Which iPad should I buy: the iPad Air 2 or the iPad mini 3? Or should I get one of the earlier models? I'm not sure how powerful an iPad needs to be, or how much money I ought to be spending. Oh, and how much storage should I get?
Looking to buy an iPad, are you? Great! And don't worry, we can help you pick the right iPad for your needs.
There's a few different questions there, but they all come down to one main consideration: what do you need from an iPad? In our iPad buying guide, updated for 2015, we'll help you work out your requirements and whether you should get the iPad Air 1, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 1, iPad mini 2 or iPad mini 3. We'll then talk about further options, such as storage capacity, 3G/cellular capabilities and even colours. We'll even talk about whether you should be getting an iPad at all - would an Android or Windows tablet be a more cost-effective option? - and discuss second-hand and refurbished alternatives that will save money.
And when you've decided which iPad you want to buy, head to our article Complete guide to buying an iPad for detailed advice on the best places to buy, the best deals, second-hand and refurbished options and more.
Sections in this buying guide:
iPad buying guide 2015: The current iPad line-up
Apple currently sells a bigger range of tablets than ever before. There are five models, and each of those offers two or three colour options, one to three storage capacities, and the option to get 3G/cellular or just stick with Wi-Fi. We make that 56 configurations: clearly we've got work to do.
But we can break the range down pretty quickly. First of all, you can divide it by size. You've got two full-size iPads: the iPad Air 1 (or just iPad Air) and the iPad Air 2. And there are three mini iPads: the iPad mini 1 (or just iPad mini), the iPad mini 2 and the iPad mini 3.
(At least the names have got simpler. The mini iPads used to be called 'iPad mini' and 'iPad mini with Retina display', but now they are the mini and mini 2. We called them that anyway, but it's nice of Apple to catch up.)
Then you can separate each of those categories into three generations. The October 2012 iPads were the iPad 4 (now discontinued) and the iPad mini 1. These were followed a year later by the iPad Air 1 and iPad mini 2. The most recent generation are the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 - the most recent, and therefore (obviously) the most advanced and most costly.
Your choice of the individual models will depend on how much money you are willing to spend, how portable and powerful you need your iPad to be, how long you need to be able to use your iPad (and for it to support the latest software) and in what areas (if any) you are willing to compromise.
Let's get started. First of all we'll decide if you should buy a full-size or a mini iPad, and then we'll narrow down your choice from there.
Full-size iPad Air or iPad mini?
The first decision will cut our options drastically. Do you want a full-size iPad (the iPad Air 1 or iPad Air 2) or an iPad mini 1, 2 or 3?
Full-size iPad Air or iPad mini? Part 1: Screen size
The most obvious aspect of this decision comes down to screen size. The full-size iPads both have 9.7in screens, whereas the iPad minis each come with 7.9in screens. How big a screen do you need?
You can get an idea of the relative sizes in the picture above. But whereas the full-size iPad is close to a hardback book or Private Eye-style mini-magazine, the iPad minis are closer to paperback novels.
The larger screen is obviously better for immersive entertainment. Whether watching films or playing games, it's a more enjoyable, richer experience. The iPad minis have only about two-thirds of the screen area.
However, the iPad mini screen feels much closer to the full-size iPads than you might think. And we're getting increasingly used to watching films and TV shows on phone screens. Don't discount the mini as an entertainment device - it'll do you proud. This is simply a question of priorities. Are you more set on getting maximum screen space, or are you willing to compromise on that front in order to get a lower price tag and improved portability?
Full-size iPad Air or iPad mini? Part 2: Portability
One of the payoffs for settling for a smaller screen comes in the form of portability. For one thing, the iPad mini models are a lot lighter, even taking into account the alarming diet that the iPad Air 2 has been put on. (The iPad mini 3, by contrast, hasn't lost a gram compared to the mini 2, but the difference remains significant.)
The iPad Air 1 (the heavier of the two full-size tablets) is about half as heavy again as the iPad mini 1, the lightest of the minis: 469g to 308g, looking at Wi-Fi-only models. The gap between full-size and mini iPads narrows if you bring in later models, but is always at least 100g.
The iPad mini units are more portable, then, as you'd expect. As well as their markedly lower weights they also have smaller bodies, which slip easily into a rucksack pocket or even a jacket pocket (we found that the iPad mini 2 can slip into even a trouser pocket, but it was stretching the material rather ridiculously). If you plan to mainly use your iPad out and about, on holiday or commuting, the iPad minis are your best bet.
