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iPad Mini vs iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Which iPad should I buy?

We compare the three different sizes of iPad; iPad Mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro, to see which has the best features for your personal needs.

If you’re about to buy an iPad, you’ve got more choice than ever now that the mighty iPad Pro has been released. So which of the three models, Pro, Air or Mini, should you buy? Let’s compare all three and see which is best for you, whether you want a media machine or a business tablet.

At a glance

Tablet iPad Pro iPad Air 2 iPad Mini 4
Screen size 12.9-inches 9.7-inches 7.9-inches
Screen resolution 2732×2048 (264ppi) 2048×1536 (264ppi) 2048×1536 (326ppi)
Weight 713g 437g 299g
Processor A9X A8X A8
Storage 32/128GB 16/64/128GB 16/64/128GB
TouchID? Yes Yes Yes
Cameras 8MP/1.2MP 8MP/1.2MP 8MP/1.2MP
Price From £679 From £399 From £319

Design

The most obvious difference between the three iPads is their size, with the Pro towering over its brethren at a rather massive 12-inches tall. In comparison, the iPad Air is 9.4-inches tall and the iPad Mini tops off at just 8-inches. Impressively, the iPad Pro is almost as skinny as the smaller iPads despite its much larger dimensions, with a 6.9mm build. The iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 are only a shade thinner at 6.1mm.

So what does this difference in size mean in real-world terms? Well, the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 can both be comfortably clutched with one hand for extended periods, thanks to their 437g/300g weight. That’s good news if you want to spend a lot of time on the commute or kicking back at home, watching movies or playing games or simply browsing the web.

Meanwhile, the iPad Pro’s 713g weight, which is fast approaching laptop territory, means you’ll only want to hold it for short periods, if at all. It’s best left on a desk, propped up by the smart cover.

If you want a simple entertainment device to carry around every day, you’ll be well served by the iPad Mini. It’s beautifully compact and easy to slip into a decent-sized handbag, whereas the Air and the Pro require a backpack or some other big bag to transport.

Aside from size, all three iPads enjoy Apple’s usual premium design. You have TouchID built into the home buttons of the latest models, so you can quickly unlock them with your finger or thumb print. The metallic casing is sturdy and resistant to scuffs and scratches, but we’d still recommend slipping your tablet into a case to make sure it doesn’t crack or dent if accidentally dropped.

Read next: How Apple’s iPad Pro leaves the iPad Air in the dust

Screen and media

If you want to use your new iPad as a screen to enjoy media and content at home, the iPad Pro is your best bet. Stick it on the wall of your kitchen or simply prop it up on a work surface and you’ve got a brilliant big-screen device for watching Netflix, or displaying a recipe as you’re cooking.

The Pro’s 12.9-inch screen offers close to twice the viewing area of the 9.7-inch iPad Air, but is still just as sharp thanks to its boosted 2732×2048 pixel resolution. Both tablets pack in 264 pixels-per-inch, which produces sharp images and certainly does the job for HD movies and photo editing. The iPad Mini is actually a wee bit sharper at 326 pixels-per-inch (although it makes no real difference to image quality) while its 7.9-inch screen is still a great way to take in a movie despite its smaller stature.

The iPad Pro isn’t the best here for media simply because its screen is the biggest, however. The four built-in speakers, positioned in pairs on the left and right edges when the iPad is held in landscape, are incredibly powerful. In fact, they’re the best speakers we’ve ever heard on a tablet. As a result, you can clearly hear a movie across the other side of a large room and music sounds good too, although not quite as punchy as when played through a dedicated stand-alone speaker.

Got lots of movies, TV shows and other media that you want to take on holiday for offline entertainment? Well, all three iPads come packing 128GB of storage if you opt for the most expensive models, but that’ll cost you. And none of them can be expanded via microSD.

Features and accessories

If you’re after a business tablet, the iPad Pro is the obvious choice. That enlarged screen makes it easy to multi-task with your office apps – for instance, running a word processor side-by-side with your web browser, emails, spreadsheet app or video chat service, using Apple’s Split Screen feature. You can still use Split Screen on the Air 2 and the Mini 4 of course, but with less display area to work with.

Also, bear in mind that only a handful of apps are compatible with Split Screen, namely most of Apple’s own apps and a small selection of third-party apps.

As well as its excellent multi-tasking capabilities, the Pro also boasts an excellent keyboard cover of Apple’s own creation, which can be purchased separately. The keyboard unfolds easily and provides a comfortable typing experience, with raised keys for tactile feedback – in fact, this entire article was typed out on that ‘board. Check out our full Smart Keyboard review, for our in-depth thoughts.

Don’t worry if you’re leaning towards the smaller iPads but still want a solid typing experience, however. You can buy third-party keyboards for the Air and the Mini on Apple’s store as well as through the usual UK retailers.

The Pro also boasts a very good stylus, the Apple Pencil, which creative users can wield to craft visual masterpieces. It’s a step above standard styluses as it communicates directly with the iPad’s screen, using its own built-in power source. That gives you some pretty stunning control, with the iPad responding to the tilt and pressure of the Pencil.

All three iPads come in a cellular model or WiFi only.

Performance and battery life

The iPad Pro is the most powerful tablet here, packing Apple’s latest A9X processor. This is significantly faster than the iPad Air 2’s A8X processor, which in turn is nippier than the iPad Mini 4’s A8 chip.

That said, the iPad Mini will happily run the latest games such as The Room 3 with a smooth and consistent frame rate and you’ll only notice the occasional tiny stutter during everyday use. You should only really need the iPad Pro’s muscle if you’re performing graphically demanding tasks such as video editing with 4K footage.

As for battery life, the Mini, Air and Pro all survive for roughly ten hours of use, which includes video playback. That’s one of the best results from any current tablet.

Verdict

Business or creative users looking for something to keep them productive on the go should definitely consider the iPad Pro, which boasts strong multi-tasking abilities and excellent first party accessories. The Pro is also a great device to keep you entertained at home, but anyone who wants a portable tablet should look to the Air and Mini instead, which are plenty powerful and boast a lighter, more compact design.

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