iPad Air vs iPad mini with Retina display: The choice is harder than you think

Apple has taken the wraps off its new iPad line, with the full-sized and newly named iPad Air gaining a sleeker form and the iPad mini gaining Retina display.

But if you look at the two new tablets, they not only look the same, but they're also almost the same when you look inside. Behold the new iPad family.

The new iPad family differs from the early iPad and iPad mini approach - which were two different devices for what could be argued as two different markets. The larger model gave you power and definition, the smaller model was really just about portability.

The two iPads have come together and now pose something of a problem when it comes to making a decision about which to buy. We've rounded up key differences to help you choose. 

Size and colour

The new iPad Air shed 28 per cent of its weight and became 20 per cent thinner compared to the iPad 4, but stuck to its 9.7-inch screen size for those who want a large tablet experience.

The bezel of the iPad Air has become dramatically thinner, however, changing the tablet to look exactly like the iPad mini we've come to know over the last year. The iPad Air measures 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm and weighs 469g (Wi-Fi).

The new iPad mini sticks with a 7.9-inch display and keeps the same thin design that was introduced in 2012. It measures 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm and weighs 331g (Wi-Fi).

Space grey and black, and silver and white are the colours available for both the iPad Air and iPad mini - no gold option this time around.

Specifications and battery life

Given the cheaper price of the iPad mini, it was assumed the tablet would have lesser specs than the full-sized iPad. Those rumours were wrong, as Apple introduced both tablets with the same insides.

You'll find the same 64-bit A7 processor found in the iPhone 5S inside both iPad models. The processor is claimed to have twice the CPU and graphics performance on iPad Air, and up to four times the CPU and eight times the graphics performance on iPad mini with Retina display over previous models.

The M7 co-processor is included on both iPads as well, using an the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.

Cameras go hand-in-hand with each other, a FaceTime HD camera is found on the front and the good ol' 5-megapixel camera on the back.

Battery life for the iPad Air is claimed to be up to 10-hours, but perhaps surprisingly, it's the same for the iPad mini with Retina display. There's no endurance benefit in taking the larger model it seems.

Both iPads will have 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB, and 128GB of storage. Wi-Fi and LTE models are available like you'd expect.

It's all about Retina display

The iPad mini has been upped to Retina display, so you no longer have to sacrifice detail for portability. Where the original iPad mini offered 163ppi, it's now a cracking 326ppi

The iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display offer the same 2048 x 1536 resolution, a surprising move from Apple.

That means that both displays are capable of producing lots of detail, but obviously the smaller model has these pixels packed in tighter: the iPad Air delivers 264ppi, but the iPad mini with Retina display gives you 326ppi, so it will be able to produce sharper, finer, details than the larger model.

Price and release date

With the Retina display comes a price hike for the iPad mini compared to the last generation. The iPad mini with Retina display will cost you £319 ($399), a £60 hike over last year's lesser model at launch for a 16GB model with Wi-Fi.

The iPad Air sticks to its £399 base pricing for the 16GB version, meaning there's now £80 price difference in that 1.8-inch size difference.

Tough call

Both iPad models have a lot going for them. The design and build quailty speaks for itself, but they're both now equally powerful, equally specified and both wearing a very nice display. There isn't the sense that you're compromising on the portability of the iPad mini with Retina display now, as it's every bit the rival of its bigger brother.

So this really comes down to use. If you're targeting productivity, the extra size of the iPad Air will be a definite advantage. If you're looking for entertainment on the move, then being able to slip the iPad mini with Retina display into your jacket pocket may be the deciding factor.

The iPad Air will be available from 1 November, the iPad mini with Retina display will be available later in November.



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