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iPad Air 5 vs. mini 6: Which should you buy?

Ipad Mini 6 Review Size Vs Ipad Pro 12
Ipad Mini 6 Review Size Vs Ipad Pro 12 (Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

For a brief spell in 2021, Apple's iPad mini pulled ahead of the iPad Air thanks to a stellar sixth-generation model hitting store shelves. In early 2022, Apple has redressed the balance with the iPad Air 5 but some buyers may still need to choose between the new-found power of the Air and the portability of the mini. Here's everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad mini 6: Breaking down the specs

With the introduction of the iPad Air 5, Apple has brought the mid-tier iPad up to speed with the iPad mini 6 and taken a bit of a lead in the performance department. To help you decide which is right for you, we've compared the specs directly and will go into further detail below.

iPad Air 5iPad mini 6
Starting price$599$499
ProcessorM1A15 Bionic
Storage64GB
256GB
64GB
256GB
Display10.9-inch Liquid Retina display8.3-inch Liquid Retina display
Resolution2360x1640 resolution at 264 ppi2266‑by‑1488 resolution at 326 ppi
True ToneYesYes
P3 wide colorYesYes
FaceTime camera12MP Ultra Wide camera12MP Ultra Wide camera
Center StageYesYes
Rear camera12MP Wide camera12MP Wide camera
FlashNoQuad-LED True Tone
Cellular5G5G
ConnectorUSB-CUSB-C
SecurityTouch IDTouch ID
Battery lifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hours
ColorsSpace Gray
Starlight
Pink
Purple
Blue
Space Gray
Starlight
Pink
Purple
Apple Pencil 2 supportYesYes
Smart ConnectorYesNo

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad mini 6: iPad Air is best for most use cases

Lory sitting in a chair using iPad Air 4

Lory sitting in a chair using iPad Air 4 (Image credit: Lory Gil / iMore)

The iPad Air 4 was already a stellar mid-range tablet for most people's needs but the move to the M1 chip means the fifth-generation device is now packing power on par with Apple's top-tier iPad Pro. Most people who buy it are unlikely to push it to its limits but it's good to have a higher ceiling and know you have a device that is future-proofed.

Also faster is the USB-C port on the iPad Air 5. It now offers twice the bandwidth of the previous model, for data transfers of up to 10Gbps. That means it's also twice as fast as the USB-C port on the iPad mini 6. That's great if you plan to plug in USB-C iPad hubs and accessories or if you plan to hook it up to an external display. iPad Air 5 supports external displays with up to 6K resolution, including Apple's own Pro Display XDR and new Studio Display.

iPad Air 5's balance of size, power, and price makes it a top pick.

In other areas, Apple has essentially brought the iPad Air up to speed with the iPad mini 6 that was unveiled late in 2021. It now features a 12MP Ultra Wide front-facing camera with Center Stage and an upgraded 12MP Wide camera on the back. 5G is also available on the Air for the first time, which the iPad mini 6 got in 2021.

Not everything has been upgraded, though, with the display staying the exact same as the previous-generation Air, Touch ID staying put, the same storage options, same Apple Pencil 2 support, and a basically unchanged industrial design.

It's clear that Apple hasn't reinvented the wheel with the iPad Air 5 but it has made it considerably more powerful without cranking up the price. Its balance of size, power, and price makes it a top pick for most use cases.

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad mini 6: If you need portability, go small

Ipad Mini 6 Review Hero

Ipad Mini 6 Review Hero (Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

The iPad mini 6 is a huge upgrade over the model it replaced in 2021 meaning that Apple's smallest tablet is actually pretty darn powerful. Granted, it's now outpaced by the iPad Air 5 with M1 chip, but the A15 Bionic inside the mini is no slouch. According to Apple, iPad mini 6 delivers a 40% jump in CPU performance and 60% graphics boost over the previous-gen iPad mini.

The device supports the Apple Pencil 2, making it a great portable note-taking device, though there's no Smart Connector on the back for magnetically attaching a keyboard. A full-size Bluetooth keyboard will probably serve you better here, anyway.

Don't be fooled, iPad mini 6 is a pocket powerhouse.

It matches up to the iPad Air 5 in some other ways, too, including 5G support, Center Stage, a 12MP rear camera, Touch ID sensor, up to 256GB of storage, and USB-C support (albeit slower). If you don't need the added power of M1, the only real downside is the smaller canvas though this may actually be a boon to those that need to prioritize portability.

Curiously, the iPad mini 6 beats the iPad Air 5 in one very niche aspect: the LED flash. It features a quad-LED True Tone flash on the back whereas the Air does not have an LED flash at all. Otherwise, the camera hardware is the same so keen iPad photographers should take note.

iPad mini 6 is also ideally suited to keen readers with its pixel-dense display. It continues to be the case that the iPad mini has the most pixels per inch at 326 compared to the 264 of the iPad Air. That makes text appear super-sharp on screen which, when combined with the small and light form factor, makes the iPad mini 6 an ideal e-reading device.

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad mini 6: Which should you buy?

Since the iPad mini 6 can do pretty much everything the larger iPad Air 5 can, it's going to come down to size. If portability is your primary concern, then the mini will be the best iPad for you. If you plan to use your iPad at home most of the time, the iPad Air will offer more screen real estate in a slightly less portable design.

That being said, the iPad Air is faster, offers a speedier USB-C port, and also has extra versatility thanks to the Smart Connector. These are certainly factors worth considering if you plan to use an iPad as your main computing device, hooked up to various accessories.

Adam Oram is a Senior Writer at iMore. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as an Apple Genius and as a Deals Editor at Thrifter. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.