Hosting and bandwidth provided by MacAce.net.





iPad Air Q&A - Updated September 26, 2016

All Apple Q&As >> iPad Air Q&A (Home) | Also see: All iPad Specs

To be notified of new Q&As, sign up for EveryMac.com's bimonthly email list.

If you find this page useful, please Bookmark & Share it. Thank you.




What are the main differences between the current iPad Air and iPad mini models? Which is best for me?

There are number of different iPad Air and iPad mini models. As of 2016, the lineup thankfully has become less complicated than it once was. At one point, there were more than a dozen models sold new simultaneously, and it was particularly perplexing to sort out the differences between the bewildering array of options.

Now, there only are six distinct iPad Air and iPad mini models sold new, but an independent comparison free of the influence of a company's marketing department still can be helpful to find the best option for your needs.

iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3

Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad Air - Left; iPad mini - Right)

Main Differences

One reason it is particularly awkward for customers to intuitively differentiate between the current iPad Air and iPad mini models is the current models are the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, and iPad mini 4. The iPad mini 2 was released in 2013, the iPad Air 2 was released in 2014, and the iPad mini 4 was released in 2015. Effectively, the lineup is staggered and gapped rather than a neat arrangement.

On basic terms, the major differences between these models are physical size, display size and quality, performance, and price. If a smaller tablet is the highest priority, an iPad mini likely is your best choice (although on March 21, 2016, Apple curiously first cut the price of the iPad Air 2 to equal the price of the iPad mini 4). If screen size and quality along with performance are highest priorities, you would be best served by an iPad Air. Which iPad mini or iPad Air model is best for you likely will require more detailed evaluation, though.

External Design Differences

The iPad Air and iPad mini models all share similar designs with gently rounded sides and corners. The iPad mini 2 is available in white and silver or black and gray, whereas the latest iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 add white and gold as a color option.

iPad Air 2 Color Options
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Silver, Gold, & Space Gray iPad Color Options)

Regardless of series, the iPad Air models are 9.4 inches tall and 6.6 inches wide whereas the iPad mini models are around 8 inches tall (the iPad mini 4 is a bit taller than the iPad mini 2) and 5.3 inches wide. There are differences in thickness, or thinness if you prefer, but these differences are minor enough to not be a major differentiating factor for most users.

There are minor differences in weight as well, but in general, the iPad Air models weigh around a pound whereas the iPad mini models are three quarters of a pound or less.

Another external design difference worth mentioning is that the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 models include a "Touch ID" fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button but the iPad mini 2 models do not.

Display Differences

All of the iPad Air and iPad mini models have a multitouch-capable IPS LED-backlit display, but there are major differences in size and quality.

Specific differences between the display in the current iPad Air and iPad mini models include:

  iPad mini 2
mini 2
iPad mini 4
mini 4
iPad Air 2
Air 2
Display Size: 7.9" 7.9" 9.7"
Resolution: 2048x1536 2048x1536 2048x1536
Pixel Density: 326 ppi 326 ppi 264 ppi
Anti-Glare Coating: No Yes Yes
Laminated Parts: No Yes Yes


In basic terms, the iPad Air 2 has the best quality display, but the iPad mini 4 display also is quite high quality with an excellent color gamut.

As first noticed by the always detailed AnandTech, the iPad mini 2 has a narrower color gamut than the iPad Air 2 -- as well as the subsequently released iPad mini 4 -- and falls short of sRGB coverage.

Camera Differences

Apple once discouraged those from using the iPad as a point-and-shoot camera altogether, perhaps because it looks so awkward. In terms of camera quality, the iPad has lagged behind the iPhone line from equivalent years, as well.

Although Apple now openly promotes the iPad as a camera, the quality still generally lags behind the iPhone.

In basic terms, the front-facing "FaceTime HD" cameras are quite similar -- all have a 1.2 megapixel sensor and can shoot 720p video -- but the iPad Air 2 has a "larger f/2.2 aperture that lets in 81 percent more light" in addition to "an all-new sensor and larger pixels." These other models have f/2.4 apertures.

