A quick comparison between my Apple iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air

I’ve had my new Apple iPad Mini 3 (64GB, cellular model) for a couple of weeks now and it has become my favourite iOS device (I have an iPhone 5S (16GB) and iPad Air (16GB, wi-fi model)). Compared to the iPad Air the iPad Mini 3 feels better, more balanced when handheld. The iPad Air does have a nice big screen but otherwise iPad Mini 3 is better in every other respect.

The upgrade (or in some people’s eyes, “downgrade”) is one I like. Even though the internal hardware performance specifications are the same, the extra hardware are truly welcome.

Here is my list of things I really like about my iPad MIni 3:

  1. Touch ID
  2. 64GB (my iPad Air had only 16GB)
  3. cellular model (my Air was only a wi-fi model)
  4. better battery life
  5. form factor

Because the two tablet’s performances are virtually identical it is only the hardware that make the Mini 3 better. Let me talk about why each of the above points were important.

Touch ID
I often work with iPad in class (up to 10 hours in a week) hooked up to a projector. This means every time I want to wake up my iPad I have to enter a password, meaning my viewers can also see me entering the password if I did not either blank the screen or unhook it. Troublesome. For this reason the Touch ID is a must-have.

My Ipad Air with 16GB had been useable but barely. I had to do some creative juggling to get what I needed out of my iPad. Balancing that with my family-of-four’s stuff (it was a personal iPad and therefore shared at home as well) had been tricky and often the others suffered for it.

Again, wi-fi isn’t such a problem if I had wi-fi at work which had not been always the case (one out of three of my workplace had wi-fi). My workaround for that was to tether it to my iPhone 5S. But every time the screen blanked out I had to reestablish the connection. Again, troublesome, but not always necessary.

Battery life
Compared to my iPad Air the Mini 3 had better battery life. It also recharged while in use with the projector. My iPad said it was recharging but I found the power consumption was greater than the recharging power. This probably was down to the power the screen and projection used. My iPad recharges nicely even with the screen and projection blazing full-time. Battery life was naturally also better when unplugged.

Holding the iPad Air wasn’t bad. But once you have held an iPad Mini 3 for any prolong period you begin to realise how much more comfortable it is compared to the iPad Air. The iPad Air suddenly feels heavy in hand. Not troublesome but it felt like I could drop it any time.

Unless you are lucky enough to have the chance to use both the iPad Air (or now Air 2) and iPad Mini 3 then you cannot know the pros and cons of each. Apart from large screen I don’t see any benefit of the iPad Air over iPad Mini 3. Depending on how you use the tablet – as a handheld, in the lap or on the table – it will influence your choice as to which to buy. For me, it is used as a handheld device designed to be portable (and cellular makes this all the more fun) so the Mini 3 seems to suit me better. If you do a lot of handheld typing with the virtual keyboard then the iPad Mini 3 is great in portrait using two thumbs (it is just the right size). If you do a lot of typing with the virtual keyboard in your lap or on the table then the iPad Mini 3 feels small even in landscape but the iPad Air feels just right. And if you use your tablet with an Bluetooth external keyboard then the iPad Air is the better choice (bigger screen) with all other specifications being equal.

All said, if you can afford the cellular model and more memory (at least 64GB), I would recommend that you do. 16GB is simply not enough for any of the iOS devices). The speed of the processors on the iPad Air and iPad Mini 3 are more than enough for now. My house is setup for 11ac connection but whether my ISP is is another question, so it does not make me want to invest in the Air 2 just yet. By purchasing iPad Mini 3 with cellular and more than baseline memory you will get infinitely more use and productivity (read: enjoyment) from it.

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