Which iPad Mini To Buy? [Buying Guide]

Which iPad Mini To Buy? [Buying Guide]

Which iPad mini to pick? You probably only want the $329 model.

Starting November 2nd, Apple fans will finally be able to buy themselves an iPad mini, Apple’s diminutive new 7.9-inch tablet with an A5 chip, a 1024 x 768 display, a 5MP camera and that comes in the usual flavors of between 16 and 64 gigabytes and in white or black.

So which iPad mini is right for you?

We’ll make it easy for you. Across the board, for almost everyone, the cheapest iPad mini — the $329 Wi-Fi only model in black — is the one most worth considering. There are some exceptions worth considering though. Here’s why.

Let’s break it down. The following matrix recommends which iPad mini model is right for certain types of customers, depending upon what they are going to use it for and which previous iOS devices they own.

If This Is Your First iPadIf You Already Have An iPad 2 / 3If You Have  Just An iPhone 4 / 4S / 5If You Have Both An iPad & iPhone
Gamer32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)
Photography & Video32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)32GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)
Reader16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)
Artistic32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)
Professional32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular Black ($559)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)32GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)
Internet addict32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular White ($559)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)32GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)
Media lover32GB Wi-Fi Black ($429)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)32GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)16GB Wi-Fi Black ($329)
Parent16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)16GB Wi-Fi White ($329)

Here is the rationale we used when coming up with this chart.

The iPad mini is mostly a device aimed at people who are making it their first tablet. If you’ve got a full-sized iPad, the larger, clearer display is going to be better in most circumstances for browsing the web, playing games, reading books and comics, typing, word processing, editing photos, and so on.

As such, we feel that the iPad mini is a supplementary, not essential, device to individuals who already have an iPad, and that existing iPad owners can usually get away with simply buying the cheapest iPad mini, the 16GB Wi-Fi only model for $329.

What if you don’t have an iPad, though? Then we think it depends on two things: what you plan to do with your iPad mini, and whether or not you have an iPhone. If you have an iPhone, but no iPad, we with a few exceptions recommend upgrading to a 32GB iPad mini, but avoiding the cellular tax by tethering the Wi-Fi only model to your iPhone.

Here are our explanatory notes for determining which iPad mini is right for which type of user:

Gamer: Gaming is one of the most demanding activities you can do on an iPad when it comes to using up your storage space. A game like Infinity Blade or Galaxy On Fire 2 can takeup over 1GB of storage. If your iPad mini is your only iOS gaming device, then, you need a minimum of 32GB of space, or you’ll constantly be juggling apps. As for the color, we recommend black as a natural letterbox to help immerse you in the action.

Photography + Video: Photography, and video especially, ends up taking up a lot of storage room on an iDevice, and because of its 5MP camera and smaller size, the new mini is probably the best digicam replacement in Apple’s iOS line-up outside of the iPhone. If the iPad mini is your ownly device, then, we recommend starting at 32GB, Wi-Fi only. If not, we recommend a 16GB model only if you have an iPhone with a better or equivalent camera to the iPad mini’s. Here, we again think black is the color you should choose for its natural letterboxing effect, making it easier to see your photos and videos.

Reader: Some people have been holding out for the iPad mini as a fancier kindle: a portable tablet to do mostly e-reading. Since most of what I do on my tablet is reading, that’s why I’m buying one. E-books, however, are rarely space intensive, and even Newsstand pubs rarely clock in at too massive a size. There’s little reason to buy anything more than a 16GB iPad mini here. We recommend white, since it looks more like the extensions of a page’s margins, and helps immerse you in your books.

Artistic: If you’re a musician and want to write tunes in GarageBand, an editor who wants to sketch out movies in iMovie or a designer who wants to sketch out ideas in drawing apps, or if you are otherwise a creator of content, not just a consumer of it, 32GB is the least you can get away with. You need enough of a scratch disk so that you can fill your iPad with ideas, and unfortunately, the files created by many artistic apps are pretty big. The color we recommend is black, because of letterboxing.