The rear-mounted "iSight" cameras in the currently shipping iPad Air and iPad mini models all are capable of shooting 1080p video, but otherwise have some significant differences:

  iPad mini 2
mini 2
iPad mini 4
mini 4
iPad Air 2
Air 2
Megapixels: 5 MP 8 MP 8 MP
Panorama: Yes Yes Yes
Burst Mode: No Yes Yes
Video Zoom (3X): Yes Yes Yes
Slo-mo Video: No Yes Yes


Note that the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 have 8 megapixel sensors as well as better feature support.

Identification Differences

Although it often is possible to visually distinguish between the current iPad Air and iPad mini models when they are side-by-side (and powered on), not all models can be differentiated this way and they look so similar that visual identification is not a good method for differentiation overall.

Instead, one of the best methods for external identification is via Model Number. Model numbers are provided in tiny type toward the bottom of the back of each iPad:

iPad

Model No

iPad mini 2 (Retina/2nd Gen, Wi-Fi Only)

A1489

iPad mini 2 (Retina/2nd Gen, Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1490

iPad mini 2 (Retina/2nd Gen, China)

A1491

iPad mini 4 (Wi-Fi Only)

A1538

iPad mini 4 (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1550

iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi Only)

A1566

iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1567

EveryiPad.com's Ultimate iLookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app available for iOS 5 or later, Android, and Kindle Fire -- also can precisely identify these iPad models by Order Number (referred to as "Model" within the iOS "Settings" app under General > About), and their Serial Numbers, too.

Major Internal Differences

All of these iPad models provide around nine to ten hours of battery life, but have a variety of internal technical differences that influence performance and capability:

  iPad mini 2
mini 2
iPad mini 4
mini 4
iPad Air 2
Air 2
Clockspeed: 1.3 GHz 1.5 GHz 1.5 GHz
Processor Type: Apple A7 Apple A8 Apple A8X
Processor Cores: Two Two Three
Architecture: 64-Bit 64-Bit 64-Bit
Coprocessor: Apple M7 Apple M8 Apple M8
RAM: 1 GB 2 GB 2 GB
Original Storage (GB): 16/32/64/128 16/64/128 16/64/128
Current Storage (GB): 32 32/128 32/128
Wi-Fi Support: a/b/g/n a/b/g/n ac
LTE Support*: 14 Bands 20 Bands 20 Bands
Apple Pay (NFC): No Yes Yes
Barometer: No No Yes


*Note that only Cellular capable models from each line support 4G/LTE. Wi-Fi only models only support Wi-Fi. For specific LTE band support, click on the link for a particular model of interest.

Most significantly, note that the iPad Air 2 has three processor cores and 2 GB of RAM. Although the iPad mini 4 has been described as a "little iPad Air 2", and it has 2 GB of RAM, but it has a slower processor with only two cores, so it's not really accurate to describe it in that way.

iOS Support Differences

The iPad mini 2 originally shipped with iOS 7, the iPad Air 2 originally shipped iOS 8 and the iPad mini 4 ships with iOS 9.

Regardless of the version of the iOS pre-installed, all of these devices support iOS 9, but specific feature support is significantly different:

Panorama Health Apple Pay Slide Over Split View
Air 2 Yes No Yes† Yes Yes
mini 2 Yes* No No Yes No
mini 4 Yes No Yes† Yes Yes


All three of these devices support iOS 10, also, but they support the same set of new features. Specifically, none support the "Raise to Wake" or Ride-Booking features, but are otherwise the same.

* Curiously, Apple quietly added Panorama support to the iPad mini 2 (as well as the original iPad Air), but not any earlier iPad models, with iOS 8.0.2.

† The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 models support Apple Pay within apps but not in retail stores.