The iPad Air 2 continues its quest to close the gap between full-size and mini iPads, and is pleasingly portable, but it still can't match the mini models for pocketability.
Full-size iPad Air or iPad mini? Part 3: Price
Perhaps the biggest mark in favour of buying an iPad mini is the price. Starting at just £199, the first-gen iPad mini is the cheapest iPad by a clear £40, and by a distance the cheapest iPad Apple has ever sold. Even the brand-new iPad mini 3 (at its most basic spec, at least) is the same price as the year-old iPad Air.
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy?
Okay, so you've settled on either a full-sized iPad, or an iPad mini. We'll look at the full-sized iPads first to narrow things down further; if you've plumped for an iPad mini, jump ahead to that section below.
What are the differences between the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2?
First, let's sum up the main differences between the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2.
The iPad Air 2 has a newer, more powerful processor chip (the A8X, to the iPad Air 1's A7 chip). The Air 2 has an upgraded rear-facing camera (8Mp to the iPad Air 1's 5Mp). It has an anti-reflective coating on the screen. The Air 2 is thinner (nearly 19 percent) and lighter (6 percent) than the iPad Air 1, and comes with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
But what do these raw differences mean in terms of your day-to-day experience?
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 1: Display
The screens of the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2 are the same in most regards. They are both Retina displays (to understand what that means, see What is a Retina display, and are they worth the money?) and both have resolution of 2048x1536 and pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. In sharpness they should be identical.
There's one (possibly minor) enhancement to the iPad Air 2's screen: an anti-reflective coating. We're not ready to give a verdict on that quite yet, not having spent enough time with the devices, but it should reduce annoying/distracting reflections when using the iPad under bright lighting.
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 2: Processor power
With its A8X processor chip, the iPad Air 2 is significantly quicker at general processing and handling graphical tasks than the iPad Air 1 (which has an A7 chip) - about 40 percent faster, on paper. But at this point that difference is more theoretical than practical. The iPad Air 1 can handle all current apps, and you're unlikely to see major speed gains with current software.
As time goes by, however, the most demanding tasks - extremely graphically ambitious 3D games, video and photo editing, and all the more processor-intensive apps that will be released in the next few years with the iPad Air 2 in mind - may begin to tax the iPad Air 1, and it's here that the iPad Air will demonstrate its greater processing muscle. Think of it as future-proofing.
If you need your iPad to be able to run the most demanding apps for years to come, the iPad Air 2 is a better choice. But we suspect that it will some time before the difference in speed is noticeable at all, and if your iPad time is limited to light use - browsing the web, reading emails, playing graphically simple games - then it's probably overkill.
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 3: Camera
The iPad Air 2 gets an upgraded rear-facing camera: the megapixel rating has gone from 5Mp to 8Mp. This is now a serious bit of photographic equipment, and will take splendid photos: when we update our iPad Air 2 review we'll post some of our efforts with the new camera. Of course, we always feel like undercutting any praise of an iPad camera by speculating on exactly how many people really rely on an iPad for camera work (isn't it rather inconvenient, size-wise?). But if you do - well, then the iPad Air 2 is right up your street.
(While we're on the subject of cameras, the Air 2 also gets some new camera features: time lapse, burst mode, panoramas up to 43Mp and a timer.)
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 4: Weight and dimensions
I've been using an iPad Air almost every day for the past year, in the office, on the sofa, on the train and in bed, and I've never felt it was too thick, or too heavy. And I was surprised when Apple said that the iPad Air 2 was even thinner. But thinner it is, and it's a stunning feat of engineering.
The iPad Air 1 is 7.5mm thick, and weighs just 469g (for the Wi-Fi-only model). It's a beautifully one-handed tablet. If you're reading an ebook in bed, you can easily hold it in one hand - even holding it over your face when lying on your bed, safe in the knowledge that damage will be minimal if you drop it.
But the iPad Air 2 takes things even further. It's nearly 19 percent thinner, at 6.1mm, and weighs 6 percent less: 437g. This is a tremendously portable and barely-there computing device.
Mind you, we're very slightly concerned about robustness, and would like to get more hours of use under our belts before praising that 6.1mm chassis too much.
