How to Buy an iPad

Find the right iPad for your at the right price

iPad Pro
Product Images & Info - iPad / Apple Inc.

There are now four different iPad models in three sizes listed on the Apple website, all of which are available in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular configurations and a selection of colors. Throw in the different storage options, and you are presented with an overwhelming number of configurations when shopping for a new iPad. As intimidating as that might sound, it isn't hard to narrow your choices based on how you plan to use the iPad.

You just need to consider several options:

  • Model - pick from five models and price ranges
  • Size - choose a Retina display size from 7.9 inches to 12.9 inches
  • Memory - varies by model, but the range begins as 32 GB for all models and goes up to 256 GB on some models
  • Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + Celluar - decide whether you want cellular capability in addition to Wi-Fi
  • Color - a simple choice of silver, space gray, gold and rose gold, which varies among models
  • Power - do you need or want the most powerful processor on the market?

Current iPad Models

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (5th Generation)
  • iPad mini 4

12.9-inch iPad Pro and 9.7-inch iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is the newest iPad in the lineup, and while the 12.9-inch version gets a lot of press, the 9.7-inch model is just as powerful and has a few bonuses over the largest iPad.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a beast.If you want power, the iPad Pro delivers it.

While it is targeted at the enterprise, it may be the ultimate family iPad. It has four speakers, one at each corner, so it sounds great while you watch movies or play games. The huge screen means you won't miss your TV's big display, and it goes hand-in-hand with all the new multitasking features of the iPad.

The iPad Pro comes in two sizes: 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch. The entry-level iPad Pro will set you back $799.

And don't confuse the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as simply being a smaller iPad Pro. It actually surpasses its bigger brother in several key features, with an upgraded 12-megapixel camera that can go toe-to-toe with most smartphones and a True Tone display capable of a wider gambit colors compared to the 12.9-inch Pro.

Both sizes support the new Pencil accessory and the Smart Keyboard.

iPad (5th Generation)

The iPad Air disappeared from Apple's website and was replaced by "The iPad." But make no mistake" this is the iPad Air 2 with a slightly faster processor. It sports the same 8-megapixelback-facing camera, includes theTouch ID fingerprint sensorand has a 9.7-inch Retina display. The biggest difference between the two is the price, which drops to $329. The new iPad also sports the same processor as the iPhone 6S. This makes it the most affordable iPad in the lineup. If you don't need the extra power, this new iPad is a great deal.

iPad mini 4

The iPad mini is currently the odd man out in Apple's lineup. It is essentially an iPad Air 2 with a 7.9-inch form factor, which is nice for those who want a more mobile solution that can easily be handled and used with one hand.

The iPad mini 4 has the same processor as the iPhone 6 and matches the Air 2 is most other features, including an 8-megapixel back-facing camera and a Retina display. However, it remains selling for $399 on Apple's website, which is makes it a bad deal when you compare it to the faster and more affordable 5th generation iPad.

Shop Apple's Refurbished Section

Apple offers a refurbished section on its website where you can find Apple's refurbished iPads. The selection changes daily, but if you find the model you want, you'll save a lot of money. Apple's refurbished iPads come with the same 1-year Apple warranty as new iPads,so you don't need to worry about getting one and having it break the next week.You can even buy Apple Care for the refurbished iPad.

Look for: A nice deal on an iPad Pro. You can currently get $90 off on a 32 GB 9.7-inch iPad Pro and $120 off the price tag of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, so if the Pro line was just out of your reach, this is a good way to sweeten the deal.

Avoid: The iPad Air 2. The discounts aren't enough when you can pay $10 for a faster (and brand new!) 5th-generation iPad.

Note: Prices on refurbished iPads may change.

Shopping for Used iPads

For the more adventurous, buying an iPad on Craigslist or another similar site may be the ticket to getting the best deal. However, this is buyer-beware territory, likely with no warranty or return policy. If you are buying used, it is best to stick to one of the iPad Air models, one of the iPad Pro lineup or any iPad mini that is not the original mini iPad.

The original iPad Mini, the original iPad and the iPad 2 are now considered obsolete. They are no longer supported by the most current operating system, and they are definitely much slower than newer iPads. These models should be avoided.

About Storage

Apple has bumped up the minimum storage on all its iPadsto 32 GB from 16 GB. Even better, the jump up to 128 GB from 32 GB is only $100 more. So how to decide between 32 GB and a higher storage model? If you are upgrading from an older iPad, this is an easy question. If you never needed to delete stuff from your iPad to clear up space, you can probably go with the same storage model. If you have often needed to purge some stuff from your iPad to give it a more breathing room, go for a model with more memory this time around.

An iPad with 32 GB is big enough for many people, but not all. Here are reasons you may want to buy a model with more storage capacity.

  • If you are planning to completely replace your laptop and desktop computers with the iPad
  • If you plan on loading all your music onto the iPad to have access to it when you don't have data access. (Remember, you canstream music without using up storage space when you have a connection.)
  • If you plan on shooting a lot of videos or storing a lot of movies (rather than streaming them) on the iPad, 32 GB will not be enough.
  • The 32 GB model can hold about 10,000 photos shot with the camera on the newest iPad Pro. But you wouldn't have much room for anything else. If you believe you may store over 4,000 photos on the iPad, you should upgrade to a model with more memory. Of course, you can always store your photos in iCloud's Photos app.
  • Games can also use up a lot of storage space. If you play a lot of games—especially if you play "hardcore" games—the 32 GB model might not work for you.

Do You Need Wi-Fi + Cellular for Your iPad or Just Wi-Fi?

Every iPad comes with Wi-Fi capability. If you want your iPad to also connect to cellular signals, you need to buy a Wi-Fi+Cellular model, which adds to the cost. The cellular models of the iPad require a cellular network plan, which varies among suppliers. Theyalso contain an A-GPS chip, which allows for more accurate location services than the iPad with Wi-Fi only.

If you have Wi-Fi in your home or place of business, getting on the internet won't be a problem.

When you travel, many hotels come with free Wi-Fi, and it is easy to find a coffee shop with Wi-Fi access. The main areas where the cellular data connection comes in handy are in the car (unless your car is a mobile hot spot) and at places without Wi-Fi hotspots, like at a picnic or park. For families that are going to enjoy road trips, the cellular version provides a source of entertainment for kids. It also acts as a GPS device, which saves you from buying a dedicated GPS.

What Accessories Should You Buy?

Your iPad purchase isn't finished when you pick out your iPad model. You'll also need to decide on accessories. The one true "must-have" accessory you should buy is an iPadcase. Even if you use the iPad only around the house, a case keeps a drop from turning into a cracked screen. All other accessories are optional depending on how you plan to use your iPad. Popular choices include the wireless keyboard and the new Apple Pencil. Just check to make sure the iPad model you bought supports the accessory.


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