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What are all the differences between the iPad 2, iPad 4th Gen, and the original iPad mini (1st Gen)? Would one of these models meet my needs or should I buy a newer iPad?
Please note that the iPad 2, iPad 4th Gen, and original iPad mini all have been discontinued. This Q&A has been updated with the latest on iOS support and more and can be quite useful for anyone on a tight budget who is considering one of these older iPad models, whether new or used.
There are numerous differences between the iPad 2 -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi), (Wi-Fi/GSM/A-GPS), and (Wi-Fi/CDMA/A-GPS) -- the iPad 4th Gen models -- the iPad 4th Gen (Wi-Fi Only), (Wi-Fi/AT&T/GPS), and (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) -- and the original iPad mini models -- the iPad mini (Wi-Fi Only), (Wi-Fi/AT&T/GPS), and (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS).
As the iPad mini models are physically smaller -- just 7.87 inches tall and 5.3 inches wide -- they are easy to differentiate from the larger iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen models.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad mini)
As the iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen models essentially are the same dimensions -- 9.5 inches tall and 7.31 inches wide -- with similar thickness and weight, it definitely is easy to not notice the differences unless you have a keen eye and pay close attention, particularly if the devices are turned off.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad 4th Gen)
However, there are important differences between the similar looking iPad 4th Gen and the older iPad 2 as well as the iPad mini. Specifically, there are differences in the displays, connectivity, identification, performance, cameras, software support, and cellular capabilities as well as dimensions, weight, and price.
The iPad 2, iPad 4th Gen, and original iPad mini models are available with either a black or white glass front and an aluminum back (with a plastic area for configurations with cellular data connectivity) and all have multitouch, glossy IPS LED-backlit displays, but the quality and resolution varies considerably.
The iPad 4th Gen models have a 9.7-inch 2048x1536 (264 ppi) "Retina" Display that is much higher resolution and better quality than the "non-Retina" displays in the other two devices. By contrast, the iPad 2 has a 9.7-inch 1024x768 (132 ppi) display and the original iPad mini has a 7.9-inch 1024x768 (163 ppi) display.
All have a built-in microphone, support system-wide video mirroring and up to 1080p video out, and support a version of the magnetic "Smart Cover" (the iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen are the same, but naturally the iPad mini uses a smaller one). The iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen have a mono speaker, but interestingly, the iPad mini has a better quality stereo speaker setup. The iPad mini models were the first in the iPad line to have stereo speakers.
Wired connectivity -- for power as well as computer connectivity, if desired -- also is a major point of differentiation. The iPad 2 uses the "traditional" 30-pin "Dock Connector" port whereas the iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini models have a smaller, rectangular "Lightning" port that is faster and easier to use but not compatible with the earlier standard.
All of these devices have both front and rear mounted cameras, but the quality is different.
The iPad 2 has a VGA quality "FaceTime" front mounted camera and a 0.7 megapixel rear camera that shoots stills and is capable of recording 720p video. The iPad 4th Gen and original iPad mini both have a front-mounted "FaceTime HD" camera capable of shooting 1.2 megapixel stills and 720p video and a rear-mounted 5 megapixel "iSight" camera capable of shooting both stills and 1080p video.
When side-by-side the iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen models can be identified easily by the Dock Connector and Lightning ports, respectively, on the bottom of each. However, it is easy to confuse the original iPad mini and iPad 2 with other models, and it is not possible to visually differentiate between the cellular capable models in each line, either.
Specifically, the iPad 2, iPad 4th Gen, and original iPad mini model numbers are as follows:
All iPad models can be differentiated by other identifiers as well, such as the Order Number, which can be located by selecting the Settings app and pressing General > About and scrolling down to what is specified as "Model" within the iOS. For example, the original iPad mini with 16 GB of storage in white for Verizon is MD543LL/A.
