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iPad Air vs. iPad Mini (Video)

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The iPad Air and the iPad mini sit next to each other on store shelves at Apple, Best Buy and Walmart and while many shoppers are waiting for the iPad mini with Retina display, or as many call it the iPad mini 2, there are just as many comparing the new iPad Air to the much more portable and $200 more affordable iPad mini.

The iPad mini is one year old, and Apple only offers the smaller iPad in limited storage capacities and sizes in the main store. There are iPad mini models with more storage in the refurbished Apple Store, but as for the units on store shelves the options are limited.

The iPad Air is brand new with the latest processor and a beautiful Retina display that is not available on the original iPad mini. The iPad Air is available in four storage sizes, all the way up to 128GB and like the iPad mini can be purchased with LTE connectivity on all the major U.S. carriers.

Read: iPad Air Smart Cover Review

With a $200 price difference many shoppers will be comparing these iPads when they plan to buy a tablet for the holiday season. If you are holding out for the iPad mini with Retina display, the areas of this comparison which address portability will be of interest, but performance and screen technology will be significantly different on the iPad mini 2.

iPad Air vs. iPad mini Video

Design & Portability

Apple is making a big deal about the iPad Air design with a new ad that hides the iPad Air behind a pencil for most of the commercial. The thinner and lighter design is worth making a fuss over, but even with the improved design there is a noticeable difference in size between the iPad Air and the iPad mini.

The iPad Air and iPad mini are nearly the same thickness, clocking in at 7.5mm and 7.2mm respectively. Side, by side you can’t tell which one is thicker. But, thickness is only half of the equation when it comes to portability. Apple narrowed the bezels of the larger iPad to shrink the width down to 6.6 inches. This is down from the 7.31 inch width on the iPad 4 and iPad 3. Ultimately the device is more portable, but the size still requires a commitment to carry it on trips outside of the house.

The iPad Air is significantly larger than the iPad mini.

The iPad Air is significantly larger than the iPad mini.

The iPad mini on the other hand is 5.3 inches wide which leads to a smaller footprint. Once you factor in the two-inch taller height of the iPad Air a larger footprint makes itself known. Granted there is little Apple can do with this, as the screen is much larger, but despite all the  changes the iPad Air remains a vastly more portable tablet.

The iPad Air and iPad mini thickness are essentially the same.

The iPad Air and iPad mini thickness are essentially the same.

In terms of looks, the iPad Air and the iPad mini share a very similar design with chamfered edges and thinner side bezels. The iPad Air is heavier at 1 pound, compared to 0.68 pound on the iPad mini. The weight difference is negligible in terms of portability for most users.

Both of the iPad models are available in space gray or silver, so users don’t need to pick one for an exclusive color choice.

Display

When it comes to display’s the iPad mini will be good enough for some users, but the iPad Air is noticeably better. The Retina Display offers a higher resolution in a slightly larger screen, which translates into pixels packed so close together you don’t see individual pixels in text, photos and video. This means a much nicer reading and entertainment experience.

iPad Air vs. iPad mini screen showdown.

iPad Air vs. iPad mini screen showdown.

The iPad mini’s smaller display factors into the smaller size, easier portability and lower price, but at the cost of a lower resolution. The iPad mini 2 will offer the same resolution display as the iPad Air at $399 later this month, so if the resolution and clarity are the only thing holding you back, wait for the iPad mini with Retina display.

The iPad mini nearly fits inside the iPad Air display.

The iPad mini nearly fits inside the iPad Air display.

The other factor to compare is the size of the screen, The iPad Air offers a screen that is about 2-inches larger diagonally, offering more space to watch movies, read books, browse the web and game. After a year using screens of both sizes, there are times when using the larger iPad to work on a document that I really enjoy the bigger display, but the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch screen is large enough for most tasks.

Ultimately the size comes down to how you plan to use the iPad.

Performance

The iPad Air uses a new Apple A7 64 bit processor, while the iPad mini uses a two year old Apple A5 processor that delivers lower performance.

Using the iPad Air and iOS 7 side by side reveals that switching apps and folder animations are slightly faster on the iPad Air. Overall things simply run smoother on the new hardware, but thankfully the iPad mini is not as laggy as the iPad. The benchmarks below show the iPad Air is more powerful than the iPad mini, but in the areas of day-to-day use, many users will be OK with the iPad mini.

Here's a look at the performance of every iOS 7 device Apple sells.

Here’s a look at the performance of every iOS 7 device Apple sells.

When it comes to playing games like Infinity Blade 3, the iPad Air has an edge thanks to the blazing fast processor, but casual gamers who just want to hack and slash through the game will be OK with playing a game like Infinity Blade 3 on the iPad mini. Where users need to consider performance and gamer deeper comes with a look into the future. In six months we may see games arrive that require a faster processor like the A7 chip in the iPad mini 2 or iPad Air.

iPad Air vs iPad mini Specs

The specs play into performance, but aren’t that exciting on their own. If you do want to compare these two devices on a spec level, here’s a quick look at the major differences.

iPad Air

  • 9.7-inch Retina Display 2048 x 1536
  • Apple A7 Processor 64-bit + M7 motion co-processor.
  • 16GB to 128GB Storage Options
  • FaceTime HD front facing and 5MP rear facing camera
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO
  • 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches

The iPad Air trounces the iPad mini in a spec comparison.

The iPad Air trounces the iPad mini in a spec comparison.

iPad mini

  • 7.9-inch display 1024 x 768
  • Apple A5 Processor.
  • 16GB
  • FaceTime HD front facing and 5MP rear facing camera
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches

Both of these devices offer Bluetooth 4.0, LTE options and use the new Lightning connection.

Software

The iPad Air and the iPad mini both run iOS 7, and offer many of the same features including access to Siri, the enhanced camera app and new look.

The iPad Air and iPad mini run iOS 7, but the iPad Air will likely receive more software updates in the future.

The iPad Air and iPad mini run iOS 7, but the iPad Air will likely receive more software updates in the future.

Neither of the iPads offer any of the fancy camera software features like Slow Motion, Burst Mode or live filters such as those found on the iPhone 5s.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is how much longer Apple will offer upgrades to the iPad mini, and if it does what features it will need to cut due to the older processor. For longevity sake, if you want a smaller iPad you may want to wait for the iPad mini 2, and pay an extra $100.

Carriers and Price

The iPad mini and the iPad Air are both available on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile with LTE connectivity. The catch is Sprint and T-Mobile LTE options are not as plentiful for users who don’t live in major metropolitan areas. AT&T is still behind Verizon, but working quick to catch up  and AT&T 4G is faster than Verizon’s 3G.

Read: iPad Air Availability Still Plentiful

The iPad mini is $200 cheaper but comes with fewer options.

The iPad mini is $200 cheaper but comes with fewer options.

The iPad Air starts at $499, which is $200 more than the iPad mini’s new lower price. For this users get the new processor, better display and longer support for updates. Shoppers can also buy the iPad Air in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB options for $100 more per jump in storage space, something users cannot get with the iPad mini. Apple does offer a refurbished iPad mini for the low price of $250, which makes the smaller tablet more tempting.

Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. melgeu219 (@melgeu219)

    11/02/2013 at 6:17 pm

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