iPad Air vs iPad Mini (2021) comparison: Which one to buy?

iPad Air vs iPad Mini: Which one to buy in 2021
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A comparison between iPad Air vs iPad Mini, two of the most gorgeous Apple models. In many ways, a technical review of iPads, or any Apple product for that matter, is an exercise in futility. You’re either an Apple fanboy/girl or you’re not.

If you are, then Apple devices are simply the best and it’s pointless to compare them with other similar devices. Nothing else comes close. If you’re not an Apple fan, then their products, however, feature-laden and technically sound, are overpriced and overhyped. There’s just no middle ground.

The only Apple-to-Apple comparison that’s of interest to anyone, is one that compares the newest model with its predecessor so that the new features can be drooled over.

However, with both the iPad Air 2 and the new iPad Mini being freshly released into the wild, many people are agonizing over whether or not to “go large” with their iPad choice.

As always, it’s a purely personal decision. The two devices have a great deal more in common than ever before. So, you just need to decide which is the best one for you.

iPad Mini vs iPad Air: Comparing tablets

Let’s compare ipads, iPad Air vs iPad Mini machines.

iPAD Air 2

iPAD Mini 4

Screen and Display

9.7-Inch Retina Display; 2048x1536 Resolution; 264 PPI; LED-backlit

7.9" Retina Display, 2048 x 1536 Resolution; 326 PPI; Antireflective coating

iOS

Apple iOS 8

Apple iOS 9

CPU and RAM

1.5 GHZ with 2GB of Ram

1.5 GHZ with 2GB of Ram

Storage Space

16GB - 128 GB

16GB - 128 GB

Dimensions

9.4 x 6.67 x 0.24 inches

8 x 5.31 x 0.24 inches

Weight

437 g

299 g

Camera

8 MP

8 MP

Connectivity

Wi‑Fi + Cellular

Wi‑Fi + Cellular

Buttons and Connectors

- Home/​Touch ID sensor
- Built‑in stereo speakers
- Lightning connector
- 3.5 mm headphone jack
- Dual microphones
- On/Off - Sleep/Wake
- Volume up/down
- Nano-SIM tray (cellular models)

- Built‑in stereo speakers
- Lightning connector
- Home/​Touch ID sensor
- 3.5 mm headphone jack
- On/Off - Sleep/Wake
- Dual microphones
- Volume up/down
- Nano-SIM tray (cellular models)

Camera

- 8MP iSight camera
- Autofocus
- Panorama (43MP)
- Auto HDR on photos
- Timer mode
- Auto image stabilization

- 8MP camera
- Autofocus
- Panorama (43MP)
- Auto HDR on photos
- Timer mode
- Auto image stabilization

Rating

The long and the short of it is that, in terms of performance, iPad Air vs iPad Mini, are so similar that you couldn’t slide a credit card between them.

apple ipad air

iPad Air
1,568 Reviews
iPad Air
  • This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new,...
  • Apple iOS 8; 9.7-Inch Retina Display; 2048x1536 Resolution
  • A8X Chip with 64-bit Architecture; M8 Motion Coprocessor
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac): 16 GB Capacity: 2GB RAM

apple ipad mini

iPad Mini
  • This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new,...
  • Apple iOS 8, 7.9-Inch Retina Display; 2048x1536 Resolution; Up to 10 Hours of Battery...
  • A7 Chip with 64-bit Architecture; M7 Motion Coprocessor
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); 16 GB Capacity

iPad Air vs iPad Mini: In-Depth Comparison

Read also iPad Air vs iPad Pro comparison.

Some Apple users were a little worried that Apple would “hold back” a little on the new iPad Mini, just to make sure that the iPad remained as the flagship product. In fact, the iPad Mini has been outselling the iPad for some time now – and it looks like Apple has (finally) admitted that it may be, for many people, the main event.

The first thing we want to point out about the new Mini is that it is incredibly similar to the Air. The only notable difference is the introduction of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and the gold casing option along with the silver and slate grey. Now let’s start with the comparison of the Apple tablets.

Design

ipad air or ipad mini - choose the ipad air for better design
AIR vs MINI

The Apple Mini is beautiful in design, build, and quality. Its brushed aluminum iPad case, available in the previously mentioned new gold finish, as well as the silver and slate grey options.

The addition of the gold model didn’t come as a huge surprise, as it brings the iPad range in line with the new iPhone ranges.

The gold option was first introduced with the iPhone 5S, and now, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both come in gold too. Apple has said that the gold option has proven to be a very popular color choice for the iPhone.

The beveled edges surrounding the glass front of the Minni add to the overall premium finish and look great paired with the Home button’s new Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which has a matching metal ring around it.

