The iPad Mini was just announced this week at an Apple special event. Online preorders start on Oct. 26 and the doors at the Apple Store open at 8 a.m. on Nov. 2 for in-person customers. As always, the lines will probably stretch pretty far, so arriving early is recommended.
When you get there, though, which one will you get — and will they even have the kind you’ll most want?
Twelve different iPad Mini models
That sounds like a lot, but it’s really the same number of models as there are for the full-size iPad … fewer if you count the iPad 2, which Apple’s still selling (at a discount). So let’s break it down some.
How much memory do you need?
That’s one of the three big choices you’ll make. The 16 GB iPad Mini starts at $329, which is $70 less than the iPad 2 (basically the same thing but full-size) and $170 less than the newest iPad (which is bigger, faster, and more powerful, and has a Retina Display). That goes up to $429 for the 32 GB model, and $529 for the 64 GB model, meaning that for roughly the price of a 16 GB full-sized iPad you could get an iPad Mini with four times the space.
In my personal experience, 16 GB fills up fast if you buy a lot of games and music and stuff. There’s no way to expand an iPad’s memory after you buy it, although using streaming music services and keeping your game library to a manageable size (or using other devices for gaming) can help.
Wi-Fi or cellular networking?
Where by “cellular networking” Apple means 3G/4G wireless Internet. Apple’s said the iPads which have this feature won’t be available until “mid November,” so don’t get in line at the store on Nov. 2 hoping to get one of these. You also have to pay a monthly fee for these iPads, which starts around $20 and goes up based on which carrier you choose and how big of a data package you get.
What do you get for your money? An iPad that can go on the Internet when you’re away from Wi-Fi. You’ll go through your monthly bandwidth allotment fast if you stream a lot of HD movies, even if you go for the huge data package, but it’s invaluable for checking on websites or email when you’re out shopping or elsewhere.
Just like with the full-sized iPad, add $130 to the price for each model if you want it with cellular networking. So that’s $459 for the 16 GB model, $559 for 32 GB, and $659 for 64 GB. Looked at another way, for $40 less than the cost of a new Wi-Fi only iPad you can get an iPad Mini with 4G.
Black or white?
This one’s the easiest part: Just pick whichever you like. Just keep in mind that they may not have the exact color you want for the exact model you want on opening day, and that the white bezel doesn’t blend into the screen as well and can be distracting to some people.
Is an iPad Mini right for you?
Probably, if you’re still reading this. Just keep in mind that a shrunken-down iPad 2 (which is basically what the iPad Mini is) isn’t your only choice.
The iPad Mini isn’t a whole lot cheaper than the full-sized iPad 2, and it’s not a lot more expensive than the new pocket-sized iPod Touch (although the iPod only runs iPhone apps). And if you aren’t picky about what games and apps are available, or about your tablet’s fit and finish, Google’s Nexus 7 tablet starts at $199. There are also name-brand 7-inch tablets available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.