New iPad vs. iPad 2: Which is the better deal?

Should you go with the new model and its better screen and processor, or save some cash on the smaller, lighter iPad 2?

We've raved about the new Apple iPad's display. We've gauged its graphics prowess in benchmark testing. But it's not the only iPad in town: Apple continues to sell brand-new iPad 2 models, and at a very compelling price - $US399 for a 16GB model. So if you're in the market for a tablet, which one should you buy?

The right answer to that question depends on who you are. See if you can find which camp (if either) you fall into in our two lists below.

Buy the New iPad If…

High-quality images are important to you. The foremost argument for the new iPad is its gorgeous, high-resolution display. It's sharper and brighter, and offers more compelling color and detail than the display on the iPad 2. If you appreciate the difference in image quality between standard-definition and high-definition content, you'll want a new iPad.

You love to play games. The new iPad blew its predecessor away on our PCWorld Labs graphics tests.

You need to use a fast connection everywhere. The new iPad is the first Apple tablet that can connect to 4G networks. (You can buy a new iPad that works on either AT&T's 4G network or Verizon's 4G network.) If you go with Verizon, you can also use the iPad as a hotspot, allowing other devices to piggyback on its wireless connection.

In both Australia and the US, Apple now sells Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi +3G versions of the iPad 2. The former retails for $429 ($US399), the latter for $569 ($US529). So connectivity is not a problem with either.

You like to keep lots of video and music on your tablet. The iPad 2 is available only with a 16GB capacity. If you need 32GB or 64GB, you're looking at a third-generation iPad.

You love to take pictures with your tablet. The new iPad's camera may not replace your point-and-shoot, but it is far superior to the camera that the iPad 2 carries.

Buy the iPad 2 If…

Weight and size are important to you. The iPad 2 is slightly lighter than new iPad: 1.33 pounds to 1.4 pounds. Though that difference may not sound like much, but it's noticeable when you hold the tablet in one hand.

You hate recharging. In PCWorld Labs tests, the iPad 2 lasted 7 hours, 37 minutes while playing a video continuously. That's nearly two hours longer than the new iPad, which held out for just 5 hours, 41 minutes on a charge.

You're, well, frugal. You'll save $US100 by buying a $US399 iPad 2 instead of the baseline new iPad. That Ben Franklin can buy apps, music, movies, and then some; or you can sock the extra bucks away for the next version of iPad, which is likely to arrive in 2013.

The App Conundrum

You might expect apps to look much better on the new iPad than they do on the iPad 2. But in most instances they don't. If you're viewing an app that hasn't been optimized for the new iPad's high-resolution Retina display, your experience may range from acceptable to unsatisfying.

So far, few of the 200,000-plus iPad apps have been optimized for the new iPad. And Apple doesn't make finding these apps easy; you just have to hunt for ones that brag about being redesigned for the new tablet. It may be months before most app developers catch up with the new iPad's hardware capabilities. So that's a reason to buy an iPad 2 and save some cash, right?

Not so fast. When developers do update their apps, the revised versions will have higher-resolution images and more-demanding code. The images will eat away at your iPad 2's limited storage, and the apps will feel more sluggish running on the iPad 2's older processor. Buying the new iPad today means you'll be less likely to feel that your year-old tablet is obsolete 12 months from now.

Bottom Line

I strongly believe in the value of the high-resolution Retina display. The visual improvement over iPad 2 is visceral and significant, and a great reason in itself to buy a new iPad. Overall, the new iPad is the best tablet on the market today.

Nevertheless, the iPad 2 is a strong lower-cost choice. In a few months it may start to feel underpowered, but by then the rumor mill will be talking up the even better 2013 iPad refresh. And with the $US100 you saved, you might be in a better position to afford the new model.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Melissa J. Perenson

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?