The Apple Air 2 is a super-fast, amazingly thin tablet with stunning looks. Find out more in our iPad Air 2 detailed review, which includes camera tests, audio tests, speed tests, battery tests, and an insight into the iPad’s features, design, and specifications.

Apple’s iPad Air has landed and unlike its little brother, the iPad Mini 3 – it has been adorned with enhancements and new features. It’s super-fast, it’s super thin and it’s super gorgeous to look at.

Check out more articles: Apple iPad review, and the iPad 1 vs iPad 2 comparison.

Screen & Display

Both devices have the same screen resolution – 2048 x 1536. Of course, since the iPad Mini has a smaller screen, that means that it has a significantly higher number of pixels-per-inch (PPI). The iPad Mini has (326 PPI) whereas the iPad Air has 264 PPI.

Theoretically, the iPad Mini should look better – but it’s worth pointing out that it does have a slightly smaller color palette than the Apple Air so, in some instances, color reproduction may be just a little less true to life.

Most users will see no recognizable difference of course. Unless you’re in the habit of working with a Mini in your left hand and an Air in your right, you will be blissfully unaware of this.

Not sure why Apple went down this route. Having gone to some lengths to produce identical specs across the devices, it seems odd – unless they felt that the smaller device, especially considering the enhanced PPI value, just didn’t need such a wide range of colors.

Apple hasn’t made any changes to the 7.9-inch Retina display on the new Mini 3, but it remains to be a great screen that owners of the original Apple iPad are missing out on.

It also displays and retains the same resolution: 2048 x 1536 resolution at 326 pixels per inch. That’s a better pixel density than the iPad Air 2 which the same resolution but at 264 pixels per inch due to the bigger screen.

Which iPad is better in Day-to-day use?

ipad mini or ipad air - choose the mini for day to day use

Fact: The iPad Mini is only 7.5mm in thickness (for comparison, the Air 2 is an amazing 6.1mm), and weighs 331g for the WiFi-only model or 341g for the WiFi + Cellular model.

We didn’t once think that the iPad Mini should be thinner, but we did occasionally feel that it’s a little bit heavy when holding it in one hand for more than 10 minutes, particularly with Apple’s Smart Cover attached. Apple’s Mini 1 was actually a bit lighter than the second and third versions, so we’d like to see Apple shave off a few grams with the next generation of Mini.

Strangely, the larger Apple Ipad Air (which has a 9.7inch display rather than a 7.9inch display) felt more comfortable to hold, despite being around 100gm’s heavier. Probably something to do with the different way we actually hold the device during use.

Battery Life

The iPad Air has a larger battery than the one we find on its contender. 32.4 Watt-hour capacity for the Air versus 23.8 for the Mini. Of course, with its smaller screen, the second one can afford to have a smaller battery.

Both devices should give you about 10 hours of use between battery charges – although I did see one review where the Air was reckoned to have about an extra 10 minutes juice over the Mini. Personally speaking, I think that’s close enough to call them equivalent in terms of battery life.

Size and Weight

Rather obviously, the iPad Air(9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29″ and weighs in at 1.0 lb) is bigger and heavier than the iPad Mini [ measures 7.87″ x 5.83″ x 0.29″ and weighs 0.73 lb (11.68 ounces)]

You can use either device with just one hand, but the Mini will be easier to pack away into your bag or purse.

Fingerprint sensor

The Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the Mini 3 works to perfection, not a single problem. It’s a doddle to set up and easy to use. If you own an iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6+ then it will come naturally to you. It’s a huge time saver, as you don’t need to enter your passcode every time you want to unlock it.

This new technology also allows you to unlock certain apps and make purchases in the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBooks Store. If your favorite shopping sites have Apple Pay implemented, you will be able to use it to do your online shopping.

Apple Pay and Touch ID will not work in shops and stores, Apple obviously believes that people are unlikely to take their iPad shopping in the real world, I tend to disagree.

Apple iPad Air: Overall Performance

The Air 2 has a new processor chip. Actually, it’s a newer version of the processor chip that was launched in October 2014. It is the A8X, an enhanced version of the A8 chip that first made its appearance in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last month.

Apple has said that last year’s A7 chip was a departure from the norm. Normally Apple makes specific chips for the iPad. Because of the scale with 64bit Apple was able to use the A7 chips in its devices last year, but this year Apple has given the new iPad Air an all-new singing and dancing power processor. Welcome to our Planet The A8X.

This chip offers 64-bit powerhouse architecture and 3 billion transistors. It is the only model to receive this new processor. Apple says the CPU performance is 12x faster than the original version. The second Air version, on the other hand, is incredibly powerful judging by our benchmark tests, scoring 1818 in the single-core test and a whopping 4520 in the multi-core test.

