table1Apple’s newest iPads are finally here. Last month, the company unveiled two tablets at a special event in Cupertino — a thinner and faster iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3. With the addition of these two models, Apple now sells five different models, including three iPad Minis and two iPad Airs, allowing for 22 configurations, with prices from Rs 17,900 to Rs 59,900. This is a fairly major departure from Apple’s marketing philosophy of creating simple, unique and easy to understand product lines.

Usually, every time a new model is announced, Apple discontinues the older product in the line. Now, however, the scope for consumer confusion is ripe — whichmodel does a first-time buyer choose, and should an existing iPad owner upgrade? Read on, for more details.

The new iPad Air 2 is thinner than its predecessor; has a faster processor; a better camera; a new Touch ID home button, which brings fingerprint security to the line for the first time, allowing compatibility with Apple Pay; an M8 motion co-processor, which gathers motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and an all-new barometer, which senses air pressure to indicate relative elevation.

The iPad Mini 3 is the identical twin of its predecessor, when it comes to design. The only difference is the addition of a Touch ID home button, and its availability in gold as well as space gray and silver. Apple has given a storage bump-up to the iPad Mini 3, but otherwise it has the same internals as the iPad Mini 2, making it the most disappointing upgrade in the history of iPads.

If you’ve come this far and are still unable to decide, here’s a little more help. First off, where will you be using your iPad? Stick with a WiFi-only iPad if you’ll use it mostly at home, or with your office WiFi network. If you are a frequent traveller, however, you will want to get the 3G/4G version. Although the size variation between the two iPads is less than 2 inches, on paper, the experiences are significantly different, and unless you are on a really tight budget, I would say skip the iPad Mini completely.

A retina display makes a big difference to your iPad experience, and the first generation iPad Mini is the only tablet from Apple that doesn’t offer this. Finally, how much storage do you need? It’s quite tempting to go for the cheapest configuration, with 16 GB, but you’d be surprised at how quickly your media and apps eat up that space. Bottom line? Buy the most storage space that you can afford.

Not an Apple fan?

ipad_airThe iPad Air 2 is my favourite tablet, because of its remarkable balance between features, design and battery life. If, however, you own an Android phone and would prefer to stay within the ecosystem, you should check out the Google Nexus 9, the first tablet to run Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google’s latest iteration of the Android OS. Multitasking is remarkably easier now, and new notifications can be accessed direct from the lockscreen. Battery performance is much better as well.

The other notable Android tablet is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 10.5. It is the first to offer a 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED display, which is absolutely stunning, crisp and a joy to watch movies on.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is the most powerful tablet in the market, which is not surprising given that it was designed to replace a laptop. Functionally, it is no different from any other Windows laptop/ PC. While a lack of apps remains an issue with Windows OS, if it’s an all-in-one device that you are looking for, the Surface Pro 3 is an excellent choice.

Lenovo recently launched its new generation of tablets, with the Yoga Tablet 2 having an outstanding rated battery life of up to 18 hours with Android, or 15 hours running on Windows 8.1 (go figure!). If you can live with a heavily-skinned version of Android, then the Yoga 2 offers industry standard specifications and great battery life, which is so critical for road warriors.

table2Does size really matter?

iPadAir2-iPadMini3-Lockscreen-PRINTIf you are looking for smaller, more convenient tablets, with paperback-like dimensions, there are plenty of mini-tablets in the market competing against the iPad Mini 3. The 2013 edition of the Google Nexus 7 has been incredibly popular, thanks to its unbelievable price point. In fact, if you have a chance to buy it in the USA, Amazon is currently offering it for $159, discounted from the original price of $299. If you are on a budget, the Dell Venue 8 is an inexpensive, well-built Android tablet with a good screen.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is another worthy iPad Mini competitor. With a stunning screen, a thin and light design, lots of processing power and a fingerprint scanner,
it has a lot going for it.

The real surprise in the battle of the mini tablets, however, is the iPad Mini 2. The iPad Mini 3 and the Mini 2 share pretty much the same specifications, except that the new Mini 3 has a fingerprint reader, a gold body option and a 128 GB storage option. With its now-lower pricing and specifications that still remain top-of-the line, the iPad Mini 2 is arguably the best bang for your buck.