Head-To-Head: Apple iPad Vs. Apple iPad Mini

Comparing Apple's To Apple's

Contrasting the fourth-gen iPad with the new iPad mini keeps things simple, in a way. The older sibling is the larger of the pair, and it's the more sophisticated. The younger device, as goes the adage, is the more beautiful. All three current iPad models are clearly wrought from the same genes, and one's buying choice might come down to the size of your bag or your budget.

Cupertino's mini model drops into the market starting at $329, expensive for a small tablet, but it's also the cheapest a new iPad has ever been. Access to Apple's tablet ecosystem has never had a lower bar. Yet its low cost comes at a price; its larger sibling has far more technology packed inside. The iPad 4 isn't just bigger -- it's the higher-end model. Here's why.


Officially known as the iPad with Retina display, the larger iPad's higher-end status begins to show itself at the very first glance. The 10.1-inch Retina display with its 2,048-x-1,536 resolution is frankly incredible. At 264 pixels per inch, its detail pops off of the screen. Such resolution makes professional-level work possible using powerful software like Adobe Photoshop Touch (which also runs on the mini, but pales in comparison).

By contrast, the mini's 1,024 x 768 appears ho-hum. When figuring for the 7.9-inch screen, its resolution calculates to a paltry 163 ppi. This might make photo editing a bit more difficult, but it's adequate for Web and media consumption. In fact, for everyday tasks, the mini's screen is perfectly serviceable and comparable to most competitive tablets in the 7-inch class.

Tale Of The Tape

Prepare yourself for a surprise: the iPad mini is smaller than the iPad 4. But how much smaller is a fair question. We've long believed that 10-inch tablets aren't terribly ergonomic. They can't easily be used with one hand, and holding them with one hand quickly gets tiresome. 7-inch tablets, on the other hand, are a dream to hold with one hand and easy to use for reading, browsing and other forms of consumption. They're also easier to carry, and for situations that don't involve watching videos or being productive, 7-inchers often make more sense. That's why these measurements are demonstrably important.

The full-size iPad stretches the tape at 9.5 by 7.3 inches, and it's 0.37 inches thick. The iPad mini measures 7.9 by 5.3 inches and is just 0.28 inches thick. The bottom line is that the mini can be gripped from edge to edge with one hand, and the iPad can't (unless you're a professional basketball player). In terms of weight, the difference is even starker. For Wi-Fi-only variants, the iPad weighs 1.44 pounds, more than double the mini's svelte 0.68 pounds. This is one light and skinny tablet.


Things really start to diverge under the hood. The fourth-gen iPad is two full processor generations ahead of the mini, which is actually on par with the second-gen iPad 2. The smaller tablet uses the dual-core A5 processor, whereas the newest iPad uses the dual-core A6X processor with quad-core graphics. That's four processing cores dedicated to graphics processing compared with the mini's two. Granted, much of the A6X's extra horsepower drives that incredibly high-resolution screen, but it also gives the full-size iPad an aptitude for impressive gaming and other image-intensive applications. The mini can only boast two dedicated graphics processing cores.


The cameras on the iPad 4 and iPad mini are physically identical and offer exactly the same capabilities. Both devices are equipped with a 1.2MP front-facing camera and 5MP shooter on the rear. In terms of relative quality, they're among the best cameras available for a tablet, but they're mediocre when compared with, say, a DSLR. Both machines can shoot video at 1080p (rear) and 720p (front). Apple's rear iSight camera offers a five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture and autofocus. Unfortunately, neither can take advantage of the much-publicized Panorama feature of iOS. But don't worry -- a replacement can be found in ... (the next slide).


It should come as no surprise that all the iPads use identical software, and that Apple has the most successful tablet operating system of all time. And because of its enormous user base, hundreds of third-party software developers have popped up to offer solutions and to cash in. So if Apple itself doesn't provide a panorama feature for iPad as it does on iPhone, users can take their pick of iOS App Store apps such as Autostitch Panorama, 360 Panorama and plain old Panorama, which range in price from free to $1.99. Apple's App Store might as well be named "Fields of Plenty," because there are literally millions of apps for every conceivable use.

And if you're concerned about certain apps being incompatible with the iPad mini because of its smaller screen, don't be. Apple smartly gifted the mini's screen with an identical resolution to the iPad 2, so virtually any iPad app is already compatible with the smaller edition.

Which apps are best for business? Find out at CRN's Daily App blog.


The iPad mini scales from $329 all the way up to $659. Its larger sibling starts at $499 and trends to $829. Here's how the pricing gets that high. Each model's starting price is for the Wi-Fi-only model that packs 16 GB of storage. There are two additional tiers of storage, 32 GB and 64 GB, moving up one tier adds $100, moving up two adds $200. In addition, there's a $130 option to add LTE data coverage from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. All of these options are available on both the full-size and iPad mini variants. The price difference between the two is appreciable, but hardly stark, and the bottom-rung iPad mini has made the iPad far more "giftable" than ever before.

The Bottom Line

When it comes right down to it, the iPad with Retina display and the iPad mini are really more alike than they are different. They run the same software, take the same pictures and have access to the same memory configurations and services for data and cloud. So the buying choice comes down to a few key factors, the foremost being price and main intended usage scenario(s).

For the budget-conscious professional who needs access to email, Web, reader and business applications, the iPad mini will suit that need perfectly well. If more money is available and/or more screen and power are desired for graphics apps, remote desktop or gaming, then the obvious choice would be the iPad 4.