Review: Apple iPad Wi-Fi + 3G
The 3G iPad is every bit as good a device as the Wi-Fi-only model, while 3G connectivity provides an extra measure of flexibility
Wi-Fi may be plentiful these days, but it's far from ubiquitous. A device like the iPad is just begging for always-on Internet access, whether it be for checking mail, surfing the Web, or even keeping up with your latest game of Words with Friends HD. Apple's iPad Wi-Fi + 3G delivers on that promise, though the 3G experience may occasionally have you searching about for a Wi-Fi access point tout de suite.
Everything my colleague Jason Snell said in his original iPad review holds true with this device, as the differences between the two models are few. Outwardly, the 3G-enabled iPad is almost identical to the Wi-Fi model, and the two share almost all of the same features, with the exception of those related to 3G networking and GPS.
[ Find out why Paul Venezia says the iPad surprises, disappoints in InfoWorld's first look review of the iPad. | See what developers can create with the iPhone OS 3.2 SDK in InfoWorld's analysis "Inside the iPad SDK: Bigger screens, continued frustrations." | Take InfoWorld's tour of alternative iPhone app SDKs. | Which iPad questions won't Apple answer? Find out in InfoWorld's Mobile Edge blog. ]
For the privilege of those few features, however, you will be paying a bit extra: the 3G models command a $130 premium over their Wi-Fi-only siblings, making the price tags $629 for the 16GB version, $729 for 32GB, and $829 for 64GB. And keep in mind that the higher price covers only the 3G hardware inside the iPad. In order to actually use the 3G service, you'll need to pay for one of the two monthly that Apple and AT&T have teamed up to offer: a $15-per-month plan that allows you 250MB of data transfer or a $30-per-month plan that allows you unlimited data. And unlike the iPhone service agreement, which requires a two-year commitment with AT&T, you can cancel your 3G plan for the iPhone at any time.
Given that the iPad also boasts the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi specification, there's no contest between the two: Wi-Fi will beat 3G every single time. I ran a few speed tests using the Speed Test iPhone application and, though unscientific, Wi-Fi's superiority was readily apparent--at my home, Wi-Fi was an astounding 70 times faster at downloads and 30 times faster at uploads.