Following the introduction of Apple's slick iPad Air, just 7.5-mm tall and one pound, despite boasting 10 hours of battery performance and a 9.7" 2048 x 1536 resolution Retina display, Apple has retired the older but previously popular iPad 2. Many corporate customers standardized on the iPad 2 model, as it offered a popular, handy and cost-effective tablet without requiring the additional expense associated with a Retina display or a thinner, lighter alternative. Many physicians, manufacturers, field technicians, and other service staff only required a reliable tablet, minus the stunning Retina resolution. Those organizations must now choose the replacement upon which to standardize. Here's a breakdown of the options and tips for selecting the best match for an organization's specific requirements.
Starting at $299 (USD) for the Wi-Fi-only model (the 16 GB Wi-Fi and Cellular upgrade costs $429), the iPad mini is a highly portable, capable, and affordable tablet. With an A5 chip, built-in FaceTime HD camera, and estimated 10-hour battery life, the iPad mini can fulfill many basic note-taking, photography, email, and internet access needs. If users must complete forms, read large volumes of material or enter significant amounts of data, however, the 7.9" display supporting 1024 x 768 resolution may prove too small. Organizations may wish to consider the iPad with Retina display model instead. Or, if users travel frequently and portability is at premium, the iPad Air is worth consideration.
iPad mini with Retina display
Adding a Retina display to the iPad mini kicks the 16 GB model price up to $399 (the Wi-Fi and Cellular model runs $529). But with a 2048 x 1536 resolution display, the iPad mini with Retina display provides a more versatile display that's capable of squeezing more text and graphics on the same 7.9" tablet. Additional storage expansion options are available with the iPad mini with Retina display, with a 128 GB option running $699 and $829, respectively, for the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi and Cellular models. But an A7 chip includes an M7 coprocessor to assist with any heavy lifting.
iPad with Retina display
The 9.7" iPad with Retina display boasts a 2048 x 1536 resolution and the same estimated 10 hours of Wi-Fi use. At just $399 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model ($529 for the Wi-Fi and Cellular version), the tablet takes the place of the iPad 2 (non-Retina display version) in many corporate fleets. The model is 9.5" high, 7.3" wide and 9.4 mm thick. With a dual-core A6X chip and quad-core graphics, this is a slightly larger and heavier (essentially one-and-a-half pounds) option. This model offers organizations a large screen, significant battery life, and a competitive price, making it a natural selection for data entry, field work, and traditional (email, internet, basic app use) mobile tablet tasks.
Sometimes a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry just aren't sufficiently elegant, which is why we have Acura and Lexus. The iPad Air provides an upscale Apple tablet, complete with an A7 chip and M7 coprocessor, but a slim profile and light weight. The tradeoff isn't display size (the Air boasts the same 9.7" Retina display with 2048 x 1536 resolution as the iPad with Retina display). At $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model (the 16 GB Wi-Fi and Cellular version runs $629), there's a price to be paid for luxury, and Apple's essentially determined that it's $100 per tablet. But for organizations whose executives and mobile staff travel frequently, the 7.5-mm tall, approximately pound-and-a-half Air offers a compelling choice. Estimated battery performance, video recording, and camera specifications are essentially unchanged vs. the slightly larger, heavier iPad with Retina display. And mobile staff requiring additional storage are in luck, too. Apple currently offers the iPad Air with up to 128 GB of storage for $799 (Wi-Fi) and $929 (Wi-Fi and Cellular).
Which iPad model best suits your business needs? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.