Updated: May 18
The iPad now comes in three different sizes including a whopping 12.9-inch “iPad Pro”, so it is no wonder why it is getting harder and harder to decide which iPad model is the best to buy. But in tablets, size doesn’t always matter. And sometimes, smaller can be better, especially when it comes to a smaller price tag. So instead of shopping for the iPad Pro or looking at an iPad Air 2, should you just buy an iPad Mini 4?
The iPad Mini is an iPad… Only Smaller!
One common misconception about the iPad Mini 4 is that of a tradeoff in performance. While the iPad Pro is by far the fastest, most powerful iPad, the iPad Mini 4 and the iPad Air 2 are very similar in terms of performance. The iPad Mini 4 uses the same 64-bit A8 processor found in the iPhone 6, which puts it in the same ballpark as the iPad Air 2.
The biggest difference between the two is the iPad Air 2’s A8X processor use of three core processors compared to the dual-core of the A8, which will make the Air 2 faster at multitasking. The iPad Mini 4 also matches the iPad Air 2’s 2 GB of RAM memory for applications.
Feature for feature, the iPad Mini 4 is an iPad Air 2 except for size and the slight trade off in performance. This includes the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and even the 2048×1536 resolution “Retina Display”. In fact, that Retina Display is actually a little sharper because the smaller screen gives it a higher pixel density.
The iPad Mini 4 also has an edge over other 7-inch tablets. The 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4 may seem like it only adds an extra .9 of an inch, that small increase of size actually amounts to about 35% more usable space on the tablet’s display.
Where the iPad Mini 4 Shines?
The iPad Mini 4 offers a great degree of mobility, fitting into a woman’s purse or sliding into the side pocket of a backpack.
It is also much easier to hold and operate with one hand, giving you a hand free and much more freedom to walk-and-use.
If you are more comfortable typing with two thumbs rather than your fingertips, you can really go to town on the smaller on-screen keyboard.
The 7-inch tablets tend to be really good at media consumption, and the iPad Mini is no different. It makes the perfect eReader, with access to several different eBook stores including iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle store. The 7-inch form is great for laying in bed reading a book or watching movies.
Where the iPad Mini 4 Falls Short?
The biggest detractor from the iPad Mini 4 was once it’s the best asset: the price tag. But after the release of the iPad Pro, the iPad Air 2’s entry-level price fell to the same $399 it will cost you to pick up a brand new iPad Mini 4. That means you won’t get the $100 savings originally offered when the iPad Mini 4 hit the market.
And while the iPad Mini 4 has the same features as the iPad Air 2, but sometimes, size does matter. One obvious area where we like things getting bigger rather than smaller is gaming. Casual games will do great no matter the screen size, but if you are looking at the iPad as a great portable gaming device, the iPad Air 2 might be a better way to go.
After all, it is one thing to have great graphical detail, it’s another to actually be able to see all of that great detail.
Productivity is another area where the iPad Air 2 shines. As a word processor, the iPad Mini 4 is fine. The keyboard is comfortable when typing, and you can use Siri’s voice dictation just as easy on a Mini 4 as you can on an Air 2. But when it comes to filling in cells in a spreadsheet, working with presentation software, editing photos, and other tasks, the bigger screen gives you more room to work.
The iPad Air 2 will also have an edge in battery life. Both tablets will get you a solid 10 hours of regular use, but while the Mini 4 will run down soon after you hit that 10th hour, the iPad Air 2 will get you closer to 11 hours.
How long you can actually go without recharging will depend on how your use the iPad, of course, with streaming video or playing intensive games draining the battery faster than reading an iBook.
And let’s not forget that the Air 2 isn’t the top-of-the-line iPad. While it is in the same ballpark as the Mini 4 in terms of price, for those willing to spend a little more, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro packs in a huge performance boost. And 12.9-inch iPad Pro may very well be the ultimate iPad.
The iPad Air 2 Is the Best Buy… For Now!
If you are looking to buy new, the iPad Air 2 holds the edge on price alone. Unless you are mainly looking for that smaller form factor, the edge in performance with the same dent taken out of your wallet makes the Air 2 the better buy.
Now that Apple is concentrating on adding multitasking features like the ability to view two tabs at once in the Safari web browser, the extra horsepower in the Air 2 will really come in handy.