MacMost Now 783: Choosing Between the iPad and the iPad mini

For those buying their first iPad, or looking to upgrade from an older one, they now have to choose between the iPad and the iPad mini. They are very similar, except for differences in size, screen, speed and price. In the end it is a subjective choice with size and price being the deciding factors for most people.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 783: Choosing Between the iPad and the iPad mini.

Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's look at choosing between the iPad and the iPad Mini.

So there are five main differences between the two devices. They are size, screen, speed, price and size. That's right, size is in there twice.

(Opening box and setting up)

The first size is pretty obvious. I mean, it's a smaller device. It is both smaller and lighter. It makes it easier to carry around and it makes it easier to hold in your hand, especially if you are reading books or reading articles on websites. So the factor between the two different devices is that this is smaller and lighter. So if you want a smaller and lighter device, if the full size iPad seems too big for you, then the Mini is what you want.

So the screens on the two iPads are different. The full size iPad has what is called a retina display. Look at episode 684 if you want information about what a retina display is. But basically for every one pixel instead of a single pixel, single color you get four, a little grid of four pixels, which means that the photos are clearer, the text is crisper, the display is just a generally better display where things look better and you can't actually see the dots as much as you can on a standard display.

Now the iPad Mini screen is a lot smaller than the iPad screen of course, so that means that the pixels themselves are not that different than the pixels on a retina display. So things still look pretty good on an iPad Mini but if say you are big on taking photographs then you may look closely at getting a full size iPad because the full size display there will make photos look so much better.

Next we have the processor speed. So the iPad Mini has an A5 processor which basically is similar to what was in the iPad 2; a little bit better. The full size iPad has an A6X processor which basically is two generations above what is in the iPad Mini. So it is going to process things faster; or will it? Well, for most things that people use an iPad for it is not going to make any difference at all. For even things that do, like say some really cool games, you will find that the iPad Mini is not that different in speed. The reason for that is because the standard display has one fourth the number of pixels than a retina display. So for rendering say a 3D environment like a racing game, the full size iPad has to work four times as hard so the faster processor is kind of necessary for that. The iPad Mini doesn't have to work as hard so the slower processor gets a similar performance.

The biggest, clearest difference between the two iPads is price. You have $329 versus $499. That's a pretty big price drop for the iPad Mini. So if you are on a budget and you are just not able to afford the five hundred dollar iPad then a Mini is a good option.

Now looking again at size it is kind of interesting that usually bigger is better, right? The 27" iMac is better than the 21 1/2" iMac. But recently people have been dying for a smaller screened iPad. So Apple has produced it. But is smaller better or is bigger better. It depends on what you want. If you want to look at photographs, if you want to have apps that you can easily touch the buttons and everything has lots of space, then a full sized iPad is clearly better than an iPad Mini and you may want to spend the extra money.

So for most people the processor difference is not going to be a factor. For a lot of people also the difference in the display is not going to be a factor. There are a ton of people who have iPads don't really care about the retina display. In that case the iPad Mini is just as good.

Now for those of you who do care about the retina display your choice is pretty clear.

Budget, it's a matter of your own budget whether or not the hundred and seventy dollar difference is a factor.

So then it really comes down to the size. Whether you want a larger device or a smaller device. Both have advantages and disadvantages. It isn't clear which one is better because it is nice and easy to hold this tiny, super light iPad. But also it is nice to have the larger screen. So the whole thing is very subjective. I recommend that if you are having trouble making a decision to go to an Apple Store or go to a store that carries both iPads and actually get to play with them. You will probably see very clearly which one is the one for you after you get to hold them and play with them.

Now keep in mind there are a lot of factors that are equal in both iPads. For instance the cameras in both. There is a front and back camera essentially the same. You have also got very similar functionality in terms of the speakers. You've got same functionality in terms that they both have lightening connectors now. They both have the same controls. The same capabilities in almost every respect except for these factors.

