The iPad Air (2022) is arguably Apple’s best mid-range tablet. Lacking the premium asking price of the iPad Pro (2021), it nonetheless boasts some decidedly premium USPs. These include the powerful M1 chip, a gorgeous Liquid Retina display, and the new Center Stage feature, which keeps you in the middle of the frame when using the front-facing selfie camera. It’s an excellent all-around tablet and great value for money, yet it isn’t the only affordable-yet-powerful tablet Apple offers, with the iPad Mini (2021) being another strong contender.
Of course, the whole point of looking for an affordable tablet is that you don’t buy two at the same time, so the question is: which iPad is better? We answer this question in this iPad Air (2022) vs. iPad Mini (2021) head-to-head comparison. We look at each device’s specs, display, design, performance, camera, and software, helping you to decide which device is best for you overall.
|iPad Mini (2021)||iPad Air (2022)|
|Size||195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3mm (7.69 x 5.31 x 0.25 inches)||247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1 mm (9.75 x 7.03 x 0.24 inches)|
|Weight||Wi-FI: 293 grams (10.47 ounces)
LTE: 297 grams (10.47 ounces)
|Wi-Fi: 461 grams (16.26 ounces)
LTE: 462 grams (16.29 ounces)
|Screen size||8.3 inches||10.9 inches|
|Screen resolution||2266 x 1488 pixels (327 pixels per inch)||2360 x 1640 pixels (264 pixels per inch)|
|Operating system||iPadOS 15||iPadOS 15|
|Storage space||64GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB|
|MicroSD card slot||No||No|
|Processor||Apple A15 Bionic||Apple M1|
|Camera||Rear 12MP, front 12MP ultrawide||Rear 12MP, front 12MP ultrawide|
|Video||4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps||4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes, side-mounted||Yes, side-mounted|
|App marketplace||Apple App Store||Apple App Store|
|Network support||All major carriers (cellular version only)||All major carriers (cellular version only)|
|Colors||Space Gray, pink, purple, Starlight||Space Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, Blue|
|Review score||4 stars out of 5||4.5 stars out of 5|
The iPad Air (2022) and iPad Mini (2021) belong to the same school of design. They flaunt edge-to-edge displays without the home button of earlier models, and relatively narrow bezels around their screens and power/Touch ID buttons on the top-left edge of each device. The 10.9-inch iPad Air is unsurprisingly bigger than the 8.3-inch iPad Mini, but it’s fractionally slimmer too. However, with a bigger screen and a bigger battery, it’s tangibly heavier, at 16.26 ounces against 10.27. In other words, you’ll find it easier to use the iPad Mini for extended periods and to lug it around with you on your travels.
This is definitely a point in the iPad Mini’s favor, although the difference in screen size results in the iPad Air being more pleasurable as a viewing device. Like the iPad Mini, it uses an LCD-based Liquid Retina display, with a similar level of brightness (typically 500 nits). It also has a similar resolution, but the iPad Mini’s smaller display means it packs more pixels per inch and therefore looks sharper. That said, the bigger screen does make for more impressive videos and content, while it also means that the iPad Air is better suited for content creators and professionals.
Neither tablet has an official IP rating, which is something of a disappointment, although we’ve never heard of anyone wanting to take their iPad for a swim. All in all, this puts both devices on a more or less equal footing, yet the bigger screen size of the iPad Air does make it a little more attractive.
Winner: iPad Air (2022)
The iPad Mini (2021) comes with the latest Apple smartphone chip, the A15 Bionic. This is the same processor you’ll find in the iPhone 13 series, and when combined with the Mini’s 4GB of RAM, it will do a great job of handling everyday tasks and the latest apps. However, as good as it is, it can’t compare with the M1 chip you’ll find tucked away in the iPad Air (2022). This is the powerful Apple-built chip that came out with last year’s new Mac computers, meaning that they’re more than well-suited to handling computationally intensive tasks. When you combine that with a generous 8GB of RAM, you’ll find that the iPad Air excels as a work device, something which can’t quite be said for the Mini.
