iPad mini 4 review: why has Apple hidden this great tablet away?

The launch was all about the iPad Pro - but the new mini tablet is really rather nice.

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  • Great screen
  • Compact dimensions
  • Thinner chassis


  • Old chipset
  • Camera unimpressive

What do you do when you’ve made a massive tablet that’s got tongues wagging? You slip out a well-made teeny one and don’t really tell anyone about it, apparently.

That’s what Apple’s done with the iPad mini 4. The iPad Pro is getting the bulk of the interest in the tablet world at the moment, but that's a shame - there's something really awesome here with this smaller model.

For £319 you're getting a really decent tablet (the iPad Air 2) squished down into a smaller size - while that's a year old, that doesn't mean it's less impressive. The iPad range struggles to find an equal from the competition, and at this lower cost the mini 4 is definitely worth thinking as a 'big present' to someone.


The design is as you'd expect with a tablet from Apple: it's got a metal case, curved at the edged, but it's done in such a way that it feels almost ceramic in the hand. The buttons - a little small, it has to be said - are now limited to just power and volume, with the silencing rocker switch now placed on screen in the Control Center.

The overall design is the antithesis of something like the iPad Pro. It's small enough to hold in one hand (with a very stretched set of digits, it has to be said) and slips into a jacket pocket. The 2048 x 1536 screen is big enough to show most content nicely, and while it's hard not to love the wide expanses of the Pro or even the Air 2, the mini 4 packs a real punch.

It's got great colour reproduction, which means looking at your cheeky pics and watching the odd movie appears lovely. The contrast ratio is great and the screen packs very low reflectance, so even checking out some darker scenes on the train (idea for a film) is a pleasent experience.


Like a number of Apple's tablets at the moment, it's hard to point to real innovation under the hood, but the mini 4 achieves its brilliance through just being well packaged. The 298.8g weight means you feel like you're just holding an oversized iPhone, but the larger 4:3 ratio of the screen means you can see more content in once place.

The more impressive thing, perhaps, is that the mini 4 is using the A8 chip - not even the powerful A8X created for the iPad Air 2. It's essentially got as much grunt as an iPhone 6, but with more RAM to help speed things up a little.

The iPad range thrives not through its design though - it's the App Store that sells it, and Apple has imbued the mini 4 with enough smarts to be able to handle nearly any title from the library.

This means high-powered games and larger files work on the screen, although downloading something like Photoshop feel a little redundant given the smaller screen.


It's hard to fault the performance of the iPad mini 4, as it works just as you'd expect it to under the finger. The extra RAM boost is welcome, as it means firing all those extra pixels is a little easier, but overall there's nothing to really get worried about.

The battery life is identical to that of the iPad Air 2 - which is a surprise given its using an older CPU at its heart. That's probably the biggest gripe of the mini 4, as it's using a chipset that's already a year old.

It's not a problem now, but in a couple of years that's going to be an issue when it can't handle iOS 11 quite as well. Perhaps for the price you won't mind upgrading (assuming Apple keeps going with the mini range, that is) but it's curious that we haven't at least got the tablet-friendly chip in the 'new' iPad mini.

The battery life of 10 hours seems about right - you're not attaching a smorgasbord of Pencil or keyboard-shaped accessories to this thing, so it's kinder on the power management.

The camera - well, it's OK. It's an 8MP iSight sensor which is, well, good enough for tablet, that's for sure. It's curious that the same abilities are imbued here (panorama, slo-mo video to 120fps at 720p) as on the hyper-powerful iPad Pro, but perhaps Apple realises that encouraging people to use tablets as dedicated cameras is a BAD THING.


iOS 9 is a very good operating system for the simplicity of the tablet - some say that it's just a larger phone OS (well, it is) but that misses the point that it's allowing the iPad range to just be more targeted, using apps as and when you want them and not mimicking the desktop experience from a PC or Mac.

We don't quite see why the split screen mode has been added here - the iPad mini is too small to really make proper use of it. Being able to browse the web and use Twitter at the same time seems like overkill - but hey, it's there if you want it.

T3 Verdict

The iPad Air 2 is one of the best tablets ever made, and we wish this had been launched at the same time rather than the huge disappointment of the iPad mini 3. The power of the A9 chip is curious here, as it would have been amazing to have the exact same specs but squished down into a smaller device.

But in this case it doesn't seem to have an effect... yet. We're worried about it a few years down the line, when it might start slowing down when apps start ramping up in power.

The design - thinner than before, and much nicer to hold - is brilliant for having a really portable tablet, and having the same screen resolution of 2048 x 1536 is impressive given the more compact dimensions.

The screen quality is very much welcome too - being able to use this fully in almost direct light again adds to the portability.

Apple has done its usual trick of lowering the specs where it can - the older chip is annoying - and should have launched the iPad mini 4 a year ago as the mini 3. But that doesn't stop it being great to use, and for the price it's a nice entry point into the iPad world.