So I hope you found this look at the differences between the iPad Mini and the iPad useful. I'm interested in hearing your opinions about which one you think is right for you. Leave a comment to this post at

Until next time this is Gary at MacMost Now.

Comments: 18 Responses to “MacMost Now 783: Choosing Between the iPad and the iPad mini”

    6 years ago

    Your advice to visit a store is good. I have an original, which is too slow and has too little working memory these days. I read all the reviews and was spending too much thought pondering the decision. A visit to the Apple Store made the choice of mini pretty clear. The device is perfect for me.

    6 years ago

    Hi Gary,

    After handling and using apps on the iPad Mini in the store, I am considering selling my iPad 3 and getting an iPad Mini. It would be an easy choice if the value hadn’t dropped due the iPad refresh, because I could have made money and gotten an equivalent iPad Mini. Now it is basically a swap.

    I use my iPad and carry it with me all the time. The size and weight make a dramatic difference.

    Am I crazy for considering selling my iPad 3 for an iPad Mini?


    Michael Glavin
    6 years ago

    Hi Gary:

    One small correction, and potentially a significant difference: the Mini has stereo speakers, while the full-sizw iPad has a mono speaker. This is obviously a bit strange (what we Marketers call “cross-positioned”), so Apple has been pretty quiet about promoting the dual speakers on the Mini. I have not listened to them side by side to see how bug the difference is, but this is a factor some users may want to explore and consider.

      6 years ago

      I noticed that. My feeling is that the next iPad (5th gen) will include stereo speakers. Since the mini is a new design, it was easy to add them here in the first gen, whereas the iPad will need an interior redesign to get them, so the 4th gen couldn’t include stereo.
      I don’t see it as being a real factor. If you care about stereo separation of your music, you surely won’t be using the tiny built-in speakers, but headphones.

    6 years ago

    Which do you prefer for, say, reading the Wall Street Journal?

      6 years ago

      That’s completely subjective. I would probably go with the full-size iPad since I have both and it would be easier to read on the nicer (larger, retina display) device. But that doesn’t mean it is the best one for you. And it doesn’t weigh cost as a factor since I have both anyway.

    Bob B.
    6 years ago

    Speaking as a senior, I think that this decision will probably be similar to when I was deciding between a MacBook Air 11″ and the 13″. If you have young 20-20 eyes, it is a no brainer, you go for the smaller, lighter, and cheaper device. However, for us older folks the actual physical size of text when reading is very important. I will take a look at the new mini, but I’ve tried reading books and magazines on Kindles, Nooks, etc. in the past, and I’ve found it a lot easier on my Retina display iPad. For me, reading text is much easier on the Retina screen iPad than is was on my old non-Retina iPad. I don’t want to have to use pinch to zoom on every page.

    Glenn Hieber
    6 years ago

    Hi Gary,
    Just a little positive feedback. You videos help me out a lot.

    Rick Zabala
    6 years ago

    For me it is neither. As much as I have been a Mac user since the beginning, not yet. Because they do NOT have built in GPS. There are some Bible apps that work with iPads that I would like and may be 2 or 3 other apps. But with no GPS’ I probably will not go that way unless I have money to not use wisely. Or the Holly Spirit says I should get it for the Bible apps, etc.

      6 years ago

      Not sure what you mean. The iPads with mobile connectivity DO have GPS. And the ones that are wi-fi only will use the wi-fi signals to figure your location. So you will only not have location information if you are using a wi-fi only iPad and are not on wi-fi at the moment. But if you are not on wi-fi then having GPS won’t matter anyway as you can’t load data, so maps and other apps will not work.

      6 years ago

      Rick Hi,

      Actually both iPads do have GPS. And they have both the GPS that you would commonly use in the USA and Russia’s GPS, GLONAS.


      6 years ago


      To add further to my previous comments.

      If you intend to use the iPad for reading the Bible, then this would not necessarily be a strong draw over a paper Bible, based on how you positioned your reasons.

