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iPad Air vs. iPad mini with Retina Display

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October 22, 2013

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display

Gizmag compares the features and specs of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display

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Last year, deciding between the iPad 4 and iPad mini was a tough decision. But this year, choosing between the iPad Air's sleeker design and the iPad mini's Retina Display is trickier than ever. Let Gizmag try to help, as we break down the differences (and increasing similarities) between Apple's iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display.

Update: We've now put both tablets through the wringer, and published our extended hands-on comparison.

Size

The iPad Air is 20 percent taller and 26 percent wider

The iPad Air, Apple's new full-sized iPad, is the first major redesign since the original iPad launched in 2010. It's more compact and focused than last year's iPad, drawing inspiration from the iPad mini's design. As the rumor mill had been telling us for months, it's now basically a big iPad mini.

The iPad mini's size, meanwhile, stays almost the same as last year's model. It did get four percent thicker than the first-gen iPad mini, but we doubt that will make for a very noticeable change.

In terms of these two, though, the iPad Air is 20 percent taller and 26 percent wider than the Retina iPad mini. Both tablets are 7.5 mm thick.

Weight

The iPad Air is 42 percent heavier, a much narrower gap than with last year's lineup

The Retina iPad mini is actually a little heavier than its predecessor. When choosing between these two, the iPad Air is 42 percent heavier than the mini. But that gap is much narrower than it was with the 2012 models.

Build

It's Apple's familiar anodized aluminum build in both iPads

No surprises here, as both tablets sport Apple's tight and familiar anodized aluminum construction.

Colors

Color options are also the same

No gold for you! Both tablets ship in silver/white and space gray/black hues. These are two of the three same colors in which Apple sells the iPhone 5s.

Display

The iPad mini gives you 65 percent as much screen area as the iPad Air

The big news here is the iPad mini's Retina Display. It now packs as many pixels as the larger iPad Air, which means it has a much higher pixel density.

In terms of overall screen size, the story is the same as last year. The iPad mini gives you 65 percent as much screen area as the iPad Air does.

Processor

Both tablets will be faster than their predecessors, but the new iPad mini will be much fa...

Last year, the full-sized iPad's chip (A6X, late 2012) was a full generation ahead of the iPad mini's (A5, early 2011). This year, that playing field has been leveled, as both tablets get the 64-bit A7 chip, which is also found in the iPhone 5s.

Apple rarely tells us about cores and clock speeds in its mobile processors, but at least in the Air, the A7 is a dual core CPU (with quad core graphics) clocked at 1.4 GHz. We'd bet on the same for the Retina mini.

Motion coprocessor

Both tablets take on the iPhone 5s' M7 motion coprocessor

It might not make as much sense on a tablet, but Apple's M7 motion coprocessor makes the leap from the iPhone 5s to both new iPads. It can log data from the tablet's sensors without killing your battery (for M7 optimized apps). We suspect Apple is planting some seeds for an iWatch with the M7.

Storage

Storage options are all even, with the iPad mini getting a 128 GB option for the first tim...

Storage options are also equal in both tablets. It looks like Apple is increasingly seeing these two tablets as birds of a feather.

Cameras

No camera differences either

It looks like both tablets also have the same cameras. Resolution is unchanged from last year's models.

Battery

Apple advertises the same ten hour battery life (web use, Wi-Fi) for both iPads

The above Watt hours show you the technical info for each battery, but Apple is advertising similar uptimes for both tablets (up to ten hours of web use over Wi-Fi).

Wireless

Both iPads can now use two antennas, courtesy of Mimo technology

Like last year, both tablets ship in cheaper Wi-Fi only models, as well as Wi-Fi with LTE cellular editions. The big change this year is multiple Wi-Fi antennas, which can help to deliver "up to twice the Wi-Fi performance" of last year's iPad.

Software

No surprise here, as both tablets run iOS 7

Of course, both tablets run the new iOS 7, with its fresh flat design.

Speaking of iOS 7, it just received an update to activate iCloud Keychain, which serves as a cloud-based password storage system.

Release date

The iPad Air launches on November 1, while the Retina mini will follow later that month

It looks like the rumors about Retina iPad mini supply constraints were right on, as Apple is rolling it out a bit later than the iPad Air.

Starting prices

What's this? A $70 price hike for this year's iPad mini?

Retina Displays don't come cheap. With the more advanced technology in the new model, Apple added an extra US$70 onto the iPad mini's price. Last year's iPad mini is sticking around at a lower $300 price point.

The iPad Air has the same price points as every full-sized iPad before it, starting at $500 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi only version.

Wrap-up

If the iPad mini had stayed at $330, we'd be tempted to declare it the obvious winner here. But with its considerable hike, the decision is tougher. In fact, that might have been part of Apple's thinking: the iPad mini's light and compact build is so nice, it threatens to cannibalize the larger model. Raising its price – along with shrinking and lightening the bigger model – may help to even the scales in customer's minds.

So there's the decision you face. From where we stand now, both look like very solid options, and easily the best iPads to date. The one thing we can say we definitely wouldn't recommend is picking up the iPad 2. Apple's 2011 flagship – somehow someway – lives on for another year, at a $400 price point. Apple will likely sell a fair share of these, but we think both of the new models are much better choices.

For more, you can check out our iPad Air review, and our comparison of the Air to older 9.7-in iPads.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin covers consumer technology for Gizmag. He's previously written for Android Central, Geek, GottaBeMobile, Android Police, and The Huffington Post.
He lives in New Mexico, U.S., with his lovely wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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4 Comments

Do you reckon the iPad Air is now holdable with one hand (edge to edge in portrait orientation) for the average caucasian male?

For me that would be the deciding factor between the two. I'm thinking of going for the mini for that reason alone...

Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης
23rd October, 2013 @ 06:23 am PDT

ipad mini ! Comming to my hands this christmas ! This is what it should have been since the begining !

CaLopez2012
23rd October, 2013 @ 07:29 am PDT

Apple still does not replace worn out battery, and you'll have to replace with a new tablet at a reduced price? What a waste! What about Android manufacturers? Do they all have the same policies?

kamaaina
23rd October, 2013 @ 06:07 pm PDT

Well this didn't help me at all. I still can't decide which one to get.

Michael Kaufman
3rd November, 2013 @ 04:24 pm PST
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