I was once told that some people would prefer to have a large tablet, which would be easier to read. The iPad mini as a diagonal viewing space of 7.9″, which is slightly larger than my Google Nexus 7.
The iPad 2 has a 9.7″ viewable screen. Then “density” of pixels between the 2 is 132 (ipad 2) vs 163 (ipad Mini). The screen resolution is the same: 1024 x 768.
Due to the size, the mini is LIGHTER, but only by 0.6 lbs.
The mini cost $329 new. The iPad 2 cost $399 new.
Now, they both have the same processor (an A5 processor) and run exactly the same speed. The mini has a slightly better camera resolution, but not terribly so. Both have front and back facing cameras.
You can also order both with just WIFI or with 3G connections. The 3G connection versions are going to cost much more either way. the 3G/Wifi version pricing is a bigger discrepancy, and would tilt towards the iPad mini ($499 vs $529 for the iPad 2) if that is part of your considerations (it would mean he could use a tablet ANYWHERE there’s a phone signal, but you also pay monthly rates like an cell phone device).
Essentially, the screen size is easier to read on the iPad 2 than the iPad mini, but the functionality of both is essentially the same. There is no difference is the iOS versions, or what they can do. Apple DOES keep some “goodies” specifically for the mini that are NOT accessible on the iPad 2 (Apple Maps, for one), but these are minor. If screen size and readability are more important, then you’ll want to consider the iPad 2.
If having the “goodies” is more important than screen size, then I’m sure anyone would enjoy the iPad mini too.
Just a note that you can have either one “inscribed” by Apple for a small fee as well 🙂
With either, I would see about getting a nice case for it. I find when the tablet is in a nice case, it will look “new” and inviting well past purchase date. The ones that don’t have a case will get scratched and “worn” on the back after a year or so of use. If the case gets worn out, you can always get a new one, and your tablet still looks “perfect”.
Now, the monkey wrench in this analysis: If an extra $100 isn’t an issue, I would TOTALLY look at the top end iPad, the iPad with Retina Display ($499 for the 16GB Wifi model). This is the “latest” iPad version, is a full 9.5″ viewable (same size as the iPad 2), but the screen is MUCH more crisp, featuring 264dpi (just below the average human visual acuity peak of 300dpi). That is the “king” of all tablets right now, closely followed by the recently released Google Nexus 10 (a whole different ball game, but only cost $399 new with 300dpi screen, available Nov 13th).
You can see the basic stats for all models at: https://www.apple.com/ipad/compare/