Tough choice: The iPad mini and iPad Air.

Tough choice: The iPad mini and iPad Air.

Dilemmas come in many forms but, according to tradition, all have horns upon which their victims are impaled. My current dilemma concerns Apple's iPads - the new Air and the even newer second version of the iPad mini. It is a dilemma shared, I am sure, by millions of people currently thinking of asking Santa for a new tablet.

But which one: the new iPad Air, so much lighter and more powerful than its predecessors, or the new iPad mini, even lighter, just as powerful and better than $100 cheaper? The lower price could allow you to go up a grade and get more storage for your money than if you bought the Air, or afford a wi-fi and cellular model rather than wi-fi only.

At this point I should admit that while I am sorely tempted by the mini and will inevitably finance Santa into delivery of one on Christmas Day, the Air is my first choice.

It has almost, but not quite, replaced my MacBook Pro Retina on my travels because I use it with a Bluetooth keyboard to write in the excellent (and now free with the iPad) Pages word processor. For that purpose, my less than special eyesight makes the larger screen the better option.

It's also good for Skyping, handy for taking pictures (although I find the iPhone 5S more convenient to wield) and better for reading the newspaper, again a matter of eyesight.

The Air has a screen diagonal of 9.7 inches (246 millimetres) compared with 7.9 inches (200 mm) on the mini, so the overall screen area is quite different. Yet, in my short acquaintance with the new mini that did not present a problem and I concede that the mini is notably more convenient to hold.

Most people will be able to hold it in one hand and tap and type with the other. It's also possible to thumb-type quite easily when holding it in two hands, and there are some relatives of Frankenstein's Monster who can do it while holding the mini in one hand.

I use Maps a lot, which is better on a larger screen, especially when plotting a longer journey. However, while I sometimes find Maps on the iPhone a problem, the mini screen is pretty much as good to use as the Air's bigger acreage. I don't suggest mounting the mini above your car's dashboard because I think it is distracting and dangerous.

But the spoken directions in Maps are very clear and concise, so just sit your iPad on the seat beside you and listen. You and everyone else on the road will be much safer.

In tech specs the two new iPad lines are identical. The mini has the same powerful, power-efficient A7 Apple-designed chip with its 64-bit architecture, which is four times faster in CPU performance and eight times faster in graphics tasks than the first iPad mini. The new one has the same M7 graphics processor that was introduced with the iPad Air. And you get at least 10 hours of use on a battery charge.

And then there is the high-definition Retina display, which, despite the smaller screen, has precisely the same number of pixels (326 per inch for a resolution of 2048 by 1536) as the iPad Air, so everything is sharp and bright. There has been a US report suggesting the mini's colour rendition is not quite as good as the Air's but most commentators are saying that, if true, it's a technicality nobody will notice in use.

This new mini is also better on the road than its predecessor, having two antennas - one on 2.4GHz and the other on 5GHz - giving multiple in and out (MIMO) operation, meaning double the wi-fi performance of the old model. It also supports many more 4G (LTE) frequencies, meaning less hassle when you travel overseas.

It comes loaded with iWork and iLife, the Apple software suites, and there are more than 475,000 apps in the App Store to make life more fun and more efficient as well as convenient.

Both the wi-fi and cellular models come in grey and silver bodies (but not gold, as on the iPhone 5S) and each is available in four versions ranging from 16GB of storage up to a whopping 128GB.

Prices start at $479 for the wi-fi line and $629 for the cellular models.

Although it arrived some weeks after the Air, I estimate that in overall sales, in Australia and globally, the mini bids fair to outsell its bigger version and become the most popular tablet of all.

So, my rationale to Santa is that she should understand how much easier it will be to carry the new iPad mini in my jacket pocket and how much more convenient and better for my eyesight it will be when standing, reading the newspaper in a crammed peak-hour tram.

And, besides, it's just beautiful.