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Wednesday November 27, 2013 9:47 pm

iPad mini with Retina display review


iPad mini with Retina display with iPad Air

I've been using the iPad mini with Retina display for a couple of weeks now, and after using it as my primary tablet device during that time (setting aside my iPad Air) I think it's time to report back with my findings as it pertains to Apple's second-generation miniature iPad.

Last year, Apple introduced the iPad mini to the world at the same time as the fourth-generation standard-sized iPad. Essentially, Apple took the iPad 2 and forked it into two different products--the Retina display-packing full-sized iPad, and the iPad mini, which was simply an iPad 2 that had been reduced in size. Many (me included) expected that the next iPad mini would remain a year behind as far as internal chips and technologies go, leaving the cutting edge stuff with the larger iPad.

We were wrong.

Instead, Apple released two iPad that are, from a technological standpoint, virtually identical. You got the slimmed down iPad Air (see our iPad Air review), and the iPad mini with Retina display. Both pack the same number of pixels. Both sport the new Apple A7 processor (1.4GHz for the iPad Air, 1.3GHz for the iPad mini.) Same with the M7 co-processor, and the 10-hour battery life. So, the question as it pertains to an iPad purchase becomes, is it more important to you to have a larger display, or a more compact form factor? I've already given you my iPad Air review, now join me after the jump for my review of the iPad mini with Retina display.


In the box:

  • Apple iPad mini with Retina display
  • 10W AC adapter
  • Lightning cable

Gallery: iPad mini with Retina display

CONFIGURATIONS

  • 16GB Wi-Fi Silver & Space Gray
  • 16GB Wi-Fi + LTE Silver & Space Gray
  • 32GB Wi-Fi Silver & Space Gray
  • 32GB Wi-Fi + LTE Silver & Space Gray
  • 64GB Wi-Fi Silver & Space Gray
  • 64GB Wi-Fi + LTE Silver & Space Gray
  • 128GB Wi-Fi Silver & Space Gray
  • 128GB Wi-Fi + LTE Silver & Space Gray

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

iPad mini vs iPad mini with Retina display

If you've used an iPad mini before, you know what to expect here. You've got Apple's class-leading industrial  tablet design from last generation remaining almost exactly as it was on the first model. It's just ever so slightly thicker and a tad heavier--both almost imperceptible just by looking at it or even holding one, both those are the facts. We tested the 128GB Verizon LTE model, a first for the mini as far as storage space goes (last generation's model topped out at 64GB.)

Yep, the iPad mini with Retina display is all about the panel and internals. On the outside, it's an iPad mini. Don't make the mistake of comparing the mini to other tablets that are close in size, like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7. Those are great tablets in their own right, but the mini is packed not only with a bunch of extras, but a lot more screen real estate as well.

DISPLAY

iPad mini with Retina display

In my opinion, the star of the show here is the display. Since the release of the original iPad mini, I've used it as my primary tablet, coming off of the third-generation full-sized iPad. While I absolutely loved the portability (after all, it was enough of a draw to make it my main tablet,) I often found myself wishing for the high-resolution Retina display that I had on the larger tablet, on my iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, and that my wife had on her iPad. It wasn't enough to get me to switch back, but it was something I was often “aware” of.

Enter the second generation iPad mini.

My previous woes have been obliterated. The screen is gorgeously high-res, and everything looks as it should on an Apple iOS device. In fact, the iPad mini packs the same 2048 x 1536 resolution as it's larger iPad Air counterpart, so it has an even more dense IPS display. Some have mentioned that the color gamut on the mini isn't as wide as what you'd find in the Air or other tablets, but I've found that to be completely a non-issue.

A7 PROCESSOR

iPad Air mini retina A7 processor

Let's talk about the power, because there's a lot of it. The Apple A7 processor is more than up to the task of crunching through anything you throw at it, and it's at the heart of the iPad mini with Retina display. This is the same chip found in the iPhone 5s, it's not up-clocked like the iPad Air version is, but it is still plenty fast enough - you can feel the additional power that it offers. This makes the iPad mini a 64-bit tablet, and it's about four times as fast as the previous-generation iPad mini from last year. There's no other currently-available 7- to 8-inch tablet that matches this behavior in our tests.

BATTERY LIFE

iPad mini Retina display

We're splitting battery life into its own section because we think it's important enough to cover. Apple has always billed the iPad as a tablet that has 10 hours of battery life, and the new iPad mini is no different. In fact, we were able to squeeze over 11 hours of battery life from a single charge while playing a high-definition movie from iTunes on a loop with Wi-Fi and Verizon LTE both enabled.

CONCLUSION

iPad mini Retina vs iPad Air

This is the iPad mini we were hoping for last year, and the iPad mini I didn't expect until next year, based on last year's specs. It's a pleasant surprise to see that Apple decided to keep what worked about last years iPad mini, while upgrading just about every major internal component to make it a much, much better tablet. As light as it is, one thing that didn't remain as light is the price. The new iPad mini with Retina display starts at $399, up $70 from last years original iPad mini (which remains for sale from Apple at a new $299 price point.) Still, based on the power offered, display quality, and portability factor, we find the iPad mini to be the best compact tablet on the market.

You can pick up the iPad mini with Retina display from Apple for $399.

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