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  1. Computer Skills
  2. iPad
Computers

How to Choose the Best iPad for You

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Apple’s iPad is so easy to use that even children master it, but choosing from the increasing number of models available can be a little more complex.

In this tutorial, I'll give you an overview of each model and translate technical jargon into plain English to help you better understand the differences between the options.

Jargon Buster

I'll start by deciphering some of the technical terminology you'll inevitably come across when researching Apple products.

Retina Display

Retina Display is a marketing term developed by Apple which refers to a resolution and pixel density so high that a person is unable to discern the individual pixels at a normal viewing distance.

Screen Resolution

Screen resolution means the number of horizontal and vertical pixels on a display screen.

At higher resolutions, items appear sharper but also smaller. More information is displayed on the screen. At lower resolutions, however, less information fits on screen and icons appear larger.

Generally speaking, the larger the screen the higher the resolution it supports.

Chipset

A chipset is a set of electronic components on an integrated circuit that control the flow of data. Without getting too deep into what is an undoubtedly complex subject, a good rule of thumb is that the higher the chip number, the better and faster it is.

A10X chip
An illustration of the iPad Pro's A10X chip's capabilities

Storage Capacity

The larger the storage capacity, the more space an iPad has to store photos, videos, music, apps and so on. It’s important, therefore, to choose a model with enough storage to suit your specific needs.

That's because an iPad’s storage capacity cannot easily be increased with a memory card. Nor is it possible to replace the memory for some with a larger capacity.

Apple’s iCloud internet storage service, however, comes with 5 gigabytes of free storage, that can be upgraded for a small monthly charge. The iPad can also handoff data, that is not being used on the iPad, to cloud storage.

RAM

Random-access memory, or RAM, is the physical hardware inside a computer or mobile device that temporarily stores data. 

Generally speaking, the more RAM a computer or mobile device has, the faster the processing speed but, unlike a computer, you cannot upgrade an iPad’s RAM.

Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and Cellular

Each model of iPad comes in two versions: Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and Cellular

Wi-Fi only means that an iPad can only connect to the internet over wireless internet. 

Wi-Fi and Cellular, on the other hand, means that in addition to Wi-Fi, the iPad can also connect to the internet using a cellular network, just like an iPhone. You will, however, need a data plan in place to browse the internet without a Wi-Fi connection.

Models

There are four different models of iPad on the market right now: 

  1. iPad mini 4
  2. iPad (5th Generation)
  3. iPad Pro 10.5-inch, and 
  4. iPad Pro 12.9-inch.

1. iPad mini 4

iPad Mini 4
iPad mini 4

Weighing just 298.8 grammes, or 0.65 pound, the iPad mini 4 is Apple’s most portable iPad. With a laminated, 7.9-inch Retina display, and as thin as a pencil, you can easily hold the Mini in one hand, making for a more comfortable user experience. 

It’s available in Silver, Gold and Space Grey and, following a refresh, only available with 128-gigabytes storage capacity, which is more than enough space for most people. 

Despite having the same 2048x1536 resolution, the iPad mini is sharper than the iPad (5th Generation) due to the Mini’s smaller display. 

It has a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, compared to the iPad’s 264 pixels per inch. It’s also rated for up to 10 hours of battery life when used for surfing the web on Wi‑Fi, watching video or listening to music.

Fast approaching its third birthday, the iPad mini 4 has a 64-bit A8 chip, which is now vastly outdated when compared to the iPad and iPad Pro’s newer A9 and 10X chips. This makes the iPad mini a hard sell for all but the most size and weight-conscious iPad user.

Prices for the iPad Mini 4 start from £419.

2. iPad (5th Generation)

iPad 5th Generation
iPad (5th Generation)

Released in 2017, the iPad (5th Generation) is 23 percent thicker than the iPad mini and 57 percent heavier, weighing in at 469 grammes (1.03 pound), which isn’t exactly heavy by any stretch of the imagination.

Unlike the iPad mini, the iPad’s larger 9.7-inch Retina display is not laminated and doesn’t include an anti-reflective coating, meaning you may experience glare, especially when using the iPad outdoors. It is, however, available with two storage options—32 or 128 gigabytes—as opposed to just the one, making the iPad the most affordable model. 

Again, the iPad comes in Silver, Gold and Space Grey and is rated for up to 10 hours of battery life.

According to Apple, the iPad’s 64-bit A9 chip is 70% faster than the iPad mini’s older A8 chip, so if speed’s a priority and size isn’t your biggest concern, then the iPad is definitely your best bet, and certainly the cheapest option.

Prices for the iPad (5th Generation) start from £339.

3 & 4. iPad Pro 10.5 and 12.9-inch

iPad Pro 105 and 129-inch
iPad Pro 10.5 and 12.9-inch

Geared towards professionals, the iPad Pro is Apple’s latest iPad model, and is available in two different sizes: 10.5 and 12.9 inches. 

Weighing the same as the iPad, the 10.5-inch model has a resolution of 2224 x 1668, while the 12.9-inch model, weighing 677 grammes (1.49 pounds) boasts a resolution of 2732 x 2048. 

Both models have a laminated Retina display, and come with either 54, 256 or 512 gigabytes of storage. Like the Mini and iPad, the Pro is rated for up to 10 hours of battery life, and is available in Silver, Gold or Space Grey, although the 10.5-inch model is available in Rose Gold, too.

Currently, the Pro is the only iPad model that’s compatible with both the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard.

While the iPad Pro may not be quite as portable as the iPad mini and iPad, it certainly surpasses both models in speed and power, but the Pro may be overkill for the average user. 

Prices for the iPad Pro start from £619.

Conclusion 

In this tutorial, I've given you an overview of each iPad that’s currently on the market and translated technical jargon into plain English to help you better understand the differences between each model.

You should now, hopefully, be able to discern each one’s strengths and weaknesses, and be able to make an informed decision as to which iPad is right for you.

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