Professional: If you’re a business user and the iPad mini is your first iOS device, you probably need that cellular connection, and 32GB of storage to manage all your work files and PDFs. We’re recommending the 32GB iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular as the baseline, in black, just to play it safe.

Internet addict: If you love browsing the web and checking Twitter and Facebook, you’re going to need a iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular if you don’t have another iOS device. We say 32GB is the least iPad mini to consider, simply because apps are constantly getting bigger and 16GB doesn’t give you much wiggle room. We recommend a white model, for easier reading.

Media lover: Do you have a massive iTunes library? Have a ton of videos that you want to watch? If the iPad mini is your first iPad, you’re going to need at least 32GB to get by. Black’s the best choice here, since the black borders on an iPad mini will look like an extension of a video’s letterbox effect.

Parent: If you’re a parent, and want an iPad mini so it can mostly be handled by your kids, we recommend a 16GB iPad mini Wi-Fi only across the board. Why spend more on something your kids might easily break? We’re recommending white as the best choice, just because we think it’s friendlier and less stolid to kids.

Black or white? As for which color you should buy, black or white, there was some confusion in the comments about why we were recommending black or white in certain circumstances. To reiterate the rationale stated above and expound upon it a bit, white is a better choice if you’re mostly going to be reading text on a device, because it blends in with the page margins, effectively extending the page. Black, on the other hand, is a better choice for people using primarily visual apps, since it functions as an extension of standard letterboxing and offers better contrast for a wider range of colors.

Obviously, which iPad mini someone chooses to buy is a highly subjective matter, and the iPad mini that is right for you might be completely different than the iPad mini that is right for someone else. This chart is only intended to be  baseline buying advice for people trying to make a choice as to the minimum iPad mini that matches their requirements, not an argument that the 64GB iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular in white you are planning on buying tomorrow is “wrong.” Even so, if you disagree with any of our rationale below, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Related
  • mr_bee

    Man what a lot of nonsense! I have three iPads, an iPhone 4s and an iPhone 5, what does that mean I want?

    Seriously though, this article is just so full of unfounded assumptions it’s a waste of time. It’s also kind of offensive when you get to “reasons” for black versus white. Gamers only want black? Since when? “Artists” want black too? Why?

    The only cliche you avoided was the “girls will want white” one, but even then I bet it was in your first drafts and was removed only so you wouldn’t offend anyone.

    The whole concept of people having multiple iPads and using them all simultaneously is really questionable also. I doubt whether more than one user in ten thousand would need or want to use two iPads at once.

  • brownlee

    Man what a lot of nonsense! I have three iPads, an iPhone 4s and an iPhone 5, what does that mean I want?

    Seriously though, this article is just so full of unfounded assumptions it’s a waste of time. It’s also kind of offensive when you get to “reasons” for black versus white. Gamers only want black? Since when? “Artists” want black too? Why?

    Do readers like you just skim or what? We said it on more than one occasion in this very feature: white is a better choice if you’re mostly going to be reading text on a device, because it blends in with the margins, while black is a better choice for people using primarily visual apps, since it functions as an extension of standard letterboxing. This is not that hard to understand, not arbitrary, and certainly was not unexplained.

    The whole concept of people having multiple iPads and using them all simultaneously is really questionable also. I doubt whether more than one user in ten thousand would need or want to use two iPads at once.

    What? We never even SAID anything like that. We just said some people might pick up an iPad mini even though they already have an iPad, which is undeniably true.

  • FriarNurgle

    I’d recommend waiting for the next revision or the current model to show up in the refurb store. $329 for the A5 chip seems a bit too much IMO.

  • MtnMikeBall

    mr_bee is exactly right. I hate to rip on the author, but that table is ridiculous and the assumptions are completely retarded.

    I don’t care how many iOS devices you own, it’s ludicrous to make a blanket statement like “you should all get the 16GB version”.

