How The New iPad Mini Stacks Up Against The Old iPad Mini

Unlike the new MacBook Pro line and OS X Mavericks, the brand new iPad mini with a high-resolution "retina" display won't be available in stores today, which means you have a little lead time to think things over. Beyond numbers on paper (or on a 326 ppi screen), the new iPad mini features some pretty substantial updates that make it well worth considering for fans of the 7.9-inch form factor.

Let's break down the meaningful differences.

Tech Specs Compared:

Notable differences between models are in bold.

Old iPad mini:

  • 7.9-inch display
  • 7.2mm thick
  • 0.68 pounds (Wi-Fi), 0.69 pounds (Wi-Fi and Cellular)
  • A5 processor
  • 1024 by 768 resolution display (non-retina)
  • 163 ppi (pixels per inch)
  • 5 megapixel, f/2.4 back-facing camera
  • 1080p video recording
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Updated Pricing: $299 for 16GB Wi-Fi, $429 for 16GB Wi-Fi + LTE

New iPad mini with Retina:

  • 7.9-inch display
  • 7.5mm thick
  • 0.73 pounds (Wi-Fi), 0.75 pounds (Wi-Fi and Cellular)
  • A7 processor with 64-bit architecture
  • M7 motion processor built-in
  • 2048 by 1536 resolution display ("retina")
  • 326 ppi (pixels per inch)
  • 5 megapixel, f/2.4 back-facing camera
  • 1080p video recording with 3x video zoom
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Wi-Fi-only: $399 for 16GB, $499 for 32GB, $599 for 64GB, $699 for 128GB
  • Wi-Fi + LTE: $529 for 16GB, $629 for 32GB, $729 for 64GB, $829 for 128GB 

Retina Display: A Dealmaker

Most obviously, the new iPad mini is a big visual upgrade. With twice the pixel density, the "retina" display boosts the iPad mini's resolution up to an impressive 326ppi. As with the first full-size iPad to go retina, the difference is noticeable. It's hard to go back once you've seen how crisp the retina display looks compared to its non-retina peers.

If you're inclined to read or watch streaming media on your iPad, a retina display is well worth the upgrade in our book. 

Apple's Powerful New A7 Chip Means Business

On top of the display upgrade, Apple built the new iPad mini with its A7 chip—the same one powering the iPhone 5S. It's no slouch, but our experience with iPad Mini performance has been a bit choppy at times. If speed and a buttery smooth UI experience are a priority for you, the A7 should presumably smooth out any kinks from the previous generation.

Then there's the M7 motion co-processor. While it's more of a bell and/or whistle at the moment, it's still a cool bit of technology that opens new doors for app developers, particularly in the arenas of fitness and the quantified self.

Still, at $299, the last generation iPad mini isn't a bad deal at all. If you prefer a smaller tablet over Apple's flagship 9.7-inch beast, then it might be a hard call. Still, whether you're guided by price or a need for speed, it's hard to go wrong with either of Apple's 7.9-inch offerings.