iPad or iPad Mini: Which should I choose?

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.

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TOPICS: iPad, Apple, Tablets
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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

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61 comments
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  • For around the house: iPad. Mobility: iPad mini.

    Price not-withstanding. The larger screen is nicer but it is hard to beat the smaller size for on-the-go needs.
    Bruizer
    • I like the iPad

      I just spent some time at store looking at both the iPad Mini and retina iPad. The retina iPad looked much better than the Mini and navigating on web pages and scrolling in and out and moving around on the screen was a much smoother experience on the iPad. Reading articles looked a lot better on the regular iPad as well.

      I am actually an iPad Mini fan. I've always thought Apple should make a smaller tablet, and I was planning to get a Mini, but from what I could glean from the short time I spent at the store, the regular iPad looked more compelling.

      One thing I saw was Pages, Keynote, Garageband, iMovie, etc. on the iPads already. I don't know if these apps were downloaded by the store staffs or whether it already came on the iPad. I can't find any info on the web regarding these apps. Even the Apple website mentions these apps, but doesn't make clear whether these are simply available for download or whether they come included with purchase.

      This is significant because these apps are worth a lot of money and if the apps do come with either iPad you are getting a very good value. Apple charges $20 each for Keynote and Pages. That's $40 just for those 2 apps.
      Maha888
      • Those apps do not come free on the iPad

        but your figures are off. Pages, Keynote and Numbers are $9.99 each not $19.99 which is the cost of the OSX versions. Garageband and iMovie cost $4.99 each. For what you get they are all good values. I use Pages and Numbers all the time.
        non-biased
  • I can't even believe there's any question about this.

    If you're not a sucker, you go for the iPad, rather than the iPad Mini.

    The iPad Mini is overpriced for a 7" tablet. The only people who should be buying it are people who are tied inexorably to the iTunes market and absolutley must have something smaller than an iPad.
    bhartman36
    • Mini is too small

      I like the IPad because I read a lot....and disagree with the blogger when he says the Ipad is too much to handle for reading magazines and ebooks.....not.....it's the best format for this partly because it is similar in size to a book or magazine.
      Byxit
    • How do you determine what is overprice for somebody else?

      If you are the one doing the purchasing sure but only the person actually buying can determine the value they get out of their purchases.
      non-biased
  • Eyesight

    I think much depends on your eyesight! If you can read the 7" comfortably without constantly pinch zooming, then go for the 7" by all means. But if you have lousy eyesight like mine, then go for bigger -- at the annoying but necessary cost of more weight and less convenience.
    ReadandShare
    • Fully agree on that

      Generation 40+ is better served with a full sized iPad.
      EnticingHavoc
      • Add 50+ too.

        ...
        Arm A. Geddon
        • I fully agree

          That's also why 4" is way too small for a smartphone. 4.3" and up is required.

          Today we find out that small smartphone screens don't count. Defend the hive.
          toddbottom3
          • Today I'll feed the trolls or your case...

            Microsoft drone.

            I have a BB Bold that my company pays for and I'm very happy with it. Also, have Panasonic Wireless phones for my landline at home. I have no need for a smartphone.

            http://reviews.cnet.com/smartphones/blackberry-bold-9700-t/4505-6452_7-33785661.html
            Arm A. Geddon
  • Simple answer

    Get a Microsoft Surface, iPad is an obsolete device... :-)
    Owlll1net
    • If MS Office is mandatory for you, I agree

      Otherwise Surface RT/Pro still have a long way to go until they exhibit the same stability like iOS. 16:9 is questionable whether it is the optimal size ratio for a mostly hand held device.
      EnticingHavoc
      • Would you prefer A or B?

        Owlll1net: C

        Conclusion: you are an idiot
        D.T.Long
        • Correction

          And perhaps an apology. This was supposed to be a reply to Owlll1net post. He is idiot for his post, but that is a MS shill for you.
          D.T.Long
          • Ha ha...

            A small advice my friend, calling me an idiot doesn't hide the fact the Surface RT is miles ahead of silly iPads and malware filled androids.
            Owlll1net
        • +1

          ...
          Arm A. Geddon
        • Given two bad choices...

          D.T. Long, would you rather have leprosy or a brain tumor?
          john-whorfin
        • A or B

          Thats the question you ask a two year old.....do you want a bath now or in ten minutes.....idiotic.......more intelligent to discuss what's on everyone's mind.....do you prefer redheads or pinheads.......what about blondes, brunettes, baldness......narrow is as narrow does.
          Byxit
        • All you would need to do is read a couple of his posts to come to

          that conclusion.
          non-biased