Final Words

When I concluded our iPad Air review I assumed the iPad mini with Retina Display was a true no-compromise, smaller alternative to the iPad Air. In many senses that’s true. Wireless connectivity is identical between the models, battery life is pretty much the same as well. Peak performance is close and you no longer have to accept a lower resolution display. Last year’s iPad mini was easy to recommend, and this year’s is even easier. To my surprise however, the iPad Air continues to hold some advantages that may resonate well with some users.

The biggest in my eyes is the iPad Air’s wider gamut display with full sRGB coverage. The mini’s Retina Display is good, the Air’s is just better. There’s also more thermal headroom on the iPad Air, which can come in handy if you’re doing compute intensive work on it. If neither of those things matters to you, then the decision becomes one of usage model and portability. I believe the iPad Air does a better job of approximating a primary computing device, particularly in its ability to give you a reasonable sized virtual keyboard to work on. The iPad mini on the other hand is substantially more portable. Although the iPad Air is light enough to come along with me more than any prior iPad, the mini’s form factor makes it even more likely that’ll I’ll bring it with me (the best tablet is the one you have with you?).

As much as I prefer the iPad Air’s display and as much as I love having more performance, I’d probably lean towards the mini personally. The lower weight and smaller form factor are just tough to give up. Apple could’ve made the decision a lot easier by giving the mini true display parity with the Air though.

The mini with Retina Display sits at an interesting point in Apple's iPad lineup. Priced at $399, the higher-end mini is priced identically to the iPad 2 - which Apple continues to sell. I honestly can't see a situation outside of having poor vision where I'd recommend the iPad 2 over the iPad mini with Retina Display.

If you're on the fence about upgrading from an older iPad (or even the first gen mini), the iPad mini with Retina Display is a tempting target. Compared to virtually all previous iPads you're going to notice a substantial increase in performance thanks to Apple's A7 SoC. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the performance improvement over the previous generation mini (featuring Apple's A5) can be just as noticeable of an uprade as the display. The new mini is a leap forward in performance compared to its predecessor.

While Apple has the 10-inch tablet market more or less locked up with the iPad Air, the mini faces stiff competition. The biggest comes from Google with the $229 2013 Nexus 7. You get an incredibly affordable device and a display with full sRGB gamut. What the mini offers is a faster SoC, a wider display (a Nexus 8 would be nice) and of course, iOS. I’ve heard varying opinions on iOS vs. Android when talking about tablet or smartphone use. Some users prefer Android on one and iOS on the other, vice versa or find themselves exclusively in one camp. This one is best left up to personal preference. At $229 the Nexus 7 is a great option. If you prefer iOS however, the iPad mini with Retina Display is quite nice. The price hike vs. the standard mini can be a tough pill to swallow, but the A7 and display are definitely worth it.

Battery Life
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  • rake36 - Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - link

    It costs less than half as much. Currently $239 for 32GB version... Reply
  • Walkop - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    I'd like to comment that the Nexus 7 2013's power consumption on the display is incredibly low even at maximum brightness (which is extremely high, overall).

    1.7 watts. That's literally HALF the power consumption of the Retina Mini at max brightness, which is 32% dimmer than the Nexus 7. That alone is a massive gain; you should be able to use the Nexus 7 at maximum brightness much longer than the Mini. Not that this is a normal use case, but it IS good to know.

    See here: http://www.displaymate.com/Tablet_ShootOut_4.htm
    Reply
  • tigmd99 - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Did you not read his last paragraph? Or are you just a blind Android fanboy? Reply
  • BPB - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Yes, read it. No, not at all.

    I had to leave AT&T for work reasons so I had to give up my 920, which I loved. Have an HTC One and like it, but don't love it. I think too many Android apps are wanting, and I know in many cases the iOS version is better. My point is that this site's love for Apple knows no bounds. As soon as its founder switched it was all over, Apple could do no wrong. Yes, this is a nice device, no doubt. But the Nexus 7 is nice, and it's close to half the price. What does it take to simply admit that the 7 is probably the better buy for a person making a first time purchase? You pay 57% of what the mini costs! That's some deal in my mind, and yet I have no intention of buying either. I will probably get my daughter a Windows 8.1 tablet with good pen support so she can use OneNote, she is in college. My brother's family is all iOS, so I get them Apple related gifts. They're all good and have their strengths. But here, at this site, Apple is treated differently. If you don't think so just ask WP users.
    Reply
  • tigmd99 - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Why must he address every possibility or buying option? He stated that N7 is a very good alternative and cheaper. What do you want him to say? That it is superior in every way to iPad Mini? That would be stupid, no?

    A7 is far superior to Nexus 7 processor...far superior. App store, customer service, HD movies, etc. are better in iOS. (I have both at home, Note 2, Nexus 7 [2012], iPhones.) Do these things make up for the price difference? Well, only the end-user can determine that, which is kinda what Anandtech wrote.

    Be fair.
    Reply
  • Tetracycloide - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Because addressing the single most competitive alternative is 'addressing every option.' Please... Reply
  • KPOM - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    My guess is that people considering an iPad mini aren't looking at Windows 8.1 devices. They are targeted more toward the iPad Air buyer. The Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle HDX are the two devices most comparable to the iPad mini. Reply
  • kyuu - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    There are 8-inch Win8.1 tabs that are cheaper than the iPad Mini. Only reason someone wouldn't look at them is out of ignorance. Reply
  • abazigal - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    The reason I wouldn't consider windows tablets is simply because they don't meet my needs at all.

    Why would I want a 16:9 tablet running a desktop OS with apps still sporting a desktop UI?
    Reply
  • sirfergy - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    The Dell is 16:10, <$299 and amazing. Full PC plus excellent touch experience. Reply

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