Mon, 18 Nov 2013 iPad mini 2 hands on review: Gorgeous Retina display, but is it just a smaller iPad Air?
Apple's iPad mini 2 has a Retina display, an A7 processor and a bigger price tag, is there a big enough difference between the iPad Air and iPad mini now
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Retina display; same A7 chip as iPad Air
- Cons: Slightly heavier than last year's model and more expensive; less difference between iPad Air and iPad mini
- Price: Unknown
- Star rating:
We've had some hands-on time with the new iPad mini 2, officially called the iPad mini with Retina display. Here are our first impressions of the new iPad mini. We'll update this article with our full review of the iPad mini 2 as soon as we've finished testing it.
Apple began selling the iPad mini 2 last week, first on its online store and then a day later in its retail stores. That doesn't mean there are lots of happy customers out there playing with their new tablet, though. Currently, the iPad mini 2 is tricky to get hold of, and has shipping times of up to 10 days according to Apple's website.
However, we have now been lucky enough to get our hands on the new iPad mini 2. Here are our first impressions.
iPad mini 2 hands on review: iPad mini with Retina display
While the iPad Air has had a complete redesign making it lighter and thinner, the new iPad mini looks a lot like the old iPad mini. Once you see the screen, though, you'll appreciate the difference thanks to the Retina display.
This new display translates to 326 ppi (pixels per inch), compared to 163 ppi on the old iPad mini. That’s actually more pixels per inch than the iPad Air, which gets 264 ppi. The iPhone 5s offers the same pixel density as the new iPad mini - 326 ppi.
So there are more pixels on the iPad mini, does that mean that the screen on the Retina iPad mini is clearer than that on the iPad Air? The thing about Retina displays is that once you get above a certain number of pixels your eyes aren't able to see any more detail. So the answer is probably not, at least not unless you are Superman.
At the journalist briefing, Apple used the Auto CAD app to show off the 3D capabilities and the extra pixels of the new iPad mini with Retina. They were also able to demonstrate zooming in to see the fine detail in one of the designs, something that might have been lost in a blur on the old iPad mini.
Given that the old iPad mini without Retina display will still be on sale, will the Retina display make a difference to warrant the upgrade? While a Retina display is one of those things you won't necessarily miss if you don't already have it, we certainly think that it makes enough of a difference to warrant the extra cash - and there isn’t actually a big difference in the price anyway, as you’ll find out if you read on.
That said, it has been noted that the iPad mini 2's display seems to have a narrower colour gamut than the iPad Air's display, which means it shows fewer colours, making them seem slightly duller. So while the display has been greatly improved in the new generation of iPad mini, the colour reproduction doesn't quite meet the quality of the iPad Air's display.
If you are still wondering what a Retina display is, it’s an Apple-coined term for screen where the pixels are so closely packed that - in 'normal' use - the human eye can't pick out individual pixels. In effect the eye is fooled into thinking that whatever is on the screen is real.
iPad mini 2 hands on review: Dimensions and design
While, screen aside, it might look the same, the new iPad mini is not the same as the old iPad mini. There are very minor differences in measurements. The new iPad mini with Retina display is a few grams heavier - 331g compared to 308g for the old WiFi model, and 341g verses 312g on the old iPad mini. That 20 and 30 grams difference isn't much of a difference, and we think the Retina display is worth the sacrifice.
It's a significant 140 grams lighter than the iPad Air, but this is a far smaller difference than last year. The Air now weighs in at 478g rather than 613g for the 3G iPad 4 model.
Dimensions are very slightly different. The new model is 7.5mm deep compared to 7.2mm. While we are talking a fraction of a millimetre here, it may be enough to stop older iPad mini cases fitting perfectly although we believe most accessories for last year's iPad mini should generally fit this new model. In fact Apple’s £55 iPad mini Smart Case, for example, is suitable for either model. Our old iPad mini Smart Cover fitted without problem.
The other difference to last year's model is the colour scheme. While there is not a collection of iPhone 5c like colours, new white & silver and black & space grey options replace last years white and black.
iPad mini 2 hands on review: New processor
There were claims that in adding a Retina display to the iPad mini the device would require a more powerful processor to handle all those pixels. So it was no surprise that the iPad mini with Retina display is using the same A7 processor as the iPad Air. This is despite the fact that last year’s iPad mini had an older A5 chip to the iPad 4’s A6X.
Certain new features are made possible by the A7 chip, such as 3x Video zoom, which is only available in the new iPad models. The iPad mini, like the iPad Air, gets the M7 processor of the iPhone 5s, this 'motion coprocessor' should give the iPad mini a big boost to its graphical welly.
It's interesting to note that while the iPad mini with Retina display features the same processor as the iPad Air, it runs slightly slower at 1.27GHz compared to 1.39GHz. This might be to prevent overheating in this packed device. The iPhone 5s A7 processor also runs faster than that in the Retina mini.
