iPad Buyer’s Guide

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If you’re in the market for an upgrade this year, you may be wondering how best to balance cost and performance. Many retailers now sell iPads (often at a discount), and used or refurbished iPads are a great deal for budget-conscious shoppers. Before you decide, consider this jaw-dropping chart from Apple comparing the performance of their various iPad models:

Of course, those are best-case scenario numbers. So how does upgrading actually affect your everyday usage with forScore? We gathered up a few of our development iPads and ran some tests to find out, and the short version is that if you’re still using an iPad 2, iPad mini, or the infamous iPad 3, you’ll see some very nice improvements by moving to a newer model. On average, everyday forScore tasks were almost 3 times faster on iPad Airs than they were on these older devices. Those seconds really add up and save you a huge amount of time over the course of a year or two.

In our testing, the iPad 3 actually fared the worst. Its graphics performance may be technically better than the iPad 2, but as the first iPad with a Retina screen it uses four times the number of pixels. The increase in detail more than offsets the improvements in performance, and no one looking for a used iPad should buy one of these. If you’re considering one of these as your first iPad and you really want the Retina screen, stick with an iPad 4 or newer, or if you need to save money consider the enduring iPad 2 (which is still the most popular model in use).

For shoppers with a little more room in their budgets, the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 really take the cake. These devices are incredibly fast and the difference between the two really comes down to whether or not you want to take advantage of iOS 9’s new split screen multitasking mode. If you want to be able to run two apps side by side, you’ll need an iPad Air 2. Otherwise, the two iPad Air models are relatively similar in terms of performance, so either will serve you well for years to come.

And finally, the long-awaited iPad Pro. Whether or not you opt for this newest member of the iPad lineup probably comes down to two factors: screen size and the new Apple Pencil. The former is fairly obvious, bringing each page of your music much closer to its original physical dimensions than with previous iPads. The Pencil promises improved precision and responsiveness, and is only compatible with the iPad Pro. If either of these two things matter to you and you can afford the price tag that’s seemingly proportional to screen size, absolutely consider this huge (sorry) upgrade.

Here are our recommendations:

  • iPad 1: Not compatible with forScore, do not buy!
  • iPad 2: Recommended only for customers with very tight budgets
  • iPad 3: Not recommended
  • iPad 4: Recommended
  • iPad Air: Highly recommended if you don’t need Split View multitasking
  • iPad Air 2: Highly recommended
  • iPad mini: Recommended only for customers with very tight budgets
  • iPad mini 2: Recommended
  • iPad mini 3: Not recommended (very similar to the cheaper iPad mini 2)
  • iPad mini 4: Highly recommended
  • iPad Pro: Highly recommended, of course!