The iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display share nearly every feature. On a spec-for-spec basis, they are practically identical. Shared components include the 64-bit A7 processor with M7 motion coprocessor, RAM, storage, cameras, connectors, jacks, Wi-Fi and so on. Both devices have high-resolution displays. They run the same operating system, include all the same apps, and offer comparable battery life. The Mini has slightly better pixel density, at 326 pixels per inch compared to the Air's 264. Both have the same resolution display, but the Mini crams the same number of pixels into a smaller space. The only real difference between the two new tablets is the size and the price.
The new iPad Mini measures 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches and weighs 0.73 pounds. The iPad Air measures 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches and weighs 1 pound. The Mini actually gained weight year-over-year compared to the non-Retina model, but the Air is significantly smaller, thinner and lighter than the iPad 4. The iPad Mini with Retina Display starts at $399 (Wi-Fi only, 16 GB), while the iPad Air starts at $499 (Wi-Fi only, 16 GB). Apple charges the same price to upgrade storage and to add LTE. Only $100 separates the two devices.
[ Is Apple's fifth-generation iPad a game-changer? Read Appe's Next iPad: Gateway To Mobile Revolution? ]
If you're deciding between these two iPads, it's going to boil down to personal preference between the two form factors. Do you like 'em large, or do you prefer less tech to cart around?
But Apple threw a curveball: It's keeping last year's iPad Mini and the 2011-era iPad 2 around. The older iPad Mini sells for $299 and the iPad 2 sells for $399. Both are limited to 16 GB of storage, but you can add LTE for an extra $130.
For the true budget shopper, the $299 iPad Mini is a fine choice, though there are plenty of Android tablets that cost much less. The iPad 2, however, is a dog that everyone should ignore.
The iPad 2 does not have a Retina Display, runs a dual-core A5 processor, has VGA cameras, and uses Apple's older 30-pin connector. It's also larger and heavier than the iPad Air. With only $100 separating the iPad 2 from the iPad Air, there's little reason to go with the cheaper tablet given how much more you get with the iPad Air.
It's interesting that the iPad 2 and iPad Mini with Retina Display share the $399 price point. The technology in the iPad Mini outclasses the iPad 2's by a mile. (Seriously, is Apple perhaps sitting on an outrageous supply of these older tablets that it needs to get rid of?)
Of course, once you start adding in extra features such as more storage and LTE, the prices get out of control very quickly. An iPad Air with 32 GB of storage and LTE will sell for $729 -- significantly higher than its $499 starting price.
If you were on the fence about which tablet best suits you before Apple revealed its new hardware, the company may have made the choice even harder.