Should College Students Buy The iPad 2?

Apple unveiled the iPad 2 today, and like a good little Mac fan I kept my eyes glued to my laptop to find out all the details on it. It’s undeniably superior to the previous model, incorporating a lot of the features people had clamored for from the get-go. But is it a good buy for college students?

To figure that out, it’s essential to look at the new features that the iPad 2 has. In summary, the improvements the iPad 2 makes over the original iPad are:

  • The A5 processor, which provides double the speed of the original iPad’s A4 chip and drastically improves graphics capabilities
  • Two cameras: a 720p camera in the rear and a VGA camera in the front that supports FaceTime
  • A thinner profile: the iPad 2 is just 8.8mm thick as opposed to the iPad’s 13.4mm
  • A lighter body: the wifi-only model is 79 grams lighter than the original model
  • The addition of a gyroscope, which allows the device to recognize movement on every axis
  • The bottom port now supports HDMI-out (using a proprietary connector, of course)
  • A magnetic “smart cover” that latches onto the front of the tablet

Other than these features, the iPad 2 isn’t terribly different than the original iPad. It’s still missing some of the features we’d have liked to see; a USB port, a dedicated file manager, the retina display, and Flash support are all nowhere to be found. Also, there’s no word whether we’ll get a RAM increase either.

So the question is, should you buy the iPad 2 as a student? That depends. Do you already have the original iPad? Then skip this one unless you’re a hardcore iOS gamer; it’s simply not worth $500 unless you’re a very, very atypical student with a fat wallet. The core offerings that pertain to college students (a large-screen mobile web browser; the ability to view PDFs, Kindle books, and Nook books; mobile Blackboard; etc) aren’t really improved by this update. The addition of a camera is nice, but you’d probably be happier getting a phone with a great camera so you can take it everywhere. The gyroscope is a great addition, but it’s really only useful for games.

However, if you don’t already have an iPad, this is a great time to jump on the bandwagon. The above-mentioned features really do make your life as a student easier (it’s an amazing to have your textbooks on it), and the price of the new model is exactly the same as the original started out at.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Take a look at Apple’s promo for the iPad 2 and decide for yourself!


Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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  1. hey I’m starting college in the fall and I want the ipad but I want to know is it worth it because I just wanna tape papers and Powerpoint on it like regular college kids so would this be the a good way to go or should I just spend the extra money and get a laptop???

    • Honestly, if you don’t already have a good computer to use, I’d get a laptop. iPads are nice, but they aren’t that great for creating content (IE writing, taking notes), so I’d recommend having a computer.

  2. i’ll be a freshmen at college this upcoming fall, [long time from now, i know] but i read on an article that an ipad2 is a “college must have item”, and i’m contemplating whether it really is or if it will just be a waste of money. Prior to reading the article, i had my eyes set on getting a new macbook to kick of the college year but now i dont know if i should keep the laptop i have now and get an ipad2 to keep my textbooks on. any advice for an upcoming freshmen?

    • I think the best way I can illustrate my opinion is by telling you this: I sold mine.

      The iPad 2 is a really useful device, but it isn’t the best at anything. At its core, it’s a content consumption device – not a content creation device. In college, you’re going to have to create all sorts of content – papers, projects, answers to online tests, etc. I think you really need a computer you’ll enjoy using.

      A lot of textbooks are available on Kindle now – but you’re going to find out that they’re formatted like PDFs and only work on the PC and Mac versions of the Kindle software. So that’s another strike against the iPad.

      Currently, my portable setup consists of my MacBook Pro, which I do most of my work on, and my Kindle Touch, which I use to go through my reading list (not textbooks).

      So if you’re choosing between a MacBook and an iPad 2, I’d go for the MacBook. Hope this helps!

    • yes but WAIT firstly you can get discount and extended warrenty(but you have to show you uni ID) but also you need to make sure you uni has good wifi everywhere (dont bother with the 3g version)
      secondly for lecture slides use goodreader… which you can attach to your dropbox account.. then everything syncs nicly.. youl need to put yopur slides as pdf in your dropbox 🙂
      you will get more use out of having a ipad taking it to all your lectures…. oh and make sure you get a GOOD cover for it (i paid £30 for mine)

      theres no need to rush into anyway.. in england our freshman year (or freshers as we call it) is really easy anyway so its not like your gonna lose out through not having one

      • Exactly. It’s not really an essential thing to have, but it can be really helpful. Keep in mind that not every school offers a discount – ours doesn’t. We only have discounts on the actual computers.

  3. I heard quickoffice was a good app for Ipad 2 to create content. Is this true? I am also a college student looking for a tablet that I can take notes on and type papers now that I know I can hook it up to a docking station and keyboard.

  4. i am a college student , doing my bpharm , my college works totally on doc , xls , ppt , pdf files , so am planning to buy a mini laptop(travelling reasons, obviously) or ipad2 , i have a fantastic laptop with intel i5 core tho’ , but due to travelling am looking for something with a smaller size yu know .. so what do you think , should i go for ipad2 or stick to the choice of mini laptop ?

    • I think it depends. The iPad two is an awesome device for content consumption – reading, watching, listening, gaming – but it’s not so great at content creation – writing, designing, etc. So I think you should ask yourself if you need to be doing a lot of content creation on the go. If you do, consider a netbook or ultraportable laptop. If not, the iPad 2 is a great tablet choice.

      • @Thomas Frank

        okay thanks thomas for the feedback . I’ll take your advice 🙂

  5. I'm over waiting for Flash. I've played with it on Android, and it's clearly not designed for phones. You can't mouse over or use keyboard inputs to manipulate it. Anything that can be done with Flash can be done 10x better with an app.

    I've never missed having a file system either. You can open files in third party apps now, and some of those apps (especially GoodReader) have their own mini file system. Rather than scrolling through every file, I open iBooks to read book files, GoodReader to view PDF files, the video app to view video files. At a very basic level, it makes a lot more sense.

    • Thanks for the comment, Shep. I'll admit the Flash on Android isn't quite up to par; still, a lot of the internet uses the technology, and it's sometimes annoying to be unable to access certain things from my iPad.

      Have you checked out Fast PDF? It's a much more iBooks-like PDF app – I've pretty much switched from GoodReader to it because the bookshelf is so attractive.

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