iPad Air vs. Retina iPad mini vs. iPad 2 vs iPad mini: Which iPad should you buy

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Apple’s iPad Air goes on sale starting Friday, and you may be wondering whether the full-size tablet is worth its price tag. Adding some difficulty to the decision is the introduction of the iPad Mini with Retina Display, and Apple’s continued sale of the non-Retina iPad mini and the iPad 2. So many iPads, which one should you buy?  Read on as we discuss each model and offer some buying advice below.


Let’s size things up
The first thing you should consider when buying an iPad is size. Do you want a larger 9.7-inch display or a smaller 7.9-inch screen? I’ve owned both models and can tell you that the larger iPad is great for reading, browsing the web and watching movies. It’s also the preferred size if you are drawing, writing or editing media files. Because of its size, it is more of an at-home or at-work device than a portable device. You need to have a good-sized bag to accommodate the larger form factor of the full-size iPad.

iPadAir-iPadMini

You can still edit documents, browse the web and watch movies on the smaller iPad mini, but the experience is not as enjoyable as it is on the larger screen of the 9.7-inch iPad. The smaller size of the iPad mini, though, makes it perfect for mobile users who can easily stow the tablet in the pocket of a bag and go. When out and about, these users will have a comfortable-sized screen when they need to look up something or have some free time for a movie.

Before you decide between the 9.7-inch iPad and the smaller iPad mini, consider how you will use your iPad . Will you use your tablet mostly at home or are you a traveler who wants an iPad while on the go? Once you decide between the iPad mini or the full-size iPad, then you can consider the individual models like the iPad Air, iPad 2, iPad mini with Retina display and original iPad mini.

The iPad Air versus the iPad 2

There are two options for full-size tablet users — the new iPad Air and the older iPad 2. A quick look at the chart below, and it is readily apparent that the iPad Air is far superior to the iPad 2. Across the board, the Air is faster, lighter and better than the iPad 2. The only criteria in which the iPad 2 beats the iPad Air is size, with the iPad 2 being larger and heavier than its newer counterpart.  This size difference is a detractor and not something to add to the plus column for the iPad 2. When it comes down to it, I cannot recommend the iPad 2, at least not for customers who are buying new. It’s only $100 cheaper than the iPad Air and is a far less capable device. My advice would be to spend a bit more and get the iPad Air, you won’t be disappointed.

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I will say this, the iPad 2 is not a horrible device. I have one and it still runs 90% of the apps that  throw at it. If you found one on sale or used for a very good price, I would not hesitate to pick one up. It is a great tablet for kids or for media consumption. I just wouldn’t buy it new for $399, when you can get the significantly better iPad Air for $100 more. You can view a rundown of the tech specs for each tablet below.

iPad Air

iPad 2

Models Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular
Size
  • Height: 9.4 inches (240 mm)
  • Width: 6.6 inches (169.5 mm)
  • Depth: 0.29 inch (7.5 mm)
  • Height: 9.50 inches (241.2 mm)
  • Width: 7.31 inches (185.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.34 inch (8.8 mm)
Weight
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi): 1 pound (469 g)
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi + Cellular): 1.05 pounds (478 g)
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi): 1.33 pounds (601 g)
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi + Cellular): 1.35 pounds (613 g)
Display
  • Retina display
  • 9.7‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264 ppi
  • Non-Retina display
  • 9.7‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
  • 1024-by-768 resolution at 132 ppi
Chip
  • A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
  • 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 chip
  • with dual-core graphics
RAM 1GB? (to be confirmed) 512 MB
Capacity 16, 32, 64 or 128GB 16GB
iSight Camera
  • 5MP photos
  • Autofocus
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • Five-element lens
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • HDR photos
  • 960 x 720 photos
  • Autofocus
  • HDR photos
FaceTime Camera
  • 1.2MP photos
  • 720p HD video
  • FaceTime video calling over Wi‑Fi or cellular
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • VGA photos
  • VGA video
  • FaceTime video calling over Wi‑Fi or cellular
Video Recording
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Tap to focus while recording
  • Video stabilization
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • 3x video zoom
  • 720p HD video recording
  • Tap to focus while recording
Battery Capacity 32-watt-hour 25-watt-hour
Battery Life
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data network
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data network
Wireless
  • Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n; 802.11n on 2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0 technology
  • Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n; 802.11n on 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR technology
Cellular
  • GSM/EDGE
  • CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B
  • UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA
  • LTE (14 bands)
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • GSM/EDGE
  • CDMA EV-DO Rev. A
  • UMTS/HSPA
Sensors
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
Connector Lightning 30-pin
Colors Silver, Space Gray Black, White
Base Price $499 $399

