The iPad Classroom Gear Guide

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With an increasing number of iPads to choose from, and a selection of new ones released on a regular basis, it can be hard to decide which iPads you really need for your classroom. Is one iPad really any different from another? This quick guide aims to resolve that problem and help you pick between Apple’s current lineup of tablet devices – the iPad Mini 4, the new iPad, and the iPad Pro. (Prices are listed in US Dollars).

The New iPad (32Gb or 128Gb)

Education Pricing: starts at $299 each, or $2,940 for a 10-pack.

There is little doubt that Apple’s latest 9.7-inch iPad is aimed squarely at schools and colleges. It was released in March 2017, and was built to meet a price point that would help it compete with the recent deluge of cheap Chromebook laptops. Essentially, that meant a few compromises along the way, but the new iPad is better than the device it replaced, (the iPad Air 2), in almost all meaningful ways. It’s faster, cheaper, and runs the latest version of iOS. It has Touch ID, a 10-hour battery life, a great rear camera, and it weighs just one pound. What more could you want?

Recommendation: If iPads are the device you are looking for, then this is the one to get.

iPad Mini 4 (128Gb)

Education Pricing: $379 each, or $3,740 for a 10-pack.

Apple’s smallest iPad has a 7.9-inch screen and sounds like it might be a great choice for younger students. However, the latest version is not as good a deal as it used to be. It’s priced at $379, which is a full $80 more than the new iPad, (see above). Some of that price difference is explained by the larger storage capacity, but this is a device that was introduced in September 2015 and has seen no hardware upgrades since it was launched. It’s not a bad device, it will work very well in any modern classroom, but it is hard to justify the additional expense unless portability and storage capacity are very high on your shopping list.

Recommendation: The new iPad is faster and cheaper. Get that instead.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch (32Gb, 128Gb or 256Gb)

Education Pricing: starts at $579 each, or $5,740 for a 10-pack.

Apple’s Pro line of iPads are often pitched as the devices that can replace your laptop. They include a raft of high-end features that set them apart from lower priced iPads. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro was released in March 2016. It shoots 4K video and does 120fps slow-motion at up to 1080p. It has a True Tone display that automatically adjusts to the ambient light and wide color display technology for more faithful color reproduction. The iPad Pro 9.7-inch has four speakers, supports the Apple Pencil, and has a Smart Connector for accessories like the Apple Smart Keyboard. In short, it is designed for a pro user with pro needs. It could very well meet the requirements of your teachers and students, or maybe it only meets a smaller quantity in targeted classrooms like Art. However, many schools will likely feel that the higher price tag is hard to justify, especially when the new iPad will still perform well in almost all other scenarios.

Recommendation: The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will likely be updated this year, but if you need the pro features, and you have the money to pay for them, then this is still a great device.

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iPad Pro 12.9-inch (32Gb, 128Gb or 256Gb)

Education Pricing: starts at $779 each, or $3,870 for a 5-pack.

This is the largest iPad that Apple has made to date. It was also the first iPad to wear the Pro moniker when it was released in November 2015. If you’ve never seen one before, the size is the first thing you notice. This is a big iPad. The retina screen is about the same dimensions as the screen you would find on a 13-inch MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air. It includes many of the features found on the newer 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but not all of them. For instance, the wide color display and True Tone features are not currently available on the larger iPad Pro. It has lower resolution cameras with an 8 megapixel iSight camera on the back and a 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera on the front, compared to the 12MP rear and 5MP front cameras on the 9.7-inch Pro. It has no flash, can’t take Live Photos, and is limited to 1080p video where the 9.7-inch version can shoot in 4K. None of these are necessarily deal breakers, but you can be sure that you will see more feature parity on the next version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro when it is updated later this year.

Recommendation: The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is still a very capable device, but if you are looking for a large screen iPad I would be tempted to wait for the next version if you can.

Should You Wait For The Next New iPad?

Well, here’s the thing. There will always be a new model around the next corner. That’s how Apple, and other companies, make their money. If you see a good deal, or have to spend money by a certain date, then buy the one that makes most sense based on the information above. If you have the luxury of being able to wait a little longer, then do what I do, and consult the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide. They have a pretty good feel for what’s going on in the Apple universe and give you a handy Buy or Don’t Buy for each product in the lineup.

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