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Apple iPad Air 2 vs iPad Mini 4: Should you buy an older iPad?

If you want an older iPad for your kids, you're in the right place. Let's compare the Apple iPad Air 2 vs the iPad Mini 4.

Published onFebruary 17, 2021

iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Air 2 display dog

It’s been a few years since Apple launched its iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 at this point. In fact, they’ve both been replaced by newer generations. However, these two aging tablets seem to find a way to stick around. If you’re thinking about grabbing a used tablet for your little ones, this is the comparison for you. Let’s stack the Apple iPad Air 2 vs the iPad Mini 4 and see which is worth the money.

See also: The best iPad deals

Before we dive into things, just remember that both of these devices are more than five years old at this point. They’re probably not your first choice for a tablet, but they can offer some affordable peace of mind.

Is the iPad Mini 4 just a small iPad Air 2?

iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Air 2 speaker grills 3

Apple launched its iPad Mini 4 back in September of 2015, though you’d hardly know it from the ‘Hey Siri’ event. The Cupertino company barely showed off its pint-sized pad until essentially the end of the event when it revealed pricing. It was almost entirely overshadowed by the launch of the iPad Pro.

However, when it did bring up its iPad Mini 4, Apple touted it as a lighter, thinner entry to the Mini lineup. If they hadn’t said so, you probably wouldn’t have known as it packs almost the same dimensions as previous models. Apple did give the internals a kick, though, bringing them up to match the iPad Air 2 — the company’s flagship at the time.

We were certainly excited to hear the Mini 4 called a smaller version of the Air 2. We had been using Apple’s previous tablets for a while, but the Air 2 was the only device worth turning to for gaming or slo-mo video capture. That said, we also love small devices, especially as tablets seem to grow larger.

So is the iPad Mini 4 just a smaller iPad Air 2? Well, no, not exactly, so let’s find out why not.

How do the specs compare?

iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Air 2 home button 2

The good news is that almost everything is the same between the two tablets, and they both offer plenty of functionality. However, Apple’s own website establishes that the iPad Mini 4 shipped with the A8 chipset compared to the A8X on the Air 2. The difference isn’t massive, though the A8X packs 1.4-times faster processing than the A7 chip while the A8 is 1.3-times faster in the processing department.

The iPad Air 2's A8X chip is 1.4-times faster than the A7 while the Mini 4's A8 chip is 1.3-times faster.

To simplify those numbers, the iPad Air 2 is still nearly 10% faster than the Mini 4 in terms of processing power. It also holds an edge in the graphics department as far as sheer specs are concerned. We can’t just boil everything down to processing power, but it’s a good indicator that these two tablets aren’t quite as identical as Apple says.

As for other specs, the two tablets feature identical pixel counts at 2048 x 1536. They offer the standard selection of buttons and ports, though the batteries are different due to the different sizes. You’ll find all of the same sensors onboard, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and even the microphones are in the same place.

The length and width of each device are different to account for the screen size, yet Apple has managed to match them in terms of thickness. Both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 measure in at 6.11mm, which is more than 1mm thinner than the previous Mini 3. The thin new build makes the iPad Mini 4 one of the lightest iPads you can get.

See also: Apple A14 Bionic test

So, what do the specs mean?

iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Air 2 camera buttons 2

Overall, you’re looking at a pair of very capable devices. Their different sizes mean that they’ll serve different purposes for most users. We’re expecting that many people will turn to the larger iPad Air 2 for productivity tasks, so we can’t complain that it’s more powerful.

On the other hand, people will probably want to grab the smaller iPad Mini 4 for entertainment on the go or browsing social media. It’s enough of an update for Apple to forget about the iPad Mini 3, though it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel.

See also: Chromebook vs iPad: Which is best for you?

Should you buy the iPad Air 2 or Mini 4?

iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Air 2 camera app 3

When it first launched, the iPad Mini 4 was a solid iOS 9-powered option at $100 less than the iPad Air 2. It packed almost all of the same bells and whistles and carried the familiar iPad form factor. It may not have been as fast under pressure as the Air 2, but you probably wouldn’t notice the difference in your day-to-day life.

We’re now into 2021, so it’s tough to recommend either one of these tablets unless you need a cheap option for your kids to stay entertained. Both options have been replaced by newer iPads, which makes them hard enough to find as it is. The latest iPad Mini has moved onto Apple’s A12 Bionic chip and the fourth-generation iPad Air is supercharged with the A14 Bionic chip that you’ll find in the iPhone 12 series.

See also: Apple iPad Mini 5 review | Apple iPad 2020 review

Even Apple’s newest 10.2-inch iPad is more affordable than its current Air and Mini options straight out of the box. It’s closer to the iPad Mini with an A12 Bionic chip, though it offers plenty of extra screen real estate. If you have a larger budget and you want a real powerhouse tablet, you can also check out Apple’s iPad Pro lineup. It includes 11-inch and 12.9-inch models with dual rear cameras and up to 1TB of storage space.

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