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


View All Comments

  • CaptainStereo - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    Why don't the Apple haters just type out their same old gripes so they can just copy/paste to the comments section of every single Apple article they read. It would save them time, and give them more time to sit and stew and think about how much they hate Apple. Just a thought. Why whine about Apple's prices? Pick up an iPad or iPhone and then any Android product that isn't an HTC One. There is a reason it costs more, even if you disagree with the exact 'premium' they charge. Apple is in the business of building hardware, designing software, and selling those products into the marketplace. When the market for their products at the prices they ask goes away, then perhaps they'll take everyone's well-considered advice and revise their pricing strategy. Oh, and they are not a non-profit organization. They're in business to make money. Everyone seems so angry at them, just wanted to be sure everyone understood that making money is in fact exactly what they're in business for. It's what every business is for. The beauty of the world is that you can make money by following your passions and making products for others who share those passions and earn your living doing so. Reply
  • fantamic - Monday, December 02, 2013 - link

    "Why don't the Apple haters just type out their same old gripes so they can just copy/paste to the comments section of every single Apple article they read."

    What makes you think that they don't?
  • stevon - Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - link

    There are much better apps available for iPad. It's not even close in that category. Reply
  • Whodathunkthat - Monday, March 10, 2014 - link

    Not sure what you say isn't availble - Jeppesen has all those apps for android, as well as access to the stones and hendrix.

    So, somehow you are confused.
  • glenux - Thursday, May 01, 2014 - link

    Since the chips on the iPhone 5s and the iPad mini are exactly the same,
    do you ever see Apple making an iPhone out of an iPad mini?
    The iPhone screen is still too small for my vision.

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