Both devices pack 64GB of internal memory as standard, which can be boosted to 256GB for an extra $150. 64GB is pretty parsimonious in this day and age, so you could argue that both tablets are more expensive than they seem, assuming you intend to do lots of different things with them.
Apple has made a habit of not divulging battery capacity in terms of mAh, so a quantitative comparison isn’t really possible. That said, our review of the iPad Mini showed that its battery life was surprisingly decent, giving about a day and a half if you’re a lighter user. By contrast, our review of the iPad Air showed that, if you’re a heavier user, it may only just last a whole day. These aren’t quite the same frame of reference, of course, so we suspect that battery life is roughly similar for both tablets.
However, with a much speedier chip, the iPad Air takes this round.
Winner: iPad Air (2022)
The rear cameras of the iPad Air (2022) and iPad Mini (2021) both feature a single 12MP wide lens. However, in the case of the Air, its wide lens boasts dual-pixel PDAF (phase detection autofocus), whereas the iPad Mini has standard autofocus. This makes the iPad Air a little bit more usable in terms of just picking it up to quickly take photos, without worrying about having to perfectly frame everything. It takes well-balanced photos full of just the right amount of color, with pleasing dynamics. As for the iPad Mini, it’s relatively usable as far as tablets generally go, but its performance doesn’t quite match the consistency of the Air.
Interestingly, both the iPad Air and the iPad Mini come with a 12MP ultrawide selfie lens, much like the most recent iPad Pro. This provides much better quality than the 7MP front-facing lens you found on the immediate predecessors of both tablets. Both 12MP ultrawide lenses are also compatible with Apple’s new Center Stage feature, keeping you in the middle of the shot when streaming with the front lens, even if you get up and move around.
This round is a close call, but with a slightly enhanced main camera lens, this round goes to the iPad Air.
Winner: iPad Air (2022)
Yes, the iPad Air (2022) and iPad Mini (2021) run iPadOS 15. This is the latest version of the iPad operating system, providing such useful new features as refined multitasking, floating windows, and a neat Quick Notes function. It’s not a massive breakthrough compared to iPadOS 14, but it does bring in some tangible refinements, ensuring that iPadOS remains the best tablet operating system around.
It’s highly likely that the Air and the Mini will receive pretty much the same number of updates and for just as long as each other. Given that iPadOS 15 is compatible with the iPad Air 2 (released back in 2014), they’re both likely to avoid obsolescence for quite some time.
The iPad Air and iPad Mini each support 5G, although you will have to pay $150 extra for the LTE versions of each device. Still, if you use your tablet for work and while traveling, it can be a very useful option to have.
Each device also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil. This offers a marked evolution over the first-generation Pencil, including an expanded range of gestures. It also charges more conveniently and comes with a flat side that prevents it from rolling off the table, all of which means it’s very practical. One difference, however, is the iPad Air is compatible with Apple’s Magic Keyboard, so it’s even more capable as a work tablet. This gives it another win over the Mini.
Winner: iPad Air (2022)
The fifth-generation iPad Air (2022) starts from $599 and goes all the way to $899 if you want the 256GB model with cellular and 5G. It can be ordered directly from Apple, is supported by all major carriers, and can be bought up and down the land.
The sixth-generation iPad Mini (2021) begins at $499 and rises to $799 if you get the model with cellular support and 256GB of storage. Again, it’s available to buy from Apple, and you can find it at any good outlet that deals with tablets and tech.
The iPad Mini (2021) certainly isn’t a bad tablet, but the iPad Air (2022) beats it in almost every department. The bigger screen is more impressive, it benefits from a dizzyingly fast processor, has a slightly better camera, and is compatible with the Magic Keyboard. This doesn’t make it massively superior to the Mini, but it is enough to give it an uncontroversial win.
Nevertheless, if you don’t plan to use your tablet for professional purposes and prefer something more compact, the iPad Mini is certainly a great choice. It combines the fantastically smooth software Apple is known for with a nice bright screen, a capable processor, a generally decent camera, and some nice special touches. So if you want to save some money, it’s more than worth a look or two.
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