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Apple iPad vs iPad Mini – Which is Best?

September 12, 2019

1:00 am

Apple’s iPad range is an excellent line-up of tablets, and that’s no secret. At the cheaper end of the spectrum, you have two brilliant devices – the original iPad, and the iPad Mini. But given the choice, which should you go for?

The iPad is Apple’s cheapest tablet, but also its least powerful. The Mini costs more, but has a faster processor under the hood in the A12 – the same one that the recent iPhone uses.

We help you choose the right iPad for you, taking into account your needs and budget.

The iPad and iPad Mini may share a lot of features, but they have some striking differences too. We compare their key features side by side:

Scroll horizontally to view full table on mobile devices

9.7-inch iPad10.2-inch iPadiPad Mini 2019iPad Pro 2018iPad Air 2019iPad Pro 2017
iPad Mini 5iPad Air
VerdictThe best choice iPad for most peopleApple's latest entry-level iPad, with larger screenNew and portable, great for on the goThe most modern iPad, but expensiveLatest model, but difficult to justify the extra cost over the 9.7A little older, but still a great iPad for business users
Price from$329$329$399$783$499$636
Screen size9.7-inch10.2-inch7.9-inch11-inch & 12.9-inch10.5-inch10.5-inch & 12.9 inch
Storage size32GB – 128 GB32GB – 128 GB64GB – 256 GB64GB – 1TB64GB – 256 GB64GB-512GB
ProcessorA10A10A12A12xA12A10x
Face IDNoNoNoYesNoNo
Rear camera8Mp8Mp8Mp12Mp8Mp12Mp
Front camera1.2Mp1.2Mp7Mp7Mp7Mp7Mp
Buy

In this guide:

iPad 9.7/10.2 or iPad Mini – Which Should You Buy?

If you’re choosing between the iPad and the iPad Mini, your decision will come down to what you use the tablet for. Here are a few stand out features for both:

  • The iPad Mini is more powerful than the iPad
  • The iPad is cheaper
  • The iPad Mini has a better camera
  • iPad has a 9.7 or 10.2-inch display, while the Mini has a 7.9-inch display
  • Both are compatible with the Apple Pencil

While there are a lot of similarities between the two devices, on paper, it’s the iPad Mini which ultimately wins out – largely thanks to its more powerful processor.

However, power isn’t everything. The iPad Mini’s A12 processor also comes at a price – to be precise, it’s $70 more expensive than the standard iPad.

Still not sure? Take a look at our guide to the entire iPad range

Apple iPad MiniiPad Mini Overview

Up until recently, the iPad Mini had been somewhat neglected by Apple. Years without an update and languishing with older specs, yet never receiving an official price cut from Apple, it really wasn’t an appealing prospect.

Fast forward to 2019, and the most recent refresh has not just elevated the Mini into a contender – it’s been given such a specs and features boost that it should go straight to the top of your shopping list.

First of all, Apple has given Mini users the gift of an incredibly powerful A12 processor, which is what the latest iPhones are packing. This is a very powerful tablet, especially for the $399 price tag.

It’s also been given Apple Pen compatibility, bringing it in line with the rest of the series, as well as a little bump in Ram, going from 2GB to 3GB.

It’s a compelling package for those looking for a powerful tablet, especially if you’re after something that’s on the smaller side.

Pros:

  • A12 Processor, more powerful than the iPad
  • Small size
  • Increase in RAM 3GB

Cons:

  • Not as cheap as the 9.7 iPad

The classic Apple iPad 9.7iPad 9.7 Overview

The classic iPad might seem something of a bore these days. With its A10 processor, it’s the least powerful device in the line-up, and on the surface, it looks like the same old iPad we’ve known for almost a decade.

However, make no mistake – the standard iPad can still pull hold its own. That ‘older’ A10 processor will still comfortably tackle most demands you throw at it, without so much as a stutter. Granted, if you’re a designer or someone who needs a high-end tablet for your work or hobby, then this isn’t it. For everyone else though, it really is.

The 2018 update brought with it the ability to use the Apple Pencil to draw on the screen, and to make annotations. As this was previously reserved for the premium models, it’s a great addition, and while the Pencil costs extra, it’s easier to justify using the money you save to buy the standard iPad instead of a pricier model.

The iPad 9.7 is about to be replaced by the 10.2 model, read more below.

