iPad Mini Retina review
- Stunning Retina display
- Speed performance
- Size and weight for daily use
- 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 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 Retina: 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.
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 Retina: 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 Mini 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.
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.