iPad Mini vs. iPad Air: Retina Display Tablets Compared

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iPad mini with Retina displayiPad Air
Starting Price$399$499
CPUA7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessorA7 chip with 64-bit architectureand M7 motion coprocessor
Display7.9 inches / 2048 x 15369.7 inches / 2048 x 1536
OSiOS 7iOS 7
StrorageOptions16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
Battery Estimated 10 hoursEstimated 10 hours
Size7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches
Weight0.73 pounds (Wi-Fi only)1.0 pound (Wi-Fi only)
Cameras Rear / Front5-MP / 1.2-MP5-MP  / 1.2-MP
Video Recording1080p HD video1080p HD video

If you don’t already own a tablet--or if yours is showing its age--chances are you’ll probably be eyeing a new slate this holiday season. And both the $399 iPad Mini with Retina Display and the $499 iPad Air are expected to be among the hottest sellers. With the iPad Air, Apple has taken design cues from its iPad mini to create a lighter, thinner, and more ergonomically-friendly design. The biggest change on the mini is its much sharper screen. So which tablet should you buy?

Both the iPad Air and new mini share identical specs, from Apple’s new A7 processor and M7 coprocessor to the 5-megapixel iSight camera. And both tablets can run the more than 475,000 iPad apps available in the App Store. Here's how to decide which iPad is right for you.

FULL REVIEWS: iPad mini Retina Display Review * iPad Air Review


Before the iPad Air launched, Apple’s 9.7-inch tablet differed from its smaller counterpart in terms of design. While the iPad Mini sports angular edges, previous iPad generations had a more rounded look. Now, however, Apple has given its full-sized iPad Air a mini makeover, with the 9.7-inch slate sporting a cleaner and sleeker aesthetic with smaller bezels and chamfered edges. This makes the Air easier to grip with one hand.

Still, there's no denying that the new iPad mini is more compact. The iPad Air measures 9.4 x 6.6 x  0.9 inches and weighs one pound, while the iPad Mini with Retina display measures 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches and weighs 0.73 ounces. The mini is small enough to easily slip into a purse or even a larger coat pocket. The Air is fairly small given its big display, but you'll need a larger purse or bag to carry it.


At 7.9 inches, the iPad Mini comes with a screen that’s noticeably smaller than its 9.7-inch full-sized companion. Apple designed the mini so that you can still enjoy all of the apps without them feeling scrunched, but some will prefer the extra real estate the Air provides. That’s not the only difference between the two slates’ displays.

Both the iPad Air and second-gen iPad Mini feature a Retina display, which means they sport a resolution of 2048 x 1536. However, the iPad mini packs more pixels per inch, giving it a 326 ppi as opposed to the iPad Air’s 264 ppi. In other words, images may appear sharper.

As previously noted by DisplayMate’s Dr. Raymond Soneira, an iPad needs to be held within 18 inches of your eye to really appreciate display quality. Even then, photographic images are “inherently fuzzy” according to Soneira.

Still, the report says that a higher ppi should be especially noticeable when reading, which is crucial for a smaller tablet such as the new iPad mini.

There's another difference between the two displays. In side-by-side tests viewing the same image of a colorful green lizard and the new "Hunger Games" trailer, the iPad Air's panel delivered more saturated colors and deeper blacks.

MORE: 25 Best iPad Apps

Use Cases

If you’re seeking a tablet for consuming rather than creating content, the new iPad mini may be the better choice. It's easier to hold with one hand, which makes it a better choice for reading. And while you can use all of the same apps that the Air runs, some of the buttons and on-screen items will look smaller and are slightly harder to target, such as in iMovie. On the other hand, it's easier to type while standing up with the mini than the Air.

Those looking for an Apple tablet for productivity should check out the iPad Air. Paired with a keyboard case such as the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Case or the Zaggkeys Folio Case, the iPad Air could become a laptop alternative. (There are keyboards available for the mini, too, but the layouts are smaller.) At the same time, some may prefer the Air's larger screen when viewing content, especially when there are multiple viewers or you're using it in a situation where you're a few feet away--such as in the kitchen.

Pricing and Value

Probably owing to its smaller size, the iPad mini with Retina display costs $100 less than the Air. Of course, storage capacity and Wi-Fi-only vs. cellular editions also factor into the final price. Here’s a look at how the two compare.

The iPad Air 16GB Wi-Fi only edition sells for $499, while the 32GB version costs $599. Paying $699 will get you 64GB and 128GB costs $799. Those prices jump a bit if you want both cellular and Wi-Fi support: $629 for 16GB, $729 for 32GB, $829 for 64GB and $929 for 128GB.

If you slash $100 off those prices, the iPad mini with Retina display’s pricing looks like this: Wi-Fi only models cost $399 for 16GB, $499 for 32GB, $599 for 64GB and $699 for 128GB. With cellular, the tablet costs $529 for 16GB, $629 for 32GB, $729 for 64GB and $829 for 128GB.

Bottom Line

Both the iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina display are great choices for those in the market for a new tablet. If you want a slate that’s slightly cheaper, easier to tote in your bag and lighter to hold in one hand, go for the iPad mini with Retina display. If you want something a little larger that you can use with a keyboard, or if you need the extra screen space for creating content or watching movies, the iPad Air is a better choice. We also slightly prefer the more saturated colors offered by the Air's screen. Both slates are nearly identical in terms of most specs and software, so you won’t be compromising any features or functionality by choosing one over the other.

Lisa Eadicicco
LAPTOP Staff Writer
Lisa has been reporting on all things mobile for Laptopmag.com since early 2013. When she’s not reviewing gadgets, she’s usually browsing patent databases or interviewing experts to track down the hottest tech trends before they even happen. Lisa holds a B.A. in Journalism from SUNY Purchase and has contributed to The International Business Times, The New York Daily News and Guitar World Magazine.