|+ Stylish design||- Underpowered|
|+ Touch ID||- Very similar to mini 2|
|+ Good screen||- Expensive|
"The iPad mini 2 is Apple’s best mini yet, but it’s too similar to last year’s model and substantially worse than the iPad Air 2."
The iPad mini 3 is an odd prospect. In most ways it’s identical to the iPad mini 2, which makes it an underwhelming upgrade and sees it lagging behind the iPad Air 2, but the iPad mini 2 was already pretty great and technically the mini 3 is better. So can the small changes that Apple has made really see it through another year? Or are you best off sticking to last year’s model or jumping ship to Android?
There’s a 7.9 inch 1536 x 2048 IPS LCD display on the iPad mini 3 with a pixel density of 324 pixels per inch. That makes it pretty high resolution by tablet standards, in fact it’s the same resolution as the iPad Air 2 despite being smaller.
On the other hand it’s also the same resolution as the iPad mini 2 so it’s a little disappointing in that sense, but judged on its own merits the mini 3 has a great screen, it’s crisp, clear and has good contrast, just don’t expect to see any of the fancy anti-reflection tech that Apple stuffed into the iPad Air 2.
The iPad mini 3 is a slim slab of metal, coming in at 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm and 331g. It looks and feels good, but again it’s identical to the iPad mini 2, which is all the more disappointing because Apple made strides with the iPad Air 2, a device which is actually slimmer than this.
The iPad mini 3 still looks like a premium slate and few if any non-Apple tablets can hold a candle to its design, but if you’ve come from the mini 2 or even the original iPad mini you won’t be overly impressed.
The only change to the design is that it’s available in gold (as well as space grey and silver), which the iPad mini 2 wasn’t, so if you’ve been holding out for that then it’s your lucky day.
There’s no difference in power between the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3 either, with both using a dual-core 64-bit Apple A7 chip. Presumably the mini 3 is clocked at 1.3GHz with 1GB of RAM as that’s what the mini 2 had, but Apple never confirms these details.
What all that means is that while it’s still a fairly fast performer it’s using an old chip, one which is two generations behind the A8X in the iPad Air 2. So it’s fine now, if a little slower than the iPad Air 2, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but as developers start to push the new chips you’ll likely notice the mini 3 starts to lag behind.
It also has an M7 motion co-processor, just like the iPad mini 3. Other recent Apple devices have launched with a more accurate M8 motion co-processor, but either way the core functionality is much the same, allowing the slate to track your movement and do other low power computing tasks without engaging the main processor, in order to conserve battery life.
It’s a feature which is more useful on phones, as it can work well for fitness tracking, but it’s still nice to have it here.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the camera is also the same as on the iPad mini 2, which means you get a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back and a 1.2 megapixel FaceTime HD camera on the front. The rear camera is capable of some reasonable shots with decent colour reproduction and it can record video in 1080p at 30fps.
Don’t expect too much from it but it’s about as good as you could reasonably expect from a tablet, even if it is the same as last year.
The main new feature of the iPad mini 3 is Touch ID. This is actually a pretty good addition, as it allows you to secure your tablet with your fingerprint, making it a lot faster to unlock than having to enter a code or PIN would be. Along with Apple Pay it also allows you to verify purchases with your fingerprint rather than a password and that applies both in the app store and potentially through third party apps if they’ve added support for Apple Pay. It’s fast, accurate and genuinely useful.
The other new feature is iOS 8, though while it’s new it’s also filtered down to the iPad mini 2 and other recent Apple devices, so this is hardly the only place you can get it. It’s not a huge update but the interface has been tweaked to make it more intuitive than ever, the keyboard has been improved and support for third party keyboards has been added, there’s also the new Health app, though that’s more useful on an iPhone.
The iPad mini 3 is meant to have a 10 hour battery life when in use, which despite yet again being the same as the iPad mini 2 is pretty good. In practice it depends on exactly what sort of use as to how long you’ll get. The screen is the main drain so if you’re just listening to music you’ll get far longer than ten hours, while watching videos and browsing the web over Wi-Fi should be maintainable for around 10 hours, but playing games will likely cut the battery life short.
There’s a choice of 16, 64 or 128GB of storage in the iPad mini 3, which is a good selection, though it’s a shame there’s no 32GB option, especially as 16GB is too small really while 64GB may be more space than a lot of people need.
For connectivity options you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and if you opt for a cellular option then you also get 3G and 4G.
The iPad mini 3 is tough to pass a verdict on. In and of itself it’s the best mini Apple has ever made and it’s easily one of the best small size tablets available. But it’s such a minor upgrade over the mini 2, with the only real change being the addition of Touch ID. It can’t help but feel disappointing as a result, especially as Apple is charging the same as it did for the mini 2 a year ago (though that slate has now dropped in price).
It’s even more disappointing when you consider that the iPad Air 2 has seen some more substantial upgrades, which means there’s a significant gulf in quality between the two and with its aging A7 processor the iPad mini 3 risks being left behind.
If you’ve got the original iPad mini or don’t have any Apple slates and really want Touch ID then this is worth buying, while if you have an iPad mini 2 it’s hard to justify the upgrade and for anyone who isn’t itching for Touch ID we’d have to recommend you buy the mini 2 over this, as its starting price is £80 cheaper and it’s basically the same thing.
Dimensions : 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm
Weight: 331 grams
Screen size: 7.9” IPS LCD (1536 x 2048)
Screen Resolution: 1536 x 2048 display resolution
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 324
Processor: Dual core application processor
RAM: 1 GB TBC
On-board Memory: 16/64/128GB
Camera: 5MP (rear) 1080p@30fps, (1.2 megapixel front-facing)
Operating system: iOS 8
Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes/ Yes
Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ No
Battery capacity: TBC
Colours: Silver, Gold, Space Grey
Launch Date: Out Now
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