iPad 2 Buying Guide

The iPad 2 is coming soon, but there are a confusing range of options available. Here’s how to pick the right one for you.

The iPad 2 is coming soon, but there are a confusing range of options available. Here’s how to pick the right one for you.

How do I get one as quickly as possible?

If you absolutely have to be the first on the block to have an iPad 2, go to an Apple store at 5pm on the 11th. Apple is allowing people to order them online starting on the 11th, but they won’t be delivered until after that date.

What capacity do I need?

The cost of the iPad 2 ranges from $499 for the 16GB model right up to $699 for the 64GB model. How much space do you need? The table below shows how much music and video you can fit onto each of the models, and the cost per GB.

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NOTE: based on the filesize of a 320kbps audio file, 13.8 MB per minute for standard definition (SD) video and 30.63MB per minute for high definition (HD) video. These figures are based on files downloaded from Apples own iTunes store, with 1GB set aside for system and other files.

Should I buy the new magnetic cover?

Apple has a new, innovative cover that keeps the screen of the iPad 2 clean and shiny. It looks like a nice idea if you keep the iPad around the house, but it does not protect the rest of the device, leaving the back free to get scratched, etc. If you take your iPad with you on the road, we would recommend holding off on this until there are more other case options available.

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WiFi or 3G?

Apple offers three versions of the iPad 2 with different ways of connecting to the Internet. Which one is the right one for you? That depends on one thing: whether you need data access away from the home or office. If you don’t need to get email on the road (or away from a coffee shop), go with the WiFi model that costs between $499 to $699 and save some money. If you do need mobile data, go with the 3G one for your preferred network, but be aware of the costs: the WiFi and 3G models are priced at $629 to $829, so the 3G adds $130 to the cost of the device.

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You’ll also need to add in the cost of the data plan, the price of which depends on how much data you want to use:

The amount of data you will need depends on what you will use the iPad 2 for. The lowest tiers will be fine for casual web browsing and the odd email on the ride home, but serious emailers and those who want to download new music or movies on the road will want one of the higher tiers. If you have a cell phone that you use for email and mobile web access, take a looka t your bill to see how much data you used on that each month as a guide.

All of the costs above are for month-to-month plans: you can cancel or continue the service at the end of each month. Neither networks allows you to combine or share the service with another cell phone plan, and the iPad 2 uses a new smaller SIM card (called a Micro SIM) that means you can’t take the SIM out of your phone and use it on the iPad 2.

Should I upgrade from an iPad?

In short, probably not. There are plenty of upgrades in the iPad 2 from the original iPad, but most of them are not worth the cost of the upgrade. The iPad 2 has the same screen, the same controls and looks to have the same battery as the original iPad (we’ll know for sure when we get one in our labs to test), The only people who might need to upgrade are:

Mobile Gamers – The new iPad 2 has a dual-core A5 processor (the iPad used a single-core A4 processor) and an upgraded 3D graphics chip, so gamers on the go might want to consider an upgrade. Most existing games run fine on the iPad, but it won’t be long before programmers take advantage of the extra processing power to write iPad 2 only games.

FaceTime users – The iPad 2 adds a second front-facing camera, similar to the iPhone 4. This camera can be used with the just-released FaceTime for iPad app from Apple for video conferencing with other iPhone, iPad 2 and Mac users, so those who regularly use video conferencing or want to try video calling might want to consider the upgrade.

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Is the iPad going away?

No, and the older model of the iPad is now something of a bargain, as Apple has cut the cost to $399 for a new one or $349 for a refurbished 16GB model. If you don’t need the new features, this is a good way to save some cash, and many users will not need or want the new features.

Do you have other questions or comments on the iPad 2? Post them in our comments section and we'll answer them...

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