    Right now the smallest iOS device (storage wise) our family has is a 32 GB iPad 2. That iPad is constantly right at the limits of its storage. It has gotten to the point where I can’t even do an “update all” to the apps on it because there isn’t enough room. Not to mention holding a few movies for a trip with the kids.

    Unless someone really can’t afford the extra $100 to upgrade from 16GB to 32GB, I would ALWAYS suggest they get at least 32 GB of storage. 64 GB if they can afford it.

    (There will be a few grandmas that just use the iPad for email and browsing. For them 16GB is enough, but they are the exception, not the rule. Especially for CulfOfMac readers.)

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick

    I’d recommend waiting for the next revision or the current model to show up in the refurb store. $329 for the A5 chip seems a bit too much IMO.

    I know I should wait until the refurb ones come out, but I don’t know if I can control myself. How much do you think they’ll be refurbished? $279?

  • brpepper

    Dude, I won’t even be able to help myself. LTE=GPS. Can use in those countries where wi-fi is lacking, 32GB will hold all the map data. And all of that other stuff you can do.

  • Mohy

    Typo in the table I guess Mr.Brownlee – 16GB and 32GB is listed as $329 at some places…

  • Shravan Gupta

    Unless someone really can’t afford the extra $100 to upgrade from 16GB to 32GB, I would ALWAYS suggest they get at least 32 GB of storage. 64 GB if they can afford it.

    Congratulations on pointing out their blanket statement was inappropriate to make, yet yours was completely fine.

    The fact of the matter is just because you have the money to spare for a 32gb doesnt mean everyone does. Also there are definitely many people who do not have over 16gb of content to put on their device. Yes for several of us a 20gb music library seems small but those that purchase music by song or by album through itunes rarely possess over 3-6gb of music. There is definitely a place for a 16gb device and there is a vast demand for it.

    Also in defense of the author. HE IS NOT ORDERING ANYONE TO FOLLOW HIS GUIDE. Those of us who are more technologically inclined obviously know for ourselves which model suits our needs. However there is always a large group of people who need some advice. He is merely giving guidance to those people.

  • broxman

    I think the chart is useful and creative! I have an iPhone 5 and an iPad 3. I plan to get an iPad mini 16GB, WiFi only, in black. My reasons. I plan to tether to my iPhone for Internet access when not near WiFI and I’ll have my iPhone with me at all times so the Internet access won’t be a problem. I just got a Kingston Wi-Drive from Amazon for $55 ( 32 GB ). Besides giving me more storage for the iPad mini away from home, it will allow me to access the same media data from my iPhone, iPad 3, and iPad mini without needing to load the media on all 3 devices. Also, Apple’s charge for additional storage is way too high. I do have 32 GB on both my iPhone and iPad and if the mini was to be my only iDevice I would definitely get 32 GB or greater.

    I don’t think that having all 3 size devices is overkill (if you can afford it)! I’ll mainly use the iPhone for phone, messaging, camera, and audio applications, the mini for visual things that are a struggle on the small iPhone screen (email, web, photos, videos, ebooks), and the full size iPad for significant web surfing, document editing with an external keyboard, photo and video editing, etc. Without the mini, the iPhone screen is just too small for many activities and the iPad 3 is just too large and heavy for a lot of things. I’ve been waiting for a mid-size iPad ever since I got the first iPad and then a Kindle and discovered how the Kindle was so much nicer for reading in terms of size and weight. As far as people complaining that the mini’s screen is not “retina”, I prefer that Apple minimized size and weight by going without retina for now.

  • matthewbissell

    I am going for the 16GB model because I already have a 64GB iPad. My plan is to have my most used apps such as Tweetbot and Facebook on the iPad mini. My music is in iTunes Match. I see the iPad mini as mainly a web surfing device and only core apps that I really need. Well, it gets me to go through my 100 iPad apps and then delete the ones I don’t need any more.

    Does anyone know the installed size of the Tweetbot app and the Facebook App?

