iPad buying guide (2015)

Once again, it's time for a quick run down of the latest options when buying an iPad. There's more choice than ever these days, so read on to find out what you need to know when trying to figure out which iPad is the best fit for you.

Also, take a look at Apple's own comparison page for pricing and more specific details.

Small, Medium or Large?
There was a time when the iPad was only available in one size, 9.7 inches measured diagonally across the screen. This is still the most popular size, but now we have two more options to choose from.

iPad mini
The small option. Some would say too small for driving lessons. Others swear by it. The iPad mini screen measures 7.9 inches diagonally. Smaller than a regular iPad, bigger than an iPhone 6 Plus.

There is an iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, and iPad mini 4. Apple currently offers the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 4. They are essentially very similar, although the 4 is more refined and more powerful. The 4 also has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which the 2 does not have.

iPad Air
The medium option. Bigger than an iPad mini, smaller than an iPad Pro. Apple currently offers the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2. The Air 2 is newer and more refined. It has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the Air does not.

The original iPad (1st generation), the iPad 2, and the 3rd and 4th generation iPads also come under this 'medium' category, although Apple does not offer these for sale any longer.

iPad Pro
The newest incarnation of the iPad, and what a beast it appears to be. I've yet to get my hands on one of these monsters, but it looks like a stunner and I'm seriously looking forward to making its acquaintance. With 12.9 inches of screen, you probably don't need an iPad this large but I don't blame you if you want one!

The iPad Pro can be used with Apple's new 'Pencil' stylus, which is sold separately. Also sold separately is a folding keyboard cover which turns your iPad Pro into something resembling a laptop, great if you do a lot of typing.

If you want to know more, here's a pretty detailed review from Wired.

How much storage space?
iPads are sold with storage ranging from 16GB to 128GB. But how much do you actually need?

Realistically, this is something you can only guess. Here are some guidelines:

128GB of storage is a lot for an iPad. You're unlikely to need this much unless you are serious about carrying around a lot of video files or other space-hungry data such as detailed maps of the solar system.

64GB is also quite a lot for the average user. Worth considering, though, if you're a data-fiend.

32GB is more reasonable if you don't have a specific need to store a lot of data.

Many people get by just fine with the basic 16GB of storage. Things may become a little bit squeezed after you've been using your iPad for a couple of years and you've never, ever deleted anything from its memory. However, by that time you're probably already thinking about upgrading to a shinier, newer iPad, so it'll be time to think again on the tricky subject of whether to go for 32GB or muddle through with 16.

In a nutshell, if this is your first iPad and you're looking to use it mainly for driving lessons, email and surfing the web, you'll probably be just fine with the 16GB option.

(GB = Gigabytes)

Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular?
Perhaps rather unsurprisingly, a Wi-Fi only iPad connects to the internet via Wi-Fi only. This may be via your home network, or a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Each iPad comes with a Wi-Fi only option, or for an extra £100 you can have Wi-Fi and a cellular connection similar to your mobile phone. You need to pay to maintain the cellular connection, just as you do with your phone.

It’s a more expensive option, but many people find that it’s worth it for the “always on” internet connection wherever they roam. Even if you go for the cheaper option and plump for a Wi-Fi only iPad, you may be able to “tether” your iPad to your smartphone. Tethering allows your iPad to piggyback on your phone’s cellular connection, giving you mobile internet on your iPad without the additional costs.

One more thing to be aware of: some apps require a cellular connection and cannot be installed on a Wi-Fi only device. This is the case with my Routes app, although all my other apps can be installed and used on a Wi-Fi only model.

The big question
Gold, Silver or, um, Space Grey? It's up to you. Express yourself!

How do I get a cheap one?
If you’re in market for an iPad and determined to get a bargain, Apple's refurbished store is an excellent place to look. You can pick up all sorts of great deals on as-new or nearly-new iPads, all of which come with the same one-year warranty as the brand new versions. Supply is limited, though, so grab ‘em while you can!

Alternatively, if you’re confident buying second-hand, there are good deals to be had on reseller sites such as eBay. It’s important to note that buying this way offers much less protection than buying direct from Apple, or from another well known retailer. Make sure you know what you’re getting, and always carefully check the seller’s feedback before deciding whether to buy from them.