So how much faster is the fourth-generation iPad than the iPad Mini? Raw benchmarks show a yawning gap between Apple's newest tablets.
Though benchmarks are typically more theoretical than real-world (that is, you won't necessarily feel a big speed boost using everyday apps), they're instructive because they show the potential of the underlying silicon.
And that potential can become very real when specific applications, such as games, are optimized to tap into the redesigned circuits of a new chip -- in this case, Apple's new A6X, a faster version of the A6 in the iPhone 5.
The test results are based on Geekbench, which provides benchmarks designed to measure processor and memory performance. It is a popular benchmark score for iOS devices.
Geekbench scores highlight a big gap in raw performance:
- iPad 4th gen: 1,700
- iPad Mini: 752
That means if more games and apps are able to exploit that extra horsepower, you have a serious high-performance tablet on your hands. And Apple redesigned the quad-core graphics engine in the A6X hoping that developers will do just that.
iPad Mini: The new Mini and the older iPad 2 test at 752 and 755 on Geekbench, respectively, according to CNET.
Both devices test similarly because they use Apple's older A5 chip. And by comparison, the iPhone 4S -- which also uses an A5 chip -- scored 629.
Similar scores have been published elsewhere for the Mini.
So the tradeoff for a smaller, thinner, cheaper device is that you get old Apple silicon -- not unlike what's happened to the MacBook in the past. Remember the first $999 MacBook Air that debuted back in 2010? That smaller, cheaper, thinner Air packed an aging Intel Core 2 Duo chip.
Another element that could improve performance on both the iPad Mini and the iPad 4 is better Wi-Fi technology. Connection speeds are improved over previous iOS devices due to dual-band 2.5GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi.
The take-away is that consumers have a pretty stark choice between a smaller, less-expensive, lower-performance iPad Mini and a heavier, more-expensive, high-performance 4th gen iPad.
And that's not necessarily an unpleasant quandary to be in.