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The iPad Air vs the iPad Mini 2

Which is Apple's Best Tablet?

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The iPad Air vs the iPad Mini 2

The unveiling of Apple's new iPad lineup not only gave the full-sized iPad a new name (the "iPad Air"), it also blurred the line between the 9.7-inch tablet and its 7.9-inch little brother.   The choice between the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 2 becomes one of size rather than one of ability, with the new Mini just as powerful as the iPad Air.  

So which iPad should you choose?

iPad Mini 2 Advantages

  • The price. The iPad Mini 2's price may have raised to $399 for the entry level model, but that's still $100 cheaper than its full-sized brother. And for the same price as a 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad Air, you can take home an iPad Mini 2 with 32 GB of storage, which is plenty of space for most of us.
  • The A7 under the hood. Both the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 2 have an A7 processor, which is a big upgrade from the original iPad Mini.  The original shared the same processor as the iPad 2, making it significantly slower than the full-sized iPad.  The iPad Mini 2 is almost the equal of the iPad Air.
  • The best screen on an iPad. The inclusion of the same 2048x1536 resolution for the iPad Mini 2 means the Mini just out-Retina'd the iPad Air. The same resolution on the smaller screen gives the iPad Mini 326 pixels per inch (PPI). This means it has a screen image than the iPad Air, which only has 264 PPI.
  • It's smaller. This one is both an advantage and a disadvantage. I was wary of the smaller screen size when the original iPad Mini arrived, having owned other 7-inch tablets and found them lacking. But the iPad Mini is bigger than most 7-inch tablets, and it shows. For web browsing, reading eBooks and most casual use, the iPad Mini is fine. And the iPad Mini 2 will excel with even hardcore games. But size will tend to come down to personal preference. While it is easier to use the iPad Mini 2 one-handed, there are areas such as typing on the on-screen keyboard where the extra real estate of the iPad Air gains an advantage.

Read more about the iPad Mini 2

iPad Air Advantages

  • Productivity. The iPad Mini 2 may be just as powerful, but the extra screen space can easily lead to more productivity. Not only is it much easier to type on an iPad Air, the 9.7-inch iPad also has more screen space for manipulating images, editing video, arranging text and other tasks you might perform on it. If you are getting an iPad as much for work as for play, the iPad Air will be the best choice for most.
  • 1.4 Ghz A7. The iPad Mini 2 may have received the same A7 chip that powers the iPhone 5S, but the A7 chip used on the iPad is slightly faster.  The iPad Mini 2 chip clocks in at 1.29 Ghz while the iPad Air clocks 1.4 Ghz.  Certainly, most people won't see the difference, but this does make the iPad Air slightly faster.
  • Price. OK, I am repeating myself here, but just as the iPad Mini 2 is $100 cheaper than the iPad Air, the Air is only $100 more expensive. If you like the bigger size, the price difference isn't so great as to hold you back. It's much better to spend a bit more now to get the bigger screen than to save a little only to later wish you'd splurged on the Air.

Read more about the iPad Air

Compare Prices

And the winner is...

The iPad Mini 2 has the edge in this fight. Apple has moved the iPad lineup in the direction of giving customers a choice in screen size without the tradeoff in slower processor speed, and that makes us the winner. The iPad Mini 2 can do everything its big brother can do and look better doing it, so if you are looking to save $100, go with the Mini.

However, that $100 does buy a lot of real estate. After using my original Mini for a couple of months, I went back to the full-sized iPad and was amazed at just how much bigger the display looked compared to the Mini. This makes the full-sized iPad best for people using it for work or anyone who has bigger fingers.

A Buyer's Guide to the iPad

iPad Air vs iPad Mini 2 Comparison Chart:

Feature iPad Mini 2 iPad Air
Entry Price: $399 $499
CPU: 1.29 Ghz 64-bit Apple A7 1.4 Ghz 64-bit Apple A7
Motion Co-Processor: M7 M7
Resolution: 2048x1536 2048x1536
Graphics: PowerVR G6430 PowerVR G6430
Display: 7.9-inch IPS LED-backlit 9.7-inch IPS LED-backlit
Memory: 1 GB 1 GB
Storage: 16, 32, 64, 128 GB 16, 32, 64, 128 GB
Camera: Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP
Data Rate: 4G LTE 4G LTE
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
MIMO: Yes Yes
Bluetooth: 4 4
Siri: YES YES
Accelerometer: YES YES
Compass: YES YES
Gyroscope: YES YES
GPS: 4G Version Only 4G Version Only
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