iPad Air vs. iPad mini 2

Which is right for you?

Apple unveils new iPad models
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While the iPad mini 2 may not be as powerful as the iPad Air, it's close enough that most people won't notice the difference in speed. Additionally, the iPad mini 2 has the same features as the iPad Air, including a great camera and a Retina display. Selecting between these two standout iPads is challenging, but we've reviewed them both to help you make your decision.

Apple discontinued the original iPad Air in 2016 and the iPad mini 2 in 2017. Both remain popular, but they are getting harder to find.

Overall Findings

iPad Air

  • 9.7-inch Retina display.

  • 1.4 GHz 64-bit A7 CPU.

  • Harder to find online.

iPad mini 2

  • 7.9-inch Retina display.

  • 1.29 GHz 64-bit A7 CPU.

  • Price is typically less than iPad Air.

These two iPad models are so similar that most of the differences that influence buyers are screen size, speed, and availability. Screen size is a matter of personal preference, although bigger is usually better for productivity, while the speeds are almost the same. Because Apple has discontinued both of these models, the ability to find them online is part of the buying decision.

Availability: iPad mini 2 Is Easier to Find

iPad Air

  • Discontinued by Apple.

  • Difficult to find refurbished online.

iPad mini 2

  • Discontinued by Apple.

  • Still available from resellers online.

Perhaps the chief advantage of the iPad mini 2 over the original iPad Air is the ability to find one. If you are buying a used iPad through eBay, Craigslist, or another avenue, it may be possible to find a used or refurbished iPad Air. The iPad mini 2, on the other hand, is still available through resellers such as Amazon, although it has largely been replaced by the newer iPad mini 3.

Screen Resolution: Smaller Screen Ups PPI

iPad Air

  • 264 pixels per inch.

iPad mini 2

  • 326 pixels per inch.

The inclusion of the same 2048x1536 resolution Retina display on both iPads means the iPad mini 2 out-Retinas the iPad Air. The same resolution on the smaller screen gives the iPad mini 2 326 pixels per inch (PPI), while the iPad Air's resolution is only 264 pixels per inch.

Size: It Depends on Personal Preference

iPad Air

  • 9.7-inch Retina display,

iPad mini 2

  • 7.9-inch Retina display.

Size can be either an advantage and a disadvantage. We were wary of the smaller screen size when the original iPad mini arrived, having owned other 7-inch tablets and found them lacking. However, the iPad mini is bigger than most 7-inch tablets, and it shows. For web browsing, reading e-books, and most casual use, the iPad mini is fine, and the iPad mini 2 excels with even hardcore games. The size tends to come down to personal preference. While it is easier to use the iPad mini 2 one-handed, there are areas such as typing on the on-screen keyboard where the extra real estate of the larger iPad Air gains an advantage.

Productivity: iPad Air Has an Edge

iPad Air

  • Easier to type on larger virtual keyboard.

  • Extra screen space increases productivity.

iPad mini 2

  • Bigger than most 7-inch tablets.

  • Better for reading e-books and gaming than for work needs.

The iPad mini 2 may be just as powerful as the iPad Air, but the extra screen space on the Air leads to more productivity. Not only is it much easier to type on an iPad Air, ​but the 9.7-inch iPad also has more screen space for manipulating images, editing videos, arranging text, and other tasks you might want to perform. If you are getting an iPad as much for work as for play, the iPad Air is the better choice.

Speed: It's Close, but iPad Air Is Slightly Faster

iPad Air

  • 1.4 GHz 64-bit Apple A7 chip.

iPad mini 2

  • 1.29 GHz 64-bit A7 Apple chip.

The iPad mini 2 may have received the same A7 chip that powers the iPhone 5S, but the A7 chip used on the iPad is slightly faster. The iPad mini 2 chip clocks in at 1.29 GHz while the iPad Air clocks in at 1.4 GHz. Most people won't see the difference, but this makes the iPad Air slightly faster.

Specifications: More Alike Than Different

iPad Air

  • 1GB memory.

  • M7 motion coprocessor.

  • 16, 32, 64, and 128GB storage.

  • 720p front-facing camera.

  • 5MP rear-facing camera.

  • Bluetooth capability.

  • Siri.

  • GPS on 4G version only.

iPad mini 2

  • 1GB memory.

  • M7 motion coprocessor.

  • 16, 32, 64, and 128GB storage.

  • 720p front-facing camera.

  • 5MP rear-facing camera.

  • Bluetooth capability.

  • Siri.

  • GPS on 4G version only.

A surprising amount of the specifications for the iPad Air and the iPad mini 2 are identical.

Final Verdict

The iPad mini 2 has the edge in this fight. Apple has moved the iPad lineup in the direction of giving customers a choice in screen size without the trade-off in slower processor speed, and that makes us the winner. The iPad mini 2 can do everything its big brother can do and look better doing it, so if you are looking to save a few dollars, go with the mini.

However, that extra cash buys a lot of real estate. This makes the full-sized iPad best for people who use it for work or anyone who has big fingers.