iPad Air vs. iPad mini with Retina Display
October 22, 2013
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.
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.
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.
No surprises here, as both tablets sport Apple's tight and familiar anodized aluminum construction.
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.
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.
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.
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 options are also equal in both tablets. It looks like Apple is increasingly seeing these two tablets as birds of a feather.
It looks like both tablets also have the same cameras. Resolution is unchanged from last year's models.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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