iPad Air or Retina iPad mini? The unanswerable question…


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…)

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  • With the similarities between the two models, I tell people to try both for themselves and choose based on comfort and size.

  • TiP_Cam

    JerenYun Absolutely. That’s really all it comes down to. Unless you’re super-snobbish about the display color gamut.

  • ReginaDuncan17

    iPad Air definitely. It’s light and powerful. You can also check out http://mobileandroidsmartphones.net/ipad-air-vs-ipad-mini-with-retina-display-review/ for more details about these.

  • gewawd

    Hopefully not irrelevant but, do you guys have a link for that teal-colored wallpaper?

  • TiP_Cam JerenYun And if they are, then they’ve likely done your own research and don’t want my opinion.

  • mghapa

    I am debating on the two and while I am leaning towards the mini, as you are in this article, I figured I should ask anyways. I want an Ipad for my classes at college, which I plan on using a stylus for note taking over all the pdf slides they post. I have a 15 inch laptop that is a hassle to bring and the arm desks are kinda small. Anyways, in your professional opinion, would the screen real estate of the Ipad Air be more important or the portability of the mini retina?
       Money is not the issue, I do not plan on typing much on it, since I will just go back home and type on my laptop for papers and I just plan on mostly using this for classes. I am conflicted because throwing either the air or the mini in my backpack does not seem like it would be a problem, I heard the note taking apps are easy to use and have a zoom function when writing hopefully minimizing the size differential. Therefore, the mini seems like it would be just fine to write on even though it is smaller. However, in your article it says that you use the air for working and that seems to be my main focus. I look forward to what you think would be best in my situation, and thank you in advance.