iPad Air, Mini, and the super long lasting iPad 2

Two new iPads: the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display. Both have similar specs, the new A7 processor, high-resolution skins, and the only difference is the size, and about $100 in price difference. I was quite keen on buying the iPad Mini previously, but with the lightweight Air now in the picture, my decision may change again.

At closer scrutiny, there are actually 4 iPads available, the original iPad Mini at $299, which comes with an Apple A5 processor and a 1024 x 768 non-Retina screen. At the top end, you can spend $499 on an iPad Air and get Apple’s flagship tablet, with a Retina display and the latest internals. But at $399 you find yourself at a strange crossroads: you can either go back in time to the $399 iPad 2 with the same internals as the older mini, the outdated 30-pin connector, and a larger screen, or you can step into Apple’s future: the $399 iPad mini with the same A7 chip as the iPad Air and a beautiful Retina display.

The problem is that the iPad 2 is also larger and heavier. It’s three generations behind the times, and it’s far too expensive for what you’ll get. In terms of technology, a three year old product should be considered obsolete. The A5 processor is only roughly half as fast as the A6X in the fourth-generation iPad, to say nothing of the new A7 chip in the new iPad mini and Air Apple announced yesterday. There are also features that are lacking such as Siri, or AirDrop, and I’m sure there are other limitations on the older hardware. It could be due to old supplies and the surplus of iPad 2-compatible accessories as a plus for consumers, who will likely be able to get cases and cables cheaper than buying a set for the newer tablets.

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Back to the topic on hand, the iPad Air, or the iPad Mini. In Singapore, the iPad Air 16gb will start at $688, while the iPad Mini Retina is $548, just a $120 price difference. The 9.7-inch, one-pound, 7.5mm-thick iPad Air, is now light enough to hold in one hand. It solves quite a bit of the portability issues faced by the older iPad. The bigger screen is also great for media content, and for reading newspapers and magazines. The fact that the resolution is still at 4:3, newer movies and TV shows would often be displayed in a letterbox form with the black bars. Hence a bigger screen could remain handy.

The iPad Air is available in both White and Space Gray iPad Airs, but no gold. Despite a couple of surprising omissions, like a TouchID fingerprint sensor, the overall device is quite a significant upgrade as compared to last year launch. It feels completely different than the full-sized iPad once did. And that would really help Apple seal its position as the king of the large size tablets.

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For the iPad Mini, it is stacked with heavy computation from Google Nexus 2013, which is significantly cheaper (US$170). You could almost buy two Nexus 7 2013 for the price of an iPad Mini, which has pretty similar specs. However, if you are an Apple Fan, the distinction in price wouldn’t matter. I have got to give Apple credit as well, the iPad Mini is a well-built device and the entire user experience is also better than Android.

The original iPad mini was underpowered as it took the older iPad 2 processor rather than use the A6X from the iPad 4 which was launched at the same time. This time around, the iPad mini with Retina display gets no second-class treatment: it has the A7 chip that’s also inside the new iPad Air. That means it’s a 64-bit device, which makes it more future-proof than if it had stuck with a 32-bit processor. It also gets the M7 motion coprocessor.

In terms of release date and availability, the iPad Air will be available from 1 Nov 2013, in Singapore as well. The iPad Mini is expected to launch slightly later.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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