After a few months with this device, and a couple months with the iPad Pro, we have a few new feelings on the iPad mini 4. In short, we find that the value of this mini offering is greater than it might have been otherwise. As the iPad Air 2 ages, by the calendar, if not in function or capabilities, the newer iPad Pro and iPad mini 4 pairing make for a compelling combination of portable computing.
The addition of the iPad Air 9.7 to the mix has changed our opinion once again. We’ve downgraded our idea of getting the iPad Mini 4 and the iPad Pro in favor of using simply the iPad Pro 9.7 as a single tablet experience. In addition, if you are looking to purchase now, do stay tuned to the rumors that the iPad mini 5 may be just around the corner. Stay tuned in October 2016 for more details.
Original Post September 26, 2015: September 9th was a pretty big day for Apple, not only did they announce their largest iPad ever, the iPad Pro alongside a few new smart accessories, a couple new iPhones and more, they also released their latest mini sized table. We’ve got it here for you to enjoy, this is the new iPad Mini 4.
According to many, Apple all but took a year off of building an effective mini sized tablet. We still think that the 2014 released, and now retired, iPad Mini 3 is a great device, but the new iPad Mini 4 is a true step up from the previous iterations.
The look and feel of the iPad Mini 4 will be familiar to most iPad users. The new tablet does not look to change Apple’s notions of what a tablet should be, but they did manage to shave some thickness and weight.
Measuring in at just 6.1mm thick, the iPad Mini 4 relies on that familiar full metal back for rigidity and strength. Still curving around the sides, the metal meets up with the full glass front panel, housing the Home button with fingerprint scanner at the bottom, 7.9-inch display in the center and front facing camera up at the top.
Available in three familiar to Apple colors on the back, Silver, Space Gray and Gold, the front of the device is complimented by either a white or black surface, depending on your main color choice.
I feel I should note that the iPad Mini 4 does feel pretty good in the hand, but still suffers from that sharp edge at that polished front of the metal. This is not a real problem, but it does become noticeable after long periods of use.
Apple decided to stick with a good thing when it comes to the display. Not to imply that there are not any advancements here, but the actual display panel remains the same as in the last two iterations in the iPad Mini line. The iPad Mini 4 packs a familiar 7.9-inch display with 2048×1536 pixels in resolution.
With 326ppi staring you in the face, the only thing Apple needed to do to the Mini line was update the glass. You will find the same fully laminated glass with anti-reflective coating on the iPad Mini 4 as is found on the iPad Air 2 and the upcoming iPad Pro. At least in this category, the new mini tablet is now playing with the best of them.
Colors are bright and clear, and in all honesty, they are a step above the iPad Mini 3. Overall display brightness exceeds the previous gen tablet’s capabilities and viewing angles are on par with the best displays out there. The ambient light sensor adequately keeps display auto-brightness running optimally, with only a few minor adjustments required in the harshest of lighting situations.
As you might expect from a brand new Apple product, overall performance of the iPad Mini 4 is superb. For day to day computing, things are as fast as can be, if you push things hard with your favorite game, you will be able to notice that it is, indeed, a little slower than the iPad Air 2.
See for yourself: iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Air 2
Clocking along is the Apple A8 chipset, said to be 1.3x faster than the A7 in the previous mini, with 1.6x faster graphics processing. Once again, you’ll need to go beyond basic web surfing and watching your favorite videos on YouTube before you see the speed bump over the iPad Mini 3, but it’s easily noticed with heavier applications.
See for yourself: iPad Mini 4 vs iPad Mini 3
The last thing I should talk about before closing out the performance section is the new internal speaker. Now, to be clear, I do not know if Apple actually updated the speaker, the software or what, but sound quality is greatly improved over the older iPad Mini 3. You’ll find a nice volume boost as well as much clearer audio output, deeper bass and crisp highs. We’re still talking about a single downward facing speaker here, so don’t expect any magic, but side-by-side the Mini 3, the new tablet is a great improvement.
With the slight bump to processing comes an unexpected drop to battery capacity. The iPad Mini 3 rated at 6350 mAh, and the new iPad Mini 4 drops to just 5124 mAh. This is an unconfirmed rating, from a device tear-down. We have other reports that the battery is actually a tad larger, coming in at 7471mAh, so do not be surprised when we come back and update this at a later date.