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 5: Touch ID fingerprint scanner
The iPad Air 2, as was expected, gets Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanning technology, built into the Home button. Since the launch of iOS 8, this works with a number of third-party apps as well as with Apple's own offerings, and this is only going to get better as more developers build Touch ID compatibility into their apps.
Touch ID is convenient, enabling you to unlock your iPad, or an individual app, with a single touch of a finger rather than a passcode or password. It also means you'll be able to use one part of Apple Pay (the online/app-based part, but not the 'paying in a shop' part) when it launches in the UK. But Touch ID isn't a dealbreaker for most people.
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 6: iOS 8 (and beyond)
Finally, both iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2 will come with iOS 8 preinstalled if you buy them now, and both receive a full complement of its features.
The only slight point of interest here is that the iPad Air 1 is one generation older than the iPad Air 2, and consequently one rung further down the iOS ladder.
For iOS 8, the iPad 1 couldn't run it at all, the iPad 2 and 3 got most of the features, and the iPad 4 and later got the lot. But for iOS 9 next year, it's possible that the iPad 2 won't be able to get the update at all, and more iPads will miss out on features. Each year owners of older iPads nervously wonder if they're about to stop getting iOS update support. (This isn't the end of the world, of course, and whichever version of iOS you end up 'stuck on' will still work and be supplied with security updates. You just stop getting cool new features.)
You should certainly expect a shorter period of full iOS update support if you buy an iPad Air 1 than if you buy the iPad Air 2. The iPad Air 2 is more future-proofed, for iOS updates as well as for third-party apps, than the iPad Air 1, although both should have a good few years in them.
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Part 7: Price
The iPad Air 2 costs:
Wi-Fi: £399 (16GB), £479 (64GB) and £559 (128GB). Cellular/3G: £499 (16GB), £579 (64GB) and £659 (128GB).
The iPad Air 1 is only available in 16GB and 32GB capacities (note that the 32GB option has been dropped for the iPad Air 2), and costs £80 less than the iPad Air 2 where direct comparisons are available:
Wi-Fi: £319 (16GB) and £359 (32GB). Cellular/3G: £419 (16GB) and £459 (32GB).
Which full-size iPad Air should you buy? Conclusion
The step up from iPad Air 1 to iPad Air 2 is an accumulation of small enhancements. None of the improvements by themselves would be enough to earn a strong recommendation, but they become quite persuasive when viewed together: you get a faster processor chip; you get a better rear-facing camera (8 megapixels, up from 5Mp); you get a Touch ID fingerprint scanner; you get a device that is a bit lighter (6 percent) and quite a lot thinner (19 percent); you get a less reflective screen; and you get the prospect of iOS update support for about a year more than the iPad Air 1.
Is all of that worth an extra £80? Probably. But this depends on the circumstances.
If you've got an iPad Air 1 and are wondering whether to upgrade, we're not sure we'd recommend it. The iPad Air 1 is already wonderfully thin and light, and fast enough for all current apps. If you love having the very latest Apple kit and have the money to spare, then go for it; but upgrading every other year is more than enough for most people to have a great experience with their iPads.
If you're updating from an iPad 4 or earlier, or buying your very first iPad, things are a little different, and we'd probably suggest you go for the newer model. If you like to run demanding games and apps or are a keen iPad photographer, you'll get noticeable benefits (although the speed improvements may take some time to become apparent - we'll need to wait for app developers to catch up). And Touch ID is a convenient bonus.
Those who have light use in mind (emai, browsing the web, simple games etc) should be absolutely fine with an iPad Air 1, and would do well to save the extra cash. Although such customers might want to consider a cheaper option still: the iPad mini 1 or mini 2.
We'll run through the pros and cons of each model, and discuss final decisions (such as storage allocation, 3G and colour choice) in the section called Decision Time.
Which iPad mini should you buy?
Okay, you've settled on an iPad mini. (If you're lost, jump back to the top of the page. This is just like Choose Your Own Adventure.) Which iPad mini model is best for you: the iPad mini 1, the iPad mini 2, or the iPad mini 3?
What are the differences between the iPad mini 1, iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3?
First of all, let's list the differences between the three iPad mini models.
Most significantly, only the mini 2 and mini 3 get Retina screens - the mini 1 has half the pixel density of the later two models, and is noticeably (but not drastically) less sharp to look at when displaying high-detail photos and text.
