The iPad mini is a bit like the child which gets all the hand-me-downs from an older sibling, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t buy one. The iPad mini 4 just inherited a load of great features from the iPad Air 2, and here we explain the differences between the iPad mini 2, 3 and iPad mini 4.
Apple has stopped selling the iPad mini 3, which means your choice is limited to a mini 2 or mini 4 if you go into an Apple Store or look on Apple’s online store.
The mini 2 comes in Space Grey and Silver and offers a choice of 16- or 32GB. This costs £219/$328 and £259/$389 respectively. If you need 3G as well as Wi-Fi, add £100/$150 to those prices.
The mini 4 starts at £319/$479 for 16GB, but jumps to £399/$599 for 64GB as there’s no 32GB option. There’s also a 128GB model which costs £479/$718. Again you can add 3G / 4G connectivity for an extra £100/$150 on top of those prices. And you get the extra choice of Gold along with Silver and Space Grey.
You can buy a refurbished iPad mini 3 from Apple’s website but prices and availability will change. An example is a 16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model which costs £319/$479.
Of course, you will also find refurbished or used models on ebay, Amazon and other sites.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
Compared to its predecessor, the iPad mini 3 only gets you the Touch ID finger print scanner and is available in gold like the iPhone 6. The storage line-up has been changed as the 32GB model has been dropped so you can now choose from 16-, 64- and 128 GB.
This is bit a bit shocking considering the iPad Air 2 has a thinner and lighter design, new A8X processor, a better 8Mp iSight camera, an anti-reflective coating on the screen and a barometer.
Typically, the new iPad models come with the same upgrades but that’s not the case this year. Apple has kept the price the same, so the iPad mini 3 starts at £319/$479 and goes up to £479/$718 for that 128 GB model. You can add £100/$150 for 4G connectivity.
While keeping the price the same for a new model is good, the very small amount of changes mean that the iPad mini 2 at a lower price of £239/$358 looks like a far more attractive option. We’re not comparing it full here but it’s worth noting that Apple has kept the original iPad mini on sale for £199/$299.
Apple didn’t really change much in the upgrade from the iPad mini 2. In fact, the main addition was a Touch ID sensor. But as we’ve said, there’s no 32GB version of the iPad mini 3 and Gold was added as a third colour option. Other than that, the two tablets are identical: they have the same screen, processor, battery, cameras and chassis.
With the price drop last year, the iPad mini 2 was the better-value choice for most people (it cost £239/$358 and £279/$419 for the 16- and 32GB Wi-Fi models). Now the price has dropped by another £20/$30.
WHAT ARE THE UPGRADES?
This year, there’s a swathe of changes in the iPad mini 4, although the upgrades are – as we said at the start – hand-me-downs from older devices.
The processor has been given a boost from the A7 to the A8 (that’s the chip from the iPhone 6, not the A8X from the iPad Air 2), an increase from 1GB to 2GB of RAM and a higher-resolution rear camera.
The iPad mini 2 and 3 had a 5Mp main camera, but the mini 4 has an improved 8Mp sensor which appears to be identical to the iPad Air 2’s. Similarly, the front camera is upgraded with a slightly better 1.2Mp sensor and a lens which lets in 80 percent more light.
The mini 4 shares the same design as its predecessors, but it’s thinner at just 6.1mm and lacks a mute/rotation lock switch.
The battery is accordingly smaller – 19.1Wh instead of 23.8Wh in the iPad mini 2 and 3. However, thanks to the more efficient processor, battery life is actually improved by around an hour of video playback in our tests.
There are other more subtle differences too:
|iPad mini 4||iPad mini 2 / 3
|Weight||299g (Wi-Fi only)||331g (Wi-Fi only)|
|Wi-Fi||802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual channel||802.11a/b/g/n, dual channel|
|Sensors||Gyro, accelerometer, ambient light, barometer||Gyro, accelerometer, ambient light|
|Location||Wi-Fi, Digital compass, iBeacon||Wi-Fi, Digital compass|
|Apple Pay||Using Touch ID within apps||Not supported|
|iOS 9 features||Split View, Slide Over, Picture-in-picture||Slide Over, Picture-in-picture|
|Camera features||Slo-mo (120fps), 10fps burst, time-lapse, video, photo, square, panorama||Time-lapse, video, photo, square, panorama|
Performance is one of the biggest upgrades, both for general use and gaming. But the extra power means you get 10fps burst mode for photos, 120fps slo-mo video and also Split View where you can run two apps at the same time.It’s not quite the jump we were hoping for – the iPad Air 2 is still a lot faster in certain apps and games – but it’s significant.
Another big improvement that’s easy to miss if you read a list of specifications is the fully laminated screen and anti-glare coating. The iPad mini 4 still has the same 7.9in screen size and resolution (2048×1536) but it’s far superior in terms of glare, contrast and colour. In fact, it now has 100 percent sRGB coverage, compared to around 70 percent on the iPad mini 2/3.
iPad mini 2
- 9.7in tablet, iOS 7, 16GB-128GB storage, A7 processor
iPad mini 3
- Apple A7 processor (ARMv8-A, dual-core) with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
- PowerVR G6430 graphics
- 7.9in (2048 x 1536-pixel) LED-backlit Multi-Touch IPS display, 326ppi
- iOS 8.1
- 16/64/128 GB flash storage
- dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi with 2×2 MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.0
- OPTIONAL 4G LTE modem and Nano-SIM card slot, with A-GPS
- 1.2 Mp FaceTime HD front camera, 720p video
- 5Mp f/2.4 iSight rear camera, 1080p video
- dual microphones
- stereo speakers
- Lightning dock connector
- three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass
- 23.8Wh fixed lithium-polymer battery
- USB power adaptor
- 200 x 135 x 7.5 mm
- 331g (Wi-Fi only model) or 341g (Wi-Fi plus cellular model)
iPad mini 4
- Apple A8 processor, M8 motion coprocessor
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB / 64GB / 128GB onboard storage
- iOS 9
- LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 2048×1536 pixels, 7.9 inches, 326ppi pixel density
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot
- 8Mp, 1.2Mp cameras
- 203.2×134.8×6.1mm, 299g
The iPad mini 4 is the “best” iPad mini, but that’s from a technical standpoint. If you’re happy to trade off performance, screen quality, camera quality, and a Touch ID sensor (plus the more subtle differences in the table) then the £100/$150 saving on the iPad mini 2 means it could be the one for you. The upgrades arguably make the mini 4 worth that extra £100/$150 and it will no doubt be a more future-proof purchase if you care about being able to upgrade to the latest version of iOS. We expect the mini 4 to get at least the next two versions – iOS 10 and iOS 11. The iPad mini 3 is only a good deal if you can find a refurbished model at a low price – i.e. not much more than the equivalent iPad mini 2.