Last year, when Apple updated its iPad lineup, it was clear that the only difference between the larger iPad Air and the smaller iPad mini was exactly that – the difference in their sizes. Both the iPads came almost identical internals and offered the same features and functionalities.
This year, Apple has taken a slightly different approach. The iPad Air received a major performance boost, due to the increased RAM (it now comes with 2GB instead of 1GB) and has a custom A8X SoC. This makes it 40% faster compared to last years model in terms of processing performance and 2.5x faster in its graphical performance.
The iPad Mini 3 on the other hand didn’t get a speed-bump at all and the features the same internals as last year. All it got was a gold variant and TouchID.
If you prefer the form-factor of the larger iPad Air, this deviation should not matter to you at all. But if you are like me, and prefer the form-factor of the iPad Mini, this deviation can cause some serious confusion. Luckily for me, I don’t really need to upgrade my iPad for another year (if not more), but for those of you that are planning to get a new iPad, here are some reasons why you should consider getting the iPad Air 2 instead of the iPad mini 3.
The iPad Air 2 is super thin at 6.11mm (c) Wired
The primary reason I purchased the Retina iPad Mini last year was because of it’s superior form-factor. This year, things have changed though, as the gap between the two models in terms of their form factor has significantly narrowed. The iPad Air 2 (6.1mm) is not only thinner than the iPad Mini 3 (7.5mm), but is also thinner than the iPhone 6 (6.9mm). This makes it much more easier to carry around and even hold during casual reading. The iPad Air 2 is also lighter than its predecessor, weighing in at 437g compared to the 331g of the iPad Mini 3. The only situation in which you will notice this difference is while reading, but in every other scenario, this difference shouldn’t even be noticable.
The gap between the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini in terms of processing and graphical performance is stark. If you mainly intend to use the iPad mini for consuming content (reading books, browsing the internet, listening to music, watching videos) the iPad mini will suit you better. But if you plan to use it for creating content, you should definitely go for the iPad Air 2. In comparison to the iPad mini 2, the iPad mini 3, and the original iPad Air, the iPad Air features twice the RAM. It is also significantly faster in terms of its processing capabilities and graphical performance. The iPad Air 2 is 2.5x faster in its graphical performance, and 40% faster. This additional horse power will come in handy for those like me who intend to use their iPad to create content – whether that is music, videos, photos, or something else.
The 2.5x improvement in the graphics department will also make the iPad Air 2 a great device for gamers. In his review for Wired, Nate Lanxon tested the graphical capabilities of the iPad Air 2, by running Antutu’s GPU benchmark – which makes the iPad render a scene from a 3D video game with complex visuals. The iPad Air registered a score of 14,306, while the original iPad Air scored 6,584. It is worth noting that the iPad Air 2 renders at 60 frames per second, which is more than double the rendering capabilities of the original iPad Air (and the iPad mini 3).
Most users may not end up noticing the difference that the 2GB RAM or the A8X processor make as of now, but when iOS 9 or iOS 10 rolls out, the additional RAM and processing power will definitely come in handy. Compared to any other iPad that is presently available in the market, the iPad Air 2 is the most future-proof model out there. If you do not intend to upgrade your iPad for a couple (maybe even few) years, then the iPad Air 2 is the perfect device for you.
I can’t remember ever having used any of my iPads for taking pictures, but if you plan to use your iPad for taking pictures and videos, the iPad Air 2 is definitely what you should get. The iPad Air 2 features an 8 mega-pixel camera (as compared to the 5 mega-pixel camera on the iPad Air and the minis). It also has the same image processing capabilities as the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Pictures captured on the iPad Air 2 will be better in terms of – low light performance, details, color rendering, and frame size.
Last year, choosing between the iPad Air and the mini was a really tough decision. Both had almost identical internals and offered the same functionality. This year, Apple clearly wants customers to go for the iPad Air and I highly recommend that you do. Really, why would you want to get the mini, when for an additional 100 dollars, you could get the fastest, most feature-rich, and future-ready tablet in the market.