iPad mini 3 review

A ‘new’ tablet with a distinct lack of upgrades

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Sleek design

  • +

    Good app access

  • +

    Touch ID for security

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Too similar to mini 2

  • -

    Pricey compared to last year

  • -

    Not as powerful as Air 2

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Feel like getting a new mini Apple tablet? You might want to look to last year's model, unless you really like fingerprint scanning.

While the iPad Air 2 nabbed all the headlines, the smaller version also slipped out during Tim Cook's iLaunch. However, something curious has happened. The iPad mini 3 is just the iPad mini 2, except with two upgrades: Touch ID is now added in to help improve security and enable payments (when they finally make their way to the UK), and it's now available in gold.

That might be of particular interest to the third villain in the Austin Powers trilogy - after all, every evil genius needs to make sure his or her secrets don't fall into the hands of the hero - but to everyone else, it's a tough choice. Last year's model is still on sale for a much lower price of £239, compared to £319 for the 16GB iPad mini 3, so are these extra features worth the upgrade?


Let's step away from that pesky price and celebrate the way Apple makes things - it's rather good, after all. The same ceramic-metal fusion that debuted on the original iPad mini is here again (which, of course, it would be, given this model is heavily based on the iPad mini 2) and as such feels rather nifty in the palms.

The 7.5mm thickness is still more than impressive, and as such you can feel confident about slipping this tablet into a jacket pocket or smaller bag without it weighing you down all day.

The smaller bezels are welcome again, and Apple's touch technology means you won't be accidentally hitting the screen with your palm when holding it in portrait. With the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, there's less of a reason to buy the new iPad mini, but it's a long way from being replaced by that larger smartphone.


Apple's A7 chip - the same one used in the iPhone 5S - was an interesting choice for last year's tablet line up, as it wasn't the ultra-powerful A7X chip we're used to seeing in the iPad.

Apple has reverted to form in 2014 though, with the iPad Air 2 taking in an insanely strong A8X chip, which trounces the competition with mega tablet might - we couldn't believe the results from the GeekBench test, in fact.

However, while last year's iPad mini 2 got the same chip as it's larger brother, this year we're stuck with the same processor again - so it's the A7 again, although the M7 co-processor to track movement is present and correct once again. Perfect for logging those steps should you want to put a picture of the Arc Reactor on the screen and go into full Iron Man get-up on a run.

There was never a note of slow down throughout the tests with the new iPad mini, but there were one or two crashes, especially with the Mail app. It's certainly not as slick as the bigger iPad Air 2, but it's good enough.


What we were really impressed with here is that despite not taking on the next level chip, the iPad mini 3 holds onto the same decent battery performance as seen on the iPad mini 2. This was shown when we tested the battery with a 90 minute looped Full HD video, with the iPad Air 2 draining 21%, but the mini 3, which has to drive the same amount of pixels at 1536 x 2048 taking down only 18%.

This could be something to do with the fact the iPad mini 3 can't run as brightly as the larger version, but that's still a good result.

However generally the battery life of the new mini was decent to say the least. Sling it in a bag all day and you'll have nearly all your juice available for the Mad Men marathon on the way home. Apple hasn't changed things much here, but it has brought across a very impressive battery life.

The quoted time of 10 hours for multimedia (ie web browsing or video playback) is pretty accurate, although if you indulge in a longer gaming session or streaming video, especially over 4G, you're not going to like what you see in the top right hand corner after a few hours...


Apple's done nothing with the camera when it comes to hardware on the iPad mini 3 - that's not a bad thing of course, as it might deter some users from bringing the tablet with them to an important family gathering or a sporting event.

There's nothing worse than missing a vital goal because someone in front of you was trying to record it... and failing, so you can't even watch it back with them. Man United might have made a mistake bringing in David Moyes, but they did a great thing in banning iPads from the ground.

On the software side of things, there's better news. The improvements here mean that you can now record in time-lapse mode or use the tablet to take great panoramas. Sadly, due to not upgrading the chipset, the slow-motion capability isn't here (we'll gloss over the fact it can be brought to the iPhone 5S using the same A7 chip right now... perhaps Apple has a secret reason for not imbuing the iPad mini 3 with the capability where the iPad Air 2 can do such a thing).

The results using the camera are decent though, with low light in particular impressing. It's a shame you can't use the filters while shooting, although they are available in the post-processing edit menu.

Touch ID and Apple Pay

This is the big talking point, as unless you're an avid fan of the more luxurious gold colour, this is the only reason to buy the iPad mini 3 - the mini 2 is equally as capable in every other way.

So what are you getting for shelling out an extra three mid-level christmas presents'-worth of salary, compared to the iPad mini 2? Well, a more secure tablet for starters. Although a passcode can be spotted over your shoulder, thieves can't mimic your fingerprint.

There's also the benefit that apps will start using it to secure elements within them too - while right now it's just locking others out of the app itself (which seems odd... surely if you've unlocked the iPad, you're able to unlock said app too? But more security is never a bad thing).

And of course the big one: Apple Pay. Being able to link up your credit or debit card and pay for things online with a tap of the finger.

Except, well, it's not coming to the UK any time soon. Nor do we know which banks and credit card companies will sign up. If it's anything like the US, Apple will pull in a lot of the big names in the finance world for the UK launch, meaning you'll be able to pay with ease - however, with no confirmation as yet on when this will happen, it's hard to call this a selling point.


Apple knows how to make a cracking tablet, and we loved the iPad mini 2 when it launched last year. It offered all the power of the Air in a smaller form factor, and while it wasn't cheap, it was awesome.

But seeing it reproduced almost identically 12 months on doesn't pack the same punch. There's no new technology here beyond Touch ID, which doesn't really warrant the extra £80 on its own. Especially given that we don't know when Apple Pay will come to the UK, or which retailers will support it - or even if the right credit cards will work.

The main surprise Apple has thrown here is keeping the iPad mini 2 on sale. It's a good tablet made great with a much lower price point, and everything the mini 3 has going for it is packed into that model... and it's cheaper.

If you've simply got to have the best tech and money is no object, the mini 3 is still one of, if not the, best smaller tablets on the market, despite the ageing components. But if you fancy slinging that extra cash on a new jacket or just having a super night out, you won't notice the difference between the two for a long while yet.

iPad mini 3 release date: 24 October 2014

iPad mini 3 price: 16GB, £319 / 64GB, £399 / 128GB, £479 (Wi-Fi only)

16GB, £419 / 64GB, £499 / 128GB, £579 (Wi-Fi and 4G)