Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been using the iPad Air and the new Retina-equipped iPad mini alongside each other. I was going to write a full-on comparison, and realized that it’s probably not necessary in this case. I’ve written reviews on both iPads, and compared performance of the two against each other. In short: There’s really not a lot to choose from.
What I will say is this: Since owning the iPad mini with Retina, it’s the tablet I go for every time I want to pick one up and browse the web, or play games. Although it’s not quite as light as the original mini, the new version is still a heck of a lot more portable than the iPad Air. It’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, and easy enough to hold and carry in one hand. It wants to be picked up and used.
It was pretty much the same for me last year with the iPad mini and iPad 3. The lightness and size of the iPad mini was enough to make sure it was the only tablet I wanted to use. Except this year I have that preference, but I don’t have to sacrifice performance or power. It’s essentially a “Mini-me” of the iPad Air. Genetically identical in every way except size.
That doesn’t mean the iPad Air isn’t a brilliant tablet. Technically, I still think it’s the best of the two. The larger display makes some tasks much easier and more immersive, and it has a better quality display panel in terms of color and contrast range. And although – for personal and casual use – I prefer to use the mini, there are still times I prefer to use the Air. For reading comics, the larger real estate is really beneficial to my eyes, and ensures that eye-strain isn’t as big an issue. And there’s also the issue of working. I don’t have a laptop currently, so my best portable method of working is to grab my iPad Air, the ZAGGkeys Folio keyboard case and get working. Not only is the text clearer, but the larger keyboard cases for the full-size iPad are much more comfortable to use.
Whenever I’m asked “iPad Air or new iPad mini?” I can never give a definite answer. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I don’t need to choose. If I had a laptop, even if it was a Chromebook, I’d not need the larger iPad at all and would be quite happy with the mini. It’s the perfect size for casual, daily use, it costs less than the Air and performs just as well in almost every area. If I didn’t have this job, I’d choose the mini in a heartbeat.
If I had to give one up and could only choose one, I’d give up the Air. I’d find a way to make working work on the mini, or just buy a laptop for typing articles. I think I’d miss far more about the mini than I would about the Air. Although the screen is smaller, it’s technically sharper and text is clear, even it means holding it a bit close to my face.
If I’m going to try to rationalize it I think like this:
- It’s the tablet I’d care most about if it was lost/stolen
- It’s the one device I make sure I have when I’m done at the end of my work day and I want to relax with a game, or book.
Final answer: iPad mini (I think…)