Having launched the iPad mini, Apple has heated up the race for 7-inch tablets. It’s an incentive to those who wanted to own an Apple tablet, but weren’t exactly convinced by the slate like dimensions of the iPad. On the other hand, in a surprise move, Apple also introduced the fourth generation iPad merely a couple of months after the launch of iPad 3. While it has discontinued the iPad 3, the older generation iPad 2 is still very much around. So if you step out to buy an iPad, you have three choices in front of you – the iPad 2, the new iPad and the iPad mini. While price and portability are factors to be considered, choosing between the three isn’t as simple. We have listed a few points, which should help you make a choice.
Looking for a portable iPad? Go for the iPad mini
What’s the difference?
The iPad mini and the iPad 2 sport more or less similar specs (except for the size), while the fourth generation iPad is a class apart. First off, launched in March 2011, the iPad 2 with a dual core Apple A5 processor is faster and lighter than its predecessor. It features a 9.7-inch LED-backlit display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 at 132 pixels per inch. It includes rear camera plus a front camera that supports FaceTime video calling. On the other hand, the iPad mini, as the name suggests, is the miniature version of the iPad or as some put it, the larger version of iPod touch. It is a neat 7.87 inches, which is a largely popular size for tablets these days. It features the same A5 processor like the iPad 2, but it does have a slightly better display (1024 x 768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch) and superior iSight camera (5MP back & 1.2MP front). This allows for 1080p HD video recording with the back camera and 720p HD video recording with the front camera.
The two also differ in terms of capacity and connectivity. The iPad mini supports Wi-Fi and cellular, while the iPad 2 is restricted to Wi-Fi and 3G. Again, in terms of capacity, the iPad mini is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, whereas with the iPad 2, you only have the option of 16GB. Another major point of difference between the two is the connector; the iPad mini features the newly introduced Lightning connector, while the iPad 2 features the older 30-pin connector. Also, the iPad mini features iOS 6, which Apple claims is the world’s most advanced mobile operating system and has over 200 new features. In terms of design, the mini sports an aluminium and glass look. Additionally, it is 4G LTE enabled as well.
The fourth gen iPad and the iPad mini
Coming to the recently unveiled fourth generation iPad, it is without doubt the fastest and best iPad out there. The 9.7-inch tablet sports the much touted Retina display. It is powered by a dual-core A6X chip and features iOS 6. Apple claims that the A6X chip delivers up to twice the CPU and graphics performance, as compared to the A5X chip. This makes using apps, browsing Internet and even gaming, a smooth experience like never before. On all the other counts, the specifications for the fourth generation iPad and the iPad mini are identical, except for the fact that it supports Micro-SIM, unlike the Nano-SIM on the iPad mini. In terms of thickness and weight, it is identical to the iPad 3 (Apple has discontinued the iPad 3). Additionally, Apple has made available over 275,000 apps designed specifically for the new iPad, across broad categories.
Which one should you buy?
Price by far is the most important criteria, because if you do not have any budget constraints, then the choice is obvious—go for the new iPad. It features the fastest processor, the latest OS, as well as the Lightning connector and not to forget the Retina display. The experience on the new iPad is undoubtedly more superior to the iPad 2 and even the iPad mini. However, having said that, the iPad 2 isn’t exactly a slowcoach and there is a good reason it is still around. And as mentioned before, the specs of the newly launched iPad mini are on most counts identical to that of the iPad 2. In terms of pricing for the fourth generation iPad, for the Wi-Fi only version you will have to shell out $499 (over Rs. 27,000), $599 (over Rs. 32,000) and $699 (over Rs. 38,000) for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB version respectively. The Wi-Fi + Cellular version starts at $629 (over Rs. 32,000) for the 16GB version. The new iPad is yet to be officially launched in India, so the prices are unconfirmed. On the other hand, the iPad 2 currently retails on the online portals for as low as Rs. 23,000 for the 16GB Wi-Fi variant.
iPad 2 is still a good bet
So, if you want an iPad, but do not want to spend much, then go for the iPad 2. The new iPad 2 that will be shipped will have the OS 6; that way you won’t miss out on the apps and other features of the latest operating system. And if you get one that runs on the older OS version, then you can always upgrade it to iOS 6. However, your experience may not be as smooth with certain apps that are designed specifically for the new iPad and leverage its faster processor. Also, getting accessories for it may get difficult, as it still features the 30-pin connector; with the Lightning connector becoming the new standard, the accessory manufacturers are bound to focus on it. You will also have to settle for the average camera and forget about the Retina display.
On the other hand, if the slate-like dimensions of the iPad bother you and portability is what you are after, then iPad mini is the obvious choice. The mini makes maximum use of the screen. As per Apple's official statement, it has 35 percent more screen real estate than 7-inch tablets, and up to 67 percent more usable viewing area when browsing the web. This gives it an edge over the other 7-inch tablets in the fray. Like with the new iPad, the iPad mini is yet to be officially launched in India. However, the iPad mini has made its way through online retailers, and the 16GB Wi-Fi only version is selling for Rs. 26,990. At this price point, it is more expensive than the iPad 2, And with no Retina display, it’s a bit of a disappointment. However, speculations are rife that Apple will launch the mini with Retina display in the second half of 2013. So if you really want to own a portable iPad, then you should consider waiting for a year.