Fri, 01 Nov 2013 iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air comparison review: Which new iPad should I buy?
Comparing Apple's new iPad Air and iPad mini 2 with Retina display, from specs and features to price
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: iPad Air offers a larger screen and is much slimmer than the iPad 4...
- Cons: ...but the iPad mini 2 is still lighter and more portable
- Min specs: 1.39 GHz Apple A7 processor (ARMv8-A, dual-core); PowerVR G6430 graphics; 9.7in (2048 x 1536-pixel) LED-backlit Multi-Touch IPS display, 264ppi; iOS 7; 16/32/64/128 GB flash storage; dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO; Bluetooth 4.0; optional 4G LTE modem and Nano-SIM card slot, with A-GPS; 1.2 Mp FaceTime HD front camera, 720p video; 5 Mp f2.4 iSight rear camera, 1080p video; dual microphones; stereo speakers; Lightning dock connector; three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass; 32.4 Wh fixed lithium-polymer battery; USB power adaptor; 240 x 170 x 7.5 mm; 478 g
- Price: Wi-Fi: £399 (16GB), £479 (32GB), £559 (64GB) and £639 (128GB). Cellular: £499 (16GB), £579 (32GB), £659 (64GB) and £739 (128GB)
- Star rating:
iPad Air and iPad mini 2 (with Retina display) were unveiled in October, as Apple refreshed its mini and full-size tablet lineups. But which new iPad is best for your needs? In our iPad Air vs iPad mini 2 comparison review, we compare the iPad Air and iPad mini 2's specs, features, price and more, to determine which new iPad you should plump for.
Here is our video review of the iPad Air.
We now have an iPad Air in the Macworld office and we are currently running battery tests and speed testing the unit. In the meantime, you can watch our video as we unbox and set up a new iPad Air. Many thanks to our friends at Square Group for the loan!
Apple's iPad Air
And the iPad mini 2 with Retina display (don't be fooled... the iPad mini 2 is actually smaller. Compare the iPads with the hands holding them!)
iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air: Screen size, area and quality
The most obvious difference between the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 is size: the overall size of the device (which we discuss below) and the size of the screen. The iPad Air is built around a 9.7in screen, where the iPad mini 2 is a mini tablet (obviously) built around a 7.9in screen.
That's quite a difference - just under 30 square inches of screen space on the iPad mini 2 , and about 45 square inches on the iPad Air - and the option of gaining about 50 percent extra screen space will be a major factor in your buying decision. The iPad Air's big screen provides a far more cinematic experience; for watching films or TV programmes the Air is definitely superior. It's also a more immersive gaming device.
Most apps, however, work perfectly well on the iPad mini's 7.9in screen, and email and web surfing are both fine. Anyone who's used an iPhone will be aware that Apple's devices are terrifically optimised to fit relevant information on to a small screen in an usable way, and most users find the iPad mini and iPad mini 2 convenient to use.
Reading is a particular strength of the iPad mini's screen size. It's close to the size of a paperback, after all.
What about screen quality? Actually the iPad mini 2, thanks to its new Retina display, has a far higher pixel density than the iPad Air, with the same number of pixels (and the same resolution) packed into a smaller space. But both are rated as Retina-class displays, so you shouldn't see a difference. (In theory, a Retina display is as good as the human eye can appreciate, and any extra pixels won't be apparent at a normal usage distance.)
iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air: Dimensions, weight and portability
Other than price, you pay for the iPad Air's larger screen by having to lug around a larger chassis - although the newly slimmed-down body of the iPad Air means this is less of an issue than in the previous generation of full-size and mini iPads.
Here's the tale of the tape. The iPad Air measures 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm, and weighs 469g (or 478g with 3G). That's down from 601g (or 613g with 3G) for the iPad 2; thickness has also gone down from 8.8mm to 7.5mm.
The iPad mini 2 with Retina display measures 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm, and weighs 331g (or 341g with 3G). That's a slight increase in the iPad mini 1's 308g (or 312g with 3G). Thickness has gone up from 7.2mm to 7.5mm.
In other words, the two lines have got a lot closer in terms of weight and thickness; the iPad Air is a fabulously portable unit considering its screen size. You may still find the iPad mini 2 easier to slip into a handbag, though.
iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air: Processor speed
The iPad Air and iPad mini 2 are identically equipped processor-wise, both coming with the A7 chip (and M7 motion co-processor) previously used by the iPhone 5s. That's a bit of a catch-up from the mini line; in the last generation the iPad mini 1 was a little behind the iPad 4 in terms of processing speed.
The A7/M7 combination is lethally quick and should result in an extremely zippy experience and hotshot gaming. But, to be honest, most of the power of these components won't be apparent yet, particularly if you're already on the A6X sported by the iPad 4 (the iPad mini 1's A5 is a different matter).
Indeed, as we discuss in our iPad 4 vs iPad Air comparison review, stepping up to the A7 processor may not make any noticeable difference at all, depending on how demanding your apps are. Some of the most advanced and processor-intensive apps around - the game Infinity Blade 3, for instance, but also including high-powered video editors and the like - may see a difference, but it won't be dramatic.
We think of the A7 as a future-proofing measure more than anything else. In the future apps are going to get more demanding, and the A7 will be able to handle it better than older chips. But whether that's worth the expense of an upgrade is up to you.
Anyway: the iPad mini 2 and iPad Air are evenly matched for processor speed.
iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air: Other specs
What about other specs? The iPad Air and iPad mini 2 are closely matched throughout their specification list. Their cameras are the same - 1.2 megapixels on the front, and 5 megapixels on the back - and they both have the enhanced MIMO wireless technology. Similarly, neither have been upgraded to the newer 802.11ac wireless standard that we were hoping for.
iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air: Price
The iPad Air is basically £80 more than the iPad mini 2 at each storage capacity and model:
Wi-Fi iPad Air: £399 (16GB), £479 (32GB), £559 (64GB), £639 (128GB)
3G iPad Air: £499 (16GB), £579 (32GB), £659 (64GB), £739 (128GB)
Wi-Fi iPad mini 2 with Retina display: £319 (16GB), £399 (32GB), £479 (64GB), £559 (128GB)
3G iPad mini 2 with Retina display: £419 (16GB), £499 (32GB), £579 (64GB), £659 (128GB)
iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air: Other iPad options
If you like the iPad mini 2's lower price tag then you might want to consider two options that are cheaper still: the iPad 2 (which comes in at £329 and £429, both in 16GB capacities) and the old iPad mini 1, which is just £249 and £349. As a budget option the iPad mini remains a strong choice, offering the same processor as the iPad 2, a smaller, lighter and more portable chassis and a screen with a higher pixel density (although it's still not Retina-class).
The iPad 2 isn't a terribly appealing option any more, but may be worth a look if you definitely want a 9.7in screen - if you have visual impairments, say, or want to watch lots of movies - but want to keep the price tag down. And processor speed isn't an issue, and you don't need a Retina display.
The old iPad 2: still available, but increasing unappealing compared with newer (and in one case cheaper) alternatives
Above: the Macworld team discuss the iPad Air and iPad mini 2, and debate whether they deserve the media hype
All of our iPad Air coverage:
All of our iPad mini 2 coverage:
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