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Apple iPad mini 2 Review

Comparing it to its predecessor, the Apple iPad mini with Retina screen looks no different either, but that’s until you turn it on. The new screen is impressively sharp and the new chipset is blazing fast, meaning loading times in most apps are noticeably faster now. The Wi-Fi speeds have doubled, there is a seriously bigger battery inside, there is a second mic for noise cancellation and now you have a brand new 128GB version, if you’ve got the money to burn – the last generation iPad mini maxed out at 64GB.

Key features

  • 7.9″ LED-backlit IPS LCD touchscreen, 1536 x 2048 pixels, ~ 324 ppi, oleophobic coating
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity with MIMO dual antennas
  • Optional 2G/3G GSM, CDMA, LTE connectivity (data only, separate models)
  • Optional GPS with A-GPS support (for the Wi-Fi+Cellular model only)
  • Dual-core A7 64-bit 1.3 GHz Cyclone (ARM v8-based) chip with M7 motion coprocessor
  • PowerVR G6430 quad-core GPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • iOS 7 with gesture support and a premium set of free Apple apps – iLife, iMovie, iPhoto, etc.
  • 16/32/64/128GB of inbuilt storage
  • Weight of 331g (341g for the Wi-Fi + Cellular option)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Lightning USB port
  • Stereo speakers
  • Accelerometer, compass and three-axis gyro-sensor
  • 5MP auto-focus camera
  • 1080p video recording at 30fps
  • 1.2MP 720p secondary camera capable of FaceTime calls
  • 23.8 Wh Li-Po battery
  • 1080p TV-output with the Apple Digital AV Adapter (purchased separately for $49), 1080p video streaming or separate audio streaming via AirPlay
  • Supports magnetic cases

Main disadvantages

  • Expensive for a compact tablet
  • Non expandable memory, extra storage is largely overpriced
  • Tied into iTunes for uploading most of the content
  • No standard USB port
  • No GPS receiver in the Wi-Fi-only version

The new iPad mini is exactly the same size like last year’s with a mere .3mm difference in thickness. You wouldn’t feel that sort of difference even if you had both in your hands. What you may notice is the difference in weight. The new iPad mini is 23g heavier to accommodate the larger battery, which should deliver the same endurance despite the quadrupled resolution.

The new dual-core 64-bit A7 chipset inside the new mini jumps two generations ahead of the A5 processor in the original. It’s not that the older mini was sluggish, but the new device is notably faster and more responsive in almost all apps we tried.

Last season’s bigger iPad at least had the luxury of being more powerful but those days are gone. Now the two size of iPads have equally good specs, which kinda puts the iPad Air in a sticky position. It’s true that the bigger Air is easier to carry than any other full-size iPad and the slimmer frame helps single-handed operation but there’s no avoiding the fact that the iPad mini is the friendlier form factor.

The iPad mini’s handling and portability could be the big decider for a lot of people who are eyeing a new iPad for Christmas. To be honest, we don’t think Apple will mind no matter which one you pick.

Screen resolution is as high as it gets on a compact tablet

Apple introduced the Retina display back in 2012 on the third-generation iPad and hasn’t increased the resolution since. What’s amazing however is that now we get the same high resolution in a compact sub-8-inch tablet. The competition may have 10-inchers with higher resolution, but in the compact segment, the iPad mini screen resolution is as high as it gets.

In a stark contrast to last year’s iPad mini, the new screen is incredibly sharp. The number of pixels has been quadrupled (3.1M pixels vs. 0.78M pixels) and the mini has doubled the pixel density of the original (324ppi vs. 162ppi). Now, it’s really hard to spot the individual pixels with your bare eyes and even the smallest of fonts look clear and legible.

The pixel arrangement on the LCD matrix is the same as on the iPad Air – you get a standard red, green and blue pixel side by side.

Looking at the numbers the iPad mini 2 stacks pretty well against the competition. Its contrast is not the best we have seen, but the colors are nicely rendered and the viewing angles are very decent for a tablet..

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Apple iPad Air 0.19 181 968 0.53 508 964
Apple iPad mini 2 0.20 167 835 0.56 450 804
ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T 0.40 450 1125 0.71 755 1119
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 0.27 221 831 0.53 440 821
Google Nexus 10 0.26 223 859 0.50 443 878
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 0.53 531 996
Sony Xperia Tablet S 0.35 334 947 0.67 526 783
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 0 149 0 379
Apple iPad mini 0.25 208 838 0.51 458 812
Apple iPad 3 0.21 167 809 0.6 477 779
Apple iPad 4 0.21 163 797 0.63 476 762
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 0 200 0 328
Asus Google Nexus 7 0.25 244 954 0.36 327 908
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 0.27 223 832 0.49 406 821
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 0.31 257 826 0.55 502 915
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus 0.17 196 1141 0.34 424 1236

Battery life

The iPad mini 2 is equipped with a 45% more battery capacity than last year’s mini (23.8Wh vs. 16.3Wh) just so it can achieve the same manufacturer rating of 10h of runtime.

Well, manufacturer ratings are never to be taken at face value, so we did our usual set of battery life tests to see how the iPad mini 2 stacks up against the competition.

We are happy to report that the Apple iPad mini 2 did more than enough to live up to Apple’s claims and then some. The slate managed a 10:47 hour run in our Wi-Fi web browsing test. That’s nearly 40 minutes more than the iPad Air, but it should come as no surprise – the mini 2 has a much smaller screen and the chipsets are almost identical (save for a small difference in clock speed). More importantly, the improvement over the original iPad mini is over an hour and a half.