iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4

In April 2017 Apple launched a new iPad, as had been widely predicted. But in other ways it defied expectations. This wasn't the blockbuster iPad Pro 2 launch we were hoping for (which may have to wait until WWDC 2017); instead, it was a quiet update to, and replacement for, the iPad Air 2, slipped out in a press release with no fanfare.

At the same time, Apple discontinued the iPad mini 2, meaning the two cheapest iPad options are now the new iPad 2017 (starting at £339), and the iPad mini 4 (starting at £419 - although this comes with more storage). In this article we compare the specs, features and design of Apple's two most budget-friendly tablets, and help you decide which is the one for you. Read next: iPad buying guide 2017

If you reach a decision after reading our article, you can buy the iPad 2017 here, and you can buy iPad mini 4 here.

Design & build quality

Apple settled on an attractive, minimalist tablet design about four years ago and hasn't changed the formula much since then. The iPad mini 4 and iPad 2017 look roughly the same, except that the former is smaller.

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad 2017 design

iPad 2017...

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad mini 4 design

...and iPad mini 4

Both have slim bodies (although the iPad 2017 is less slim than its predecessors - see below) and attractive chamferred edges, curving elegantly towards the rear; both feature Home buttons with built-in Touch ID and Lightning docks at the bottom. They both have headphone ports too, in case the iPhone 7's design was causing you concern.

As mentioned the iPad 2017 is thicker and heavier than the mini 4, and indeed thicker and heavier than its predecessor, the Air 2. Here are the dimensions. (We return to this in the specs section.)

  • iPad 2017: 240mm x 169.5mm x 7.5mm; 469g/478g (Wi-Fi/cellular)
  • iPad mini 4: 203.2mm x 134.8mm x 6.1mm; 298.8g/304g (Wi-Fi/cellular)

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad 2017 design

Colour options

The iPad 2017 and iPad mini 4 are both available in three colours: silver, gold and Space Grey. Neither is available in the Rose Gold (pink) option that we're quite fond of, even if it's a bit of an opinion divider.

If you want a pink iPad you'll need to buy an iPad Pro, as shown in this photo of (from bottom to top), iPad Air 1, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7in, and iPad 2017.

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: Colour options

Screen

The iPad 2017 wins in terms of screen space, but the mini 4's smaller display is better in two key areas.

It's sharper, with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch to the iPad 2017's 264ppi. Indeed, both devices have the same number of pixels, but the mini's have been squeezed into a smaller space.

And the mini 4's screen is laminated, like those on the iPad Pros and Air 2. The iPad 2017 has an unlamented screen, like the iPad Air 1, which means it 'gives' slightly when you press it. This isn't a huge problem but makes the device feel a bit cheaper in use.

  • iPad 2017: 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology; 2048x1536-pixel resolution at 264ppi. Unlaminated display
  • iPad mini 4: 7.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display; 2048x1536 resolution at 326 ppi; anti-reflective coating. Laminated display

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad mini 4 screen

Features

In this department these two devices are a close match, since the iPad 2017 retained none of the new features introduced with the iPad Pro tablets. Neither the iPad 2017 nor the iPad mini 4 get Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard compatibility; or quad-speaker audio; or True Tone display tech.

They both get the usual iPad package of features, including Touch ID and Apple Pay and the Retina display.

Specs

Let's take a look at the internals. The iPad 2017 has a faster processor chip and a larger battery; the mini 4 has a sharper screen and a more portable chassis. In most other respects the two devices' specs are the same or closely matched.

Processor

The new iPad gets a processor that's one generation more advanced than the mini 4. That might seem obvious - newer iPad, newer processor - but in many respects the iPad 2017 is closer in spec to the iPad Air 2, which is a year older than the mini 4.

Still: in this key area the iPad 2017 has a foot up on its smaller cousin.

Apple says the A9, which first appeared in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and is also used in the iPhone SE, is around 70 percent faster than the A8, but that's only on paper - the degree to which the difference is noticeable will depend on how demanding are the tasks you set your tablet. High-powered games, for instance, will showcase the A9's capabilities; browsing the web and using email will not.

  • iPad 2017: A9 chip with 64bit architecture; Embedded M9 coprocessor
  • iPad mini 4: A8 chip with 64bit architecture; M8 motion coprocessor

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad mini 4 processing power

RAM

Both tablets come with a fairly standard (for Apple) 2GB allocation of RAM. Only the iPad Pro 12.9in gets more, with 4GB; even the iPad Pro 9.7in has to settle for 2GB.

