If you are considering using an iPad as a replacement for a notebook PC as I am doing this month for the 30 Days With the iPad project, you need to determine which model is the right model for the job. Obviously, if you already have an iPad, then you just have to roll with what you’ve got, but today I will take a look at some of the key considerations to keep in mind if you are shopping for one.
iPad vs. iPad 2: The first question to ask is whether or not you really need an iPad 2. You can’t get a new original iPad through normal retail channels any more, but there are plenty of them available online from sites like Craigslist. In the Houston area, there are quite a few original iPads starting around $250 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi model–which is half the price of a new 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2.
Do you need the iPad 2? As an owner of an original iPad, I have to say that I didn’t find the iPad 2 that I had to run out and get it right then. It is thinner. It is lighter. It is faster. All of those are true, but none of them are so true that it really matters for most iPad functions. The difference, really, is the cameras–the original iPad doesn’t have any, and the iPad 2 has front and rear facing cameras.
If you don’t need the cameras, an original iPad should work just fine. But, if you want to be able to take pictures, use the FaceTime video chat, or use video conferencing tools like Fuze Meeting, you are going to have to spring for the iPad 2.
Wi-Fi vs. 3G: There are a couple things to consider when answering this question. First, where will you use the iPad the most, and how often will you travel with it. Second, do you have another device that you can piggy-back on for cellular network connectivity.
If you plan to use the iPad exclusively, or primarily from your home office, or some other location–like a Starbucks–where you know for sure there will be a wireless network connection available, the 3G is sort of irrelevant. But, if you want to be able to use it to access online resources while in transit–like in a cab, or on a train–you may wish you had the 3G connection.
But, that brings us to the second point. If you already have a 3G or 4G portable Wi-Fi hotspot like the Verizon MiFi, or you already have an iPhone or some other smartphone capable of acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot to share the cellular data connection with other devices, then you don’t need the iPad to have its own cellular data connection.
For me, my iPhone is with me virtually 24/7, so it makes more sense to just get a Wi-Fi iPad without the 3G and use my iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot if necessary. This arrangement makes sense from a financial and logical perspective.
I am with AT&T, so I pay $25 a month for 2GB of data on my iPhone 4. If I had an iPad with 3G, it would cost me another $25 for a separate 2GB of data on the tablet. For $45 I get 4GB of data shared between the two.
Not only do I end up saving $5 a month, but it gives me more flexibility in case I use more than 2GB of data on one of the devices–like 3GB of data on my iPad, and 1GB on the iPhone. Using separate plans, I would end up paying $35 for the iPad ($25 for the 2GB and $10 for the additional 1GB), and $25 for the 2GB of data on the iPhone 4 even though I only used half of the available data. In this scenario, I would end up paying $15 more for the same 4GB of data just because it is divided between two plans.
16GB vs. 32GB vs. 64GB: How much space is enough? One of the rallying cries and primary selling points of rival tablets is the availability of SD memory card slots and USB ports to allow for expanding storage beyond the internal capacity. The iPad doesn’t offer that (although there are ways to do it using the camera connection kit and a little hack magic).
You can rely on online data storage services like Box.net or Ubuntu One, or you can use a device like the Seagate GoFlex Satellite wireless external hard drive. But, if you don’t want to carry the extra gadget, and you don’t have a 3G iPad, and you need access to data while on the go, you will be limited by the internal storage capacity of the iPad.
Personally, I recommend the 32GB model for most people. 64GB may be overkill for a device like a tablet. With the various online data storage services–including the upcoming iCloud service from Apple–there really isn’t any need to turn the iPad into a massive portable data storage unit.
That said, 16GB can fill up pretty quick. Between the music, movies, or books you might store on the iPad, the various apps you use, podcasts you watch, and photos or videos you record, with only 16GB you might constantly find yourself keeping one eye on the available space remaining. Get the 32GB–you’ll thank me later.
Just for the record, for the purposes of this project, I am using 64GB WI-Fi model of the iPad 2. So, keep that in mind as you read about my experiences over the rest of these 30 days.