New 9.7-inch iPad vs iPad Mini 4: Which iPad Should You Buy?

Apple just released a brand new iPad for 2017 under the name “iPad.” It starts at the cheapest price ever for a full-size iPad: just $329. However, Apple also made an interesting move by making a slight change to the iPad Mini 4. Leaving only the high-end 128GB storage option for the Mini, it now starts at $399. Does that mean the several-year-old iPad Mini 4 is better than this cheap new iPad? Not exactly. Let’s run through a comparison to figure out which is the best model for you.

iPad vs. iPad Mini 4 Specs

You might have heard that specs don’t matter very much. That’s true when comparing iOS and Android. For the sake of comparing two different iPads, they’re pretty important. So let’s go down the list.

The most prominent difference is of course the dimensions. The iPad Mini 4 is smaller and weighs less, making it more portable. The iPad has slimmed down over the years, but is surprisingly a millimeter thicker than the iPad Air 2 and ever so slightly heavier.

iPad vs. iPad Mini 4 dimensions. | Image credit: Apple

The new iPad runs on Apple’s A9 chip plus M9 motion coprocessor. The iPad Mini 4 uses the older and slower A8 and M8. The new iPad should be about 1.6x faster on the CPU and 1.8x faster with graphics according to Apple.

Both have the exact same camera. The backside is an 8MP shooter with an f/2.4 aperture plus supports 1080p HD video recording, 120 fps slo-mo at 720p, video stabilization, and 3x digital zoom. The front cameras are both 1.2MP with 720p HD recording and HDR.

Much like the cameras, nearly every other feature is the same also. Both of these iPads have Touch ID, two-speaker audio, Siri, and Bluetooth 4.2. They also lack compatibility with “pro” accessories like the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard.

Image credit: Apple

Finally, we reach the most important part of our comparison. Brace yourself. Yes, both the iPad and iPad Mini 4 come in silver, space gray, and gold.

9.7 Inches vs. 7.9 Inches

The new iPad features a 9.7-inch display that has survived the test of time since the very first iPad in 2010. The iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch display. Both have the same pixel resolution, though that means the iPad Mini actually has higher pixel density: 326 ppi vs. 264 ppi. Held a certain distance from the eye, it’s hardly discernible, though.

The iPad Mini also has a fully laminated display and an antireflective coating, while the new iPad does not. At certain angles you might notice a slight air gap between the display and cover glass as a result, but this actually improves repairability a bit. Some hardcore users might be disappointed overall by the steps back in display technology, but they’re likely to keep costs down. Most people won’t care about display lamination.

The new iPad has a brighter display as well. That should slightly mitigate concerns about the lack of an antireflective coating.

Image credit: Apple

If you’re undecided about size, I like to use the iPhone as a point of reference. Keep in mind that the newest iPhones have 4.7-inch displays and 5.5-inch displays. Rumors indicate a new iPhone coming out in 2017 could even have a 5.9-inch display. If you’re using one of these larger phones, you’re not likely to see much benefit from an iPad Mini. The 7.9-inch display is only a modest step up. I only recommend the iPad Mini for people using an iPhone SE, 5s, or older with a 4-inch display. That way you have more differentiation and variety in your line of Apple devices.

Pricing

The new iPad starts at $329 for 32GB of storage. The new iPad Mini 4 starts at $399 — $70 more — but you get 128GB of storage. There is no longer a 32GB option for the iPad Mini. For just $30 more than that, you can get a new 9.7-inch iPad with 128GB storage too.

It’s a similar story with the Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The 32GB and 128GB iPads are $459 and $559, respectively. The Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Mini is again $30 less at $529 for 128GB storage.

Apple priced the iPad Mini 4 quite oddly this time around. It would have made more sense at a $349 price point for 128GB of storage or even $369. With a 128GB iPad at $30 more, it’s hard to argue why anyone should buy an iPad Mini 4 especially since it’s a year and a half old now.

Image credit: Apple

The bottom line is most people should opt for the new iPad over an iPad Mini. It’s significantly faster with its A9 chip and has a brighter display. Best of all, it starts at $70 cheaper than the iPad Mini 4.

The only real reason to get an iPad Mini 4 in 2017 is if you absolutely need the 7.9-inch form factor or want to save a measly $30 on the 128GB of storage. Both cases are highly unlikely.