The mini 1 also uses a slower (and considerably older) processor chip than the mini 2 and 3. The mini 1 runs an A5 chip, whereas the mini 2 and 3 run the A7. The A7 is around four times as fast for general processing, and about eight times as fast for graphical processing. But these numbers are theoretical, and only apply in situations that exert a significant demand on the processor; on many simple apps the mini 1 will be fine.
The iPad mini 2 and mini 3 are bulkier than the iPad mini 1, although only very slightly; they are each 7.5mm thick, compared to the mini 1's 7.2mm, and their weight (Wi-Fi-only) is 331g to the mini 1's 308g.
All of which makes it sound like the big differences are between the iPad mini 1 and mini 2, and that the iPad mini 2 and mini 3 are the same. Which isn't far from the truth. The only differences between the iPad mini 2 and mini 3 are the addition of a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and a new gold colour option. Oh, and the storage options are a bit different.
Which iPad mini should you buy? Part 1: Screen
The key question for most buyers is the screen. Do you need a Retina display?
At the risk of repeating ourselves somewhat from the full-size iPad section above, a Retina display is one where the pixels are packed so densely that your eye can't make out individual pixels. (In theory, anyway - this is based on the average eye, and we're all different. But yes, a Retina display is about as sharp as you could ask a screen to be.)
Essentially, though, the difference is relatively minor. It's noticeable, particularly on small text and highly detailed photos, but not earth-shattering: with the iPad mini 1's non-Retina display you'll notice some pixellation when reading and on some highly detailed images, but it's not painful. The Retina display on the iPad mini 2 and mini 3 is super-sharp and vivid, but the iPad mini 1's screen isn't bad at all. If you've never used a Retina display, you'll find the first-gen iPad mini's screen fine; once you've tried Retina, though, you may find it harder to go back.
Which iPad mini should you buy? Part 2: Processor
The next important difference between the iPad mini 1 and the mini 2 and 3 comes down to the processor. The former gets the old A5 processor, while the two newer mini models get the A7 chip, complete with its M7 graphics coprocessor. (Wondering what happened to the very latest generation of chips, the A8 from the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the souped-up A8X from the iPad Air 2? Those chips have been withheld from the mini lineup.)
Apple reckons the iPad mini 2 and 3 are up to four times as fast at general processing as the iPad mini, and up to eight times quicker at graphical tasks. That sounds astounding, but the reality is that you should be hearing the words 'up to' loud and clear. On a lot of the simple tasks and basic apps that make up three-quarters of the average iPad user's experience, an A5 iPad will do fine, and you may not even notice a difference between that and the iPad mini 2 or 3.
Infinity Blade 3 is one of the processor-intensive games that will push an older iPad to the limit
Where the A7 chip really comes into its own is when you up the ante and start playing newer or more graphically demanding games, or use powerful video- and photo-editing packages. The A5 is getting quite long in the tooth now, and the more demanding of current apps will certainly benefit from the A7's muscle.
And more significantly, the apps that get released in the future will be designed specifically to take advantage of the most recent mobile processors. The iPad mini 2 and 3 are therefore a much more future-proofed option. They are also more likely to be able to use features in future updates to iOS.
Which iPad mini should you buy? Part 3: Touch ID fingerprint scanner
The single significant difference between the iPad mini 2 and mini 3 is the addition of a fingerprint scanner. With the opening up of Touch ID in iOS 8, this now works with third-party apps as well as with Apple's own offerings, and is therefore only going to get more useful as more and more developers incorporate fingerprint scanning into their apps.
As we argued in the iPad Air section, Touch ID is convenient - you can unlock your iPad, or an individual app, with a single touch of a finger rather than with a passcode or password. And it also means you'll be able to use one part of Apple Pay. But Touch ID isn't a dealbreaker for most people.
Which iPad mini should you buy? Part 4: Video
There's one other difference we think is worth mentioning: although the cameras on the iPad mini 1, mini 2 and mini 3 are supposed to be the same, in our testing the mini 2 and 3 shot noticeably better video. So if that's something you plan to do a lot, chalk up another win to the later two iPad minis.
Which iPad mini should you buy? Part 5: Price
We're nearly there - all that's left before we pick our iPad is to think about price tags. There's a £40 gap from the iPad mini 1 to the iPad mini 2, and then an £80 gap from the iPad mini 2 to the iPad mini 3 (although it's also a bit more complicated than that suggests, because the newer the iPad you choose, the more storage options you get).
