iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison

Apple revealed two new iPads during its special event in October, though we'd argue that one is just a re-shelled version of its predecessor. We're talking, of course, about the iPad mini 3 and the iPad Air 2, both of which are available to buy from Apple now. But which is best for you? We help you decide in our iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison. See also: Best iPad Air 2 cases

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Design & build

The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 look very similar, with an aluminium back case available in silver, slate grey or gold, and gorgeous beveled edges. There is, however, one big and obvious difference and that's their size. The iPad Air 2 has a 9.7in screen, while the iPad mini 3 has a 7.9in screen (both of which we'll talk about later in this article), which of course means that the overall size of the iPads differs too.

We'd describe the size of the iPad Air 2 as similar to a hardback book or Private Eye-style mini-magazine, while the iPad mini 3's size is closer to a paperback novel.

If you're after the specifics, the iPad mini 3 measures 200mm by 134.7mm and is 7.5mm thick, so it should fit into a reasonably small bag, or even a jacket pocket if you want to take it out with you. It'll hardly weigh you down, either, because it weighs just 331g.

The iPad Air 2 is heavier, at 437g, and is obviously bigger at 240mm by 169.5mm. It's thinner though, at a miniscule 6.1mm thick. It's still very portable if you're carrying it in a backpack or large bag, but you won't see it fitting in a small bag that you might take out with you on a day out, and it certainly won't squeeze into a pocket. See also: Complete iPad buying guide

Read: Is it possible to get a free iPad? The truth about free iPad scams

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Display

iPad mini 3 vs iPad Air 2 comparison

Taking a closer look at the difference between the screens on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, you'll find that they have the same Retina resolution of 2048x1536, but those pixels being squeezed into a smaller space for the iPad mini 3 actually means that the iPad Air's pixel density is less impressive, at 264ppi compared with the 326ppi of the iPad mini 3. Both screens are crisp and clear though, so we don't expect you'll be disappointed with the iPad Air 2.

Of course, the bigger screen is better for watching films or playing games, because you get a more immersive experience, but the iPad mini's screen actually feels much closer to the full-size iPad's than you might think. If you've become accustomed to watching videos on an iPhone's screen, the iPad mini's display will feel plenty big enough and the benefit is you'll get the extra portability as described above.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Hardware & performance

Inside the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2 you'll find some very different components that make a big difference when it comes to power.

The iPad mini 3 actually still has the same internal specs as its predecessor, the iPad mini 2, with a year-old A7 processor and M7 coprocessor.

The iPad Air 2, on the other hand, has a super-powerful A8X processor paired with an M8 coprocessor, which has the adds a barometer to the sensor mix.

They're both powerful devices, and both offer 64-bit for future-proofing, but there's no doubt that the iPad Air 2 can handle much more heavy-duty tasks such as highly graphics-based games and running multiple apps at once.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Connectivity

iPad mini 3 vs iPad Air 2 comparison

You'll get very similar connectivity options for both the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. There's a Touch ID fingerprint sensor behind the home button of both models, as well as WiFi (though only the iPad Air 2 works with the faster 802.11ac standard), Bluetooth 4.0 and optional 4G connectivity.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Capacity

They have the same capacity options, too, offering 16GB, 64GB and 128GB built-in storage. The price increases significantly the more storage you want, though, so you're looking at £559 for a WiFi-only iPad Air 2 with 128GB storage, or £659 if you want 4G connectivity as well.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Cameras

Onto cameras now, which is always a strange subject when it comes to tablets as we don't like the idea of using such a large device to take photos. However, some people do so it's still an important factor to consider if you plan to use your iPad for photography.

The iPad Air 2's camera is the better one, at 8Mp compared with the iPad mini 3's 5Mp, though we think using the smaller iPad is much easier and far less awkward a task. Both cameras have autofocus, face detection, an aperture of f/2.4, HDR photos and panorama, but the iPad Air 2 has the added bonus of the quick-fire Burst mode.

Video recording from the rear camera is 1080p HD.

On the front of both tablets is the same FaceTime HD camera, at 1.2MP, the ability to capture 720p video and Face detection.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Software

The iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2 both run iOS 8, Apple's latest mobile operating system, and will both get the update to iOS 9 when it arrives next year. You can find out more about iOS 8 in our iOS 8 review. See also: iOS 8 tips & tricks

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3 comparison: Price

Another important factor to consider when making your decision between the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 is price. The iPad Air 2 starts at £399, while the iPad mini 3 is £319, so that's an £80 saving.

If the price tag is one of the biggest factors for you, we'd strongly recommend considering one of Apple's older iPads, which the company still sells on its website. The original iPad Air, which still has impressive specs, starts at £319, and the iPad mini 2 (which is almost identical to the iPad mini 3 aside from the Touch ID fingerprint sensor) is just £239. See: iPad mini 3 vs iPad mini 2

OUR VERDICT

The iPad Air 2 is the more powerful of the two tablets, and the larger screen means a better experience when watching movies, playing games and carrying out other tasks that benefit from the larger screen estate such as using drawing or photo-editing apps, for example.

However, that extra power comes at a price of £80, or even more if you are happy to opt for the iPad mini 2 (which we'd recommend over the iPad mini 3). It also means you'll have less portability. If you plan to simply use your iPad for reading books, browsing the web and using social media, we think the iPad mini 3 will do the trick nicely.

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