iPad Air 2 Vs. iPad Mini 3: Breaking Down The Differences Between Apple's Newest Tablets

By Connor Sears , Updated Oct 26, 2014 04:47 PM EDT
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Last year, when Apple released the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2, the two tablets were identical in terms of performance, function and graphics. The only decision potential buyers had to make when considering both was what size tablet they wanted, 9.7 inches versus 7.9 inches. With this year's release of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, however, Apple's two new tablets differ quite a bit in specs and performance, making the decision between the two more substantive than it was last year.

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If you're looking to upgrade to one of Apple's latest tablet offerings, here's a quick guide to help you find out which better suits you.

Size and Display

Size is the most apparent difference between the Mini 3 and Air 2. The iPad Air 2 is a 9.7-inch tablet, while the Mini 3 clocks in at 7.9 inches. Because of the size difference, the Mini weighs noticeably less than the Air, although the larger tablet was able to shave off about a millimeter in depth, making it slightly thinner than the Mini this year.

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Despite the difference in size, both tablets share the same 2048-by-1536 resolution. The only difference here is that the iPad Air 2 includes a slick new antireflective coating on the display, which the iPad Mini 3 was not able to get.

Hardware Specs

The iPad Air 2 runs faster in this department thanks to its new A8X processing chip and M8 coprocessor. The Mini 3 still runs on last year's A7 and M7 chips. Both possess a 64-bit architecture, but the Air has just a little more power under the hood. Further, the Air 2's 8-megapixel real camera is a marked upgrade from the Mini's 5-megapixel camera, though both models still share the same 1.2MP front-facing camera.

Features

The Mini 3 can do everything last year's tablets could, but it hasn't received many extra goodies in terms of functionality. It did get Touch ID capabilities and a new gold color option (both of which also are available with the Air 2), but that's about the extent of its new features. The Air 2, however, added new functions like slo-mo video capture, burst mode for photographs and a built-in barometer.

Price

With the exception of the more portable size (which is really more of a matter of personal taste) this is really the only avenue where the Mini 3 comes away looking like the victor. Each iPad Mini 3 model is $100 cheaper than the corresponding Air 2, with the iPad Mini 3 starting at $399. Both models come with versions with 16, 64 and 128 GB of storage, with cellular options costing $130 more than for just Wi-Fi.

It's worth noting that, if you're now thinking that an iPad Mini 3 would be right for you, consider looking at last year's iPad Mini 2 if you can live without Touch ID, Apple Pay and a gold case. If you don't care about those functions and can live with a maximum of 32 GB of space, an iPad Mini 2 is otherwise identical to the Mini 3 in terms of hardware specs and can be picked up for at least $100 less.

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