iPad Air vs. iPad mini with retina display: Which tablet should you buy?

iPad mini vs ipad air

Apple just announced two new iPads – the full-size, ultra lightweight iPad Air, and the second-generation iPad mini, which now comes equipped with a retina display. Both are top-of-the-line tablets, with top-of-the-line prices to match. But which one should earn your device dollars? I compared the specs for each tablet in the table below to find out.

iPad Air vs iPad mini retina

As you can see, these tablets are evenly matched in nearly every regard. Each features Apple’s new 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion coprocessor. Each has a 5-megapixel rear iSight camera and 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime HD camera. And each comes in either silver or space grey, in four different storage options, with the same 10 hours for battery life. And this time around, the two tablets even look the same. Apple has designed the full-size iPad Air to look like a larger version of the iPad mini.

The only notable difference, from a technical perspective, lies in the display. Both tablets use a 2048 by 1536 retina display, but the smaller size of the iPad mini’s screen means it contains more pixels per inch — 326 for the mini as compared to 264 for the Air. Both screens will look extremely sharp, but the iPad mini will deliver text and images that look even crisper than the iPad Air.

The only other noteworthy differences then are size and price. The iPad Air has been noticeably trimmed down since the fourth-generation iPad – it now measures 9.4 by 6.6 by 0.29 inches and weighs just 1 pound. My colleague Kevin Tofel got spent a few minutes with it and notes that’s it’s easier to hold and transport than ever before, but its larger 9.7-inch screen means it’s still the sort of device you’re more likely to use on your couch as opposed to your commute. The iPad mini, on the other hand, measures 7.87 by 5.3 by 0.29 inches and weighs 0.73 pounds, making it the more portable of the two options.

There’s a $100 price difference between the two tablets, which is considerable.

So which one should you buy? That’s a tough call. The fourth-generation iPad had a clear advantage over the original iPad mini, including a retina display and a faster processor. But now that Apple has closed that gap, I’m inclined to think the iPad mini is a better buy.

For $100 less, you get the same exact hardware and an even sharper retina display in a size that’s a lot more versatile than the iPad Air. The iPad mini is still large enough to kick back with at the end of the day while you’re watching TV, but it’s also a lot easier to hold with one hand while you’re reading a book. Some people will still prefer a bigger tablet like the iPad Air, but for most, I think the iPad mini is a better choice.

The good news is you no longer have to sacrifice performance for portability. So no matter which tablet you choose, you know you’re getting the best of what Apple has to offer – until next year.

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