Everyi.com's Ultimate iLookup feature and the EveryMac app -- available for iOS 5 or later, Android, and Kindle Fire -- can identify exact iPad models by the "Model" as well as other identifiers including its Serial Number.
iOS Support Differences
The iPad 2 originally shipped with iOS 4.3 whereas the iPad 4th Gen and original iPad mini were introduced with iOS 6. The iPad 2 is capable of running iOS 6, but it does not support Siri with iOS 6 or otherwise.
All three devices also support iOS 7 to some degree. Each supports the basic iOS 7 features -- Control Center, Notification Center, and Multitasking, as well as Safari and iTunes Radio -- but the iPad 2 supports no other features.
By contrast, the iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini are both fully supported by iOS 7, with the exception of the "Panorama" and "Filters in Camera" photographic features. In addition to the basic iOS 7 features, the iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini also support AirDrop, Filters in Photos, and more advanced photo functionality that Apple calls "square and video formats and swipe to capture." The iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini continue to support Siri, too.
The iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen, and original iPad mini support iOS 8, as well, but support is minimal with no advanced features for the iPad 2. It also is worth noting that iOS 8 is slower on the iPad 2 than iOS 7, so those most interested in performance may prefer to stick with iOS 7 for this model. By contrast, the iPad 4th Gen and original iPad mini are fully supported by iOS 8 with the exception of the "Health" and "Apple Pay" features.
All three support iOS 9, also. For the iPad 2, support remains minimal and iOS 9 is no faster than iOS 8, so upgrading only makes sense if app compatibility is more important to you than speed. The iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini support the majority of functionality -- including Spotlight and Siri improvements -- but Transit and the advanced multitasking features -- Slide Over, Picture-in-Picture, and Split View -- are not supported.
Finally, the iPad 4th Gen supports iOS 10, with the exception of Raise to Wake, Rich Notifcations, and Ride-Booking functionality, but the iPad 2 and original iPad mini do not support the operating system at all.
As originally shipped, all three lines have 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of storage (and the iPad 4th Gen had a 128 GB configuration added later), but Apple currently only ships 16 GB configurations of the original iPad mini. All three lines also have an accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, an ambient light sensor, and a digital compass.
As confirmed by the third-party Geekbench benchmark, the iPad 2 and iPad mini are powered by dual core 1 GHz Apple A5 processors with a single core graphics processor and have 512 MB of RAM, whereas the iPad 4th Gen is powered by the much faster dual core 1.4 GHz Apple A6X processor with quad core graphics and 1 GB of RAM.
Wireless and cellular connectivity is substantially different. The iPad 2 supports Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and 802.11a/b/g/n wi-fi, but the iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini models support the more advanced Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi with dual band/dual stream 802.11n on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.
Also, the cellular capable iPad 2 models -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/GPS) and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/GPS) -- support 3G connectivity, whereas the cellular capable iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini models support much more global 4G/LTE coverage -- the iPad 4th Gen (Wi-Fi/AT&T/GPS) and iPad mini (Wi-Fi/AT&T/GPS) on bands 4 and 17 and the iPad 4th Gen (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) and iPad mini (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) on bands 1, 3, 5, 13, and 25. Across all lines, only the cellular capable models support GPS (and GLONASS for the iPad 4th Gen and original iPad mini models).
Battery life is estimated as the same for all of these devices. The iPad 4th Gen, iPad 2, and iPad mini lines each provide an estimated ten hours of battery life "surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video or listening to music" and 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data on capable models.
