TECH
01/11/2013 05:56 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:52 GMT

iPad Air Buyer's Guide: Apple's New Tablet Is Out, But Which One Should You Get?

Apple has released the iPad Air -- with fans again lining up around the world to pick up the device.

As tends to be the case for iPad releases, the first-day rush has been a bit less intense than was seen last month for the iPhone 5S and 5C, however.

The tablet, which has been widely praised by reviewers for being far lighter than the previous generation, while adding a much better processor and smaller side bezels, is currently available for delivery within 24 hours from Apple's online store.

So if you're in the market for a new tablet, nothing's stopping you ordering one. In fact, you might be tempted to head off straightaway and do just that. But before you do, here are a few questions to consider...

ipad air

'Should I wait for the iPad Mini?'

  • The iPad Air is a very thin, light and powerful device. But the new iPad Mini with Retina Display is even smaller and lighter - and features exactly the same screen resolution, processor and camera as its bigger brother. It's not out until the end of November, but it's significantly cheaper, starting at £329 for the 16GB WiFi version compared to £399 for the 16GB iPad Air. If you're main use for the iPad is reading or playing games, the Mini might work better as you're more likely to take it with you on the go. But if you're using an iPad for browsing at home or work, stick with the bigger screen real estate of the Air.

'How much space do I need?'

  • As ever with iPads - and mobile devices in general - you're going to pay through the nose for extra storage space. The 16GB WiFi Air is £399 - but the 128GB is £639. The question is - do you need that space? If you're using streaming TV, movies and music services instead of storing all your stuff on the iPad, you might never hit that limit. Likewise while games take up a lot of space, 128GB is huge enough to contain dozens of amazing high-res games. Yes, more storage is always better. But you might be able to make do with a lot less than you think.

'Do I need LTE?'

  • The new iPad Air comes with the option of an LTE mobile radio, so you can use data on the go. And for that privilege you're paying an extra £100 for the device, plus your data costs. But do you need it? If you have a modern Android or iOS smartphone, it's likely that your mobile network will allow you to use it as a mobile WiFi hotspot. Hunt around in the settings and you should find a way to share your data connection with other devices wirelessly - meaning you can use your iPad with your mobile's data service. You've just saved yourself £100 and £20 a month. Just don't go over that data limit - and watch your battery usage on your phone, as this function tends to drain it quickly.

'Are there other options?'

  • Increasingly, yes. For a while iOS was really the only game in town when it came to tablets, but since last year's Google Nexus 7 that's started to change. The 2013 Nexus 7 update is a great device, and starts at just £199. The recently announced Nokia 2520 is a decent-looking Windows 8 tablet, while Argos, Tesco and Amazon have all unveiled new low-cost Android or Android-variant tablets with excellent screens and a focus on media playback. None of them have Apple's range of apps or polished software - and for us the iPad is still the gold standard. But if money is an issue, a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire can be a good alternative.