NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There are better ways to spend the $1,548.75 that an Apple iPad costs.

The iPad will hit stores on Saturday and preliminary reports indicate that people are buying. Apple ( AAPL) has sold out of its pre-ordered inventory as consumers plop down anywhere from $499 to $829 for the device. Morgan Stanley is anticipating a better-than-expected 6 million units to be sold this year.

Take The Gold, Leave The iPad

Apple's creme de la creme of iPads is the 64GB with WiFi and 3G capabilities, which goes for $829 plus tax. Although AT&T ( T) is not forcing a two-year contract, unlimited data costs $29.99 a month, which comes out to $719.76 for the same duration plus tax, bringing the grand total for an iPad to $1,548.75.

The iPad isn't really investable; a consumer will hold onto it until a newer version comes out, when he'll be forced to buy a new one. So what else can you buy for $1,600?

How about gold?

Gold prices are trading in a tight range around $1,100 an ounce. Many analysts anticipate that prices will break their record high of $1,227 later this year. Gold is already making new highs in other currencies like the euro, yen and sterling. More bullish traders expect gold to reach their inflation-adjusted price of $2,500 an ounce within the next few years.

Famed investors like Dennis Gartman, Jim Rogers, David Einhorn, John Paulson and George Soros have all been buying the precious metal. George Soros almost tripled his gold holdings of SPDR Gold Shares ( GLD) from 2.5 million shares to 6.2 million shares in the fourth quarter of 2009. Paulson & Co. remains the largest holder of GLD with 31.5 million shares. So if you want to put that $1,600 to better use, here's what it can get you.

Pure gold: For $1,600, you can buy one ounce of gold, or 1/16 of a pound. The United States Mint is selling the 2009 American Buffalo 1-ounce gold proof coin for $1,410. The coin contains one ounce of .9999 fine, 24 karat gold. According to Kitco's website, a one-ounce gold bar comes the closest to gold's spot price and sells for $1,135.40. However, storing gold items can be pricey. An at-home vault is an option but many people prefer to use a safety deposit box. At a Bank of America ( BAC) branch in New York, a small box can be purchased for $44 a year. So buying a gold bar and storing it for two years would cost $1,223.40.

Another option are gold ETFs, which are traditionally a hassle-free way of investing in gold and tracking the spot price. One share of the popular physically-backed ETF, SPDR Gold Shares, is $108.63 (as of Monday's closing price). One share represents 1/10th of an ounce of gold. There is a 0.40% expense ratio and standard brokerage fees apply; sharebuilder.com offers $4 per stock. For the price of an iPad over two years, you can buy roughly 14 shares of the GLD. Year to date, the GLD is up 1.98% and inception has risen over 18 percent. The other two physically-backed ETFs, iShares Comex Gold Trust ( IAU) and ETFS Gold Trust ( SGOL), offer other options. SGOL has the lowest expense ratio of 0.39 percent.

If you want more risk, try Exchange-Traded Notes, or debt instruments that track an index. You give a bank money and, upon maturity, the bank pays you a return based on whatever the performance the ETN is based on -- in this case, the gold futures market. Some of the more popular ones are UBS Bloomberg CMCI Gold ETN ( UBG), which trades at $29.98, DB Gold Double Short ETN ( DZZ) at $13.66, DB Gold Short ETN ( DGZ) at $19.67, and DB Gold Double Long ETN ( DGP), which trades at $26.97. ETNs are flexible and an investor can trade them long or short, but there is no principle protection. You can lose all your money. There is a fee that is determined by the base yearly cost, performance of the index that the ETN tracks and currency exchange rates, but the fee is paid upon redemption.

One of the riskiest ways to invest in gold is through mining stocks. Mining stocks can offer big upside to gold's spot price, sometimes as much as a 3 to 1 leverage. An investor can buy shares of the large cap miner Barrick Gold ( ABX) at Monday's stock price for $37.84. With a $4 broker fee, you can buy 38 shares for $1,600. But mining stocks also have leverage to the downside; the GLD is down 1.10% year-to-date while Barrick has slipped more than 6%.

If gold is too boring, miners too risky and you're determined to stand by Steve Jobs and his product line-up, you can always buy Apple. The stock is trading at $232.49, which means you can buy 6.7 shares for the price of one iPad.

-- Written by Alix Steel in New York.
Alix joined TheStreet.com TV in February 2007. Previously, she held positions in film and theater production, management, and legal administration. Alix has a degree in communications and theater from Northwestern University.