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

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?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

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


Beautiful colors on this review!

I'm one of them who *see* the white border on my devices. I go only black. Slate gray is absolutely awesome on the 5s, I expect it to be that good on the iPads!

I finally took a leap of faith with a white-faced (silver back) iPhone 5s after years of choosing black tech. I like the white...a lot.

You mention a lot of folks who "... simply don't like the contrast between the white border and the black screen ..." but to be fair you should mention there are a lot of people who think the opposite. Instead of spending a paragraph going on about how bad the white border is for some people, you might have just mentioned that some like one and some like the other and leave it at that.

For those of us that do a lot of work on the iPad, (and said work involves lots and lots of white documents), the white is a much better choice and it is the black border that is jarring. Considering the "all-white" interface of iOS 7, the white border is more likely to be the *preferred* option than it is the sort of second-rate choice as you describe it as here.

In my experience it comes down to what you use the iPad for. If you are a gamer or just use the iPad to watch a lot of videos and view pictures, you tend to prefer the black border. If instead you use the iPad as a reader, as a real personal computer or enter a lot of text into it, you generally prefer the white border. People who like the black border also seem to like to use it in landscape mode more than portrait, whilst the white border people use it more in portrait than landscape.

Finally, you might want to mention the fact that the white gear is simply more popular than the black. Back in the iPod days, two black ones sold for every one white one. Today, it's roughly even but which white having a slight edge in popularity.

Gazoobee-you might have just helped me make up my mind. My iPad is my work computer and I do a lot of typing on it. I'm upgrading Friday and was on the fence about the color. Thanks for helping me make up my mind!

I agree with you, White for professionals and black for gamers, the White borders disappears on documents, and is a virtual white note pad, the black is punching more attention for an real devise....

I use white.

Personally I'm a huge fan of the Slate color option (on the iPhone 5) that is no more so the new Space Gray is hard for me to get around. I know that it's easier to anodize but the Slate option just really looked sleeker to me. However, with the iOS 7 UI, I feel everything has that "lighter" and flatter feel on a white device. Like, iOS 7 was designed for the white/silver options which is why in most of Apple's ads and on their website they mainly show their white products because it compliments the OS sooooo much better. So I'll have to say white/silver in this regard :-)

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This is the first time I will be buying any apple product on launc day. ( I own several apple products) I am hoping to get the black but if the white is only available I will get that. I plan on purchasing online for in store pick up, any suggestions from anyone on the best way to get a iPad on launch day, besides spending the night outside???

I've did both, save yourself some time please don't pick up in store. Have it shipped to you home or job if you're a 9 to 5'er, it will be far more enjoyable experience.

Great article and just what I have been contemplating.

I always buy white iPhones and black full size iPads. The white on a small device looks great and stays cleaner, fingerprint wise. The black iPad is less distracting for watching video. However I was using my daughter's white iPad mini after updating her software, and noticed that almost everything I use has a white background. Also I now hardly ever watch video on my iPad.

So for the first time I am buying a white iPad (Air). I had already visualised picking it up from its stand and I'm happy with white.

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I got the white iP5 and I wanted a black one after a few months. So I'm getting the black iPad. Not sure if I'll get the Air or Mini 2.

I kinda hoped that Apple would do the black&slate color cheme for the ipad unlike the new iphone. Slate gives more of a premium feel to me. Since Apple discontinued the slate option, im buying the new space grey ipad air.

I love to go with the white/silver option... Probably because if all the childhood memories spent watching sci-Fi movies where a lot of the tech was depicted in such a fashion.

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My wife gets white with a pink cover, so I get black with a grey cover. We never get them confused. Good thing there's just the two of us or it would be absolute madness. For me the black bezel makes the screen pop.

I always choose the black for my iPad because when watching videos I find the white distracting. However, I chose the white for my latest iPhone 5s because I think the white just looks cooler. I don't watch any lengthy videos on my iPhone so it's not a factor there. So short answer, black iPad and white iPhone.

I chose the white/silver for the new 5s (although the blue 5c is my fav out of all the new iPhones) but I will be going space gray/black for the iPad mini. They had a space gray gen 1 mini on display at my local Apple store and it was clean. I like the mini tv look the black provides. Would love to see these with the 5c type casings. Later in November can't be here soon enough!

I had pre-ordered an iPad mini retina in white this morning, but then I went to the store and looked at the colors in person. The slate grey is pretty sweet looking, so i switched my order when i got back. (The retina mini's aren't available in store yet).

I purchased the Silver/White iPad Mini with Retina Display. It's my first "white" apple product; a change of pace is always welcomed!

I have the Silver/White iPad Mini Retina. In my opinion, the Silver/White version is more beautiful, and it also looks good in company with my MBA!

Well, I loved the space gray/black n wanted to order it but the apple store ran out of that color of the particular specification which I finalized n had no chances of getting the space gray in the next 3-4days. So with a lot of mind making up n sad mood I ordered the silver white version of iPad air as I was traveling n didn't want 2 wait further. Guess what, I am loving the color now and feel that silver white is excellent and looks equally awesome n am certainly jubilant with what I ultimately bought :)