Current iPad Air & iPad mini Comparison Chart

The above differences -- as well as US pricing details -- are summarized below:

  iPad mini 2
mini 2
iPad mini 4
mini 4
iPad Air 2
Air 2
Introduced: Oct 2013 Sep 2015 Oct 2014
Clockspeed: 1.3 GHz 1.5 GHz 1.5 GHz
Processor: Apple A7 Apple A8 Apple A8X
Processor Cores: 2 2 3
Architecture: 64-Bit 64-Bit 64-Bit
Coprocessor: M7 Motion M8 Motion M8 Motion
RAM: 1 GB 2 GB 2 GB
Orig. Storage (GB): 16/32/64/128 16/64/128 16/64/128
Current Storage (GB): 32 32/128 32/128
Display Size: 7.9" 7.9" 9.7"
Resolution: 2048x1536 2048x1536 2048x1536
Pixel Density: 326 ppi 326 ppi 264 ppi
Antiglare Coating: No Yes Yes
4G/LTE Internet: 14 Bands 20 Bands 20 Bands
Wi-Fi (802.11): a/b/g/n a/b/g/n/ac a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth: 4.0 4.2 4.2
Rear Megapixels: 5 MP 8 MP 8 MP
Touch ID: No Yes Yes
Apple Pay (NFC): No Yes Yes
Barometer: No Barometer Yes
SIM Card: Nano Nano Nano
Original iOS: iOS 7 iOS 9 iOS 8
Maximum iOS: iOS 10 iOS 10 iOS 10
Color Options: Silver
Gray

Silver
Gray
Gold
Silver
Gray
Gold
Height: 7.87 in. 8.0 in. 9.4 in.
Width: 5.3 in. 5.3 in. 6.6 in.
Depth/Thinness: 0.29 in. 0.24 in. 0.24 in.
Weight: 0.73-
0.75 lb.
0.65-
0.67 lb.
0.96-
0.98 lb.
Orig. Price (Wi-Fi): US$399
US$499
US$599
US$699
US$399
US$499
US$599

US$499
US$599
US$699

Orig. Price (LTE): US$529
US$629
US$729
US$829
US$529
US$629
US$729

US$629
US$729
US$829

Current Price (Wi-Fi): US$269 US$399
US$499
US$399
US$499
Current Price (LTE): US$399 US$529
US$629
US$529
US$629


For pricing in dozens of countries, see the "Global Prices" on the specs page for each iPad as well as the "By Global Original Prices" section of EveryiPad.com.

So, should I buy an iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, or iPad mini 4?

When the iPad Air 2 first was introduced, it was the best and most expensive Apple tablet available -- with the fastest performance and the best display -- but as of 2016, the iPad Pro has taken this space in Apple's tablet lineup. Curiously, on March 21, 2016, Apple first cut the price of the iPad Air 2, but not the iPad mini 4, so they're both the same price and they have maintained these price points subsequently, although on September 7, 2016, Apple reconfigured the lineup so that the iPad Air 2 was no longer available with less storage than the iPad mini 4, which EveryiPad.com found to a be a particularly odd change.

However, it remains somewhat peculiar that Apple now sells both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 4 at the same price. Presumably, Apple has calculated that the iPad Air 2 only remains viable as a lower cost option to the also 9.7" iPad Pro whereas the iPad mini 4 will remain popular enough due to its small size alone. Consequently, at the same price point, it makes the iPad Air 2 look like a better value and the iPad mini 4 look like an inferior one.

The iPad mini 4 remains the best option for someone who wants a relatively powerful, relatively high quality Apple tablet in the smallest possible size, and is willing to pay a premium for size alone. The iPad mini 2 definitely is showing its age, but remains worth consideration for someone who only will buy a new model and has limited funds.

Of course, if price is the highest concern, any number of iPad models on the used market should be evaluated, too.

Site sponsor PowerMax sells all new iPad Air and iPad mini models as well as a huge selection of used iPad models free of sales tax.


Permalink | E-mail a Friend | Bookmark & Share | Report an Error/Typo


Suggest a New Q&A | Sign Up for Bimonthly Site Update Notices


<< iPad Air Q&A (Main) | All Apple Q&As




EveryMac.com and EveryiPad.com are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind whatsoever. EveryMac.com, EveryiPad.com, and the author thereof, shall not be held responsible or liable, under any circumstances, for any damages resulting from the use or inability to use the information within. For complete disclaimer and copyright information please read and understand the Terms of Use and the Privacy Policy before using either website. Use of any content or images without expressed permission is not allowed, although links to any page are welcomed and appreciated.