iPad Mini 2 review

iPad Mini 2 review

T3 5
  • iPad Mini 2 review: This is Apple's second-gen mini tablet, but has it got what it takes to top our list of the best tablets to buy?

    iPad Mini 2 review

    Love

    • Stunning Retina display
    • Speed performance
    • Size and weight for daily use

    Hate

    • Price
    • No Touch ID

    The original iPad mini was our favourite tablet ever; small and lightweight enough to be truly portable, unified hardware and software to keep the battery going all day, and  running the best OS with the most apps. Hell, even without a Retina display, it even won our tablet of the year.

    Then the iPad Air arrived – a smaller, more lightweight, faster 'full-size' iPad with an aesthetic design that took all the best bits from the Mini - we're looking at you, thin bezel.

    But now we have a quicker, more powerful, super-resolution iPad Mini 2 with Retina display at our fingertips. It’s up against some seriously high quality small tablets, including the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, the new Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, to name a few. Are the improvements enough to keep the Mini ahead of the pack, and our number one all-round tablet?

    iPad Mini 2: Screen

    Let's start with the upgrade that we've all been waiting for since the Mini was first introduced – Retina. What you now get on on the 7.9-inch display is a resolution of 2048 x 1536 at 326ppi, equating to a total pixel count of 3,145,728. That's as much as the iPad Air and just 25% less than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

    Needless to say, everything is pin-sharp, especially text and high-res images whose fine detail pops even when zooming in close. For instance, iBook and Kindle books are easier on the eyes and can now be viewed clearly at arm's length. Screen brightness seems the same but colours are unequivocally more vivid.

    WATCH: iPad Mini 2 unboxing video

    Video content isn't any smoother but blacks are deeper and a greater amount of detail can be picked out in moving HD content. Thumb rejection tech prevents wayward digits triggering screen commands. In short, the Retina Display delivers in every way we hoped. A triumph.

    iPad Mini 2: Features and performance

    Hardware-wise, Apple has stuffed every flagship piece of tech from the bigger iPad Air into it's pint-sized brethren. The new 64-bit A7 chip and clever M7 motion co-processor are both present but, like the Air, Touch ID fingerprint recognition has been omitted – a shame considering how much we use it on the 5S.

    The Mini can now be bought with 128GB storage, which blows most of the competition out of the water. You'll pay for it, though – almost £700.

    In our testing, the new ipad Mini Retina is noticeably faster and slicker than its predecessor. The A7 chip is clearly working overtime to deliver a smooth experience, even if iOS 7 still seems a little sketchy at times.

    The Mini crashed twice in our testing for no obvious reason. However, after an Apple update mid-way through our time with it, we had no repeat of the problem.

    Apps that take advantage of the 64-bit architecture are arriving now. Playing around with them video-mixing app, vJay, we had two simultaneous video mixes going out live via Apple TV without any glitching. Impressive.

    WATCH: iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini video

    Graphics performance is also much improved with high-intensity games, such as Infinity Blade 3, making use of the OpenGL ES 3.0 platform and, in non geek-speak, producing some incredible lighting and shading effects, all of which look spectacular on the new Retina Display.

    The M7 motion coprocessor is also getting some app love, making its potential clearer to see. The Day One app uses it to count, and add, steps to your daily journal, while Strava - yes you can get iPad mini attachments for your bicycle - uses it to reduce battery consumption when the GPS isn't needed - see more below.

    The Mini is also the proud owner of a 4G upgrade for wider frequency compatibility. The dualband (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) N Wi-Fi  now has MIMO tech for supposedly more reliable connectivity.

    In practice, Wi-Fi seemed a little more robust but nothing to email home about. If you've got a decent 4G connection and contract, though, the speeds are outrageous. We were downloading data at almost 50Mbps at one point.

  • The new iPad Mini Retina packs in the same 7.9-inch screen as its predecessor, but this time the display is Retina quality. T3 went hands-on...

    iPad Mini 2 review

    Love

    • Stunning Retina display
    • Speed performance
    • Size and weight for daily use

    Hate

    • Price
    • No Touch ID

    Update:The Apple iPad Mini Retina is now on sale. Apple originally said merely "later in November" for the launch day, so it was a slightly sudden addition to the Apple Store. Stay tuned for our full review - coming soon.

