|Written on iPad mini, using Penultimate & oStylus DOT|
If you're having trouble choosing between Apple's new iPads, ask yourself this:
What do you use the iPad for, and where?
If your primary tasks involve text; plus you watch some TV shows, movies, browse the web and chat with friends, the retina mini is probably the way to go. It's $100 less, has the A7, 326ppi display (highest density Apple offers on anything), and is super light and portable.
However, if your primary tasks are some sort of visual content creation, you should strongly consider the Air.
Numerous reviews point out the sad reality that Apple chose a cheaper, lower grade display technology with less color accuracy for the new mini. In addition, the clock speed is 100mhz slower and the iPad mini has less thermal headroom. This translates into lowered performance over time when running processor intensive apps; the Air can keep running at higher speeds for longer while generating less heat on critical components.
While speed may not be an issue for months, it will invariably matter sometime in the future. The Air will remain viable for longer, making it a better overall investment, even if you are planning on upgrading each year.
Neither new iPad has Touch ID, a feature I've come to love and one that makes usage much easier and more pleasant. I can let my device lock whenever the screen shuts off without having to swipe and type a password each time I turn it on. It's arguably even more beneficial for an iPad than iPhone due to the size of the screen and the keypad layout; you have to swipe and stretch farther to unlock the iPad, and the power button is farther from the home button.
It seems inevitable that next year's iPads will have Touch ID and faster processors, and the mini will likely have a screen on par with competitors' and the larger iPad. If you really want a great retina mini like I do, wait for that one.
Meanwhile, if you do a lot of drawing, design, 3D or photo work on the iPad, you'll likely appreciate both the 9.7" screen and the accurate color. Apple has done a pretty good job ensuring that their full-size screens are calibrated straight-away. The Air is significantly lighter than iPad 3/4 — and while 1/4lb heavier than the mini, it's the same thickness.
If you can, get to an Apple retailer and demo the tablets.
If you're creating art on the iPad and dead-set on the mini — thanks for reading this anyway! :-)
You won't likely be disappointed; the new mini is pretty cool. I love the iPad mini; although a big part of that is because the alternative for me was a somewhat sluggish, heavy tablet with a slow charging battery that overheats constantly. If the iPad 3 was lighter, faster and cooler (temperature), I probably wouldn't have looked twice at the mini. Now that I have one, it's tempting to never go back to the full-size... but I think it's the best choice.
Whatever you do, please, please... do not buy the iPad 2.