iPad Air vs. Retina iPad mini. It seems like that's all I'm getting asked about these days. We've done podcasts about it we've done full-on buyers guides for it, and I've done a complete iPad Air review and iPad mini with Retina display review, and still, the questions. Haven't. Stopped. Coming. But I've used both now, a week exclusively on the Air, a week exclusively on the Retina mini, and a week switching back and forth. So, what's the answer?
The Retina mini is just much more convenient. It all but disappears into my laptop bag, and if I'm going out and don't want to take my laptop, the mini fits into my jacket, and even my back jeans pocket. If you're always on the go, and need just a little more computing than an iPhone enables, the Retina iPad mini simply can't be beat.
The iPad Air is just much bigger and more expansive. It feels opened up, and even though it's the same number of pixels, there's a luxury to having them spread out. I keep it at home, in the living room or bedroom, and I close my MacBook and grab my iPad Air if there's anything I really want to read or watch. If you don't have or want a laptop at all, the iPad Air is the ultimate post-PC.
As with the iPad 4 and original mini, having both means I can use the Retina mini when I travel, as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a way to do stay connected on the road and in the air. And I can use the iPad Air while at home, for reading books and comics, drawing, watching TV and movies, and even VNC.
When I use the iPad Air, I do miss the lightness of the Retina mini, especially when holding it for long periods of time. But when I use the Retina iPad mini, I miss the size of the Air's screen. This, I think, is what makes the decision so hard. Some megahertz and color range aside, they two iPads are almost atomically identical in every way but size. The difference comes down to half-full vs. half-empty perspective. You can finally have a full-sized iPad almost as light as the mini, or a mini almost as powerful as the full-sized.
And that's the key - it's not that it's impossible to decide, it's impossible to go wrong. You'll be well served by either, simply pick the one that slightly better fits your use-case.
If portability is the most important thing to you, if you'll have a computer with you most of the time, if you travel a lot, if you want to be able to hold it up for long periods of time, then you want the Retina iPad mini.
If power is the most important thing, if you want to use it as a primary computing appliance, if you mean to use it more around the home, school, or office, if you need to get a ton of work done, then you want the iPad Air.
For me, Infinity Gauntlet to my head, fate of the multiverse at stake, I'd probably choose the iPad Air - between iPhone and iPad Air, it feels like I'd have both extremes covered - but even while typing that I starting to second guess myself...
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.