Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display review
When Apple launched the iPad Mini it was a revelation tinged with disappointment: a beautiful design, lighter and more portable than its full-size sibling, but it came unfortunately with a screen that was not Apple’s much-vaunted Retina Display.
Now it does, and it’s hard to see there’s a tablet on the market or the horizon to touch it.
The new Mini is meaningfully different from its predecessor in two key ways: it has a screen that is effectively four times bigger, and crams in 326 pixels per inch rather than 162.
And it has a processor that is significantly faster than it was. Now the only serious difference between the latest iPad and the iPad Mini is the size of the screen.
The new Mini is fractionally heavier and thicker than its predecessor, but you don’t notice that in regular use. It’s still bigger than rivals such as the Nexus 7, and it’s a tablet that is fine to hold in one hand but feels as though Apple expects you to use it with two, like the iPad Air.
The advantage of the Mini, even when it had lower specifications, was always its portability, however. It retains that, augmented now with a brilliant screen that makes reading, editing photos and more seem significantly easier.
But with the iPad Air now much more portable too, there’s less to choose between them. The 5MP camera, adequate stereo speakers and a good FaceTime camera make the Mini a superb device, but the Air is a superb device too.
This is a seriously improved Mini, only really competing against a seriously improved full-size iPad. Both have processors that make gaming and the most demanding apps run smoothly.
Apple’s new iOS7 remains more rewarding on a phone than on a tablet, where animations sometimes feel fractionally slower than they should and where there is an occasional tendency for icons to judder back in to place.
But that’s not a fault with the new iPad Mini per se – its strength lies almost entirely in Apple’s vast library of tablet apps. The claimed 475,000 is more than any individual could ever meaningfully encounter, and also many more than Google’s Android.
When it comes to the basics of reading newspapers or magazines, browsing the web and checking emails, the iPad Mini is now the ultimate portable tablet, and if you want a host of options not yet available on Android it is your only option.
But just as the original Mini lacked the Retina Display, now the Retina model feels like it lacks TouchID, the fingerprint sensor that is on the iPhone 5s. It’s hard to imagine it won’t arrive eventually.
A more enduring criticism is that the £319 16GB iPad Mini is already expensive and it can range as high as £659 for the 128GB version with 4G.
At least, unless you’re really serious about watching films and storing them, it seems unlikely that the 128GB version will be the one in greatest demand. It has a niche, but surely not a big one.
So which tablet to buy? If you want a budget model, for my money Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX is unbeatable; a little more and the Nexus 7 is powerful and appealing, and Android is getting better. I
f you want an iPad, whose bag is really too small for the iPad Air? There’s now so little to choose between the Air and the Mini, you could reasonably buy either and argue there’s little difference.
But both has Apple’s almost infinitely large App Store. That’s where the strength remains, and it’s not a bad way to spend the extra money.