      However, if you plan on studying the Scripture and having a large database of references materials with multiple versions readily available at a much reduced cost over the paper equivalent , then get and iPad immediately. IF you plan on purchasing much references material in paper form in the future, the cost savings alone is worth it. But the ease in having a computer in your lap with 500 published works that you can immediately cross-ref and search makes the purchase and non-hesitation issue—GPS aside.

      As for GPS just take a look at the iPad/mini spec page:


    Rick Zabala
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the consideration about iPads folks. If one has internet access, than there is “assisted” GPS. With out internet access there is no GPS. I know because I went to the Mac store in Santa Barbara and they said no Stand Alone GPS. Apple’s web site says GPS only as internet connection or assisted. But internet connection is not every where all the time where as GPS is, pretty much.

      6 years ago


      I’m going to try to quell your fears about the “assisted” language that you quoted.

      Clearly, you think that “assisted” means inferior or partial or less than.

      Assisted GPS should be thought of as: GPS on Steroids.

      GPS is completely independent of WiFI or radio or any other type of Internet-access. The assisted part comes in handy for things like using additional location markers to give more detail in your location and for reasons of initial speed in some cases.

      The iPad’s GPS is full, standalone independent self-reliant GPS.

      Now, if a particular program that makes use of GPS, also wants or needs other data to go along with it, then that program may decide to access the Internet for the additional data. Or maybe they do something else. But they are not acquiring any GPS Satellite signals from the Internet

      To reiterate. the iPad’s GPS is full complete and standalone. –Internet not required.


    6 years ago

    Here is my rationale for the purchase I made yesterday.

    1. Background: Family wide I have 3 iPhone 3gs and a NookColor. I haven’t upgraded the phones yet, since IMHO, the power of the iPhone is in the apps, not the hardware. The NookColor is a good reader but clumsy at internet (although free and no contract), so I was looking for a replacement for the NookColor, which I’m selling on Amazon ($89).

    2. Going outside of the house: When traveling, I use the trusted and compact iPhone. The most important apps are on my iPhone. I determined to prevent unwanted redundancy of carrying two devices, not to mention duplicate apps, the new device would be for the comfort of the home. At home there is no need for cellular (satellite) since I have high speed cable internet with an Airport Extreme base station. This led me to a Wi-Fi device and no cellular.

    3. Service fees. I dread adding another cellular service fee for a devise, so this confirmed the free Wi-Fi feature w/out cellular.

    4. Around the house meant the iPad4 since the portability feature of the iPad mini was negated by the larger size, convenience and retina display of the iPad4. To go between rooms, I don’t need the size advantage of an iPad mini. And there is the lightening fast internet – its the fastest Apple product in my house, even faster than the MacbookPro, although 1st gen.

    5. The purchase: iPad4 Wi-Fi 16 gig black $528 includes tax. And no service fees.

    6 years ago

    Hello Gary,

    I have a new white iPad mini and love it! Went straight from the original iPad to the mini. I feel that it is a good move for me – although I do have a bit of the display envy for the full iPad.

    That said, I am very happy with the mini! It’s an absolutely wonderful device. I would recommend it for anyone. Some day I look forward to when we can all carry around small devices like the mini – yet have the power and productivity of a full desktop.

    6 years ago

    I’ve ordered a white iPad Mini, after a few times playing with it at an Apple Store.

    Although I’d never owned an iPad, I had often used a friend’s regular-size one.
    I loved it but agreed with many people who felt it became too heavy during long reading sessions.

    The iPad mini is so light, you can hold it forever and your arm doesn’t get tired. Not only that, you can read with it (or watch videos, etc.) in bed and it’s the perfect size for curling up with — and not disturbing your spouse!

    To me, that’s a deal-maker.

    6 years ago

    Thanks for the advice. I never had an iPad before, and bought the mini – primarily, for having a nice-sized ereader. I know it’s not retina, but it’s fine for me since I wear reading glasses anyway. Although other readers (nexus and paperwhite) have better displays, the mini gives me extra functionality, like checking emails, when traveling. It’s not my primary computer – for that I use the iMac.

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