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How to Pick the Perfect iPad

Patch's new tech columnist advises readers on which of the 18 iPad2 models is right for you.

Since it became available last April, the iPad has been a technological marvel.  Its touch-screen, ease of use and wide-range of apps make it a fun and functional device as well as a productive tool for business. There are over 15 million iPads in use today, according to Steve Jobs' March 2 keynote address.

Despite its popularity, the truth is that none of us need an iPad. We just all want one. If you've considered getting one of the new models that came out recently, however, you may have been overwhelmed when you realized there are 18 different options. Here’s a run-down of what models are available, along with my recommendations.

Color - Black or White?  

The black iPad is less distracting. It blends with the content you're viewing and is less reflective than the white model. If you're considering the white model, check it out in the store first.

WiFi/3G or just WiFi?

3G gives you internet access whenever/wherever. WiFi only gives you access if you're near a hotspot (at home if you have wireless, Starbucks, etc.)  The 3G models are an additional $129, but having the 3G option is insurance that you can get online when you need to. If you’re a business user or frequent traveler, this is important and worth the additional investment. However, I would recommend that you only activate a data plan when you're sure you need one; it’s only a 30-day commitment.

AT&T or Verizon?

Both offer WiFi iPads with no-contract, month-to-month 3G data plans. The cost of the AT&T and Verizon data plans are fairly comparable.  It may come down to coverage. I suggest checking their coverage maps. One important thing to remember is to pick a data plan that you WON'T go over.  If you do, it'll cost you. Remember how much we pay for extra texts and minutes when we go over our phone plan?  Same applies here. 

Which Size?

16GB, 32GB or 64GB... how much storage do you need?  What are you planning to keep on your iPad?  A 16GB iPad will hold about 400 songs, 400 photos, two movies and a few dozen apps -- including about a dozen books.  

There are two cameras on the iPad2 -- a front facing (for video chatting) and a rear camera (for taking stills and high definition video).  You should continue to use your smartphone for photos, as it will probably give you better pictures. Many phones can also shoot HD video as well. Your phone is more accessible and probably has similar or better quality than what you’ll get from the iPad2 camera.

If you plan to take a lot of videos, store your entire music library or load all of your family photos, you may want to consider getting the 32GB model.  

Once you've decided on which iPad options are important to you, the next decision will be whether to go to a store or order online.  Online delivery is currently estimated for two to three weeks, but this may adjust as Apple’s inventory changes. If you want to buy at a store, call first as their inventory is usually sold within the opening hour. 

One more suggestion -- the Smart Cover is a very cool accessory for the iPad, as it adheres magnetically and converts to a stand for typing or upright viewing.  It also will put the iPad2 to sleep when closed and will wake it up when opened. That said, even if you purchase Apple’s Smart Cover, you should still get a protective cover.  

Bottom line: If you have the first generation iPad, it may not be worth another investment for this faster, thinner, lighter model unless you're someone who needs the new model's cameras. Then again, if you're considering buying an iPad, need has little to do with it anyway.

Paul April 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM
3G is required if you want a real GPS built in. The Wifi only version doesn't have a GPS chip but it does approximate based onyour Internet provider.
Jack April 10, 2011 at 01:22 PM
I think three memory sizes x two options for 3g (yes or no), x two colors x 2 cellular providers = 24 types actually.
Rick April 10, 2011 at 01:24 PM
I have an HP 500 slate that I am using right now. It uses windows 7 professional and it has a USB so I can plug a "G' if needed. I can install all pc applications I may need in the future . So you may want to have a look at the HP 500.
Bob April 10, 2011 at 01:28 PM
I wish everyone would stop saying no one actually needs an iPad. Nobody actually needs a computer either but you don't see any reviews starting with that disclaimer. My wife's iPad fits her NEEDS in a computer *perfectly*, nothing more and nothing less than her usage needs.
Buzz it April 10, 2011 at 01:50 PM
It does create iPad sized hole in the wallet. If one is getting iPad 3G, definitely need to know which plan is cheaper. http://buzzintechnology.com/2011/03/ipad2-data-plans-what-do-you-need-to-know/
Terry April 10, 2011 at 02:19 PM
I have an iPad. cute toy. nothing more.
Bob Fry April 10, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Jailbreak your iPhone, then get MyWi to create a wifi hotspot to tether your wifi-only iPad. Quite easy to do and you don't pay for a second data plan.
Howard Chester April 10, 2011 at 04:02 PM
I have purchased (but not yet received) an Ipad 16gb wifi only. If I want to upgrade to 32 or 64 gb in the future is that possible? Howard
Brian Whitlock April 10, 2011 at 05:01 PM
@Howard, it depends on what you mean by upgrade. There is a very good second hand market for the iPad and with a little effort and care you will be able sell yours for a significant % of the purchase price(the v1 16GB WiFi in mint condition is currently $203 at gazelle.com, more if you do the work of selling yourself). You could then take the proceeds and use that towards a new iPad, or maybe just give it as a gift to someone. But, the direct answer is no, there is no real way to open up the unit and add more memory to it. Any applications you purchase will transfer to the new iPad, so, any investment you make there will upgrade.
Ron April 11, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Just starting to consider an iPad and I found this information VERY helpful........thanks for a nice orientation
Daniel Meeks April 11, 2011 at 04:32 AM
Blair, great article. Need is too strong. I don't need an iPad. But now that I have one, I really like having it. Question? I still use the standard black cover and if rainy, a one gallon ziplock freezer bag. What are the options in terms of packing the iPad around? Dan
Blair Miller April 12, 2011 at 02:39 AM
Hi Dan - there are dozens of cases for your iPad from sleeves to messenger bags to hard-shell cases with built-in keyboards. There are even a few waterproof ones on the market! I'd be happy to chat offline about your specific requirements. Feel free to email me using the link at the top of the page. Thanks.

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