Should you buy a new iPad? And if you do, then which one?

by Volker Weber


Three years ago I have been fielding many questions from friends who wanted to buy their significant other an iPad for Xmas. Which one to get? There were two parameters: how much money do you want to spend and does it travel. Things have gotten easier, because now everybody knows what an iPad is. And they have gotten harder because there is so much competition. You can easily buy a Nexus 7 these days and be perfectly happy for a year or two. Say, you do want an iPad. Which one? Air or Mini? Or is your current iPad good enough?

The new generation of iPads is equally powerful. You just have to decide which size you want. And they are much more similar in weight and design. With the old generation it was kind of easy. If you wanted Retina and a faster machine, you got the iPad 4. If you wanted small and light, you got the Mini. Now both of them are equally fast, and the big one has shed a lot of weight.


My current thinking is: if you are a girl and carry a purse, get the Mini. It fits in there easily. If you are boy, you don't have a purse, so you might as well get the Air. If you are older than 45 years, by all means get the Air. Bigger is better for your eyes.

Now we know which one. Which leaves us with the question, if you would want to replace your old iPad.

Upgrade the original iPad and the iPad 2. Not the iPad 4 and probably not the 3. Not the Mini. Why not the Mini? Because it works well and does not benefit from the Retina display as much as the larger machine.


The big elephant in the room is one missing feature: TouchID. That's going to come next year. And it's a want want want feature. You will buy a new iPad next year just for this one feature. And I could never recommend to drop a one year old iPad for a new one.


Good summary, Volker.

The only comment I'd make is that the iPad 3 may have had the retina display, but it was very underpowered compared with the iPad 4. The GeekBench results (single-core) look like this:

iPad Air: 1465
iPad 4: 771
iPad 3: 263
iPad 2: 261

That's a huge jump between the iPad 3 and iPad Air. That for me makes it worth upgrading...

Stuart McIntyre, 2013-11-07 17:26

Just one correction:

As far as I know the iPad3 had the A5 Processor while the iPad4 was A6.
At least the iPad3 was much more stressed especially with the Retina display than the iPad4. So accounting new connector, weight and size the iPad3 is still marginally a replacement candidate (especially as you still get a decent value for it on reselling).

Beside being a boy and over 45 there's one more reason for Air over mini: For me it's a 90% replacement of my netbook computer. And for that use the iPad mini is to small for several occasions.

Harald Gaerttner, 2013-11-07 17:36

Thank you for your summary. I think the Retina display is a big step forward. Currently I'm not shure if it's worth to upgrade my iPad mini with the new one or an iPad Air. At the moment the iPad Air is my favourite. ;-)

Frank Köhler, 2013-11-07 17:39

Volker, you obviously don't read books on the iPad mini. The retina display skyrockets readability. I upgrade just because of that. Yes, it is that awesome to read on a retina.

Johann van Buuren, 2013-11-07 18:34

I am going to replace my 16gb+cellular iPad 2 with a 64gb+cellular (nonRetina) iPad mini. I know that's kinda lame, but the design of the iPad mini just does it for me (mainly the weight and handling). Let's hope that with everyone upgrading their tablets, the prices for 2nd hand devices will drop a bit.

Juergen Eichholz, 2013-11-07 18:43

I'm not sure about TouchID. I have it on my iPhone 5s and it is just not consistently fast enough to unlock the machine. Apple could address this in a big way by allowing a 5-15 minute delay in requiring the fingerprint. Right now, it requires a fingerprint immediately if you click the sleep/wake button to turn it off and then on again.

Seth Crothers, 2013-11-07 19:08

I fall into the camp of upgrading from the iPad 3. It was fine but the new processor is dramatically faster, I'll be blogging about iPad performance in a few weeks time. The new form factor is also so much better, the iPad Air has become my daily driver, switching from a Nexus 7.

Matt White, 2013-11-07 21:49

But, but, what if you are a Man who carries a purse? I carry a purse. Mini fits in it just fine. I suppose I will have to get both !!!

Paul Calhoun, 2013-11-07 22:03

More is always better, Paul, isn't it? ;-)

Volker Weber, 2013-11-07 22:04

I had a iPad Mini and yesterday I got my new iPad Air getting rid of the blurry fonts on the Mini.

And most of the time I use my iPad at home, and therefore a bigger screen is better. And for traveling it does not make a difference to me if I have to carry a Mini or a Air.

Karl Heindel, 2013-11-08 07:38

I'll keep the 3 because I can (still) live with the performance issues which came with iOS7.
But when iOS8 and iPad Air 2 are available, there will be an upgrade, I guess...

Andreas Friedmann, 2013-11-12 12:49

I'm looking for a tablet to replace my iPad 2. The iPad Air would be a safe bet i guess. But as i didn't spend a lot of money on iOS apps so far, i could still opt for another eco system.
So i'm very curious about new toys arriving at vowe's magic flying circus in the form of Surface 2 and Lumia 2520.

Manfred Wiktorin, 2013-11-17 18:31


I'm an iPad virgin and I am unsure as to how much memory is reasonable. Don't want to put all my photo collection on it.

Do you have any experience about what is too little, what is too much?

Andrew Magerman, 2013-11-22 20:31

Any size is good. Videos take up a lot of space. If you want to watch those on the go, you need a bigger machine. Two combinations sell well: Wifi/16 and 3G/max. Two use cases: the smaller one mostly at home, the big one for traveling.

Volker Weber, 2013-11-22 20:39

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