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What iPad for navigation ? [Update]

You are more likely to wonder about the choice of an iPad to use navigation. Unfortunately did not have time to respond to every request (retirement is still beyond my horizon), a ticket is required. Four years after a similar article (¹), of course now completely obsolete, It was time to redo this issue.

Selection criteria

There are several, which does not only depend on marine use, but also the land use of your tablet.

  • Model : I have written many times on my website (²) and several tickets (³), model WiFi Cellular is imperative to be provided with GPS. With a simple WiFi model, you must add, either GPS Bluetooth, either multiplexer to retrieve the data NMEA from onboard GPS.
  • The memory size : by 16 up to 256 GB next versions, the choice is wide. A strict use navigation, with applications using the vector mapping, 16 GB may be sufficient to cross round the world. But if you use the raster charting, larger than the vector charting for equivalent area , therefore 32 or 64 GB will certainly be needed. Beware though : if you store your travel pics and videos, if you add music and movies, 128 GB will not too.
  • The size and screen resolution : iPad (9,7 inches) or iPad Mini (7,9 inches), I would say that the choice depends mainly on the distance between mariner and screen. So actually vessel size. I will ship a Mini iPad onboard a Corsaire, Muscadet, or Etap 21. But above 6m50/7m, the distance between the helmsman and the location of the iPad might warrant a 10 inches screen for easier reading. We must also consider the size of the iPad, much smaller for iPad Mini in its waterproof case than the iPad in equivalent case. About screen resolution, high Retina screen resolution provides no improvement for vector chart display (Navionics, CMap, etc.), but a contrario a much better definition for raster charting and satellite imagery.

Different versions

We are at the 7th version of iPad 9.7″, the 4th version of iPad Mini, and the 1st version of iPad Pro 13″.

The first iPad Mini in october 2012 had the same characteristics as the iPad 2. It was a great tablet, with a screen that has nothing to envy to its big sister, autonomy for long days of navigation and fast power charging. Replaced by’iPad Mini Retina in octobre 2013, then iPad Mini 3 in octobre 2014 featured with roughly the same components as the iPad Air, first name. Storage memory is now 16, 64 or 128 GB. Version 32 GB has disappeared as in Air iPad 2.

Initial iPad 1, excellent tablets that some have traveled thousands of miles for several years, are unfortunately no more supported by Apple. Means no more possible OS update and rapid obsolescence of applications that developers cannot maintain backward-compatible. This will also be soon the samen for’iPad 2. ’iPad 3, called New iPad at its output, with its high-resolution Retina display, is certainly the worst tablet range. Certainly marketed too fast, it was replaced after only seven months by’iPad 4 which corrected its many flaws, which mainly one Retina display very unresponsive and a recharge time of more than 5 hours.

iPad Air is marketed in November 2013. This new tablet shows a real increase in quality : thinner, lighter, much more powerful and faster, is featured with a highly responsive and much brighter screen, therefore a better display in daylight. A new battery technology has led to a significant decrease in consumption associated with a cooldown reduced same of iPad 2. Some experts consider the iPad Air as the true second Apple tablet after iPad 1 ! ’iPad Air 2 in octobre 2014 still brings an improvement in the quality of the display with a thinner multi-lamine screen technology and an anti-reflective coating. We can finally read in sunlight. It is also even more powerful with a new A8X CPU coupled with M8 coprocessor and 2 GB RAM. A still lighter racing beast (444 gr. for the WiFi + Cellular model).

In November 2015 has launched the large iPad Pro with a 13″, screen, provided in a questionable keyboard option, sense come in competition with Surface 3 Microsoft devices for professional market. For pleasure, its size and its weight mostly intend for the chart table, so it is unlikely to see provided a waterproof housing and supports for deck use. Finally, in March 2016, an iPad Pro 9.7″ with always more powerful processors and storage up to 256 GB, but also more expensive than the Air iPad 2, does not seem to present an advantage for the use of navigation.

My advice

  • iPad 1 It is a collector, keep it for your children, It will be worth a fortune in half a century. Limited to iOS 5.1.1, It is no longer supported by Apple.
  • ipad 2, If you already have it, keep it as long as it works, but don't buy it second-hand. It will be soon discontinued.
  • iPad 3, avoid. Very slow screen, long to reload, I am on my second, I know what I'm talking !
  • iPad 4, if you find a good opportunity, but watch out for recharge time as long as previous device .
  • iPad Air, found in Apple Store reconditioned devices (Refurb Store), If you are looking for a good opportunity, please do not hesitate.
  • iPad Air 2, always on sale in Apple Store, buy eyes shut, It is certainly the best Apple Tablet, and for a long time. Especially for the full day of its screen use. Choose minimum 64 Go to navigation.
  • iPad Pro 13″ and 9,7″, If you have the money and always look for the most recent. Otherwise skip addition.

It'll talk next year when this ticket will become obsolete with the arrival of future models.

(¹) Why I'll keep my iPad 1
(³) iPad, GPS and 3G cellular network subscription



  1. Jacques SCHUHMACHER this:

    I confirm that the air IPAD 2 is really extraordinary. Its size and its reduced weight and power compared to previous models justify too much the mini IPAD… from my point of view.

    Personally, I would advise to the « UPGRADERS» to keep their older models up to deterioration, because they will serve as emergency, see solutions for the thousands of applications that exist on IOS much useful and allowing the crew to use them without interfere with navigation. There are also surveillance on board system ( anchor, intrusion, ..) who are going to develop.

  2. Deshayes this:

    iPad pro 9,7 WiFi and 4g for a new buyer , exceptional light as air 2, and especially faster at the very top level process and camera . for those who have already an air 2 , the change is not worth the effort because the 9,7 Pro n is not given. So 9,7 for new as possible accessories and future developments.

  3. Tsalapatis this:

    I want to buy an iPad Air2 to use Navionics in the Mediterranean but the gps is it integrated or does it add a module ? If Yes, Which one ? I would prefer not having subscription connection because on the Greece…
    Can you advise me

    1. Francis this:

      Response sent by mail.