iPad mini or iPad Air?

It has only been a few days since the new iPad event and I’m already getting questions from listeners and readers about which iPad I think they should buy. Not having laid hands on either of the new ones yet, it seems to me that Apple has made the decision much easier. Specifically, they have leveled the playing field between the two devices. It used to be that you either got the big, fast, heavy one with the great screen or the little, light, slow one with the pixelated screen. That’s not the case anymore.

They Are Both Fast

Both iPads have the same A7 chip inside them so you don’t have any processing speed trade-off with either device.

They Are Both Light

While the big one is obviously a bit heavier, not much. Apple has done a great job of removing a lot of the weight from the larger iPad. Moreover, they’ve added a retina screen to the mini without dramatically increasing its weight which brings me to my next point.

They Both Have Beautiful Displays

They both have retina screens. Since they both have the same pixel count, the iPad mini screen is actually slightly better now than its bigger brother. The non-retina screen was my biggest complaint with the mini.

One is Big and One is Small

The only difference at this point is that one is nearly 10 inches and one is nearly 8 inches. With this as the only deciding factor, for a lot of people this will make the decision really easy. They will know immediately whether they want a large one or the small one.

For those who are not certain, I’d ask you to look at the ways in which you use your iPad. If you primarily use it for consumption, such as reading websites, books, and other basic computing tasks, you should look closely at the iPad mini. It’s great for those tasks. If on the other hand you’re working on documents, using the on-screen keyboard a lot, and doing tasks that are more content creation focused, you may want to look at the iPad Air. I’ve been watching my wife, a technology-muggle, using her iPad the last few months and she does a tremendous amount of work with the on-screen keyboard. I don’t think the iPad mini would ever work for her.

I currently own both, an iPad 3 and an iPad mini. When I’m at the office or in court working on a lot of PDF files and mindmaps, I really appreciate the larger iPad’s bigger screen. When I’m on the road, attending conferences, or even just banging around my house, the portability of the mini is really useful. The iPad mini is also really great for small day trips in that it fits in a much smaller bag than the iPad Air. (The iPad mini is also really great for driving wireless presentations.) Everybody’s different and everybody’s going to have to make their own decisions. I’ve grown so accustomed to having both that I’m seriously considering selling my prior devices to help offset the purchase of an iPad Air *and* retina iPad mini. Tim Cook must love me.