However, the new iPad mini processor speed is leaps ahead of the old iPad mini, which featured the two generations-older A5 chip. In Geekbench speedtests the Retina model proved to be five times faster than the original: 1389 compared to 262 for the single-core results, and 2514 compared to 493 for multi-core.
The Geekbench Single-Core results were as follows:
Retina iPad mini = 1389
iPad mini = 262
iPad Air = 1480
iPhone 5s = 1416
iPhone 5c = 706
The Geekbench Multi-Core results were as follows:
Retina iPad mini = 2514
iPad mini = 493
iPad Air = 2683
iPhone 5s = 2562
iPhone 5c = 1279
However, crucially it is no longer necessary to sacrifice power if you would rather opt for the smaller model.
iPad mini 2 hands on review: Battery life
As with the processor demands, it was generally concluded that the reason the old iPad mini didn't have a Retina display was due to the need to ease demand on the battery and processor. For this reason we expected that the iPad mini 2 would need a bigger and heavier battery to match its predecessor's battery life. While there is a minimal weight increase and the depth of the new mini is a fraction more, the iPad mini with Retina display has a battery offering just as much battery life as its predecessor. That’s up to 10 hours surfing the web, watching video and listening to music over Wi-Fi, 9 if you are on a cellular network. Every iPad offers the same battery life, at least according to Apple’s tests.
With the extra energy requirements can come the problem of overheating. However, in our time with the iPad mini we can't report that it got anything other than slightly warm.
Since many people getting an iPad are used to charging their iPhone every day we don't think that battery life will be perceived as an issue.
iPad mini 2 hands on review: Connectivity: 3G, 4G & Wi-Fi
Like the new iPhones and the new iPad Air, the new iPad mini with Retina display doesn’t offer Wi-Fi 802.11ac. However, it does offer MIMO, which the old model didn’t.
According to Apple, the iPad mini 2 tablet is capable of working with more bandwidths than any other, so it should work with all the UK 4G networks.
iPad mini 2 hands on review: no TouchID fingerprint scanner
There was a suggestion that the new iPad and iPad mini 2 might include a TouchID fingerprint scanner, like the iPhone 5s. Unfortunately this isn't the case. We wonder if it's been left off to cut costs so that Apple can keep the price down (or make bigger margins) or because it makes the iPhone 5s more attractive. Expect to see touch ID in other iOS products next year once Apple's answer to NFC takes off.
Some people will no doubt be disappointed not to see much more new in the way of technology. However, we can't expect giant leaps forward every time. Sometimes technology doesn’t move forward at the speed everyone would like, held back mostly by the cost of constructing then whizz bang components for our gadgets.
Here's a video of the Macworld team discussing the iPad Air and iPad mini 2, and debating with a Android fan about whether Apple deserved all the media attention for the announcement.
How much does the iPad mini with Retina display cost?
Read more: iPad mini price in the UK
The introduction of a new Retina display has forced Apple to up the price of the iPad mini 2, so it's now £50 more expensive than the original iPad mini. The new entry price of £319 may put off some, especially when confronted by alternative non-Apple tablets at lower prices.
The good news is that the original iPad mini is still be available at a lower price, and this is great news for anyone who wants to get a brand new iPad for the lowest price possible. The price difference is £70 and may well be considered enough of a saving for those looking for a bargain. While there are cheaper tablets available from other manufacturers this is a good entry point for an iPad with all the extra software and services that Apple provides.
We think that the new Retina display is a great reason to spend the extra £70 compared to the original iPad mini but you could equally well decide to spend another £80 and purchase the £399 16GB iPad Air. Where in the past we were drawn to the iPad mini because it was so much lighter than the full-sized iPad, it is no longer such a huge difference in weight as it was. Where last year everyone was predicting that the iPad mini would be a full-sized iPad killer, this year the new iPad Air could be an iPad mini killer.
More choice seems to be Apple's philosophy right now. See the iPhone 5c. The more iPads Apple sells the better because Apple makes money from sales of apps on the App Store as well as peripherals that are marked made for iPhone. All this won’t stop some people doing disappointed that the new iPad mini with Retina display is now more pricy than it was though.
We actually did predict that Apple could maintain a Retina and non-Retina iPad mini at the same time. We wrote that Apple could simply continue to sell the iPad mini 1 - the policy it follows with the still-available iPad 2 - at the same time as a Retina iPad mini 2.
For more details about the new iPads, watch our video of an Apple exec demonstrating the iPad Air to us at the Apple Event on 22 October (sorry about the annoying laughter in the background, crowded/busy room!)
Read David Price and Ashleigh Allsopp's thoughts about the iPad mini from before the event on the next page.
For more information abotu the iPad Air read:
The Complete Guide to the iPhone 5s & 5c is on-sale now. Click here for buying information.