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Which iPad for navigation ? [MAY-7]

You are still many to wonder about the choice of an iPad for navigation use. Unfortunately do not have time to respond to every request a post is required. A few years after a first similar entry, must annually re-update the issue, and sometimes more often.

With the presentation of the new iPad Air (iPad Air 3 ?) 2019, this tablet is inserted between the iPad 2017/2018 (low-cost) and the recent iPad Pro 11″. A bargain at a very attractive price for a machine with the A12 Bionic processor .

[Update 6 June, 2019] See end of article iPadOS 13.

The selection criteria

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

  • Model : I have written many times on my website (²) and several entries (³), model Wi-Fi+Cellular is imperative to be provided with GPS. With a single Wi-Fi model, you must add, either GPS Bluetooth, either multiplexer to receive NMEA data from onboard GPS, This severely limits the tablet's use.
  • The memory size : from 32 up to 512 GB depending on the version and up 1 TB for last “Pro”, the choice is wide. For a strict navigation use , with applications using vector charting, 32 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 64 GB will be needed. Beware though : if you store your travel pics and videos, if you add music and movies, 128 GB or more will not be too much.
  • 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 an iPad Mini on 18-25′, but beyond the distance between the helmsman and the location of the iPad justify maybe a screen 10 inches screen for easier reading. We must also consider the size of the iPad, smaller for an iPad Mini in its waterproof case that the iPad 10″ in the relevant case. About screen resolution, screen Retina High resolution became widespread and provide excellent definition on raster mapping and satellite imagery. As for the latest models (iPad Pro and Air) they feature a laminated screen antireflection multicoated allowing proper full-day reading.

Different versions

It is now more versions : a dozen in total since 2010 10″, 3 Pro 13″ and 5 Mini 8″.

• Yesterday : from iPad 1 to the first iPad Air

Initial iPad1, excellent tablets that some have traveled thousands of miles for several years, are unfortunately no more supported by Apple. This means no more can update the OS and the obsolescence of applications that developers can not maintain retro-compatible. This is also the case with iPad in technology 32 bits : iPad 2 up to 4.

The’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. The’iPad Air 2 in October 2014 even an improvement in display quality with technology’Multi-laminated screen thinner and antireflection treatment. We can finally read in sunlight. It is also more powerful and provided with 2 GB RAM. A still lighter racing machine (444 gr. for the WiFi + Cellular model).

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 the successive versions Retina display, an iPad Mini 5 long waited just made its appearance with the powerful A12 Bionic processor of latest iPad Air 10″5.

• Today

March 2016, the arrival of an iPad Pro 9.7″ with a still more powerful processor and a memory up to 256 GB, but also more expensive than the iPad Air 2, do not then represented a decisive advantage for navigation use. The following years, Apple has expanded the size of the iPad Pro screen to 10,5″ then recently 11″. But these high-priced devices were accompanied successively two iPad 9,7” low-cost“, in 2017 and 2018, to attract tight budget. The real surprise is the arrival of a brand new iPad Air 10.5″ at a very attractive price despite its A12 Bionic processor and 3 GB RAM, with features that place it between iPad 9.7″ 2018 and iPad Pro 11″.

In November 2015 has launched the large iPad Pro with a 13″, screen, provided in a questionable keyboard option, supposed to come competing Microsoft Surface devices in the professional market. For pleasure, its size and its weight intended him essentially to the chart table, Despite the availability of a waterproof case and supports allowing to use it outside. since November 2015, The Pro 13″ was replaced by two new versions.

My opinion [Update 6 June, 2019]

• Used or Apple refurbished

  • iPad 2017 (also called iPad 6) was the first iPad “low-cost” compared to Pro models. A device honorable performance enough for navigation, if you search the cheapest.
  • iPad Pro 13″, 9,7″ 10.5″, if you are looking for the latest. But take care to the weight : 13″ is heavy and therefore usually reserved for use on chart table. All these devices can have a waterproof protective housing.

• New

  • iPad 2018 9,7″, it's the new iPad “low cost”. Like the previous, a very good choice for its price / quality ratio.
  • iPad Pro 11″ and 12.9″, the last delivered late 2018, but they have not yet sealed protective housing, and it will be difficult to manufacture because of the finess of the screen edges. Avoid for navigation.
  • iPad Air 10″5 (2019) a powerful machine perfectly suited to navigation and an extremely reasonable price. The best choice especially since it is compatible with the AiShell Case of iPad Pro 10″5.

Warning : announced at the WWDC developer conference the new system iPadOS 13 will be compatible with the iPad Air 2 and newer. Older iPad, iPad Air 1 and earlier, will not change.

Meet at the arrival of the next models.

(³) iPad, GPS and subscription to the cellular network


Author : Francis

Since 2009 independent IT trainer and consultant for boating. Translator of many navigation applications on iOS and MacOS. Professional in boating for over 25 years, I provide training for applications and consulting and assistance for the integration of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) on pleasure boats.


  1. Thank you here is a clear and concise answer I like.