Here's the full set of iPad mini prices:
iPad mini 1. Wi-Fi: £199 (16GB). Cellular/3G: £299 (16GB).
iPad mini 2. Wi-Fi: £239 (16GB), £279 (32GB). Cellular/3G: £339 (16GB), £379 (32GB).
iPad mini 3. Wi-Fi: £319 (16GB), £399 (64GB), £479 (128GB). Cellular/3G: £419 (16GB), £499 (64GB), £579 (128GB).
Which iPad mini should you buy? Conclusion
The first and most obvious thing to say is this: £80 extra for the iPad mini 3 (compared to the equivalent mini 2) is a tough sell. All you get for that is Touch ID, and while Touch ID is cool and convenient, it's hardly worth £80. If you've got an iPad mini 2, our advice is this: do not upgrade to the iPad mini 3 unless you adore the colour gold (it's actually a rather lovely, warm, bronze-like gold, so thumbs up for that) or desperately need a particular storage configuration that's no longer available for the mini 2.
The £40 price gap between the mini 1 and mini 2, in contrast, seems if anything to be smaller than we'd expect, and we would strongly recommend upgrading from the mini 1 to the mini 2, or going for the newer of those two devices if you're buying your first mini tablet. For its extra £40, the mini 2 gets a much faster processor than the mini 1 and a Retina display, and those are both major selling points - the A7 is more important than ever, given how much apps have moved on in the past year. The A5 is only going to get more and more tired when tackling games and demanding apps.
The A7 processor is a must-buy if you're seriously into iPad gaming (and particularly into advanced, recent games that make heavy demands on the processor). It's also a better choice if you plan to use new and advanced apps in the next few years, or if you're into photo and video editing on the iPad.
Still, there are situations where we'd recommend the dear old iPad mini 1. It's super-cheap, for one thing, even if a mere £40 more would get you a signficantly better device. And if you're what we'd call a 'light user' (someone who only wants a tablet for a spot of email and web browsing on the sofa) then it'll do you proud. Save the £40. Just bear in mind that you probably won't be able to upgrade to iOS 9, and that you won't be able to run all the apps out there - not well, at least.
If you're used to Retina displays already - you've got an iPad 4, say, or you borrow a friend's iPad mini 2 a lot - then you might find the iPad mini 1 a tiny bit fuzzy, but it's still a genuinely decent screen for the money.
Decision Time! Choosing the best iPad (and final options)
Phew! Are we close to a decision? Here are the pros and cons of each iPad model, and the people for whom it would be the ideal choice:
iPad Air 1: Pros, cons, and who is it for?
Pros: The Air 1 is a lovely, slim and light full-size tablet with a glorious screen. The camera is fine (if that's your thing) and it's powerful enough to handle basically anything on the App Store.
Cons: It can handle anything on the App Store right now. Give it a few months of developers working with the A8X and you'll start to find that some of the coolest games are a struggle. And while it's thin and light, you can never be too thin, right?
Ideal for: Anyone who needs a big screen but can cope without the very latest in processing muscle and camera megapixellage.
iPad Air 2: Pros, cons, and who is it for?
Pros: Even thinner and even lighter than the Air 1. Even more powerful - the most powerful iOS device available to humanity. Gets a stronger camera that makes it a legitimate photographic option. Gets a new gold colour option (which we actually like!). Generally very cool indeed.
Cons: Expensive. Overkill for most situations and all current apps. Will need some time and demanding apps to prove its worth.
Ideal for: Gamers and iPad photographers, and anyone who wants to be able to run the most demanding apps in a year's time. Power users. Those who are boastful and/or rich.
iPad mini 1: Pros, cons, and who is it for?
Pros: Very cheap. Very portable. Still a perfectly decent device for most standard computing activities.
Cons: Smaller screen makes it less of an immersive option for watching films and TV shows, and for gaming, than the full-size iPads. Starting to show its age in processing power - mid- to high-level games are likely to show the speed gap between this device and the mini 2 and 3. Screen is non-Retina, so ebooks and photos will be noticeably less sharp (although the difference isn't huge).
Ideal for: The budget-conscious. The portability-conscious. Those who tend not to run demanding apps and (particularly) games - this isn't a good choice for keen gamers.
iPad mini 2: Pros, cons, and who is it for?
Pros: Cheap. Very portable. Powerful, even if not quite as powerful as the iPad Air 2. Retina screen. Great all-rounder - perhaps our favourite option here, although this depends on your needs.
