iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad 2 specs compared – Which should you buy?

When it comes to new Apple products, it can often be difficult to decide which model to buy. You know you want an iPad, but this year there are so many options, it’s hard to decide which you should go far. I live and breathe iOS and earn my bread from writing about it all day every day, and even I’m confused about which model to get. To make it a little easier, I’ve put all currently available iPads in to a handy chart comparing all the key specs and features.

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 15.08.27Size

I think the key question you should use to narrow down your choices is a simple one. How big an iPad do you want/need. If your primary aim is to get a really portable device that’ll almost fit in your back pocket, the iPad mini really is the way to go. But portability is only one consideration. Having a smaller display also means that you can more easily use it in hand. The mini is light enough and small enough that you don’t need to rest it on your lap or grip on to it with both hands. Particularly handy if – for instance – you want something to browse/read books/game on when you’re commuting to and from work each day.

If mini is the way your going, your next questions are: What will you use it for and how much can you afford to spend? I’ll tell you know, if you want to use it to read comics, magazines or books, you are going to benefit a huge deal from having the iPad mini with Retina. But if your budget is pushing it at $300, then you really only have one option.

If you want the biggest and best quality screen on the iPad market, you know where you’re heading already – iPad Air. The deal clincher here is that if you’ve owned a full size iPad before, it’ll be a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) stepping up to the latest model. It has a brilliant 9.7″ Retina display, but is incredibly light, thin and much smaller than your previous model.


If budget is your main decision point (which for many it will be) there’s more flexibility than there used to be. You might look at the $399 iPad 2 and think “ooh, a full size iPad for less than $400″ and I’d stop you there. Personally, I cannot see any reason why anyone, for any reason would want the iPad 2. Yes, it has a large screen, but every other piece of technology inside it is – in today’s market – sub par. Running iOS 7 is slow and sluggish, the tablet is big and heavy, the camera is woeful. There are two other tablets either at the same price point, or below.

If I was your tablet sales advisor (unless you were desperate for the 9.7” screen and were unwilling to budge) I’d do everything I could to push you towards the new iPad mini with Retina ($399 for Wi-Fi only) or the first generation iPad mini ($299 for Wi-Fi only). Both will offer you a much better experience for the same or lower initial outlay. They’re more portable, easier to hold and perform much better at almost everything.


If you’re main priority is getting the most powerful, and the fastest iPad out there – for the first time – you now have two options. You can now either get the iPad mini with Retina or iPad Air. Apart from size, both have identical specs. They have the same processor, the same battery life, the same camera, the same resolution displays. It then comes down to which size you want, and how much you want to spend. The advantage to the iPad mini with Retina is that you can get more internal storage and wireless connectivity options for your money. For instance, if you needed 32GB, for $599 you could get your Wi-Fi only iPad Air. But for $30 more you’d get an iPad mini with Retina, Wi-Fi plus Cellular giving you much greater freedom and not limiting your connectivity to the Wi-Fi hotspots in cafés or your home wireless network.

This year, the fact that you now have the option to go mini without losing any specs or performance is the best thing about the new lineup. Last year, if you really wanted to have a small, portable iPad, you had to compromise and lose the chance to have Retina quality resolution and the more powerful internals. However much I love my iPad mini, making that trade-off to lose the iPad’s Retina display was something that bugged me for the entire 12 months. Now, there are no compromises. You want the best specs, you can have it at two sizes, four storage capacity options and the best wireless connectivity on the market.

My Choice?

Personally, I’m going to order the 32GB iPad Air. I need a tablet that I can use as my portable work solution. I don’t have a laptop, and the extra screen real estate is very handy for creating documents and editing articles online. I love the Retina display, and I’m delighted that there’s a full size iPad that weighs so little and has so little added bulk around its frame. The 32GB storage is crucial for me too. I currently have the 32GB iPad mini, and have around 8-9GB free. And that’s without any apps I don’t use, or any media stored on it at all. Having the spare space means I can download movies and entertainment for road trips. Helps keep the kids entertained. If it doesn’t work out as a productivity school, and I still prefer the mini’s size after using it for a couple of weeks, I’ll more than likely return it and swap it for a higher spec iPad mini with Retina.

iPad 2?

Personally, I’m really confused as to why the iPad 2 still exists. Like the iPhone 4s, it’s an old design and still features the 30-pin connector. Apart from absolutely having to have the 9.7″ screen at as low a price as possible, there’s little else that could persuade me that it’s necessary.


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  • DrewPage

    I’d personally love the iPad mini with Retina, but I already have an iPad mini.  Its screen is not Retina, but it still looks very nice to my eyes.  I’m not sure the rest is compelling enough.  I’ll have to think it over.   When the iPad mini with Retina is at the point where it ships within 24 hours, I may bite.  We’ll see.

  • EdwardBenson1

    I think the iPad 2 fills a very important roll for schools and other groups that need a larger screen, but not the higher specs of the other models, as the functions are usually strictly regulated in those types of uses

  • Dgillmann

    Galaxy note 10.1, more RAM (3GB), more processor (4core), more storage (you can use external sd), more screen resolution, more PPI and less expensive.

  • 12.Bryce

    Why do you come here? And The Galaxy note is still a piece of garbage.

  • Yeah I’m confused also. I have the 3rd generation iPad. Retina but no lightning connector. There was a 4th that had lightning, why are neither of these being compared. Are they both no longer offered?

  • TiP_Cam

    @Dgillmann There’s a lot more to comparing different platform tablets than specs. Android – to run smoothly – needs more RAM and more cores. iOS and the custom processors are designed together, to work efficiently. What no Android tablet has yet – and what I think is far more important – is a big enough selection of quality, tablet-optimized apps. If you buy tech purely for specs alone, you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t improve the experience of using a device, it just gives you something to brag about.

  • TiP_Cam

    Abarber Nope. You can’t buy them new any more. The only way to buy an iPad 3/4 from Apple is by going down the refurbished route.

  • Phatdaddio21

    I for the life of me don’t understand why apple decided to go into the dark ages and sell the older 9.7 I pad 2 when they coulda just dropped the price on the latest 4th gen I pad ,,it’s just beyond my understanding why anybody would want such old outdated tech in a tablet ,,I currently have the 9.7 inch 4 th gen I pad and I’m gonna buy the I pad air when available and I already have this one sold as soon as I have the new one ,,but what the heck was apple thinking to sell the 2 NDRA gen 30 pin connector and who the hell would want such olf tech in a tablet to me it makes no sense as I said when they coulda just dropped the price on the 4 th gen as a second choice

  • Mohamed fawzy

    Have 64 giga i pad3 cellular should i upgrade?

  • Cj powers

    That’s a joke

  • Gelo

    My thinking is this:  iPads for tablets for their resale value since I’m paying full price and just do the JUMP! on TMobile for smartphones.

  • NathanKinney

    i got my mom a used ipad 2 for 200 dollars the other day, shes fine with it considering she only wants it to browse the web and play that stupid coin dozer game.

  • Phatdaddio21

    I ordered my I pad air this morning ,,hope to pick up this afternoon