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iPad Retina vs iPad Air - Difference Between iPad With Retina and iPad Air

Updated on October 18, 2017

iPad Air versus iPad Retina

Difference Between iPad With Retina and iPad Air
Difference Between iPad With Retina and iPad Air

Choosing between iPad Retina and iPad Air

Once you decide to buy an iPad, it is important to know the difference between iPad with Retina and iPad Air, the two most popular products of Apple, as otherwise it may be difficult for you to choose the right tablet that is best for you. I have in this post given a comparison of iPad Retina vs iPad Air to help you work out which one will best suit your individual needs.

Specification-wise difference between iPad Retina and iPad Air

Both the Apple tablets are identical in every respect except for the display size, pixels per inch (ppi), dimensions, and weight. All other reckon-able metrics are identical for the two models starting from colour options (white glass faceplate with sliver aluminum back and black glass faceplate with gray aluminum back), body thickness, OS, cameras, apps, connectivity and battery life.

Here is a comparison of iPad Air versus iPad Retina with regard to the parameters stated above:

iPad Air

  • Display: 9.7 inch Retina display; resolution 2048x1536 at 264 ppi (pixels per inch);
  • Dimensions: 240mm (H) x 169.5mm (W) x 7.5mm (D);
  • Weight: 478 grams (4G model), 469 grams (Wi-Fi model);

iPad mini with Retina

  • Display: 7.9 inch Retina display; resolution 2048x1536 at 326 ppi;
  • Dimensions: 200mm (H) x 134.7mm (W) x 7.5mm (D);
  • Weight: 341 grams (4G model), 331 grams (Wi-Fi model);

Thus, iPad mini packs more pixels at 326 ppi than iPad Air’s 264 ppi, which means images shall appear sharper. It is also reported that a higher ppi should be particularly noticeable when reading, which is essential for a smaller tablet like the new iPad mini.

At 7.9 inches, the iPad Mini screen is noticeably smaller than the 9.7-inch full-sized Air. Apple has designed the Mini model in order that you can still enjoy all of the apps without them feeling crumpled.

Cost-wise difference between iPad Air and iPad Retina

Another major difference between the two models is with regard to their costs. Here is a look at the comparison of cost of iPad Retina v iPad Air:

  • iPad mini with Retina (Wi-Fi model): 16GB:$399; 32GB:$499; 64GB:$599; 128GB: $699
  • iPad mini with Retina (Wi-Fi + Cellular model): 16GB:$529; 32GB:$629; 64GB: $729; 128GB:$829
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi model): 16GB:$499; 32GB:$599; 64GB:$699; 128GB:$799;
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi + Cellular model): 16GB:$629; 32GB:$729; 64GB:$829; 128GB:$929;

It may be noted that, owing to its smaller size, every model of iPad mini costs $100 less than the iPad Air. Of course, storage capacity and type of models (Wi-Fi-only or Cellular) are also other determinant factors in the ultimate price.

Which tablet is right for you?

Given the fact that the difference between iPad Retina and iPad Air is practically nil except for their display sizes and costs, how you can choose the tab that is best for you? The easiest answer to this would be to ask yourself what you are going to use the tablet for. Based on my own experiences and talking to friends who own one or the other model here is my observations on which tablet is best for which type of person:

Difference between ipad air and ipad retina
Difference between ipad air and ipad retina

iPad Air

Because of the larger screen size of iPad Air, I would recommend it to the users who are seeking a tablet for content creation rather than just for content consuming. The Air’s larger screen lends itself to more productivity work than does its opposite number (iPad mini with Retina). Paired with a keyboard case, the iPad Air could turn into a laptop alternative, though keyboards are also available for iPad mini but with a smaller layout. This means, if you are using the iPad as a laptop alternative the larger screen size will enable you to do a lot more work, whether it’s writing documents, or editing photos, or creating professional content. Some users also prefer iPad Air’s larger screen for viewing contents, especially when there are several viewers.

iPad mini with Retina

If you’re looking for a tablet for viewing content rather than producing, the new iPad mini with Retina may be the better choice. Because of its screen size the iPad mini is best suited for content consumers i.e. who read and compose emails, enjoy reading eBooks, browse the web, view photos, play casual games etc. As the size of iPad mini is much closer to that of a physical book or Kindle reader it is especially good for eBook fans. It is also a better choice for reading as it is easier to hold with one hand . However, anyone with the latest iPhone may opt for the bigger iPad as the iPhone 5’s 4-inch screen is only half of the iPad mini’s screen size, but content viewing on both displays is just as easy on the eyes.


Both iPad with Retina and iPad Air are powerful and durable and have access to over a million apps for download. If the small price difference between iPad with Retina and iPad Air is not your major concern, the only factor that might influence your decision to buy one over the other is their screen size. iPad Air could be a better choice if you want a little bigger tablet with a larger screen that you can use with a keyboard for creating content or watching movies. At the end of the day no matter which iPad model you choose, in terms of specifications and software both are nearly identical and you will not surrender any of the features or functionality by choosing one over the other. Therefore, size and size alone should dictate which iPad you buy.

In short, if you are interested in a iPad to use while moving around, and normally holding in one hand to surf the web, view photos, play games etc. you should opt for the iPad mini with Retina. On the other hand, if you are looking for a tablet to use for productive works while sitting down more at a desk and as a laptop alternative then you should go for iPad Air with bigger screen.

You may also like this related article: Difference between iPad and Tablet


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