Cons: Same small-screen reservations as the mini 1. Doesn't get Touch ID fingerprint scanner, if that's something you're desperate for. Year-old processor chip doesn't offer same longevity as the iPad Air 2's A8X, although this remains the most powerful chip available for iPad minis.
Ideal for: Everyone! Well, those who are willing to compromise on screen size and Touch ID to get a great deal and a highly portable device. Gamers (assuming they are okay with a smaller screen - and we think this is fine for gaming).
iPad mini 3: Pros, cons, and who is it for?
Pros: Very portable. Powerful, even if not quite as powerful as the iPad Air 2. Touch ID fingerprint scanner. New gold option.
Cons: It's not a terrible deal by any means, but it looks like one compared to the mini 2 - an extra £80 just gets you Touch ID and the choice of a gold finish. Processor chip is a year old on a brand-new device, which is a bit annoying. Same small-screen reservations as the mini 1 and 2.
Ideal for: The portability-conscious with a high budget. Touch ID enthusiasts. Rich people. (In all seriousness, the mini 3 isn't an awful choice - the price is okay and this is the finest mini tablet that Apple has ever released. And Touch ID is a nice inclusion. It's just that the pricing makes us think that the mini 2 is a better value-for-money option for most people.)
In a nutshell, our advice is to get the iPad mini 1 if you're looking for a bargain and are willing to compromise on screen size, screen quality and processing power, and the iPad mini 2 if you have a little more money.
The iPad Air 2 is probably the best choice if you need a bigger screen - its numerous enhancements over the iPad Air 1 make it worth the extra £80 - but you'd be fine with the Air 1 if you're willing to make some sacrifices (namely the camera, and the likelihood of lower speed on the the most demanding apps and games that will be released in the coming year).
The most difficult iPad to recommend is the iPad mini 3, which really doesn't look worth the extra £80 over the previous model. You gain merely Touch ID - the mini 2 is exactly as quick, has the same camera and chassis, and is otherwise identical (except that the mini 3 comes in gold!).
The Macword team discuss the latest generation of iPads, and whether they are worth an upgrade:
What storage capacity should my iPad have?
If you've gone for a brand-new iPad mini 1, you haven't got many options where it comes to storage: you're capped at 16GB. (Read on, however, to see if you need more - in which case you need to think about looking for a second-hand model with more storage, or one of the newer iPads.)
The remaining four iPads, meanwhile, offer anywhere from 16GB to 128GB. How much storage capacity will you need?
Well, first of all remember that you can't upgrade the storage capacity of an iPad at a later date: this is your storage limit from now until you buy another iPad, so aim high and buy as much storage as you can afford. Apple is probably a little cheeky in how much more it charges at each storage point (this stuff is relatively cheap for a manufacturer to upgrade), but it's better to spend an extra £80 now than to buy an entire new iPad in six months' time.
Storage capacity is in our experience mainly used up by three things: music, photos, and videos, in increasing order of storage drain. If you want to keep lots of films - or even a few, to be honest - then you need high storage: probably the 64GB unit or higher for video fans. Same applies to large photo or music libraries, to a lesser extent, although Photo Streams and iCloud Match respectively make it practical (if perhaps not preferable) to keep your stuff in the cloud and access it remotely. Go for at least 32GB if you want to keep any sort of media library on your iPad.
The other thing that wlil fill up your storage is apps, but the amount of space they take up varies enormously. Those heavy-duty games we talked about earlier will use up a lot of space, and gamers should aim high on storage - 64GB is a good bar to aim at with 32GB the compromise point.
I use a comic viewer app with lots of comics in it, and unsurprisingly they do their bit in helping to fill my (128GB) iPad to over half-capacity. If you think it's not possible to fill the largest iPads - well, it can certainly be done, but if I was on a lower-capacity model I'd be more incentivised to delete apps I use less often. I basically pay no attention to deleting old apps or photos, and I'm still closer to the 64GB mark than to the 128GB mark. But there's only one film on there - that's the killer.
16GB isn't much these days, but you can manage if you're willing to delete apps after you stop using them, don't use hardcore games, transfer photos fairly regularly to the cloud or your Mac, and don't use the iPad as a media/music library.
Read about why it's not a good idea to buy the 16GB version: The problem with Apple's 16GB iPhones and iPads
I'm not sure we can help too much on this one. But the basic gist is this: if you're getting the iPad mini 2 or 3, or the iPad Air 1, you can buy it in black (or Space Grey, in Apple's terminology) or white (silver). If you're getting the iPad mini 3 or the iPad Air 2, you get an extra option on top of those: gold.
