Technology review - iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display

Will you invest in an iPad Air or an iPad mini? Dr Richard Harkness assesses the latest releases.

Apple iPad Air
Apple iPad Air

On 22 October, Santa gained a first glimpse of the gadgets that will be weighing down his sleigh this Christmas - Apple's iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display (or iPad mini 2).

The question is, which one should you ask him for? It all depends on how you plan to use it.

Before the new products were revealed, I had made my decision.

I was definitely buying the iPad mini 2 if it came with the widely anticipated Retina display. Then I sat down to watch the presentation on my Apple TV (via the new Apple Events facility) and Apple CEO Tim Cook and colleagues threw me completely.


The details
GP rating: iPad Air 5 out of 5
iPad mini with Retina display (anticipated) 5 out of 5
Specifications

iPad Air

On sale in the UK Now
Price £399-£739 (16Gb-128Gb)
Colours Space grey or silver
Includes

  • iOS 7
  • A7 chip
  • M7 motion coprocessor
  • 9.7 inch display, 2,048 x 1,536 resolution
  • 7.5mm thick, weight less than 0.5kg

 

iPad mini with Retina display

 On sale in the UK Later in November, according to Apple
Price £319-£659 (16Gb-128Gb)
Colours Space grey or silver
Includes

  • iOS 7
  • A7 chip
  • M7 motion coprocessor
  • 7.9 inch Retina display, 2,048 x 1,536 resolution
  • 7.5mm thick, weight 331g

The iPad Air is gorgeous. Just like the first Macbook Air, it took my breath away. Yes, it's the usual story: 'thinner, lighter, faster', but the numbers really do not do it justice. It's all about the user experience and when people see and hold this product, they will want one.

Packing the same A7 64-bit chip as the iPhone 5s, the iPad Air is seriously fast and yet very light, at less than 0.5kg. Apple has achieved a 24% reduction in overall volume. The iPad Air also has the motion coprocessor just announced in the 5s.

The altered style, including a much thinner bezel, makes the iPad Air more portable and comfortable to hold for prolonged periods.

To the surprise of many, it doesn't come with the new Touch ID sensor. This could be due to the fact that it is so new and Apple is focusing on getting large numbers of the product to market.

One interesting idea is that Apple will introduce an iPad Pro. Don't wait for this though, it may never happen.

iPad mini with Retina display

So now the iPad Air is so small and light, why would you want the new iPad mini with Retina display? 'Take anywhere' portability is the only logical answer.

Amazingly, this product packs in the same A7 chip as its larger sibling, which means it will perform equally well, which was not the case with the first iPad mini.

However, the iPad mini is more expensive now, starting at £319, thanks to the Retina display. You can even opt for 128Gb, but this is an eye-watering £559-£659 and with a lot of data now iCloud-based, I can't understand who would need 128Gb.

Both the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display start at 16Gb (come on, Apple, let's have 32Gb as the new minimum), but I think 32Gb should be ample for the majority of people using a tablet.

Limited supplies

The iPad Air is already on sale, but at the time of writing, Apple had not confirmed a release date for the mini. As GP went to press, the rumoured date was 21 November.

If you want an iPad mini in time for Christmas, you will have to be seriously quick off the mark. Apple has admitted it has struggled to produce sufficient numbers and initial supplies will be heavily restricted.

Apple isn't just saying this. It will sell out on release day, no matter what, and the company wants to put it in the hands of as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible. So keep checking the Apple website (and other technical sites) for the date.

If you want to buy somebody an iPad mini this Christmas, I suggest you ensure you are online the day they go on sale, hit refresh at the exact time they go on sale, keep hitting refresh until you get on to the Apple Store website and swiftly place your order.

Minutes could make the difference between getting your hands on an iPad mini before Christmas, or waiting until January.

Alternatively, you could queue up outside an Apple Store. Try to be there at least two hours before the store opens. It's fun chatting to other people in the queue and the Apple store often gives out free snacks.

Whichever iPad you buy this autumn, you will be delighted with it.

  • Dr Harkness is a GP in Durham

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