As for graphics, the Mini 3 is good but isn’t in the same league as the Air 2. It scored 8.9fps in the Manhattan onscreen test in GFXBench, identical to the Mini 2 but way behind the 24.6fps of the Apple Air 2. The T-Rex test results were more impressive, at 22.7fps for the Minis and an incredible 52fps for the Air 2.

When it comes to SunSpider, the javascript browser test, the Mini 3 scored a speedy 449ms, just like its predecessor. The Air 2 scored a staggeringly fast 287ms and the Mini 1 was painfully slow at 1,503ms.

Apple iPad Mini: Overall Performance

mini or air overall performance

The Apple device has, you guessed it, the exact same processor as the Apple Mini 2 – the A7. It seems as though Apple has focused most of its attention on the iPad Air 2 (above left) this time around, which has a very powerful (and actually new) A8X chip.

Last year we were surprised that really the only difference between these 2 was their size. Now there will be more reasons to buy an Apple tablet, which is good news for Apple as they can make more money from that model, but also a bit disappointing for lovers of the smaller form factor.

Not that the A7 chip is a slouch. It’s a very fast, 64-bit processor. The device also features the M7 motion co-processor, which helps save power by taking on the task of measuring motion using the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Both the A7 and M7 feature in the iPhone 5s.

We carried out benchmark tests to find out whether there’s any difference at all between it and its predecessor when it comes to speed and performance (perhaps it was wishful thinking) and also how it compares with the brilliant Apple Air device.

In the Geekbench 3.0 performance test, we found that the Mini 3 (running iOS 8.1) scored 1376 in the single-core test and 2483 in the multi-core test.

That is much better than the previous versions running iOS 8.1, though, which scored a significantly lower 260 (single) and 494 (multi).

Who Should Choose The iPad Air?

who should choose the ipad air

The main attraction with the Air tablet (at least in comparison to the Mini tablet) is the large screen size.

If you want a larger screen, maybe if you need to be working with large spreadsheets or other very detailed work, then the Apple Air tablet is a great option for you.

If you have a very particular need for extremely accurate color rendition under all circumstances, then the Air might just have a slight advantage over the Mini.

The Air also has that marginally faster processor speed – but really, most people won’t notice the difference. However, if you insist upon the absolute top processor speed, then the Air has a very slight edge.

And, even although it is larger than the Mini, it’s still very portable – it’s called the Air for a reason after all! Both devices are super slim and the Air, even although it is the larger of the two, still weighs just one pound.

Who Should Choose The iPad Mini?

who should choose the ipad mini

It’s a matter of individual preference of course, but personally speaking, I think that the iPad Mini Retina is pretty much the sweet spot for most potential tablet users.

Its combination of low price (by Apple standards at least), high performance, top build quality, and small size and lightweight portability will be more than enough to see it become the best-selling tablet in 2014.

It’s a huge improvement on the old Mini – which was already outselling the “full size” iPad and had become Apple’s main offering. Previous iPad owners will be very pleasantly surprised, and first-time users will be delighted at the ease of use, portability, and overall quality (it just feels good – you know?) of the Mini.

Treat yourself – or choose it as a gift for a family member and guarantee yourself favored partner/parent/uncle aunt status for years to come!

iPad Air vs iPad Mini: Final Verdict

The Mini is not a bad tablet. In fact, it’s a rather good one, but it’s a bit of a poor offering. We would find it hard to recommend buying the Mini when the hugely more powerful and impressive iPad Air 2 is just around $100 more.

The only reason to buy the Mini instead of the other devices available is if you’re set on a 7.9in screen and are desperate for a gold model. And maybe if you think you can not live without Touch ID. If that’s you then you won’t be disappointed by this tablet, but a new processor and some other spec upgrades would have certainly have been appreciated.

When comparing the iPad Air vs iPad Mini the first thing to know is that the iPad Air is bigger, heavier but thinner compared to iPad Mini. In terms of performance, both devices are identical. Your buying decision probably comes down to whether or not you prefer a large screen or the convenience of a slightly lighter and more portable device.

In fact, both are easily portable and both can be used with just one hand.

Unless you’re going to be working with large spreadsheets or data charts, you might find that holding the Mini a little closer to your eyes is a perfectly acceptable solution.

Currently, the Mini is outselling the iPad. It has, despite some of the limitations of the previous model, become Apple’s flagship tablet. Most people will find it more than sufficient for their mobile tablet requirements – wrapped in a neat and tidy little package – and with a smaller price tag as well.

Last update on 2021-05-03 / This post contains Affiliate links.