The iPad mini with Retina screen is everything the little tablet deserved to be a more compact equal of the bigger iPad with no compromises made. And unfortunately, it is just one thing short of what we all thought a compact tablet should be cheap. Well, Apple is not exactly known for selling cheap, it is quite on the contrary.
Last year's iPad mini was more of a byproduct of the iPad lineup with a significantly cheaper price, a different design and somewhat inferior hardware, the baby iPad was quite different to its full size sibling. This year marks a shift in Apple's product strategy. Now, the two new iPads are equals with the mini being merely a scaled down version of the same spectacular screen tech and the same high-performance internals.
There is been no corner cutting this time and the new iPad mini is more expensive as a result. We guess the price hike comes only to highlight the iPad mini's new standing in the pecking order it is the more portable version of the same flagship product. A lower price point would have also hurt the big iPad sales because the two tablets are not at all that different.
Comparing it to its predecessor, the Apple iPad mini with Retina screen looks no different either, but that is 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 have got the money to burn the last generation iPad mini maxed out at 64GB.
The new iPad mini is exactly the same size like last year's with a mere .3mm difference in thickness. You would not 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 is not that the older mini was sluggish, but the new device is notably faster and more responsive in almost all apps we tried.
There are no two ways about it, the new iPad mini looks just the same as the old iPad mini. It even measures pretty much the same so you would have some pretty hard time telling the two apart with their screens off.
Here's a tip for you, a little telltale feature is the second microphone pinhole, which can be seen on the back of the iPad mini with Retina screen. It is close to the camera lens and it is about the only difference in their machined aluminum bodies. The new iPad mini comes in the same "black front and gray back" and "white front and silver back" paint jobs, both of which look exactly the same as on the Air even on closer inspection. The iPad mini is like a miniaturized carbon copy of the iPad Air too complete with a smaller Home key and thinner bezels. The volume keys and the silencer switch and the camera lenses are identical in size on both iPads.
LCD Screen and pixel resolution
When you turn on the iPad mini 2 it becomes evident where all the work has gone into. The new high-resolution Retina IPS LCD screen is spectacularly sharp. On a 7.9-inch diagonal, the new resolution of 1536 x 2048px works out to a pixel density of 324ppi. That is four times the pixel count and double the pixel density compared to the original mini. Above the screen we find the same 1.2MP resolution front-facing camera as last year. It is capable of 720p video capture. Next to it, there is an ambient light sensor, which helps in adjusting the screen brightness automatically.
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.
Camera lens and the second mic
The iPad mini 2 sits comfortably in your hands in both portrait and landscape orientation and many of us find this sort of screen size to be the sweet spot for a tablet. iOS looks like a natural fit for the 7.9-inch screen and it does not feel as if we sre using a blown up iPhone interface as it does on the iPad Air.Screen resolution is as high as it gets on a compact tablet
The iPad mini 2 is equipped with a 45% more battery capacity than last year's mini 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.