Which iPad 2 should I buy?

There are six choices of iPad 2, from the cheapest £399 Wi-Fi only model with 16GB of memory, to a fully loaded £659 iPad 2, but which one should you buy?

If you fancy a bite of Apple's iPad 2, you've got to choose between six different versions of the tablet. Which one you choose depends on how you're going to use it -- and how much you're willing to spend .

Your choices are:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi only: £399
  • 32GB Wi-Fi only: £479
  • 64GB Wi-Fi only: £559
  • 16GB Wi-Fi and 3G: £499
  • 32GB Wi-Fi and 3G: £579
  • 64GB Wi-Fi and 3G: £659

Mind your megabytes

There are three storage options -- 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Each step up in storage costs £80. You're paying through the nose for the extra bytes, so you should go for the smallest storage that will suit you.

The most hungry memory hogs are media and apps. So take a good hard look at your music collection. If you have 40GB of music and you want to keep it all on your iPad, you'll have to pay the piper. But if you don't mind syncing a smaller subset of your tunes, you can still get away with a cheaper slate.

When it comes to films, we think it's better to rent from iTunes rather than buy. Apple has cut the prices for many movies to 99p, and unless you're under the age of 10, you're unlikely to want to watch the same film 50 times. If you rent, you won't clog up your storage. And if there are a few classics you do want to hang on to, plan for about 1.5GB for a single standard-definition film, or 300MB for a half-hour TV show. But remember you can sync your iPad with your computer to store them, if you need to free up space. 

As for apps, only a few apps hog huge storage. Sat-nav apps such as TomTom can take a couple of gigs to store their huge maps. Similarly, apps such as GarageBand or iMovie , which work with large media files, can take up space if you have several projects on the go. But most apps don't take significant storage, so unless you carry 10 sat-nav options with you, we wouldn't worry about storage limits for apps.

So, save your money. Our advice is to buy the 16GB iPad 2, unless you're a music or movie lover who absolutely must have all your media with you.

Homelover or road warrior

Its large 9.7-inch screen means the iPad 2 isn't the most portable tablet, since it won't fit in your pocket. For plenty of people, it never leaves the house, and it's the perfect size for surfing the Web on the sofa, watching films in bed or checking recipes in the kitchen. If that's how you plan to use the iPad 2, you can save yourself £100 by choosing a Wi-Fi only model. 

Even then, you can roam free if you belong to a good Wi-Fi hotspot network, such as BT Openzone. Access to many of these networks is included in your mobile contract or home broadband deal. For example, BT FON is a hotspot network that's free if you have BT broadband at home.

Another option that can save you some money is using Wi-Fi tethering with your phone's personal Wi-Fi hotspot. If you have an HP/Palm phone, Android phone or iPhone , you can connect your iPad wirelessly to surf over your phone's 3G data connection. You pay for the data through your normal phone contract, except for the iPhone, with which you probably have to pay extra .

Otherwise, you can still play games and watch your downloaded video, even when you're offline. But if you can't stand to be disconnected, and you don't want to be forced to find a hotspot, you can splurge on an iPad 2 with 3G built-in. 

You could subsidise the deal by buying from a network, but it's always cheaper to pay full price for an unlocked iPad 2 and then buy the cheapest SIM-only data deal you can find. It doesn't have to be a contract or pay as you go deal specifically designed for the iPad 2 -- we've never had any trouble using any SIM card in an iPhone, as long as it's unlocked. 

Be aware that you'll need a micro SIM to fit the iPad 2. You can either ask for a micro SIM from the network, although you may have to do some arguing if you want to combine a non-iPhone or iPad 2 deal with a micro SIM. It is possible -- we've done this on Vodafone. You can also cut down a normal SIM card to fit the iPad 2 .

Wi-Fi tethering is great, but it sucks your phone's battery, and it's not automatic to switch on and off as you need it. We think that unless your iPad is destined to stay in your house, it's worth the extra £100 to have the option to go online anytime. The iPad 2 is at its best when it's connected, and we'd gladly fork over the money when we're really desperate to get online.

I can't be bothered reading all that, just tell me which one should I buy

The 16GB Wi-Fi and 3G iPad 2. That'll be £499, please.

 

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