in mind that what we’re talking about here is only storage — your iPad’s performance (loading apps, playing video, general speediness) is the same for all three models. Performance has to do with the processor and the amount of RAM the iPad has — and that’s the same no matter which version you buy.
It’s tempting to get the 64GB model (since when wasn’t more better?) but that’s probably overkill for most people. An iPad is not meant to be the main repository for all your data and media (that’s what your more capacious laptop or desktop is for).
And what most people store on iPads is pretty space-efficient. Photos take up little room; books almost none at all. Music is not often terribly data hungry (and if you have 10,000 songs in your iTunes library, consider whether you want all of them with you all the time, or if your iPad can work with a more limited playlist that it syncs to); even apps don’t consume so many bytes.
“Ah, but what about movies?” Good point. Movies are a bit more hefty and can add up, as they weigh in at around 1GB or more per title. But ask yourself: how many movies are you going to keep on your iPad permanently? What’s a more likely situation is that you will either a) rent movies and shows on your iPad, watch them on the plane flight or wherever and they’ll later expire b) shuttle movies back and forth from iPad to PC as needed or c) use a streaming service like Netflix, which takes up no storage space at all, since the movie is never residing on any flash memory.
All this points to a 16GB or maybe a 32GB iPad. Which one is best? If you travel a great deal and like to watch a lot of video, maybe the 32GB is worth it, just so you never have to really think about whether you’ll have enough room. But if your iPad is going to be used primarily at home, with infrequent trips, 16GB should be fine. The 64GB one still seems like too much.
O.K., next topic — 3G or no 3G.
The base iPads are Wi-Fi only. For an extra $130, you can buy versions that have the ability to get on either AT&T’s or Verizon’s network (you have to choose one) for wireless Internet. I say “have the capability” as opposed to “can” because you still have to buy a data plan from the associated wireless carrier.
One good thing about these data plans is that they are month-to-month — no contract needs to be signed. That means you can pay for 3G in the months when you need it (you can’t pay for anything less than a month) but can save your dollars when you don’t need 3G.
But the real question worth asking is: Do you need a 3G-enabled iPad at all? Remember, it costs you an extra $130 up front, and that’s before you’ve paid a nickel for a data plan. Ask yourself how often you’d use an iPad where there’s no Wi-Fi around. Me? I use my iPad in my Wi-Fi equipped home and my Wi-Fi equipped office. When I travel, I’m in Wi-Fi equipped airports and (often) Wi-Fi equipped hotels. Having a 3G would be nice, I guess, but I wouldn’t really need it in many situations and don’t want to shell out for the privilege.
Now, if you spend a lot of time on the road — literally, the road, where Wi-Fi may be harder to find — maybe the 3G option makes sense. That’s something only you can answer.
If you do go with 3G, you’ll want to know which carrier has the better service and data plan. The short answer is “for most users, Verizon,” which charges less per gigabyte for the its entry-level data plan ($20 for 1GB of data, versus $15 for 250MB from AT&T). That should be enough data for a non-power user. If you exceed the monthly allowance, Verizon will charge you an extra $20 for an extra 1GB.
Another thing to consider: You can’t use a Verizon iPad in as many foreign places (like Europe, the Middle East and Africa), due to Verizon’s use of the less globally popular CDMA network. AT&T’s iPad works on the GSM network, which is more widespread around the world.
So, to recap: A smaller amount of storage is likely fine for most people. Wireless connectivity also has limited appeal. Which all goes to say that the answer to the question “Which iPad should I buy?” is simple: get the cheap one.
Also to consider-- if you plan to use your iPad for navigation (even if you choose not to go with a data plan), you’ll need the 3G version since a GPS receiver is only built in to the 3G models (from the comments section of the original post).