iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3

Do you want your next Apple tablet in large or small?

It's hard to believe a whole year has gone by since the last iPad event, but Apple's annual update has arrived. Since it launched last November, the iPad Air has been our top tablet pick. We're still very happy with it, but who can resist a glance over the shoulder to see if a new eye-catching, slimmer model might be approaching?

The iPad mini 2 wasn't too shabby either, just a bit expensive, but there's always room for improvement.

If you're heading for the nearest Apple store, or shopping online for a new tablet, which one is for you? The iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 will both run iOS 8.1, so what will set them apart? It's time to cast a judgmental eye over Apple's tablet wares and see where, apart from size, they diverge.

iPad Mini 3

The iPad mini 3

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3: Design

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Apple isn't re-inventing its tablet line with the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. There are only subtle changes compared with the last generation and they feature the same premium aluminium design we've become accustomed to with Apple products.

The iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 have hardly changed at all at first glance. The iPad Air 2 is slimmer. In fact it's the thinnest tablet yet at just 6.1mm, 18% thinner than the last iPad. The volume buttons have been recessed into the body and the mute switch or orientation lock is gone.

iPad Air 2

The iPad mini 3 is the same size and design as the last generation. The most striking aesthetic change is that both new iPads have the Touch ID replacing the old Home button. They'll also be available in gold for the first time.

If you're deciding between them it's a simple case of large and small. If you want a big tablet you'll opt for the iPad Air 2, if you want something more portable, it has to be the iPad mini 3.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3: Screen

Apple hasn't felt any pressure to update the screens. The iPad Air 2 has a 9.7-inch display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels, just like the last iPad Air.

The iPad mini 3 boasts a 7.9-inch display with exactly the same resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels.

That gives the iPad mini 3 a slightly higher rating of 326ppi (pixels per inch) making it ideal for reading, compared to 264ppi for the iPad Air 2.

The only other change, which is not immediately noticeable, is a new anti-reflective coating that should make it easier to read in sunlight.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3: Camera

The iPhone line made the jump to 8MP cameras a couple of generations ago and so it's nice to see the iPad line catching up, though you still look daft taking photos on a tablet.

iPad Air 2

The camera specs for the iPad Air 2 camera

The main camera in the iPad Air 2 has jumped to 8MP from 5MP. The iPad mini 3 sticks with a 5MP camera. Apple has improved the entire camera module, so performance should be faster, and you'll get better results in a whole host of conditions including low light. They'll also benefit from the camera app updates that iOS 8.1 brings, including a new burst photo shooting mode for the iPad Air 2.

The front-facing cameras remain the same at 1.2MP, with the ability to shoot 720p video which is enough for FaceTime.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3: Battery

Without a huge bump in screen size Apple isn't really introducing a major increase in power requirements. The camera might need a little more juice, but the rest of the updated hardware inside, which we'll get to in a minute, could make things more efficient.

Perhaps that's why we're not seeing a much bigger battery in either the iPad Air 2 or the iPad mini 3 when compared to the last generation.

Apple says they're going to last 10 hours, and they'll be pretty similar to each other in terms of how much video or web surfing you can expect to enjoy before you've got to plug in.

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