When Apple released its original iPad tablet device in 2010, picking the right model for your needs was a very straightforward process that was essentially dictated by one factor alone: storage capacity.
All of the original entries in that first wave of iPads were essentially identical in every way, from the screen size to the case design to available accessories and more.
All you really had to do was pick between 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage capacities and you were ready to go – beyond that, any iPad you bought could do anything an iPad was designed to do.
The only exception to this had to do with whether you wanted a Wi-Fi only model, or if you wanted the constant Internet connection that Wi-Fi + Cellular models brought to the table.
Flash forward to 2016, however, and things have changed dramatically. You no longer are limited to “only” an iPad – you now have the iPad Mini, the iPad Air and the iPad Pro to choose from.
They’re all Apple tablet devices, but they’re also aimed at three entirely different types of people and have features and technical specifications that have evolved accordingly.
However, despite the fact that the modern day iPad line is wildly different, the decision of which model to buy is actually still just as straightforward as it always was. The key thing to remember is that there is no longer a “best” unit in the grand scheme of things, only the “best unit for YOU.”
By considering exactly what you need the unit to be able to do and how you plan on using it, you’ll be able to pick the right iPad for your own personal situation.
When You Should Buy an iPad Mini
Apple’s iPad Mini line are the most compact entries in the iPad family. Of the two available models that you can walk into an electronics store and buy today, the iPad Mini 2 and the iPad Mini 4, both have a 7.9 inch screen size that is actually smaller than the 9.7 inch model originally released in 2010.
Generally speaking, these are aimed at more casual users because of their smaller and lighter form factor.
The iPad Mini is definitely easier to read eBooks on than an iPad Air or an iPad Pro, for example, and can be perfect for things like basic Web browsing, game playing and even video watching. If you’re looking at an iPad primarily so that you can take your entire digital book collection wherever you go, the iPad Mini is most definitely for you.
The major decision you’ll have to make with regards to WHICH iPad Mini to buy comes down to storage space. The iPad Mini 2 is currently available in the following options:
The iPad Mini 4 is currently available in the following options:
If you primarily plan to use your iPad Mini to watch films and television shows on the go, for example, you’ll absolutely want a 64GB or 128GB iPad Mini 4 as high definition video takes up a great deal of space.
When You Should Buy an iPad Air
The iPad Air is essentially a re-branded version of the original iPad. It maintains the same 9.7 inch screen size, only its significantly thinner and lighter than those original models.
Because of the larger screen size and form factor of the iPad Air versus the Mini, the Air is actually a bit more powerful. If you’re the type of person who plays a lot of the latest games or does a lot of video streaming, for example, you’ll likely want to consider the iPad Air because of the improved technical specs that come with it.
Once again, the decision between an iPad Air and an iPad Mini will come down to how you plan on using the device and where your priorities lie. Is portability your ultimate concern? If it is, the iPad Mini is for you.
Are you fine with something a little larger so long as it also brings with it improved performance and a noticeable speed boost? If you are, then the iPad Air is the unit to get. The iPad Air is currently available with two different storage capacities:
When You Should Buy an iPad Pro
The iPad Pro is to the iPad as the MacBook Pro is to the MacBook – it’s a machine designed for serious professionals who need a lot of space (both in terms of screen size and hard drive capacity) to maximize productivity wherever they go.
It’s currently available in two screen sizes – 9.7 inches and 12.9 inches. It also supports an accessory called the Apple Pencil, which is essentially Apple’s branded version of a stylus.
Because of the Apple Pencil support and the larger screen size (particularly in terms of the 12.9 inch model), the iPad Pro is ideal for people like graphic designers, artists and other creative professionals.
It can do everything its smaller cousins can do and more, but it really is aimed more at business users than it is at casual tablet owners.
Put it this way: while your favorite Hollywood feature film will undoubtedly look extraordinary on a 12.9 inch iPad Pro, the added cost due to the larger screen size would make the purchase a bit overkill.
However, if you’re an artist and you need a large canvas to work with at a moment’s notice, you’ll find that the iPad Pro is more than worth it.
On the storage end of things, the 9.7 inch iPad Pro is available in:
The 12.9 inch model, however, switches things up a bit. In Wi-Fi, it is available in:
If you want a Wi-Fi + Cellular model, you have the following options to choose from:
Once you’ve decided on a particular type of iPad to buy, you still have a few options that you can customize even further. As has been true since 2010, each iPad is still available in two types: a Wi-Fi only model and a Wi-Fi + Cellular option.
This is the same easy decision it has always been – do you NEED your iPad to be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week? If you do, you’ll definitely want a Wi-Fi + Cellular model thanks to the constant Web access it provides.
Be warned, though, that this benefit isn’t free – you’ll also need to pay for a data plan for your iPad with your cellular provider of choice.
If you only plan on keeping your iPad around the home and don’t do much traveling, however, you can easily get by with a Wi-Fi only model. Your iPad will always be connected to the Internet in your home or business (and works with public Wi-Fi networks at places like coffee shops and libraries).
Finally, if money is a major factor in your decision, you’ll definitely want to look at an iPad Air or an iPad Mini and NOT an iPad Pro. Both iPad Pro models bring a lot to the table in terms of raw functionality, but those benefits come at a cost.
There’s no sense in paying the asking price for a brand new iPad Pro if you’re only going to be reading eBooks or browsing the Internet. Either of the other two models will be more than appropriate for your needs.
We hope that this guide has been helpful and Cyber Monday iPad deals for 2016 are right around the corner – make sure to check out the page for all of the latest iPad deals from a variety of retailers for Cyber Monday 2016!