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How to Pick the Right iPad Model for You

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 8/15/2011

The iPas is a popular and useful tablet, though the price can scare off customers. Here is a look at how to select the right model to fit your needs and budget.

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    Touch the Tablet

    The iPad has been dominating the tablet market since its release, and now that the second model is in there are a few choices to be made by prospective buyers. Not only do you have choices between storage capacities, also whether or not you want a 3G-enabled iPad, and whether you want to pay full price for the new iPad 2 or go on the cheap side with the first generation. How much space does a movie take up on the iPad? How many apps fit on it? How much is the first generation compared to the iPad 2? How much is the 3G plan? When you are asking “which iPad should I get,” these are all questions you are going to have to consider.

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    Storage Space

    iPad Varieties In the current form the iPad comes in 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB sizes. The least expensive model is the 16 GB at $499 for Wi-Fi only, and this marks the most affordable of all the options. For many people this is sufficient due to the type of content they are looking to support: apps. Music is not usually the primary focus of the iPad storage capacity because that is best suited to a more portable device, such as an iPod Touch or iPhone.

    When you are asking how much space a movie will take up on the iPad you have to look at whether or not you will really be utilizing this on a consistent basis. Hulu Plus, Netflix, and HBO Go all offer streaming movie subscriptions services that work well over Wi-Fi.

    When iOS 5 is released then iCloud will come along with it, and the iPad’s onboard storage for media files themselves will be less important as well. The apps are then the primary focus, and tend to be of a much smaller size than standard media. Even on the 16 GB iPad you will be able to more than fill up all available pages with apps before it is even close to full, and so there is no reason to get a larger size unless you absolutely must have video files.

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    Wi-Fi and 3G

    The choice between the Wi-Fi and the 3G-enabled iPad is a large issue for users, and the price can be substantial. The 3G-enabled iPad 2 will cost $130 more than its Wi-Fi only counterpart. This means that the 3G enabled 16 GB iPad 2 will be $629 as opposed to $499. This is on top of a data plan that will likely run about another $30 a month, depending on the plan you purchase from either AT&T or Verizon.

    This ends up being a substantial extra cost, so is 3G worth the price? Well, it is actually rare to find no available Wi-Fi in accessible public places, so the only reason to employ the 3G addition is if you want to use the iPad often while on traveling. You can debate the necessity of this, but for most users it is going to be an additional cost that will make the iPad more expensive.

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    First or Second Generation

    The pricing for the iPad 2 is standardized, and is the same price as the first generation iPad when it was first released. Many people were hoping for a major set of technological additions when the iPad 2 was released, but instead there were just some minor improvements like dual cameras, FaceTime, and faster hardware. There was not the inclusion of SD card slots and other elements that users Buying From Walmart thought would propel the iPad into the world of full experience portable computing.

    The debate then comes as to whether or not the iPad 2 is worth paying the full price when you can find the iPad original for a reduced sum. For a refurbished 32 GB iPad that is Wi-Fi exclusive you can expect to pay $429.00 from Apple, which is less than the least expensive iPad 2. The 16 GB refurbished iPad that is 3G enabled will again come in at less than the cheapest iPad 2 model with a price of $449.

    This is a nice savings, but is it worth it? That depends. The older the iPad model the sooner iOS updates will leave it behind, though there should be a couple more versions that will be available for the first generation. The gap between the cheapest first generation model and the cheapest iPad 2 model is so small that you may want be better off going with the most recent incarnation, especially if you have decided that you don't mind the base Wi-Fi only model.

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    Making the Choice

    So which iPad should you buy?

    Anything beyond the 16 GB Wi-Fi only iPad is going to be a luxury that is not necessary to enjoy what the iPad has to offer, so if you are on a budget it is best to go with the least expensive option unless you have a concrete reason to size up.

    The iPad 2 is enough of an update to justify the new purchase, but the coming iPad 3 promises to be even more significant. If you feel like you can wait until February of 2012, you may be rewarded by an even more impressive device.