Should you upgrade to the new iPad Air or iPad mini with Retina if you already have an old one?

Apple has unveiled two new tablets yesterday, just as we all expected. First came the new iPad Air, a noticeably thinner and lighter 9.7-inch tablet than all previous iPads, and it was the main focus of the event. However, next came the iPad mini with Retina display, Cupertino’s second generation iPad mini, and it received not just a sharp display but also top of the line specs matching those of the iPad Air. The latter was a surprise - now we basically have two iPads with nearly identical under the hood powers courtesy of the Apple A7 chip. They now differ mostly in size.

While the discrepancies between the new iPads have gotten smaller, the gap between the new and old Apple tablets has grown larger. Many of you might be asking yourselves - is it worth getting the new iPads if I have an older one? The answer really depends, but if you are using your iPads a lot it will most likely be a resounding ‘yes.’ Here is why.

Should you upgrade to the iPad Air?

With the iPad Air, Apple highlights the better ergonomics. You can actually now hold the device with one hand and it’s much lighter weighing just 1 pound - a whopping 28% difference compared to the previous generation tablet. It has gotten 20% thinner as well. For casual users this difference might not be hugely important. However if you are reading a lot on your tablet and carrying around with you all the time, this change will definitely be felt. That’s why we are saying that those who use their tablets a lot - in contrast to people who only casually use it - will definitely appreciate the upgrade a lot.

We have a separate article showing all the tiny differences between the new iPad Air and the earlier generations, and you can check for yourselves what are the differences in our specs comparison between the iPad Air, iPad 4 and iPad 2 here.

In terms of hardware, design and features, we are now quickly summarizing the main differences between older iPads and the new one:

for original iPad (2010 edition) owners upgrading to iPad Air
- you get a gigantic 8x performance gain
- huge bump in resolution to ‘Retina’
- both a rear and front camera
- a lighter, much thinner device

for iPad 2 owners upgrading to iPad Air
- you get a big performance gain
- huge bump in resolution to ‘Retina’
- much improved cameras
- a lighter and slightly thinner device

for iPad 3/4 owners upgrading to iPad Air
- you get a slight but noticeable performance improvements
- lighter and slightly thinner device

Should you upgrade to the iPad mini with Retina?

Next, question remains whether an upgrade to the new iPad mini with Retina makes sense for those who own the original iPad mini. The situation here is a bit different - Apple announced that the second generation iPad mini with its sharper display will actually cost more, starting from $399 for the basic version.

However the changes Apple enacts in this new tablet seem even bigger than what we had with the iPad Air. The mini with Retina not only adds a new screen, but also gets the latest Apple A7 system chip, the most powerful one the company has. While the first iPad mini was underpowered and definitely struggled under heavy loads by apps like iPhoto, the new iPad mini with Retina will handle itself much better in such situations.

Quite honestly, the Retina display is a good enough reason alone for upgrading. It makes using the device so much easier, but the added processing power is one more reason to consider it.

All in all, we consider the new iPad mini a very solid upgrade that's definitely worth a look.

What about Android or Windows tablets?

While for a user drenched in the Apple ecosystem we are fairly certain upgrading to the new iPads is worthit, different platforms have grown tremendously. If you can live with fewer tablet-optimized applications, Android gives the iPad mini with Retina display a run for its money with the Nexus 7 2013 edition. The 7 incher has a razor sharp display that is one of the best we have ever seen on a tablet and it does not lack in performance. Its biggest advantage is its stellar price - you can almost buy two Nexus 7 for the price of one iPad mini second-gen!

Microsoft has also done a great job with its new Surface 2 tablet and it is a device that has gotten rid of the annoying Windows RT lag and has improved in almost every aspect. If typing and being productive is possible but not very convenient on an iPad, on the new Surface you can easily write a novel with its great snap-on keyboards. The starting price for the 10.6" Microsoft Surface 2 is a lower than the iPad $449, and it's definitely worth a look.


With the new iPads, Apple changes its tablet portfolio significantly. The iPad mini no longer looks like the underpowered little brother - it’s still the smaller tablet, but now it matches the iPad Air in its performance power. The new iPad Air on the other hand has grown significantly smaller and more convenient for daily use.

All in all, the difference between Apple’s iPad Air and the new iPad mini with Retina is now only in their size. So which one do you prefer?

Related phones

iPad Air
  • Display 9.7" 2048 x 1536 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A7, Dual-core, 1400 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 8820 mAh
iPad mini 2
  • Display 7.9" 2048 x 1536 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A7, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 6471 mAh



1. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

In my opinion, Windows based tablets are better than any Android or iOS based tablets.

3. asulect

Posts: 131; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

I bought a lenovo helix with windows pro 8.1. After 2 weeks of using it, I rather have a regular laptop. The screen is too small for real work, and the tablet is too heavy to be used as a tablet. Since you love windows based tablet, do you want to buy mine?

7. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

I like how you spent $1350 on an i5 convertible laptop with 4gb of ram. No dedicated GPU, only 180gb of storage. You could of gotten a way better laptop with an i7 + 250GB ssd + 2tb hard drive+ 16GB ram + and a mid range GPU for that much.

12. asulect

Posts: 131; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

Exactly, I was trying to have a tablet and a laptop on a same device. But obviously, the money will be better spent on a laptop that actually is a only laptop. I am regretting the purchase now.

