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iPad Mini with Retina display or iPad Air: Which is best?

We compare Apple’s latest iPads and ask, should you go little or large?

Apple has pulled a blinder with the new iPad Mini with Retina display. This dinky tablet somehow boasts a very similar set of specs to its powerful bigger brother, the iPad Air, yet packs them into a compact 7.9-inch frame. So, what’s the difference between these two iPads, besides the obvious? And which one will be best for you?

Apple iPad: The Mini or the Air, which is best?

iPad Mini with Retina Display vs iPad Air: Portability

The biggest difference is also the most blatant. The iPad Mini with Retina Display is a lot more compact than the big, bad Air, which means it’s easier to shove into bags – in fact, it’ll even slip into moderately-sized handbags. Here’s the specs:

iPad Mini with Retina display:   135 x 200 x 8mm and 331g

iPad Air:                                        170 x 240 x 8mm and 469g

In terms of weight, the Air is of course heavier, but it’s a vast improvement on previous full-sized iPads. We had no trouble holding it one-handed on a cramped, uncomfortable commute for over an hour, so there’s no real advantage in getting the Mini.

Apple iPad: The Mini or the Air, which is best?

 

iPad Mini with Retina Display vs iPad Air: Media

Now that the iPad Mini has been upgraded to a full-on Retina display, it puts out crystal-clear images – in fact, the 326 pixels-per-inch resolution beats the iPad Air’s 264 ppi. Of course, both tablets score highly when it comes to screen quality.They’re both sharp, they’re both bright, and they both boast excellent viewing angles. When it comes to colours, the iPad Air seems to offer warmer, bolder pinks and purples, but the difference is close to negligible, and would really be nitpicking.

So, which one to go for comes down to personal preference. If you’re a media fiend, or if you plan on watching video with a partner, you’ll probably be better off with the Air’s more spacious 10.1-inch screen. We’d also recommend the Air if you want to use serious productivity software or creative apps such as Photoshop or VJay. However, the Mini’s screen is still bigger than most compact tablets at 7.9-inches, and a comfortable way to browse the web or relax with a movie. Let’s face it, you aren’t going to suffer.

Apple iPad: The Mini or the Air, which is best?

 

iPad Mini with Retina Display vs iPad Air: Performance and battery life

Both tablets rock the latest Apple A7 processor and GPU, and when we hammered them with the latest games such as GTA: San Andreas, we noticed no difference in performance whatsoever. Both tablets are 64-bit compatible, and hence future-proof.

We also noticed pretty much no difference when it comes to battery life. With menial tasks, both the iPad Mini with Retina display and the iPad Air survived for a solid nine to ten hours. We did find the Air lasted longer with processor-intensive apps and games on the go: we usually get over five hours of life, compared with around four hours from the Mini. However, the difference isn’t enough to recommend one tablet over the other.

Apple iPad: The Mini or the Air, which is best?

 

iPad Mini with Retina Display vs iPad Air: Price

If you want an Apple device, you’re going to have to pay through the nose for it. It’s just a fact of life, although the iPad Mini does work out cheaper than the Air – each model is £80 cheaper than its Air equivalent. It’s not a massive saving when you’re looking at splashing out hundreds of your hard-earned pounds, but it could mean the difference between eating Tesco’s Finest baked beans for the next month, or the Value option.

Check out our full iPad pricing chart for a direct comparison of all the different models

 

iPad Mini with Retina Display vs iPad Air: Verdict

The iPad Mini with Retina display has really impressed us with its vastly upgraded specs, meaning there’s very little between the dinky tablet and the full-sized iPad Air. If you want a tab to get creative or enjoy movies with a mate, the Air inches it for us. If you’d rather take a tablet on the road with minimal fuss, for instance cramming into a handbag, the Mini is your best bet.

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