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iPad 2 vs. 'iPad 3': Should You Keep Your Old iPad Or Buy A New One?

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When Apple dubbed its latest tablet "the iPad," many of us began calling it "the new iPad," perhaps a more apt name for the device. For many buyers, this iPad will be a new one, an upgrade from an older model.

Consider that Apple sold 15.4 million tablets between October and December of last year alone: That's a whole lot of customers with an iPad 2 that's less than six months old, who are now wondering whether to buy the newest model. With Apple touting its "Resolutionary" device -- improved Retina display, faster 4G LTE capability and better camera -- as the best iPad ever, it's reasonable to think that many Americans aren't as happy to own an iPad 2 now as they were on Christmas morning.

In fact, I believe we have video footage of the moment that all the people who received the iPad 2 in December heard that a newer, better iPad was coming out just three months after they got theirs:




So, ultimate First World problem: You own an iPad 2 and can't decide whether to upgrade to the new iPad. How do you choose? Here are a few things to consider:

THAT'LL BE HOW MUCH?

The new iPad costs just as much as the old iPad, with a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model going for $499 at the low end and a 64GB 4G model going for $829 (plus the cost of a data plan from AT&T or Verizon).

But here's a riddle for you: When is $499 not really $499?

When you can get hundreds of dollars back by selling your iPad 2 online, that's when.

Think of your iPad 2 as a rebate coupon. Right now, a Wi-Fi-only iPad 2 in mint condition fetches almost $250 on NextWorth, the electronics trade-in website, and up to $300 on Amazon. That means that if you were to buy a new $500 Wi-Fi iPad after selling your Wi-Fi iPad 2 to one of these sites, you would essentially be spending somewhere between $200 and $250.

If that doesn't sound like too much money to you, then go ahead and trade up. If your wife doesn't drive two Cadillacs -- or if you're just not convinced -- then it's time to decide whether Apple has added a feature to the new iPad for which you can justify shelling out that kind of cash.

GETTIN' A RETINA?

This isn't a question of whether the iPad New is better than the iPad Two: It is. Rather, it's a question of whether it's worth your upgrade money. And that "worth" is most likely measured in how you value the new Retina display.

Yes, the resolution of the display has been doubled, and the number of pixels has been quadrupled. But this is about more than specs. The new iPad's display is not just one improved feature, but is rather the primary reason a customer would upgrade.

Ask yourself: How do you use your iPad now? If you use your iPad 2 primarily to check email and browse the web -- for short bursts of activity -- it might not be worth another $200. It's hard to imagine a crisper display making Facebook Farmville invitations much better or more meaningful than they already aren't.

If you use your iPad as a multimedia device, however, you might justify the expense. If you're also buying the new Apple TV box, for example, the new iPad will vastly, visibly enhance the maximum quality of videos you can stream from your tablet onto your television screen. Games, powered by the improved graphics processor, will look far crisper, as will high-definition photos and video you take with the iPad's much-improved 5-megapixel camera (no flash, though).

And the new Retina display seems most promising for readers and beach-goers.

'THE SUN ALSO RISES' AND THE SUN ALSO RISES

First, if you use your iPad as your primary e-reader, you should get the new model. One of the major shortcomings of the reading experience on the iPad 2 is that you're always aware that you're reading from an electronic screen. With the Retina display, it's much easier to "trick" your eyes into believing that you're reading from a printed page. The new iPad is, by all accounts, a bookworm's delight.

Second, the new iPad appears to be a tablet you can take out into the sun. Anyone who has tried to use the iPad 2 at the beach or at the pool or at an outdoor nudist colony of some sort knows that screen glare makes its use in direct sunlight all but impossible. The Retina display could change that -- Apple's promotional video features shots of people enjoying their tablet outdoors -- although it is still unclear if the new iPad will actually work that well. Display expert Ray Soneira of Display-Mate told me in an email that he expects the new iPad to "perform similarly to the iPad 2" under direct light -- not optimally, in other words.

I'll be waiting to read about how the new iPad performs in sunlight before taking the dive into the Retina pool.

WHERE'S THE MONEY, LEBOWSKI?

The new iPad is nearly identical in form factor, size, thickness and weight to your iPad 2. It runs the same operating system with the same applications from the same App Store. You still can't remove the battery, there's no HDMI out port, and you can't expand the storage with an SD card.

Your decision to purchase then pivots on your need for that display.

TO RECAP:

  • If you play graphics-intensive games like "Infinity Blade" on the iPad, you might need that display.
  • If you read books and magazines on the iPad, you might need that display.
  • If you plan to do a lot of photo and video editing on the iPad, you might need that display.
  • If you plan to use the iPad as a digital camera or video camera, you will definitely need the new camera.
  • If you stare at your iPad for hours each day, you might need that display.

Finally, if you travel often or use your iPad where Wi-Fi isn't readily available, you might need that 4G LTE. AT&T and Verizon's 4G networks are noticeably faster than their 3G counterparts, and both carriers are expected to spend billions in the coming years to build out and improve their networks. I am assuming, however, that most of you use your iPad 2 at work and at home on Wi-Fi.

The new iPad is not a slam-dunk, must-have upgrade if you already have an iPad 2. But that crisp, almost photographic display will certainly tempt many whose eyes are sore and whose piggy banks are full.

Check out the slideshow to see the 11 biggest things you need to know about the new iPad.

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