    It's been less than a year since the downsized iPad Mini was announced and, since then, many critics (including T3) have deemed it the best tablet Apple's ever made. However, now competing with an expanded range of smaller tablet computers, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, Google's updated Nexus 7 and the Samsung Note 8.0, Apple's latest Mini update needed to break new ground to keep ahead of the chasing pack.

    And, thankfully for Apple, it has by upgrading the Mini to now support a Retina screen, A7 chip and M7 co-processor plus a glut of other bits similar to the iPhone 5S update we saw last month. There's no Touch ID on the new iPad Mini Retina (not the iPad Mini 2, as we thought it would be called) but it looks like it'll remain the most impressive small tablet on the market. Article continues after our hands-on video

    iPad Mini Retina: Size and build

    Launched alongside the iPad Air, the new iPad Mini with Retina display (previously rumoured to be called the iPad mini 2) is almost identical in shape, size and build to the first generation model, with the only discernible aesthetic differences being new cases and covers you can add. It remains one of the heavier small form-factor tablets with the Kindle Fire HDX (303g) and Nexus 7 (290g) being slightly lighter.

    However, with a 7.2mm depth, it's the thinnest of the bunch, with the Galaxy Note 8, Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire DX measuring up at 7.95mm, 8.7mm and 9mm respectively. In the hand, it feels just like the last iteration with those rounded edges now matching the new iPad Air.

    Apart from the Lightning connector, external ports are non existent - Apple is still pushing you to use wireless connectivity for everything, which is handier admittedly with AirPort built into iOS 7.

    Hard-wired buttons remain with volume, on/off button and the screen lock rocking the sides and front screen. MIMO wifi is now supported.

    iPad Mini Retina: Features

    We weren't expecting a huge change feature wise from the previous edition, but what we got was welcome. The 64-bit A7 chip architecture now brings it in line with its bigger iMac, MacBook and iPad Air cousins, while the M7 motion co-processor will allow it to take advantage of the apps being made for the update.

    Storage has been bumped to a whopping 128Gb, which blows the competition apart. The Nexus 7 really needs to catch up.

    Getting an early play, the new iPad Mini now sports a FaceTime HD camera, which is a marked improvement over the last model. It's clear and so much more defined when voice conferencing.

    iPad Mini Retina: Screen

    One of our favourite aspects of the old iPad Mini was how everything looks on the smaller 7.9-inch LED-backlit 163ppi screen. Regardless of the lack of Retina and its 1024 x 768 resolution, web pages, Newsstand magazines were deep and crisp and even.

    So with this Retina upgrade, the results are nothing short of stunning. The new iPad Mini sports the same 2048x1536 res spec as the bigger iPad Air with colours being richer, deeper and full of life. In our eyes, it's the most impressive update. You won't believe yours.

    iPad Mini Retina: Performance

     

    As aforementioned, the new iPad Mini's processor has been upgraded from the dual-core A5 chip to the newer A7. Our quick hands-on with the new iPad Mini proved difficult to tell where the speed boost will be seen. Our view is that we'll have to wait for 64-bit apps to really notice the difference.

    Saying that, apps in iOS7 seemed to snap open a little faster, while graphic-intensive tasks such as video playback look smoother. We look forward to giving it a proper run for its money when we get a full review unit.

    It's also had a LTE upgrade for wider 4G compatibility and now sports MIMO wifi for those with MIMO routers.

    iPad Mini Retina: Battery

    Apple quotes the same 10-hour battery life as the old iPad Mini. Pitched against its competitors, it's pretty standard, but we'd like to see for ourselves whether that Retina screen and A7 chip have an effect. Our gut says they will.

    iPad Mini Retina: Verdict

    There's no Touch ID on the new iPad Mini, no multi-coloured chassis options and a similar price tag (although the older iPad Mini has now dropped around £100).

    However, with a faster processor, an 128Gb memory option, much better FaceTime HD camera, M7 co-processing and that utterly beautiful hi-res Retina screen, it's hard to change our view of it remaining the best small form-factor, if not THE best tablet on the market. Check back for a full review as soon as we get our mitts on one.

    iPad Mini Retina price: Wi-Fi only: £319 (16GB), £399 (32GB), £479 (64GB), £559 (128GB)
    Wi-Fi and Cellular: £419, (16GB), £499 (32GB), £579 (64GB), £659 (128GB)

    iPad Mini Retina release date: November 2013, pre-orders now

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    • iPad Mini Retina hands-on
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