In the end, Apple claims the same overall battery life for each tablet, advertising about 10 hours of use per charge. We plan to put the batteries to test soon, but for now, we can say that our regular usage is experiencing the claimed screen-on time, getting us over 4 hours of lit screen and losing almost nothing during the night when the device is not in use.
Apple made a smart move in deciding which camera sensor to install. Instead of sticking with the same old 5MP iSight camera that we’ve seen on Apple devices for years now, they’ve installed the newer 8MP sensor. The same one that is in the iPad Air 2 and the newer lines of iPhone.
Image quality is great, as we’ve come to expect from Apple. Admitting that the 8MP sensor is far short of the 21MP sensors you’ll find on many Android devices, Apple proves that there is more to a great photo than just a pixel count.
We can tell you that color reproduction feels very heavy on the red, but otherwise looks pretty good, that noise levels in low light situations is better than acceptable but still easy to see and that video capture is similar while mostly clean and smooth, but we would really rather just show you in the following image gallery.
Quick Note: I handed the device (and the iPad mini 3, as you’ll see in our VS post) to an individual that did not take any time to ensure the best lighting or photo subjects, they just snapped away the same as they would with their own device, using the absolute default settings (and HDR) of the camera app on the iPad Mini 4. Most shots are indoors, some through glass, and all with varying lighting types and quality. No awards will be won with these photos, but, as I hope you gather, my point is that these are the sorts of final images and quality the average user will produce.
iOS 9 has been available as a beta release for a few months now, and has gone to full official release this past week, but the iPad Mini 4 is the first iPad to ship with the new OS straight out of the box. Instead of going on about iOS 9 and its great new features, let me steer you toward our full iOS 9 review.
With that out of the way, the iPad Mini 4 offers a very smooth and fluid experience. I know we’ve said this about almost all of the iPads lately, so you can be sure that the new power under the hood of the new tablet is worth its weight in gold when navigating the OS. Your normal tasks will not see any major speed increases, but frequency of hangups and stutters is far diminished, at least in our testing.
2048x1536 resolution, 326 ppi
|Processor||Apple A8 processor
M8 motion coprocessor
|Camera||8 MP rear camera
1.2 MP front-facing camera
Pricing and final thoughts
If you were on the fence about purchasing the iPad Mini 3 because of its somewhat minor updates from the iPad Mini 2, you will not be disappointed with the new iPad Mini 4. The same basic aesthetics and overall user experience is here to stay, but the power boost and update to the new 8MP camera should be enough to warrant an upgrade.
Pricing is fairly predictable out of the Apple camp, starting the iPad Mini 4 at $399 and topping out at $729 for the current highest capacity model, with LTE.
There is little more to say here folks, the iPad Mini 4 is going into our books as one of the best tablets that you can get your hands on today.
There is the obvious OS constraints, in that an avid Android user with extensive Google Play library would have a hard time getting into the flow of the iPad, but for those of you looking for a great iOS powered device, at least one that can slip into a large pocket or purse for easy mobility and handling, we can safely recommend the iPad Mini 4 for purchase.
Update Feb 2016: As we’ve mentioned above, the iPad mini 4 has a slightly inflated worth thanks to the iPad Pro. Where the iPad Air 2 previously offered the best of both worlds, being a large size and portability, the new combination of the iPad Pro for productivity tasks and large screen entertainment along with the iPad mini 4 rocking your portable computing needs, where we might have once recommended the slightly more powerful iPad Air 2, we now feel the iPad mini 4 is a better investment. That is, if you can also handle an iPad Pro on your budget.
We have to now take the iPad Pro 9.7 into consideration, if nothing else, we have to consider that the introduction of the new pro tablet marked a price reduction for the iPad Air 2. The crazy thing is that the more powerful Air 2 is now the exact same price as the iPad mini 4 at the Apple store. Size requirements aside, if you are looking for the best bang for the buck iPad, there’s a really good chance the iPad Air 2 will appeal to you.
Please do not think this is an attempt to belittle the iPad mini 4,. The smaller iPad is still one of our favorite tablets, and there is no question it tops most lists when comparing 8-inch tablets, if that is what you’re after, the iPad mini 4 is a great device for you. However, if you’ve only been considering the smaller tablet based on price, and do not need the power in the pro line, take a look at the iPad Air 2 before you spend your money.
What do you think so far, is the iPad Mini 4 a beacon of Apple technology, or just another minor update to a dying segment of tablet computer?