15. asulect

Posts: 131; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

Also, there are very few 1080p laptop with smaller than 15" screen that weight a ton and cost a lot.

4. chunky1x

Posts: 270; Member since: Mar 28, 2010

Its not going to happen.

5. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Baytrail has saved windows 8 tablets.

16. DaHarder

Posts: 177; Member since: Oct 10, 2009

Well... When it comes to those who desire a full-fledged computer, the newer ATOM-based (full) Windows tablets are likely the most reasonable choice for those seeking productivity machines, and the prices tend to be far less than iPads/Galaxy Notes of similar/often lesser storage. Additionally... One can not dismiss the Surface 2 and Nokia 2520 either given that they come with Microsoft Office, the world's most ubiquitous productivity suite...For Free (NOTE: and NO - Apple's iWork doesn't really compare). Making them (and other Windows RT devices) ideal for those who appreciate portability, very useful/well-integrated keyboard options, excellent battery life and with the Nokia, built-in LTE for a mere US 499.00. The ONLY thing seeming holding the RT devices back are a (marginally) lacking app catalog (for some) and general ignorance on the part of many consumers as to the fact that Windows Modern UI represents the future of Windows computing (NOT old 'legacy' applications)... So they might as well get used to touch-based apps sooner than later. Personally... I'm likely skipping the iPad 'Air' as I already have an iPad 4/128gb and the iPad 'Air' adds absolutely no new functions or features, and plan to buy a Nokia 2520 largely because I like the looks/build, the built-in LTE and Office, and the overall value it represents.

26. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

How many ipads are there, oh I'm so confuse.

31. HarryWild

Posts: 60; Member since: Oct 18, 2012

Windows based tablets are using the wrong form factor for their smaller tablets. Still landscape form factor of 16:9 or 16:10. If you use a tablet for reading or surfing - you got to have 4:3! Apple had it made for people who want it for that purpose.

2. HalaMadrid

Posts: 92; Member since: Sep 04, 2013

iPad Mini 2 is best

6. mr.techdude

Posts: 571; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

U might be right I find windows tablets to be more usefull for business and school work wise but with the lack of apps as compared to play store and app store stops me from buying one. Ios 7 sucks monkey balls while android tablets especially the nexus and galaxy note 10.1 2014 are beasts.

8. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

I'm probably going to get the iPad mini 2 for the wife so she can FaceTime with the family while we are stationed in the UK. For myself I'm waiting for a light, powerful, windows 8.1 tablet so I can stop dragging a laptop with me on deployments. I may have to wait a while for that to happen.

11. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

17. asulect

Posts: 131; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

Screen resolution on it sucks. Windows RT sucks.

21. gaurang

Posts: 94; Member since: Nov 16, 2012

bro.. the transformer runs full fledged windows..not scaled up version of a mobile os...

22. lhtbinh1909

Posts: 94; Member since: Apr 02, 2013

It runs Windows 8, not RT. When exactly the resolution be so important on a laptop?

9. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

It really comes down to which version you have and what condition it's in. If you have the 4th gen, probably not. I am upgrading from a 4th gen though. People are overlooking one big thing with the 10 inch version. It can be griped with one hand like the mini. It's also thin and light which is huge for tablets. The key is to sell your old device a month before release and get a good price for it.

10. bloodline

Posts: 706; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

As usual phone arena you miss a valid point when talking about apple. PRICE ! Ipad mini and mini 2 are drastically overpriced.

13. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Just buy a 32gb Nexus 7 and save yourself $150.

36. wildfiregt

Posts: 179; Member since: Jun 10, 2013

Dunno if the article was edited but it's stated "you can almost buy two Nexus 7 for the price of one iPad mini second-gen!"

14. scriptwriter

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

Ipad Air - Sounds like its a joke for a bag of crisps (potato chips)

28. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

I see where you are trying to go with that, but honestly, ipad Air sounds cool to me. It was just a surprise that they renamed it. I never even thought about Ipad Air before. It makes since. The Air means thin.

29. scriptwriter

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

Air means emtpy.

34. rawbow

Posts: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

can't live without air too :P another analogy ...u from mars bro?

18. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

Pa should include the summarized differences on their reviews all the time

19. Daftama

Posts: 641; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Quite honhahaha haha Retina display is a good enough reason alone for upgrading. It makes using the device so much easier, but the added processing power is one more reason to consider it.... hahahahaha What icrap reason to upgrade you biased article

24. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Ugh, really? It's difficult enough to make sense of what you wrote, but the content is like a visual IQ reducer, with added reduction power.

20. good2great

Posts: 1042; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

boy yall can't help but hate! now all of a sudden everyone is riding Windows Tablets??? GTFOH! The iPad will remain the best tablet until windows can figure it all out. ...and i have a iPad 2 and definitely in need of an upgrade this is a no brainer

23. theoak

Posts: 324; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Apple is clearly pushing their new 64 bit processor. With all the iWork and iLife app updates ... all of them boasted additional features on 64 bit platforms. To me ... Apple is clearing trying to give folks a reason to upgrade. With that being said ... as much as folks hate iTunes ... iTunes has made Apple TONS of money, so Apple does not want to kick all the "32 bit" folks out the door yet. So give them the 5C and hang on to the iPad 2. At the end of the day though ... Apple is clearly trying to sell the "64 bit" story.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.