Pros:

  • Apple's cheapest tablet
  • Now compatible with Apple Pencil
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Not suited for demanding users, who should go for the Pro
  • Not as powerful as the Mini

iPad 10.2 Overview

The latest addition to Apple's ever-changing line-up, the 2019 iPad 10.2 is the direct replacement to the 9.7. The biggest difference, as the name might suggest, is the size. The 10.2 model, has a, wait for it, 10.2-inch display, compared to the 9.7-inches of the 2018 model.

Specs wise, it's still rocking the same hardware as the iPad 9.7 – the A10 processor runs the show, and it starts with 32GB of storage, going up to 128GB.

One key difference is that it is now compatible with the official Apple Smart Keyboard – previously owners of the entry-level iPad had to rely on third party solutions for their keyboard fix. It's not cheap, at $159, but we're glad that it's no longer reserved for the much pricier Pro and Air models.

The 10.2-inch iPad will be available on 30 September 2019, and starts at $329.

Pros:

  • 10.2-inch display
  • Newest iPad model
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Not suited for demanding users, who should go for the Pro
  • Not as powerful as the Mini

The iPad 9.7 or 10.2 is Much Better Value

We think there are few better deals in tech than the original iPad. The retail price of $329 is something of a bargain in itself, especially when stacked against the entry level Mini ($399) and the iPad Air ($499). However, retailers will also regularly discount the iPad, meaning you can easily pick it up for under $300.

For your money, you get a 9.7 or 10.2-inch Retina display, an A10 processor, 4GB Ram (up from 2GB in its previous version), and 32GB storage for the entry-level model.

The iPad received a much welcomed update last year that saw it become compatible with the Apple Pen, a feature which at the time was solely reserved for the premium Pro range. This additional versatility makes the standard iPad even more compelling, especially for the price. Add to this the fact that the upcoming 10.2-inch model is compatible with the Apple Smart keyboard, and it's getting harder to justify spending more money.

The iPad Mini is More Portable

It probably goes without saying that the iPad Mini is the most portable tablet in Apple’s line-up. The entire range is impressively slim and light, but with its 7.9-inch screen, it’s the Mini that wins the award for being the easiest to carry around.

Weighing slightly over 300 grams, the Mini is half the weight of the standard iPad, and while it won’t slip into your jeans pocket, it will happily go into a coat or jacket pocket. It’s not too much bigger than some of the more popular large screen cell phones – the Apple iPhone XS Max, for example, is just 1.4 inches smaller.

The iPad Mini is Faster

If you think that the larger iPad of the two is the more powerful, then you’ll be surprised to learn that in a battle of brawn, it’s the Mini that emerges victorious. The reason for this is that the Mini benefits from the A12 processor – while the iPad 9.7 and 10.2, are ‘making do’ with the A10.

We say ‘making do’, but in reality, the standard iPad still packs plenty of punch. It can serve up your media and entertainment, as well as you work apps, without so much as breaking a sweat – just as long as you’re not doing anything too demanding.

The Mini wins the arms race on paper, but most casual users will never notice the difference between the two.

Both Make More Sense than the iPad Air

Think of the iPad Air as the Mini’s big brother. Specs-wise, they’re practically identical, both boasting that speedy A12 processor, a 7Mp front camera, and an 8Mp rear camera.

The main difference is the price. At a starting price of $499, the Air comes in at $100 more than the iPad Mini, which leaves the question – why buy the Air?

There’s no doubt that in its own right, the Air is an excellent iPad. However, when placed side-by-side with the Mini, it becomes a much harder sell – unless you really want those extra inches of screen real estate. At 10.5 inches, the Air is much bigger than the 7.9-inch Mini, and slightly larger than the 9.7 and 10.2-inch iPads.

If you’re a casual user, and want a bigger screen than the Mini can offer, then consider the standard iPad. If you need that combination of screen and high end processor, then take a look at the Air. That said, if you really want a large screen iPad with plenty of horsepower, you should be looking at the Pro series…

Verdict: Which iPad Should You Buy?

Good news: You can’t buy a bad iPad. With the recent refresh to the Mini line-up, each one is now up to date specs-wise, and they’re all fantastic tablets in their own right.

We think that most people who pick up the standard iPad won’t ever be aware of that extra power they’re missing out on by not opting for the Mini, and that the standard iPad will provide them with years of excellent service.

For those that like to know that their tablet can run demanding apps, and who want to futureproof themselves in the long run, the Mini is the best choice.

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Jack is the Content Manager for Tech.co. He has been writing about a broad variety of technology subjects for over a decade, both in print and online, including laptops and tablets, gaming, and tech scams. As well as years of experience reviewing the latest tech devices, Jack has also conducted investigative research into a number of tech-related issues, including privacy and fraud.