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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  • BPB - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Came here just to see if the Apple love would be 10 out of 10, or 11 out of 10. Not surprised it's an 11. Reply
  • Jaaap - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    There are also al lot of verifiable facts in the article. Reply
  • BearT - Saturday, November 16, 2013 - link

    Liked the article: 1. The display of iPad mini w/ Retina is superb, and its size dwarfs that of others in this category (e.g. Nexus 7). This matters to me as I read magazines in portrait mode. 2. I tried the browsers from a number of devices. The "Reader" feature of Safari is a must, if you loathe online ads as much as I do. 3. The high fidelity of the FaceTime "audio" is uncanny; one has to try it to appreciate the "pin-drop" sound across the globe, okay, just the long-distance. The normal phone audio doesn't come close in clarity! Reply
  • eggcustard - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    I use Readability on my N7. Reply
  • RannXeroxx - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link

    Looks like an interesting app, going to try it out. Thanks. Reply
  • julandorid - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    Actually, the final rating is pretty accurate! The review mention all of the important flaws as the quality of the display which is still decent but not quite as good as it is on the Nexus 7. Also a very important thing is the price. The author of this review is not convinced that (double) price is justified anyhow. Actually the contrary. He practically encourage the buyers to take the Nexus 7 in serious consideration.

    My personal opinion is the display is not that bad as it is described, but it is entirely a conscious decision made by Apple to calibrate the display with much lower brightens in order to achieve a good battery and correct gamma. If they decided to put an extra power to the led backlight and does a different calibration then I guess we would have a better screen but in the expense of pretty bad battery life. Apple did a smart move by offering great performance and good battery life. Probably no body will notice the display since it is already better (I mean sharper) that it was previously. That gives Apple another chance, next year to advertize an even better iPad mini.

    The only serious concern that I have is the price! It is a known fact for years that Apple never rise the price (because it is already too high anyway) and always keep it the same while refreshing the product's internal and external components with better ones. However this year they decided to do the opposite - to increase the price even further.

    So, for me was no-brainer to go with the new Nexus 7. Great device, great display. I always smile when I look at it.
    Reply
  • Mahadragon - Sunday, November 17, 2013 - link

    True, Apple generally keeps the price of devices like the iPhone and iPad the same. The iPhone 5S is the same price as the iPhone 5, however, you fail to take into consideration that the iPhone 5S has the same screen as the iPhone 5. The 5S has a finger print sensor and uses the A7 processor, those were the upgrades.

    The iPad Mini (original) made 2 steps up in processing power going from the A5 to the A7 processor and made a massive leap in resolution going to the retina screen. The Mini Retina also requires a much larger battery than the previous Mini to power all that nice hi-resolution screen which actually forced Apple to make an iPad Mini that is thicker and slightly heavier than the previous generation.

    In short, the upgrade path from the original Mini to the Mini Retina was not a standard upgrade. It was a massive upgrade which prompted a much larger price increase.
    Reply
  • winkgood - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Sounds like you are just making excuses for Apple. When they went from the ipad 2 (non-retina) to ipad 3 (retina), they kept the same price even though the new device has a better soc and higher resolution. (2 steps up)

    I believe they kept the same price point when they went from the iphone 3gs to 4 and from the 4s to 5, both of which involved improved screens and better guts. (2 steps up)

    They got greedy and wanted to keep their insanely high margins.
    Reply
  • ws3 - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    Apple's margins are not insanely high, as proven by the fact that for most of their products, they sell everything they make. How long has the iPhone 5s been out now and most Apple stores still can't keep them in stock. Reply
  • ELPCU - Monday, November 18, 2013 - link

    There is no doubt that Apple's margin are insanely high. Especially in phone area, they are making a tons of margin per phone. I do not know how can u say this stupid argument. Don't you see how expensive every fucking Apple accessory is? Don't you see how much apple makes u pay for increase tiny bit of storage? Go check isuppli, and look up their bill of material.

    I need to admit iPad, especially iPad mini series with 16GB wifi's margin is not too high, but margin from iphone per every fucking phone is just ridiculus. Why? because your phone cost is very deceptive, since 2/3~ish price is hidden under contract. You feels you are just paying 200 bucks per phone(for lowest storage), but apple takes bunch of money from AT&T or T-mobile, etc. You are actually paying 650 bucks(unlocked phone price). Most of iphone series have approximately SAMEish bill of material. around 200 bucks including manufactuing cost, and margin rates of higher storage one gets increased even more.

    Bill of material is not exact number used for calculating margin, because of warranty cost, marketing cost, licensing cost, etc, but if you uses 150% of BOM, which will give very close number of real unit price.

    Which means apple is making more than 100% margin rate in phone market.
    You think more than 100% of margin rate is not insanely high? you must be kidding me.
    Reply

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