We really like the iPad gold, as we mentioned earlier - it's almost a rose gold, quite bronze-like in its warmth. But black or white are the more conservative options. Here's what they look like:
The 3G/4G/Cellular option
Finally, do you need 3G/4G/cellular connectivity?
It's a luxury, I'd say, even if it's a nice one to have. For an extra £100, you'll be able to access the web and email, and use connected apps, away from a Wi-Fi network. (You also need to factor in the cost of a data plan.) Consider carefully how often you're going to do that - with an iPad mini there's likely to be more on-the-go use than with a full-size iPad, but it's still a lot to pay for something you may only use from time to time. Have you got a regular (overground) commute where you'd enjoy catching up on news headlines or email? Then it could be worth the extra.
Just bear in mind, as a commenter called Chromejob points out below, that the cellular option also brings with it a GPS radio - meaning that you'll be able to pull in accurate location data when using your device on the go.
So that's it - hopefully we've walked you through the iPad buying decision without too many tears. We wish you many happy hours of iPad use.
Bonus 1: The Refurbished option
We'll mention this only briefly because it's covered elsewhere, but one option you should absolutely consider is Apple's Refurbished store. It's a sort of halfway house between new and second-hand: the devices are pre-owned, but Apple has checked them thoroughly, replaced any worn-out components and rated them as good as new (and you get a warranty to prove it).
If this sounds appealing, have a look at our in-depth article: Should you buy a refurbished iPad: The differences, pros and cons of refurbished and brand-new iPads
Bonus 2: The laptop option
The recent launch of the ultra-slim 12-inch MacBook has presented Apple customers with a new dilemma: for certain types of buyer, and certain uses, this thin-and-light laptop is a legitimate alternative to a tablet.
If you're going to pick a laptop instead of a tablet, the 12-inch MacBook is one of the better options out there. On the plus side, you gain an integrated hardware keyboard (very handy if you're likely to use your device for long-form typing) and the ability to run full desktop software thanks to the MacBook's use of Mac OS X. On the down side, it's considerably more expensive than even the top-end iPad Air 2, and twice as heavy.
For a direct comparison of the 12-inch MacBook and the iPad Air 2, see our article: New 12-inch MacBook vs iPad Air 2. And for more general discussion of the Mac range, including Apple's various laptops, take a look at our Mac buyers' guide.
Bonus 3: The Android option
We're calling this section the Android option, but there are also Windows tablets to consider. In short, should you be looking at non-Apple tablets as well as iPads?
Yes you should. On balance we prefer iPads to pretty much any company's rival tablets, but Android tablets (and even Windows tablets) have plenty to offer and are a better options for some buyers.
Android tablets are designed and manufactured by a variety of companies, but they are untied by the fact that they all run a version of Google's Android operating system. There is therefore a lot of variety between these tablets, in terms of their design, features and price tags.
Android tablets tend to be (but are not always) cheaper than iPads of comparable power, so you could view them as better value for money - although they also tend to be less attractively designed, and your software options are less appealing.
(There's plenty of debate over the relative merits of Android itself and the iPad's iOS operating system - we think iOS is easier to use - but it's hard to argue with the statement that the apps available for iOS are on average better than those for Android. Apple curates its App Store more strictly than Google polices the Google Play store, so there's more junk on Google's platform. And because iOS users have proved more inclined to spend money on apps than their Android counterparts, app developers frequently release their wares on iOS first.)
For those who are comfortable with Android's (arguably!) more difficult and rough-edged operation - and we're not talking rocket science, just a bit more potential for customisation and slightly greater scope for installing something dodgy if you're not paying attention - then an Android tablet could well be a better budget option. For one thing, if you want something basic for extremely light use, going outside of Apple's product line-up brings in some super-budget options (such as the Tesco Hudl) that may fit what you're looking for.
We discuss some of these options (including our opinion on the debate, but looking at both sides) in a separate article: Why iOS beats Google Android. But another good place to start weighing up the pros and cons of the Apple and non-Apple options is the series of comparison reviews we've put together to directly compare iPads with major rivals. Here are some highlights:
If you do decide to plunge into the Android ecosystem, our colleagues at PC Advisor are well equipped to walk you through the buying process. Take a look at their list of the best Android tablets.