Why you might not need Apple's 128GB iPad

Apple announced a 128GB version of its fourth-generation iPad with Retina display.

Story highlights

  • Apple introduces iPad with 128 GB of storage capacity. twice as much as previous models
  • The average user won't need that much internal storage
  • 128 gigabytes is equivalent of about 100 DVD-quality movies, 30,000 songs or 40,000 photos
  • Gizmodo: "128 GB iPad is like a $300/head steakhouse dinner. It goes on the corporate account"

In an age of streaming media, we're still a culture of digital hoarders.

That may partly explain why on Tuesday, Apple introduced an iPad with 128 gigabytes of storage capacity, twice as much as any previous model.

But will the average tablet owner need that much space?

For casual users, tablets are media-consumption devices. We use them to watch movies and TV shows, listen to music, play games and read books and magazines. All those files take up memory on your internal hard drive.

Today's high-resolution photos and videos are increasingly hogging storage, too. It's easy to see how someone with a lot of downloaded files might eventually run out of room on a 64GB tablet.

But 128 gigabytes? That's the equivalent of about 100 DVD-quality movies, 30 Blu-ray movies, 30,000 songs or 40,000 photos, according to this graphic by a computer store in the United Kingdom.

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Everything else about the iPad announced Tuesday is the same as the current fourth-generation models: a 9.7-inch Retina display, a dual-core A6X processor, a FaceTime HD camera, 2 gigabtyes of RAM and an estimated 10 hours of battery life.

So the new device, which goes on sale February 5, is all about giving users more storage space.

That's why Apple is targeting the 128GB iPad at professional users such as architects, doctors or audio engineers, who often work with large files (and can afford pricey gadgets).

"Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad," Apple said in a news release announcing the new iPad.

Some observers say the tablet's cost -- $799 (Wi-Fi only) and $929 (Wi-Fi and cellular), $100 more than the current 64GB model -- isn't worth it in an age when we can store movies, music, photos and documents on cloud-based servers instead of our own machines.

"Apple doesn't expect you to buy a 128GB iPad, not unless you're a professional-grade buyer, like an architect or a supervillain," writes Leslie Horn for Gizmodo. "The 128GB iPad is like a $300/head steakhouse dinner. It goes on the corporate account."

Other pundits noted that at $929, the top-of-the-line 128GB model costs almost as much as the base-model MacBook Air laptop ($999), which is much easier to type on.

"Apple has set its eyes on the dying infrastructure of the PC industry and Microsoft's Windows operating system business," writes Dan Rowinski of ReadWriteWeb. "That is really the only reason that Cupertino would unveil an iPad with 128 GB, a size that challenges many of the 'ultrabooks' that have become popular in the laptop market these days."

In that way, the launch of the new iPad seems poised to stave off competition from Microsoft's 128GB Surface Pro tablet, due February 9 in the U.S. and Canada.

When it comes to storage capacity, though, these tablets aren't close to being the biggest. That distinction belongs to the Panasonic Toughbook H2, which retails for $3,579 and has a whopping 320GB of internal storage.

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