Skip to content

Apple iPad mini vs. iPad Air: Which Is Better?

When it comes to choosing between Apple‘s iPad models, two of the most popular options are the iPad mini and the iPad Air. While both are excellent tablets with many similarities, there are also some key differences that set them apart. In this in-depth comparison, we‘ll take a closer look at the iPad mini vs iPad Air to help you decide which one is the best fit for your needs.

Size and Portability
One of the most obvious differences between the iPad mini and iPad Air is their size. As its name suggests, the iPad mini is the smallest iPad in Apple‘s lineup with a compact 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display. Measuring just 7.69 inches tall, 5.3 inches wide, and 0.25 inches thin, it‘s incredibly portable and easy to hold in one hand for extended periods. At just 0.65 pounds for the Wi-Fi model, it‘s also the lightest iPad currently available.

In comparison, the iPad Air features a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that provides significantly more screen real estate. However, that comes with a size trade-off, with dimensions of 9.74 inches tall, 7.02 inches wide, and 0.24 inches thin. It‘s also heavier at 1.0 pounds for the Wi-Fi version. While still very portable compared to a laptop, the iPad Air is not quite as ideal as the mini for situations where pocketability and one-handed use are priorities.

So if maximum portability is your top concern and you mainly want an iPad for reading, web browsing, gaming, and media consumption, the iPad mini is likely the better choice. But if you don‘t mind a bit of extra size and weight in exchange for a roomier display for productivity tasks, multitasking, and content creation, the iPad Air is the way to go.

Performance and Specs
Another key area where the iPad mini and iPad Air differ is in their processing power and performance. The iPad Air boasts Apple‘s M1 chip, which is the same processor found in the latest MacBook Air and iMac. With 8 CPU cores and 8 GPU cores, it offers a huge leap in performance over previous iPad models. It can easily handle demanding tasks like editing 4K video, working with multiple layers in Photoshop, and playing graphics-intensive games.

The iPad mini is certainly no slouch though. It packs an A15 Bionic chip, which is the same blazing-fast processor found in the iPhone 13 Pro. While not quite as powerful as the M1, the A15 can still handle pretty much any task you throw at it with ease, including editing RAW photos, 3D modeling, and gaming. In benchmark tests, the A15 in the iPad mini even outperforms many mid-range laptops. For the vast majority of iPad users, the A15‘s performance will be more than sufficient.

Both the iPad mini and iPad Air also share other key specs like storage options (64GB or 256GB), wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0), and 10 hours of battery life for typical usage. They are also both compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil for drawing, taking notes, and precise photo editing.

If you plan to take a lot of photos and videos with your iPad, or frequently use it for video calls, the iPad mini has a slight edge in the camera department. It features a 12MP wide rear camera with Smart HDR 3, while the iPad Air has a 12MP rear camera without Smart HDR.

But the bigger difference is with the front-facing camera. The iPad mini boasts a 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage, a nifty feature that automatically pans and zooms to keep you centered in the frame as you move around on video calls. The iPad Air makes do with a 7MP FaceTime HD camera that lacks the Ultra Wide FOV and Center Stage.

Of course, most people don‘t buy an iPad primarily for its camera quality. If you just need serviceable cameras for scanning the occasional document, taking reference photos, and hopping on FaceTime calls, both the iPad mini and iPad Air will do the job well. But if you want the best front-facing camera and the Center Stage feature for video calls, the iPad mini comes out ahead.

Accessories and Expansion
If using your iPad with a keyboard or connecting it to external devices is a priority, the iPad Air offers some advantages over the iPad mini. Most notably, it has Apple‘s Smart Connector, which allows you to magnetically attach and power accessories like the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. Just snap them on and start typing—no Bluetooth pairing or separate charging required.

The larger screen size of the iPad Air also makes it a better fit for the Magic Keyboard accessory, providing a more spacious layout akin to a laptop. You can certainly use Bluetooth keyboards with the iPad mini, including Apple‘s Magic Keyboard, but you‘ll have a more cramped typing experience and will need to charge the keyboard separately.

Additionally, the USB-C port on the iPad Air can take advantage of its faster M1 chip to enable a wider variety of expansion and connectivity options. For example, it supports faster USB-C accessories, 6K external displays, and even has a "pass-through charging" feature that lets you charge other devices from the iPad Air while it‘s plugged in.

The iPad mini also has a USB-C port, but its A15 chip means slower maximum data transfer speeds and 5K external display support instead of 6K. So if you want to use your iPad more like a laptop with pro-level accessories and connectivity, the iPad Air is the clear choice. But if you mainly want an iPad as a standalone tablet, the mini does just fine with more basic accessory support.

Which One Should You Buy?
As you can see, while the iPad mini and iPad Air share many core features and capabilities, they are each better suited for different types of users and use cases. Here‘s a quick summary to help you decide which one to buy:

Consider the iPad mini if you:

  • Want the most portable iPad for reading, gaming, and media consumption on the go
  • Prefer a smaller, lighter device you can easily hold in one hand
  • Don‘t need the absolute fastest performance for professional-level productivity tasks
  • Want the best front-facing camera with Center Stage for video calls
  • Don‘t plan to use your iPad with a keyboard case or many wired accessories

Consider the iPad Air if you:

  • Want a larger screen for multitasking, content creation, and productivity
  • Need the most processing power possible in an iPad for demanding workloads
  • Plan to use your iPad as a laptop replacement with Apple‘s Magic Keyboard
  • Require faster transfer speeds and wider support for USB-C accessories and displays
  • Don‘t mind a bit of extra size and weight compared to the iPad mini

Ultimately, both the iPad mini and iPad Air are fantastic tablets that will serve you well for years to come. By carefully considering your needs and priorities, and the key differences outlined above, you can confidently choose the model that‘s the perfect fit for you. The iPad mini is the ultimate portable iPad with a compact design, while the iPad Air shines as a versatile productivity device and potential laptop replacement. You really can‘t go wrong with either one.