iPad or iPad Mini: Which should I choose?

Summary:The iPad Mini is essentially a full-sized iPad that's been hit with a shrink ray, but that smaller screen gives it advantages and disadvantages over its bigger brother.

Time to answer a reader's query from the bulging Hardware 2.0 mailbag:

I'm having a hard time choosing between a full-sized iPad 4 or an iPad Mini. I know that the main difference between the two tablets is that the iPad has a 9.7-inch display, while the iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch display, but I'm curious to know if you think there are any applications where one excels over the other.

You're right in that when it comes down to the hardware, the main difference between the iPad 4 and iPad Mini is screen size. Under the hood, the iPad has a more powerful processor than the iPad Mini, but the dip in performance that results from this is offset by the fact that the iPad Mini has a smaller screen, which puts less of a demand on the silicon.

Another non-issue is battery life, since both devices have a battery rated as being good for 10 hours. Also, storage considerations are also moot since both come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB flavors.

If performance, battery life, and storage are all non-issues, what is?

After having some hands-on time with the iPad Mini, I've got a reasonable idea of its strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths

  • Price: Smaller iPad means a cheaper iPad

  • Portability: You can tuck conceivably an iPad Mini into a pocket or a small handbag, whereas carrying its bigger brother needs more of a commitment

  • Content consumption: Video, ebooks, and movies all look better on the iPad Mini than they do on the iPhone. Does content look better on the iPad? Sure it does, but the difference doesn't feel all that great, and when it comes to ebooks and magazines, a full-sized iPad can be too much to handle

  • Music: The stereo speakers on the iPad Mini make it a great portable music player

  • Keeping in touch: The iPad Mini is great for keeping in touch, either via email, iMessage, or social media. iMessage conversations no longer feel cramped as they do on the iPhone.

Weaknesses

  • Keyboard size: A smaller screen means a smaller on-screen keyboard, and if you are planning to you your tablet for work, this is a significant influence in the buying process. While the iPad's on-screen keyboard is fine for even reasonably extended bouts of typing, the iPad Mini's on-screen keyboard is far too cramped for anything other than short bursts of productivity

  • Cramped applications: A smaller screen means a smaller space for apps. While this isn't a problem for a lot of apps, anything that you have to control with fingers and thumbs is harder on the iPad Mini than it is on the iPad. Apps such as spreadsheets and word processor documents quickly become frustrating to work with

  • Accessories: If you're in the market for accessories such as a folio case featuring a keyboard, then opting for an iPad Mini will drastically reduce your options.

Both the iPad and iPad Mini are solid tablets, but that adding or removing that 1.8 inches of screen space make a tremendous difference to how you use the two devices.

Topics: iPad, Apple, Tablets

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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