Original Pricing Differences
Original pricing for each line was differentiated by capacity and data connectivity alone. The iPad 2 and iPad 4th Gen models were introduced at the same price, too:
|iPad 2:||16 GB||32 GB||64 GB|
|Wi-Fi, Cellular Data & A-GPS:||US$629||US$729||US$829|
|iPad 4th Gen:||16 GB||32 GB||64 GB|
|Wi-Fi, 4G (AT&T) & A-GPS/GLONASS:||US$629||US$729||US$829|
|Wi-Fi, 4G (VZ/Sprint) & A-GPS/GLONASS:||US$629||US$729||US$829||Original iPad mini:||16 GB||32 GB||64 GB|
|Wi-Fi, 4G (AT&T) & A-GPS/GLONASS:||US$459||US$559||US$659|
|Wi-Fi, 4G (VZ/Sprint) & A-GPS/GLONASS:||US$459||US$559||US$659|
The primary differences between the iPad 2, iPad 4th Gen, and iPad mini are summarized below:
iPad 4th Gen
|Display Size:||9.7" (1024x768)||7.9" (1024x768)||9.7" (2048x1536)|
|Display PPI:||132 ppi||163 ppi||264 ppi|
|Processor Speed:||1.0 GHz||1.0 GHz||1.4 GHz|
|Processor Type:||Apple A5||Apple A5||Apple A6X|
|RAM:||512 MB||512 MB||1 GB|
|Data Networks:||3G & Wi-Fi||4G/LTE & Wi-Fi||4G/LTE & Wi-Fi|
|Dual Stream Wi-Fi:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Storage Size:||16 GB||16, 32, 64 GB||16, 32, 64 GB|
|Front Camera:||VGA||1.2 Megapixel||1.2 Megapixel|
|Rear Camera:||0.7 Megapixels||5.0 Megapixels||5.0 Megapixels|
|SIM:||Micro SIM||Nano SIM||Micro SIM|
|Maximum iOS:||9 (Minimal)||9 (Partial*)||10 (Partial*)|
|Dimensions (In):||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.34||7.87 x 5.3 x 0.28||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37|
|Weight:||1.33, 1.35, 1.34 lbs.||0.68, 0.69 lbs.||1.44, 1.46 lbs.|
* The original iPad mini and iPad 4th Gen models completely support iOS 7 with the exception of the minor "Panorama" and "Filters in Camera" photographic features and iOS 8 with the exception of the "Health" and "Apple Pay" features. Running iOS 9, the iPad 4th Gen supports most features, but supports neither Slide Over or Split View, whereas the original iPad mini supports Slide Over.
So, would one of these models meet my needs or should I buy a newer iPad?
Compared only to one another, the iPad 4th Gen is the one to buy if performance, display quality, and current iOS support are most important to you. If compact size and price are most important, but performance, display quality, and relative value are not important, the original iPad mini is worth consideration. Finally, if price and "legacy" connectivity for an older "dock" or stereo with a 30-pin connector are most important to you, but size, performance, display quality, limted iOS 8 or iOS 9 support (and no iOS 10 support at all), and relative value are not important, the discontinued iPad 2 would meet your needs.
However, most users would be best off purchasing a newer iPad Air or iPad mini as subsequent models are much faster and have more advanced connectivity than the iPad 4th Gen or the original iPad mini. However, those on a tight budget, still may find the original iPad mini worthwhile, even though it is not a comparatively good value.
Those on a budget who would like to maximize the value of their purchase would be wise to consider a used iPad 4th Gen. The iPad 4th Gen is not as fast as the original iPad Air or the iPad mini 2, but it commonly doesn't "feel" that much slower in real world use and it has the exact same high quality display as the original iPad Air. Although the iPad 4th Gen is larger and a half pound heavier than the iPad Air (among other drawbacks), it is available at comparatively inexpensive prices on the used market and can be a good value.
iPad Purchase Options
There are many vendors that sell new and used iPads. However, purchasing from a quality company with extensive Apple knowledge -- and after sales support -- will provide the best experience and save you money and time, too.
In the US, site sponsor PowerMax has new iPad 4th Gen models and new iPad mini models as well as a wide variety of used iPads -- the iPad 2 and many more -- all available free of sales tax. If you need to sell an iPad, PowerMax accepts trade-ins on older iPads toward the purchase of a newer iPad or anything else they sell and BuyBackWorld will buy your older iPad directly for fast cash.
Please also see EveryiPad.com's Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPad to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad (new or old alike).