  • iPad 2017: 2GB RAM
  • iPad mini 4: 2GB RAM

Storage

You get less choice if you plump for the mini 4, which is only available with 128GB of storage. The iPad 2017 is also available with 32GB, which enables it to come in at a lower starting price.

  • iPad 2017: 32GB or 128GB
  • iPad mini 4: 128GB

Screen size & resolution

  • iPad 2017: 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology; 2048x1536-pixel resolution at 264ppi. Unlaminated display
  • iPad mini 4: 7.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display; 2048x1536 resolution at 326 ppi; anti-reflective coating. Laminated display

Rear-facing camera

Apple's two budget tablets come with the same camera setup. They're decent cameras but lack the rear-facing flash that you get with the iPad Pro 9.7in.

  • iPad 2017: 8Mp; ƒ/2.4 aperture; auto image stabilisation; 1080p HD video recording (30 fps). No flash.
  • iPad mini 4: 8Mp; ƒ/2.4 aperture; auto image stabilisation; 1080p HD video recording (30 fps). No flash.

Front-facing camera

  • iPad 2017: 1.2Mp; ƒ/2.2 aperture; 720p HD video recording. No flash.
  • iPad mini 4: 1.2Mp; ƒ/2.2 aperture; 720p HD video recording. No flash.

Battery

  • iPad 2017: 32.4-watt-hour (8,827 mAh). Claimed battery life up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, up to 9 hours using mobile data network
  • iPad mini 4: 19.1-watt-hour (5,124 mAh). Claimed battery life up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, up to 9 hours using mobile data network

Despite the differences in capacity, Apple gives the same estimated battery life for both devices - 10 hours using Wi-Fi, nine using 4G - but our experience suggests that the iPad 2017 should last longer away from the mains.

Speakers

Neither of these tablets get the upgraded quad-speaker audio setup offered by the iPad Pro.

  • iPad 2017: two
  • iPad mini 4: two

Dimensions & weight

The iPad 2017 is 23 percent thicker than the mini 4 and 57 percent heavier. It's actually bulkier than its predecessor, the Air 2, and has the same dimensions as 2013's iPad Air 1.

  • iPad 2017: 240mm x 169.5mm x 7.5mm; 469g/478g (Wi-Fi/cellular)
  • iPad mini 4: 203.2mm x 134.8mm x 6.1mm; 298.8g/304g (Wi-Fi/cellular)

UK price

If your first priority is getting an iPad for the lowest possible price, the iPad 2017 is the choice for you, starting at just £339 - £80 lower than any other iPad currently offered by Apple. (You can get lower prices still by looking for an iPad mini 2 or iPad Air 2 second-hand, and Apple itself still sells these devices to customers in the education sector.)

Bear in mind, however, that the main reason why the mini 4 starts at a higher price is that it isn't available with 32GB of storage - you're obliged to go for 128GB. (You'll note that the 128GB version of the iPad 2017 is actually slightly more expensive than the mini 4 equivalent.)

This is annoying for budget-conscious customers, but does mean that going for the mini 4 means you'll have a bit more storage space for music, apps, videos and so on.

iPad 2017 UK prices

  • iPad 2017 (32GB, Wi-Fi only): £339
  • iPad 2017 (128GB, Wi-Fi only): £429
  • iPad 2017 (32GB, Wi-Fi plus cellular): £469
  • iPad 2017 (128GB, Wi-Fi plus cellular): £559

You can buy the iPad 2017 here.

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad 2017 UK price

iPad mini 4 UK prices

  • iPad mini 4 (128GB, Wi-Fi only): £419
  • iPad mini 4 (128GB, Wi-Fi plus cellular): £549

You can buy the iPad mini 4 here.

iPad 2017 vs iPad mini 4: iPad mini 4 UK price

OUR VERDICT

Which budget-friendly iPad is best for you? If budget really is the be-all and end-all, the iPad 2017 is your best bet, because it starts at £339 instead of £419; bear in mind, however, that you're saving £80 because it comes with less storage. Still, you ought to be okay with 32GB (provided you don't stockpile large amounts of music, videos and the like). And the iPad 2017 comes with a faster processor, so it'll be better for games (the bigger screen will help in this regard) and can look forward to iOS update support for longer.

The mini 4 has a couple of advantages, though: it's more portable, of course (particularly so now that the iPad 2017 has put its pre-Air 2 weight back on), and the screen feels nicer in use, because it's laminated. The screen looks sharper, too.

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