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August 20, 2022  |  Electronics

Should I get an iPad Air or iPad Mini?

More than a decade after Apple’s Original iPad revolutionized the tablet PC industry, it continues to show up in fresh and exciting configurations. The iPad Air and Mini are both reasonably priced and packed with advanced hardware and convenient features. 

How and where you’ll use the iPad are the biggest contributing factors when deciding between the iPad Air and Mini. They have comparable feature sets, including USB-C connectors and premium displays. The iPad Air is best for most people, due to its larger screen and more powerful processor chipset. If you value portability and durability, though, the Mini is still a great choice.

2022 iPad Air

This year’s release marks the 5th generation of the Apple iPad Air. It’s the first in the Air lineup to receive the groundbreaking M1 chipset, which is the first system-on-a-chip developed by Apple’s in-house engineers. It represents one of Apple’s most powerful and efficient hardware offerings to date. It’s the same chip found in some MacBooks.

Apple iPad Air pros

  • Top-of-the-line performance: Due to the Apple M1 chipset inside it, the iPad Air delivers essentially identical performance to its far more expensive counterparts in the iPad Pro family. So if, for example, you want to play games at the highest frame rates possible but don’t want to spend a fortune, the Air is for you.
  • USB Type-C connector: At long last, Apple has begun to equip its midrange electronics with the now-ubiquitous USB-C connector.
  • 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display: Sporting 264 pixels per inch, its resolution is high enough that you won’t see any blocky or jagged lines. It also boasts excellent DCI-P3 color coverage, which is the same color space professional studios use to master films.
  • Upgraded video cameras: Compared to the previous version, both the front and rear cameras offer more frame rate choices in addition to an extended dynamic contrast range mode when capturing video.
  • Lightweight for the size: It weighs just over one pound, which is as light as they get in this size class and price range.

2022 Apple iPad Air cons

  • It’s slightly expensive: It’s not the most budget-friendly choice, with an asking price starting at twice that of the base model iPad and over 50% more than the iPad Mini. However, it’s still a far cry less expensive than either iPad Pro.

2021 Apple iPad Mini

By most metrics other than size, last year’s iPad Mini is identical to this year’s iPad Air. In terms of hardware, the combined central and graphics processor is the only significant difference. The Mini uses the A15 Bionic accelerated processing unit. It’s technically outdated compared to the newer M1 APU found in the iPad Air and Pro, but not by much, and especially not in a way you’d notice significantly.

Apple iPad Mini pros

  • It occupies a rare niche: If you find smartphones a bit too small for consuming media, but most tablets too large, Apple created the iPad Mini just for you. It’s about one inch taller, two inches wider, and a couple of ounces heavier than today’s largest smartphones. This gives you a respectable amount of real estate for watching TV shows or making video calls on the go, without requiring you to lug around a heavy device.
  • It’s particularly durable: Apple iPads are already among the most durable tablets. Since the Mini is even more rugged, considering how much smaller and lighter it is.

Apple iPad Mini cons

  • The small screen limits its usefulness: The premium features and reasonably powerful processor go to waste just a little. For example, the screen resolution is so high that it’s well into the territory of diminishing returns for most people. And while it works with the latest Apple Pencil, it’s not so practical for drawing or taking notes because it’s not quite big enough.
  • It's costly for the size: Normally, you pay more for bigger and more powerful devices. While the iPad Mini has slightly better hardware than the base model iPad, it's less powerful than the iPad Air. Coupled with the restrictive screen size, that keeps it from being a highly economical choice.

Should you get the Apple iPad Air or Mini?

Which model you should get depends on what you value the most. Most people will appreciate the iPad Air over the Mini due to its larger screen and higher refresh rate. It’s an especially good performer when it comes to gaming, and many people even use it for editing photos.

The Mini, on the other hand, is reserved specifically for those who value portability and convenience above all else. It sports modern features such as a USB-C port and extended dynamic range video in a compact and lightweight body.

Best iPad Air and Mini accessories

Apple AirPods Pro

These are Apple’s most advanced earbuds sport removable ear tips and offer some of the best active noise canceling available. 

Sold by Amazon

Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2

In case you don’t want to invest in expensive Apple headphones, these earbuds come from a reliable manufacturer and use the same powerful Bluetooth codec as AirPods but cost far less. 

Sold by Amazon

ProCase iPad Air Keyboard Case

This hinged case with a backlit keyboard protects the iPad Air and essentially turns it into an 11-inch laptop. 

Sold by Amazon

ProCase iPad Air Folio

If you want to protect your tablet when you’re not using it, and prop it up when you are, simple folding cases don’t get much more affordable or dependable than this. 

Sold by Amazon

Spigen Rugged Armor iPad Mini 6 Case

Spigen makes excellent cases, and this one does an admirable job of further protecting the already rugged 2021 iPad Mini. 

Sold by Amazon

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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