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Choose the Right iPad for You

Though there are slight differences in thickness and weight among the different generations of the larger iPad models, if you pick up an iPad (see the following figure), you're not likely to be able to tell one model from another at first glance, except that some models are black and some are white or silver and newer models get gradually thinner and lighter. Although the four generations have slightly different heft and the original iPad is the only one without cameras, the differences are primarily under the hood.

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If you're in the market for a new iPad, Apple currently offers iPad fourth-generation models (at a discounted price), iPad Air, and the iPad mini with Retina Display. The newest iPad mini is smaller, but its processor chip and screen resolution match those of the iPad Air. The larger iPads have three variations:

  • Case color

  • Amount of built-in memory

  • Method used for connecting to the Internet: Wi-Fi only, Wi-Fi and 3G (iPad 2), or Wi-Fi and 3G/4G (all models after iPad 2)

Your options in the first bullet point are pretty black-and-white (though the iPad Air added a gold color case), but if you're confused about the other two, read on.

With the fourth-generation model Apple introduced a new kind of connector, called a Lightning Connector, that has a smaller plug at the end that slots into the iPad itself. For some the biggest advantage about the Lightning Connector is that it plugs into your iPad no matter which way you hold it.

How much memory is enough for your iPad?

Memory is a measure of how much information — movies, photos, and software applications — you can store on a computing device. Not having enough memory will negatively affect your iPad's performance when you do things like stream TV shows or download music.

Your memory options with an iPad are 16, 32, 64 or 128 gigabytes (GB). You must choose the right amount of memory, because you can't add memory later, as you usually can with a desktop computer.

So how much memory is enough for your iPad? Here's a rule of thumb: If you like lots of media, such as movies or TV shows, and you want to store them on your iPad (rather than experiencing or accessing this content online on sites such as Hulu or Netflix), you might need 64GB or 128GB. For most people who manage a reasonable number of photos, download some music, and watch heavy-duty media such as movies online, 32GB is probably sufficient. If you simply want to check e-mail, browse the web, read e-books, and write short notes to yourself, 16GB might be enough.

What's the price for more memory? For the iPad Air, a 16GB Wi-Fi unit (see the next task for more about Wi-Fi) costs $499; 32GB jumps the price to $599; and 64GB adds another $100, setting you back a whopping $699. But doubling that to 128GB adds just $100, boosting the price to $799. If you buy an iPad mini, you're looking at $399, $499, $599, and $699 for the four levels of memory it offers.

Do you need wi-fi only or wi-fi plus 3G/4G on your iPad?

If you want to wander around the woods or town — or take long drives with your iPad continually connected to the Internet to get step-by-step navigation info from the newly rebuilt Maps app — get 3G and pay the price. But if you'll use your iPad mainly at home or via a Wi-Fi hotspot (a location where Wi-Fi access to the Internet is available, such as a bookstore or coffee shop), don't bother with 3G.

Frankly, you can find lots of hotspots out there now, at restaurants, hotels, airports, gyms, museums, retail stores, and more.

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