Erik Blom asks:
What do you think would be a good first iPad to buy for a 15-year-old?
That’s a good question, and one that really has more than one answer. For the vast majority of students in that age range, I don’t see any reason why an iPad mini wouldn’t suffice.
The advantages of an iPad mini start out with the price. You’ll save money by going with the iPad mini over a larger iPad. At $329, you’re saving about $170 over the base model iPad with Retina display and $70 over the iPad 2. The iPad mini is basically an iPad 2 in a smaller body, so you have to decide for yourself whether the extra couple of inches in screen real estate is worth a $70 premium.
The iPad mini will also give you access to the same apps you’ll find on the larger and more expensive iPads. You really don’t see much of a difference in performance between the two outside of a snappier interface and reduced load times. The pixel density is worth considering, though the mini’s screen is sharp enough not to be an eyesore. Unless the user’s been on a Retina display for a while, the difference isn’t really an issue at all. A Retina display isn’t a necessity. It’s a value-add.
Portability is another advantage of the iPad mini. A 9.7 inch screen sounds small on paper, but it isn’t nearly as pocketable or portable as the iPad mini.
The iPad with Retina or iPad 2 are still good choices, especially if you intend to use the iPad as a primary computing device. The larger screen facilitates content creation differently, and this could be an advantage for a student working on an assignment.
It comes down to what the needs are of the user. Most students will do just fine with an iPad mini.