Silver vs. space gray: Which iPad Air and Retina iPad mini color should you get?

2013 iPad buyers guide: How to choose the perfect silver/white or space gray/black iPad Air or Retina iPad mini for you!

Apple's 2013 iPad line remains discreetly metallic when it comes to color schemes. It's not as bad as 2010, mind you, when you could have your choice of color, as long as it was black. Now you can get a silver back with white faceplate, or a space gray back with a black faceplate. And you can get either finish on either new iPad, the iPad Air or Retina iPad mini. (The space gray replaces last year's slate gray, likely because it's tougher and easier to anodize.) If you're not sure which of the two colors you want, here are some things to consider!

No gold, no colors

Unlike the iPhone 5s, Apple chose not to offer a gold-backed option for the iPad Air or iPad mini, at least not this year. Whether too much gold wasn't a good thing, or they're saving it for the future, it's hard to say. Likewise, no iPhone 5c-style plastic colors are on the palette either, no yellow, green, blue, or pink. Apple's sticking to metallic finishes, and only two of the them - silver and space gray.

Fading black vs. whiting out

The silver iPad Air and Retina iPad mini have white faceplates, which means you'll see a white border around the screen any and every time to use it. For some people, that's distracting. The space gray iPad Air and Retina iPad mini have black faceplates, which means a black border, just like almost all TV sets. That's for a reason - black disappears.

I've had both white and black iPads for years, and neither makes a big difference for me. I barely notice the faceplate color no matter what I'm doing. However, other people notice them. A lot. All the time. They simply don't like the contrast between the white border and the black screen even when the device is off. It's very "panda".

If a white faceplate catches your eye, and not in a good way, you'll want to stick with black.

Discoloration vs. damage assessments

One the biggest concerns with white/silver products is that they'll discolor over time. One of the biggest concerns with black/space gray products is that they'll show scratches and chips more easily.

Apple spent much of 2010 figuring out how to make the white iPhone resistant to UV and other typical sources of discoloration. I've had a white iPhone 4 since the day it launched and it still looks every bit as white. The iPads use the same process, so they'll like be just as resistant to discoloration. Still, if it's a major concern, stick to space gray/black.

Likewise, the 2012 iPhone 5 and iPad mini taught Apple that slate black anodization was more susceptible to damage than it ought to be. Hence, goodbye slate, hello space gray. The new finish should prove much tougher than the old. It'll take a year to know for sure, however, so if you're worried, stick to silver/white.

Popularity vs. personality

Retina iPad mini: Silver vs. space gray gallery: Back view

Black is almost always the most popular color for electronics and electronics accessories. That's why it's so common. It's literally the hot little black number. However, true black is incredibly hard to anodize, which is why the dark iPad mini was closer to charcoal and the dark iPad Air and Retina iPad mini is closer to graphite. Space gray may not look as cool as blackout black, but it'll likely still be the default for many people.

That said, some people just love white tech. At the end of the day, you need to buy what you like. White iPads stand out more and can be more obvious with brightly colored cases. Black iPads tend to disappear more, and let the accessories be the star.

Speaking of which, even if you're planning on locking your iPad Air or Retina iPad mini up in a case the moment it leaves the box., the color will often still show through. Many don't cover the face plate. Some, like smart covers, leave the back completely open.

Choose a color you love, then add a case you love to it to complete the look. (They're accessories because they accessorize!). If you already have a case you love, pick the iPad color that either makes it pop (black) or helps it shine (white). Either way, make sure you love the iPad you get regardless of the accessories you may or may not add - or keep - to it later.

Who should get the space gray and black iPad?

If you want a color that won't distract you when you game or watch video, that absolutely won't discolor, even if it does show wear and tear a little more visibly, that's closer to timeless even if it's also more reserved, then get the space gray and black iPad Air or Retina iPad mini.

It's the classic for a reason.

Who should get the silver and white iPad?

If you want a color that draws more attention in its own right and stands out better from the crowd (without being overly fussy about it), that may be more of a distraction but that doesn't show damage as much, then get the silver and white iPad Air or Retina iPad mini.

Apple's senior vice-president of design, Jony Ive, is most often seen with it, after all.

Still undecided?

At the end of the day, the only real answer is get the color you like better. Everything else is manufactured anxiety. Just close your eyes, picture your iPad in your hand, and carefully look at what color you're picturing. Then buy that. And if you change your mind later, you can get a case. If you're still not sure about silver and white, or space gray and black jump into our iPhone discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out. Once you've decided, though, let me know - which color did you go with and why?