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You have a difficult decision to make: Should you buy the iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina display? After all, now that the Mini has a Retina display and an updated processor, the tablets are virtually identical — except for the Air’s larger display. There are other smaller differences, though, such as price and overall performance. If you’re trying to pick between the iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina display, keep reading for ExtremeTech’s comparison of Apple’s latest tablets.
On the inside both the iPad Mini and iPad Air are running on the Apple A7 ARM chip what was just announced recently with the iPhone 5S. This system-on-a-chip uses a new custom ARMv8 architecture from Apple that offers the first 64-bit computing experience on a mobile device. Of course, there isn’t really software to take advantage of that, but ARMv8 includes a number of important optimizations and tweaks. You get this future-proofed CPU in both versions of the iPad, though clock speeds aren’t known yet — Apple probably cranks it up a bit higher in the full-sized iPad.
When you first set eyes on an iPad, your gaze will surely be drawn to the LCD that dominates the front of the device. The 7.9-inch Mini and the 9.7-inch Air both have the same 2048×1536 resolution now that Apple has brought the iPad Mini into the Retina display club. Both screens will look awesome, but they’ll offer different experiences. This is obviously the main differentiator between the iPad Air and iPad Mini.
iPad Air MiniThe iPad Mini will have a whopping 326 pixels-per-inch (PPI), which is incredibly high for a tablet. Smartphones can reach into the mid-400s with 1080p screens, but the 2013 Nexus 7 is the only other tablet in the same ballpark as the Mini when it comes to pixel density. The iPad Air still packs a nice display at 9.7-inches — it works out to 263 PPI.
Although the Mini’s screen will be more crisp, the iPad Air has the advantage of being physically bigger. Well, that’s an advantage to some people. It’s easier to read text, and browsing the web is better on a larger screen. The redesigned Air isn’t even much heavier than the Mini — it weighs just 1 pound (469 grams) and the mini is 0.73 pounds (331 grams). They are also exactly the same thickness at 7.5mm. The 9.7-inch iPad Air isn’t as ungainly as its predecessor, but the Mini will still be a bit more manageable.
The iPad Mini with Retina display will cost $400 for the basic 16GB WiFi-only edition. That’s a shade pricier than the old version that launched at $330. The iPad Air will start at $500 like all the previous full-scale Apple slates. If price is no object, the only other consideration is how impatient you are — the iPad Air is coming out on November 1, but the iPad mini isn’t hitting shelves until sometime later in November.