Retina iPad mini versus the original iPad mini

If you decide that you want an iPad mini, you have a difficult decision ahead of you. The Retina iPad mini and the original iPad mini are very similar in form factor and in most major specs. The only significant differences between the two devices are pricing, the processor and the display. The Retina iPad mini costs $100 more than the original iPad, but you get a boost in processing power and display resolution for that money.

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If money is not a factor, then you should opt for the Retina iPad mini, you’ll get a device with Apple’s latest A7 processor and a high-resolution display. If you are looking to save money, then you should be comfortable buying the original iPad mini. I have the original iPad mini, and it has handled anything that I throw at it. I don’t notice the lower resolution display and would recommend it to anyone looking to get into an iPad for the least amount of money. You  can compare the hardware specs of the two tablet devices in the below:

iPad mini with Retina Display Original iPad mini
Models Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular
Size
  • Height: 7.87 inches (200 mm)
  • Width: 5.3 inches (134.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.29 inch (7.5 mm)
  • Height: 7.87 inches (200 mm)
  • Width: 5.3 inches (134.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.28 inch (7.2 mm)
Weight
  • Wi-Fi model: 0.73 pound (331 g)
  • Wi-Fi+Cellular model: 0.75 pound (341 g)
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi): 0.68 pound (308 g)
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi + Cellular): 0.69 pound (312 g)
Display
  • Retina display
  • 7.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2048-by-1536 resolution at 326 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • 7.9‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
  • 1024-by-768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch (ppi)
Chip A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor Dual-core A5
RAM 1GB? (to be confirmed) 512MB
Capacity 16, 32, 64 or 128GB 16GB
iSight Camera
  • 5MP photos
  • Autofocus
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • Five-element lens
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • HDR photos
  • 5MP photos
  • Autofocus
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • Five-element lens
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • HDR photos
FaceTime Camera
  • 1.2MP photos
  • 720p HD video
  • FaceTime video calling over Wi‑Fi or cellular
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • 1.2MP photos
  • 720p HD video
  • FaceTime video calling over Wi‑Fi or cellular3
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
Video Recording
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Tap to focus while recording
  • Video stabilization
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • 3x video zoom
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Tap to focus while recording
  • Video stabilization
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
Battery Capacity
  • 23.8-watt-hour
  • mAh to be confirmed
  • 16.3-watt-hour
  • 4440 mAh
Battery Life
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data network
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data network
Wireless
  • Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n; 802.11n on 2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0 technology
  • Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n; 802.11n on 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 technology
Cellular
  • GSM/EDGE
  • CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B
  • UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA
  • LTE (13 bands)
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • GSM/EDGE
  • CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B
  • UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA
  • LTE (5 bands)
  • GPS and GLONASS
Sensors
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
Connector Lightning Lightning
Colors Silver, Space Gray Black & Slate, White & Silver
Storage 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB 16GB
Pricing
  • $399 for 16GB [Wi-Fi only], $529 [Wi-Fi+Cellular]
  • $499 for 32GB [Wi-Fi only], $629 [Wi-Fi+Cellular]
  • $599 for 64GB [Wi-Fi only], $729 [Wi-Fi+Cellular]
  • $699 for 128GB [Wi-Fi only], $829 [Wi-Fi+Cellular]
  • $299 for 16GB [Wi-Fi only], $429 [Wi-Fi+Cellular]

 

Big, little, retina or non-retina? Which iPad model are you going to choose?

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