I’ve been patiently waiting for Apple to release an iPad mini with a Retina display ever since they announced the original non-Retina model back in October 2012. So when it finally went on sale just a few weeks ago, I bought a 64GB Wi-Fi only version from the Apple online store. Having used it as my main tablet for the past seven days, here’s my review.
Look & Feel
In terms of design, the new iPad mini looks and feels the same as last year’s model, but there are some minor differences. Perhaps surprisingly, the new generation is actually slightly thicker (7.5mm), and heavier (0.73 pounds), than the previous generation. This is mainly due to a bigger battery, which I’ll discuss later in this review.
Also, while the first generation mini was initially available in either black & slate or white & silver, the former option is now black & space grey – a slightly lighter shade. Personally, I preferred the darker slate finish, but it’s a minor criticism.
As somebody who has only ever owned 9.7-inch iPads, I really like the smaller form factor of the mini. It’s portable enough to be taken everywhere, light enough to be held for long periods of time, and the aluminium unibody enclosure feels extremely solid.
The new iPad mini’s 7.9-inch Retina display looks incredibly sharp, and so it should. At 2048 x 1536 pixels, the resolution is double that of its predecessor, and the same as the more expensive 9.7-inch iPad Air. And because the mini’s screen is smaller than the Air’s, it actually has a higher pixel density – 326 versus 264 per inch. Naturally, text looks extremely crisp, and high definition images look stunning.
One area where the iPad mini’s display falls a little short however, is with regards to color reproduction. As reported by a number of sites, the new mini has the same colour gamut as the first mini and the iPad 2 – 63% versus 100% found on the 3rd generation iPad and all subsequent 9.7-inch models (including the new iPad Air).
Ultimately, colors don’t look quite as vibrant on the mini compared to those with a 100% gamut. I can personally see a slight difference when I place my 3rd generation iPad alongside the mini – reds and pinks in particular look a little more muted on the smaller device’s screen.
But is this shortcoming a reason not to get the mini? While disappointing, It’s one of those things that’s only really noticeable when you look for it. Although it would be nice to have both, I personally prefer having the smaller device versus a lager one with marginally more vivid colors.
After the Retina display, the most significant difference between the new iPad mini and last year’s model, is the processor. While the original mini featured the same 1 GHz dual-core A5 processor as the iPad 2, the Retina iPad mini has the same A7 processor with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor used in the new iPad Air.
According to Apple, the new mini’s CPU is four times faster, and the GPU is eight times faster than the previous generation. I’ve certainly noticed an increase in speed compared to my third-gen iPad, which has a 1 GHz dual-core A5X processor.
As you would expect, there’s no lag when browsing the interface, and graphics-intensive games such as Real Racing 3 and Infinity Blade III look fantastic, and run extremely smoothly on the device.
Like the first generation mini, the latest model has a 5-megapixel rear camera, and a 1.2-megapixel front camera. However, the device’s A7 processor features an improved image signal processor which should provide better overall performance. In addition, the FaceTime HD camera now has a next-generation back illuminated sensor with bigger pixels.
Here are some photos I took with the Retina iPad mini:
While the iPad mini is capable of taking okay photos, it can’t compete with the iPhone 5s and other high-end smartphones. The lack of a flash makes it particularly unsuitable for use in low light conditions. It is worth pointing out however, that the iPad Air has exactly the same cameras as the mini – so in terms of the iPad line, this is as good as it gets.
Battery, Connectivity & Storage
Considering the new iPad mini features both a significantly higher resolution display, and a faster processor compared to the old mini, you might expect battery life to have taken a hit, but it hasn’t. Apple claims up to 10 hours – and based on my experience so far, that seems pretty accurate. So how has this been achieved? The battery is now 23.8 Whr, which is a notable increase over the 16.3 Whr version used in the previous mini, and also explains the slight increase in weight and thickness.
With regards to connectivity, the Retina iPad mini has improved Wi-Fi capabilities over the last model. Dual antennas allow it to communicate up to twice the speed (300 Mbps). In addition, Apple has expanded the 4G/LTE capabilities of the cellular-equipped version, allowing it to work on a greater number of networks around the world.
Moving onto storage, the iPad mini with Retina display is available in four different capacities: 16, 32, 64, or 128GB. Previously the mini was only available with a maximum storage capacity of 64GB.
Last year, anyone buying an iPad mini instead of a full sized iPad had to make considerable compromises in terms of both screen resolution and processor speed. With the new iPad mini that’s no longer the case.
Although Apple has raised the entry price by $70, the new iPad mini is every bit as capable as the more expensive iPad Air. As a result, the biggest decision most buyers now face is which form factor to go for – 7.9-inches versus 9.7-inches.
Personally, I’ve decided that the smaller size fits my needs the best, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the new iPad mini.
Starting at $399 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only version, and $529 for a Wi-Fi + Cellular version, the iPad mini with Retina display is available to buy from and other major retailers.