  • larryvand

    Which to buy?? The 32Gb Nexus 7 for $249. It beats the iPad mini in every department. It has better screen, better CPU, better GPU, NFC, better software, better stand connectivity….FOR HALF THE PRICE…
    In fact you can buy 2 Nexus 7 (32Gb Nexus 7 $249 + 16Gb Nexus 7 $199) for the price of one 32 Gb iPad mini at $429. Only idiots will buy the iPad mini. Even the iPad 2 is a better deal than the iPad mini.

  • rtdunham

    …LTE=GPS. Can use in those countries where wi-fi is lacking, 32GB will hold all the map data…

    Can someone expand on this? I want to use an iPad Mini as my car GPS (seems like an extremely logical choice to me; you’d also get weather and stocks and sports etc. like the costly info systems Lincoln and Toyo and others offer). But what about amassing big data bills for that constant connection? My brother suggested there might be apps that allow you to download maps for the region you’re visiting, while youi’re on wi-fi, so you wouldn’t be using so much data once you’re on the road. Is that correct? You’d still need constant GPS connections, right, thus you still need the LTE version of the Mini? Does just the GPS connection involve data transfers and thus costs?

    Another poster here wrote, “…I plan to tether to my iPhone for Internet access when not near WiFI and I’ll have my iPhone with me at all times so the Internet access won’t be a problem” Seems unwieldy, but does tethering to my iPhone solve the problem? if there IS a problem.

    I’d really like to see someone more knowledgeable expand on the potential benefits and costs of iPad Mini as a regular car GPS (and info system).

    thanks.

  • Guest

    I need some advice. I’m torn between the iPad mini and iPad 4. At least, I’ve already decided I’ll go for the 32GB, wifi only, white whichever one I get. On one hand, I really like the retina display on the iPad 4. After all, I’m using an iPhone 4. Another dilemma is the screen size. Is 7.9″ really that small(or big)? I know pictures can be deceiving but it makes it look pretty small. Whereas on the iPad, you can play multiplayer games easier with someone and the screen is more immersive. The iPad mini’s screen has a feeling of peering into a tiny hole. Any suggestions?

  • kavi

    Well thought out article, kudos to brownlee… This comes from an android fan. This article easily covers very important aspects while buying a new device and suggests which suits u better. Job well done.

  • kavi

    Well thought out article, kudos to brownlee… This comes from an android fan. This article easily covers very important aspects while buying a new device and suggests which suits u better. Job well done.

  • z0mki

    I just bought a Kindle as the iPad 3 is too heavy for one handed reading. I was considering returning the Kindle and picking up an iPad Mini but at $329 I think I’ll wait for a retina upgrade.

  • FriarNurgle
    I’d recommend waiting for the next revision or the current model to show up in the refurb store. $329 for the A5 chip seems a bit too much IMO.

    I know I should wait until the refurb ones come out, but I don’t know if I can control myself. How much do you think they’ll be refurbished? $279?

    Yep, $279 (15%) would be a good guess based off past refurb pricing trends.

  • xam05pr

    I have an iMac 27″, a Macbook Pro 13″, an iPad 64 LTE Retina, and an iPhone 5 32GB which it has a 5GB data + personal hotspot with AT&T. I am in the fence wether I get the new iPad mini with 16 or 32GB of storage and with or without the LTE antenna.

    The reason is that I love just pulling my iPad 64 LTE from my bag and not having to reach for my iphone to enable the personal hotspot feature.

    does anyone have a comment on wether I should just get it wifi only or wait for the LTE version?

    Thank you!

  • Vicente

    Can someone expand on this? I want to use an iPad Mini as my car GPS (seems like an extremely logical choice to me; you’d also get weather and stocks and sports etc. like the costly info systems Lincoln and Toyo and others offer). But what about amassing big data bills for that constant connection?

    What the original poster refers to, is that the GPS is NOT included on the WiFi versions. So you want GPS, well the cellular comes along for the ride if you use it or not.

