iPad Mini vs. iPad 2 vs. iPad 4: Which iPad Should You Buy?

At Tuesday’s event in San Jose, Apple released the much anticipated iPad mini and surprised us with the fourth generation iPad. With two new iPads in the mix, it’s become much harder to decide which iPad is the best choice to buy, either for yourself or for a friend or family member.

That’s why we’ve whipped up a comparison chart with the facts about each of Apple’s tablets. In the table above, you’ll see the basic stats of each of the iPads, and how they compare to one another.

Obviously, the fourth generation iPad blows the other two out of the water when it comes to raw data. It has the Retina display and the new A6X chip, which means it is, in short, a beast of a tablet. Let’s not forget about the faster Wi-Fi, the improved camera, or the wide reaching LTE, either.

The iPad 2 and the mini are surprisingly similar, and that’s because the iPad mini uses the same internals as the iPad 2. It has the same A5 chip and the same amount of RAM, so by no means is the mini a powerful tablet.

What the mini does have, though, that the other two tablets don’t, is a diminutive size. At 7.9-inches, it is quite a bit thinner and lighter than Apple’s other two iPads, and while it is built from the same skeleton as the iPad 2, it does have a few improvements such as faster Wi-Fi, a slightly better pixel density, improved cameras, and LTE.

If you want to compare the iPad mini to the fourth generation iPad when deciding which tablet to buy, the mini is in every way the inferior tablet. Its A5 chip is two generations behind the A6X in the newest iPad, and it has half the RAM. You may not notice the performance difference between the third generation iPad and the fourth generation iPad, but you will notice the difference between the mini and the fourth generation.

Phil Schiller Displays Apple’s Current iPad Lineup

Even when performance isn’t taken into account, the fourth generation iPad bests the mini simply on account of its high resolution Retina display. The 1024 by 768 screen of the mini can’t compete. The only area where the mini wins is size, but you’re sacrificing a lot of power for portability.

There’s almost no reason to purchase the iPad 2 when you compare it to the mini and the fourth generation iPad. If you have a strict budget, the iPad mini is the better tablet just because of the improvements to the camera and the wireless, and if you can spare the extra $100, the fourth generation iPad is a much better choice than the iPad 2. The only reason to go with an iPad 2 is if you want the larger screen size at the lower cost.

If you’re thinking of switching from the third generation iPad to the iPad mini, it’s a downgrade. The mini has a chip that’s slower than the A5X of the third generation iPad, and it also loses when it comes to the Retina display. Again, a small size is all that the mini has going for it.

In summary, the mini wins when it comes to size, but loses when it comes to everything else. If you want power, go for the fourth generation iPad, but if you want portability, go for the mini. We’re going to do a more in-depth comparison of Apple’s tablet lineup, so make sure to check back for more help deciding which iPad is best for you.

About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7CB3RVMWED5JXP5KK6MOQM55WE Sarah Dunt

    Good article!

  • http://twitter.com/JoshuaPingley Joshua Pingley

    This article helped make my decision to sell my iPad 2 in favor of the 4th generation iPad with retina display all the much easier.

  • http://twitter.com/TurkEclipse David

    Yes.. it helped me too. I really think I want a smaller ipad especially lighter.. but the retina display was an issue. Now that I have sold my ipad 3. I will preorder the 4.

  • barondebxl

    Not to be negative but there are a few things that are wrong here. but first, the ipad 2, ipad mini and ipad 3 share the EXACT SAME cpu, the difference is in the GPU where the ipad 3 has a quad core GPU but in terms of raw processing power, its the same. plus the ipad 2 and ipad mini dont need the quad core GPU since they have a much lower resolution than the ipad 3. Now the ipad 4, that one is REALLY powerful. Theres a HUGE DIFFERENCE between the ipad 3 and ipad 4. the ipad 3 had some minor stutter here and there cause the CPU wasnt powerful enough even though it had a quad core GPU, but the A6X is just a montser cpu and it will fly, retina display or not cause it is that powerful. So to recap my complicated explanation, the ipad mini, ipad 2 and 3 have the same performance except for gaming where the ipad 3 is better but web browing and suff like that its the same. however the ipad 4 is on another level at every single thing compared to the other ipads.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bao-Duong/1483805264 Bao Duong

    Idk if I should get my dad the ipad mini or the ipad3s/4… I have ipad2 and it has the same design, I know apple might change that later, but it has the a6x and its gonna be around longer…. Than a5

    • Juli Clover

      Unless your dad needs portability, I’d go with the larger iPad. It’s the better deal, honestly.

  • Kristi Wilson

    I have the 2 & 4. Honestly for the price difference I’d go with iPad 2. I got several second gens at $200. Both models have similar glitches…going back to home, not connected great to Wifi (close range).Today my iPad 2 beat 4 in a speed test on minutes apart. While this is not a manufacturer difference it’s real life use. The retina display doesn’t impress me on 4. If you don’t have 20/20 vision like me you won’t notice. I’m all about a good deal though! The 4 changes tasks slightly quicker but not enough to warrant 600$ extra. Just a user opinion :)