Apple iPad Mini 3 review: Paying top dollar for yesterday's tech
The iPad Mini 3 can't compete against another tablet ranged by Apple
- Powerful and yet small tablet
- High resolution 'retina display'
- Touch ID
- Hardware is a year old
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Hiding in the shadows of Apple’s iPad Air 2 announcement was the smaller iPad Mini 3, neglected, with the only improvement made to the year-old tablet being Touch ID.
In our review of the second generation iPad Mini we wrote: “one significant disappointment is the lack of a Touch ID-equipped home button”. A year onwards to the day and the iPad Mini 3 comes equipped with the biometrically secure finger scanner.
Nor is it the only change made to Apple’s introductory tablet. Formerly the iPad Mini maxed at 32GB of memory. Now it’s on offer as 64GB and 128GB capacities.
The only other difference is the availability of a gold iPad Mini, and that is in addition to the existing silver and space grey.
Compare the Mini 2 to the iPad Mini 3 on specs, however, and the two look identical — nay, the two are identical.
The weight has stagnated at 331- or 341-grams, depending on whether you purchase the Wi-Fi or cellular model. Thickness remains idle too at 8mm.
In Apple’s defence, the Mini does have a timeless design. Premium aluminium is moulded to a minimalist shape, punctuated by bevelled edging and complemented by the friendliest face on the tablet market. Apple can afford not to update the design because the Mini remains the best-built small tablet.
A year earlier Apple improved the Mini drastically by giving its display a Retina upgrade. The LED-backlit LCD screen retains its sharp 2048x1536 resolution and 326 pixel-per-inch density. We maintain colours look flat compared to the current generation iPad, and unlike the iPad Air 2, which uses the full lamination manufacturing technique, the Mini is crippled by light reflections.
Inside are the Apple A7 and M7 processors from the last generation, except these innards sift through an updated iOS 8.1. We’re big fans of iOS. The refined operating system has more apps tailored to the tablet form factor than Android, is easy to use and has plenty of features.
The year-old hardware delivers plenty of computational power. Running a graphically rich game, such as Real Racing 3, is handled effortlessly and, the Mini at its smaller size, is better suited to gaming. Our only concern comes in a few years time, when future updates to iOS might tire the hardware, just as some older iPhones struggle to seamlessly run iOS 8.1.
Apple claims the iPad Mini is good for ten hours of continuous use without charge. Our findings were consistent with moderate use, including web browsing, playing back music and streaming some video.
Cameras on the iPad Mini remain competitive for a tablet at 5- and 1.2 megapixels, although don’t expect the kind of performance achieved from an iPhone. Low light situations are marred by a great amount of image noise and there’s no flash on-board to lend the camera a hand.
Adding Touch ID to the existing iPad makes it possible to activate and unlock the tablet in one swift move. It does away with the need to enter four digit PINs and Apple ID passwords by using a scan of registered fingers in lieu. Apple’s rendition of a finger scanner is currently the best available, although we don’t think its inclusion warrants a premium of $130.
The second generation iPad Mini is still ranged in Australia with prices starting at $369. The 7.9-inch tablet is a small alternative to a premium slate, and not another budget buy. Buying it for $369 is great value for money, and we recommend it to anyone content with 16GB/32GB of internal storage.
Anyone buying the Mini 3 will be paying a 26 per cent premium for Touch ID alone. Consider the borderline identical Mini 2 or the full fledged iPad Air 2 instead to get the most value from your hard earned.
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