    My iPad1 and iPad3 I bought the cellular version each time, just to have the GPS. I only used the cell modem a few months while travelling.

    I’m getting an iPad mini 64gb. I can tether it to my iphone over Bluetooth4 if I need data on it when mobile. I find I didn’t really depend on having the GPS in the tablet that much, the iPhone with TomTom app did a fine job.

  • Vicente

    I need some advice. I’m torn between the iPad mini and iPad 4. At least, I’ve already decided I’ll go for the 32GB, wifi only, white whichever one I get. On one hand, I really like the retina display on the iPad 4. After all, I’m using an iPhone 4. Another dilemma is the screen size. Is 7.9″ really that small(or big)? I know pictures can be deceiving but it makes it look pretty small. Whereas on the iPad, you can play multiplayer games easier with someone and the screen is more immersive. The iPad mini’s screen has a feeling of peering into a tiny hole. Any suggestions?

    Wait until November 2nd and walk into store for hands-on. There’s no other way to know what feels RIGHT for you on the display.

    I like the Retina display but don’t find it a necessity. After I got my iPad3 I kept the iPad1 around for a while before selling it, and you know what? I still found the iPad1 perfectly acceptable for use.

    However afte having 64gb in the iPad1, I found it INCREDIBLY CLAUSTROPHOBIC to have only 32gb in my iPad3. Mainly this affects me when travelling I have apps, and photos, and then like to pack a lot of movies in there for son to watch on planes etc and have array of choices. So all future tablets for me will have 64gb.

  • TheMacGuy

    I’m not even going to upgrade at this point. I’m going to wait until the next iPad comes out before I upgrade, and I’m probably just going to upgrade to a refurbished “iPad with Retina Display” (iPad 4). When I buy refurbished, I typically save either $50-$100 off retail, which is either half or all the price of AppleCare+ which I always get. Right now, the iPad 3 specs aren’t very appealing, refurbished or not, and the iPad 4, even with the sale of my iPad 2, can’t be done because of the fact I just bought my iPhone 5.

    And I will NEVER go with 16GB. My brother, mother, and aunt all went with 16GB iPhone 4/4S’s and I always get calls from them saying that their iPhone is is displaying a message of “Storage Full”. I instantly knew how this felt when I purchased my first iPad (original iPad 16GB refurbished) shortly after the iPad 2 was announced. A year later, I upgraded to to refurbished iPad 2, but not for specs, because I needed more storage. It was because I thought that I would just use it for browsing and Netflix/Hulu viewing. Trust me, after playing with it, you will want to load photos, and music, and movies, and it just won’t fit. And this is the same reason I bought a 32GB iPhone 5 as an upgrade from my 32GB iPhone 4. Unless you are ABSOLUTELY positive you will NEVER EVER put anything else on your iPad other then a few (maybe 20-30) apps, and a small music library (around 8GB), I would at least get the 32GB. And if you don’t have enough to get at least the 32GB, wait until you do, because when you start running out of space, you are going to want to sell it, and the chances of getting close to the original purchase price is slim.

  • TylerHoj

    I wish the Wifi + Cellular models were shipping sooner. I just landed a square credit card reader for my small business, and with an iPad mini I’ll be able to take payments anywhere I go. I’ve had complaints that the iPhone I’ve been using is too cramped, especially when signing for payments. Looking forward to the ‘upgrade.’

  • dcdevito

    It’s a complete ripoff. It’s too wide, the display is awful and the resolution is poor.

  • Zod Buster

    How about neither… wait till next spring.. new CEO,, new management… new magical products ? maybe

  • 4l4BHY

    What if ones choice is all of the above..i mean..gaming,reading,browsing,editing..etc.

  • ammah89

    you know what i just wanna say this has helped me so much 100% love the explanatons and the diagrams it not only makes sense its actually right i know what i want now

  • aki

    The article is good, but is MASSIVELY lacking by not mentioning GPS!

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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