iPad Air vs. iPad 4 vs. Retina iPad mini vs. iPad mini: Which iPad should you buy?

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ipad-retina-hero-2014Apple’s relaunched the fourth generation iPad yesterday, replacing the iPad 2 in the company’s tablet lineup. With a $399 price tag and a reasonable set of specs,  you may be wondering whether the full-size tablet is worth purchasing. It’s a difficult decision , especially when you consider the $499 iPad Air and the $399 Retina iPad Mini.  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 — Full-size or Mini?

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.

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 fit the tablet in the pocket of a bag and go. When out and about, these users still have a comfortable-sized screen when they need to look up something or have some free time for a movie. The iPad mini is also perfect for gaming as it is a great size for on-screen controls.

Consider how you will use your iPad before you decide between the 9.7-inch iPad and the smaller iPad mini, will you use your tablet mostly at home or are you always on the go? Once you decide between mini or the full-size form factor, then you can start thinking about individual models and which one is the best fit for your needs.

The iPad Air versus the iPad 4

There are two options for full-size tablet users — the new iPad Air and the recently relaunched iPad 4. A quick look at the chart below, and it is readily apparent that the iPad Air is superior to the iPad 4, but not by a significant amount. Both models have the same resolution display, have newer processors (A6X and the A7), and run iOS 7 like a champ. Across the board, the Air is faster and lighter than the iPad 4, but is that bump worth the extra cost?

Once again, you need to consider how you will use your iPad, with size being the major difference between the two iPad models. The iPad 4 is noticeably thicker and heavier than the iPad Air, making it difficult to hold for a long period of time. This extra bulk doesn’t matter if you plan to use the iPad at your desk, but it is a factor for those using the tablet on the couch or in bed. The iPad Air is noticeably smaller and lighter, making it suitable for reading or long gaming sessions that require you to hold your device.

Price also is a factor in the decision-making process with the iPad Air starting at $499 for the base 16 GB WiFi-only model. The iPad 4 is $100 cheaper, but it is only available in a 16 GB configuration. If you think you need more than 16 GB of storage, then your only option is the iPad Air.

ipad-air600

Choosing between the iPad Air and the iPad 4 is not an easy decision. The fourth generation iPad is a very capable device, will likely be supported by Apple for the next few years and is $100 less than the iPad Air. The iPad Air, though, is Apple’s flagship device. It has a thin profile that makes it delightful to hold and is powerful enough to run any game you throw at it. You can view a rundown of the tech specs for each tablet below.

iPad Air

iPad  4

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): 1.44 pounds (652 g)
  • Weight (Wi‑Fi + Cellular): 1.46 pounds (662 g)
Display
  • Retina display
  • 9.7‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264 ppi
  • Retina display
  • 9.7‑inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264 ppi
Chip
  • A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
  • Dual-core A6X with quad-core graphics
RAM 1GB 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
  • 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 cellular
  • 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 32-watt-hour 42.5-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 4.0 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 and Rev. B
  • UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA
  • LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 13, 25) or (Bands 4 and 17)
Sensors
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
Connector Lightning Lightning
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. Your choice comes down to price, performance and screen resolution. If you want a high-resolution screen for movies, photos and games, then be prepared to shell out the extra money for the Retina iPad mini. You won’t be disappointed by the performance of the tablet and the extra $100 you paid will be money well spent.

ipad-mini-performance_hero
If you plan on using the mini for web browsing, social networking and personal information management, then you can happily use the original iPad mini and save yourself some cash. The original iPad mini is only available with 16GB of storage, which could be an issue for customers who want to store movies and music on their device. These customers, though, are not the target market for the original iPad and likely will buy the Retina model just for the improved graphics.

Even though the original iPad mini is older, it still is worthing purchasing. I own one, and it handles almost everything that I throw at it. I don’t notice the lower resolution display and would recommend it to anyone looking to grab an iPad for the least amount of money. You can compare the hardware specs of Apple’s two mini tablet devices in the table 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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