Despite being more than three years old, the iPad mini 2 still lives. While others like the iPad mini 3 have since ceased production, the iPad mini 2 (formerly known as Retina display) is still hanging around, and for good reason.
Apple’s iPad mini 3 is an incredibly attractive purchase. Available for just £239 for the WiFi-only version with 32GB of storage, it’s the cheapest Apple tablet you can pick up today. At this price, it’s less than the original iPad Air, all with the same 2,048 x 1,536 screen resolution and M7 processor. Picking one up this late in its lifecycle, though and you’ll have to contend with only a 32GB offering, the 16GB and 128GB options are no more.
Sure the iPad mini 4 has only just hit its first birthday and is a far more impressive beast, the mini 2 is still the perfect choice if you’re a little strapped for cash. Below, you can find our updated review of Apple’s iPad mini 2, now in its fourth year.
iPad mini 2 review: Build quality
It’s no surprise to see that the iPad mini 2 has the same design as its predecessor. In fact, Apple has taken this style and rolled it out to the iPad Air, so the two tablets, bar the size, look the same. This design still looks remarkably fresh, making the most of the screen space, with the thin side bezel making the 7.9in screen look a lot bigger than it is. This is exactly what you want from a tablet, as the touchscreen is the main way of interacting with it, so everything should be focused here.
Once again, Apple has pulled out all of the stops, making this tablet one of the most attractive in its range. Its full glass front looks gorgeous, whether you opt for the silver or space grey models. As usual, the aluminium unibody is fantastic, simultaneously being beautiful and giving the reassuring feeling that the iPad mini 2 is incredibly tough.
The only minor difference is that this model is 0.3mm thicker than its predecessor. It’s a difference you’d never notice, though, and given the faster processor and better screen on show here, it’s impressive that the tablet is still so thin. When it comes to design and build quality, it’s fair to say that no other tablet from any manufacturer comes close.
The real beauty of the iPad mini’s design is that it fits so comfortably in one hand. Although the iPad Air slimmed down a lot from the previous full-sized iPad, it’s still really a two-handed device. If you primarily use the iPad on commutes or other places where two-handed operation isn’t so comfortable, this is definitely the model for you.
The only thing “missing” from the tablet is the Touch ID fingerprint reader, which was launched with the iPhone 5S. When we first saw Touch ID, we thought that Apple would be keen to roll it out to all of its products, but neither the iPad mini 2 nor the iPad Air have this sensor. In fact, it’s only just appeared on the newly announced iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2, which launched in October 2014. The iPad mini 2, meanwhile, makes do with just the usual home button. A fingerprint is a nice bit of tech to have, and not just because it makes it quicker to unlock the tablet.
With the launch of iOS 8.2, Apple opened up Touch ID to all app developers. So, rather than typing your password into an app, such as Amazon’s shop, you can use your fingerprint to unlock it. This is not only more convenient, but it also means that you can pick really secure passwords, safe in the knowledge you’ll only have to enter them once. While not having a fingerprint reader isn’t the biggest loss, and wouldn’t dissuade us from buying this tablet, it’s a bit of shame that it took Apple another generation of iPad to include Touch ID.
iPad mini 2 review: Display
Pushing the resolution up to 2,048 x 1,536, Apple has quadrupled the resolution from the original iPad mini’s 1,024 x 768. That’s quite a staggering improvement and, due to the slightly smaller screen, the iPad mini 2 has a higher pixel density than the iPad Air (326ppi vs 264ppi). Strictly speaking, we’d have to say that this resolution is probably higher than is required, going by Apple’s Retina display definition. According to this, Retina is the point at which you can no longer see individual pixels when you hold the device at a normal viewing distance. Given that the iPad Air is Retina, this new iPad mini is more than Retina.
We can see why Apple went down this route, though. By keeping its iPad range with the same screen resolution (or an easy scaling option from the low-res versions), it makes things simple for developers and consumers. In other words, you can rest assured that all of the apps that worked so well on the full-sized iPad will work well here.
Of course, it helps that the screen quality is so good. It’s bright, contrast is fantastic and viewing angles are superb. There’s little more you could possibly want from a tablet screen. The improvement over the original iPad mini’s screen is incredible. Apps used to look a little blurred, but now they’re clearer and sharper, making text and icons easier to see. From the screenshot below, you can see the difference in quality. We’re displaying each screenshot at the same physical size, to demonstrate how they would look if you had both iPad mini tablets side by side. On the top is the original iPad mini, while the bottom image shows the super-sharp iPad mini 2.
Compared to the iPad Air, the smaller screen size here means that text and icons are smaller, but not to the point where anything is difficult to read. Apple has picked a high-quality IPS panel, as we’ve come to expect, which is bright, with vibrant colours. The screen didn’t perform as well in our calibration tests as the iPad Air, however: whereas the Air could display 90.7% of the sRGB colour gamut in our tests, the mini could only manage 68.8%.
When we put the tablets side by side, the Air’s screen was plainly superior, with darker text and whiter whites. The mini’s screen is still excellent, and you’re unlikely to notice the difference in everyday use, but some compromises have been made to cram this many pixels into this few screen inches. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, which is a similarly sized tablet again with an ultra-high-res screen, wipes the floor with both of them, with the most beautifully saturated and accurate colours.
Compared to other small-screen tablets, such as the Nexus 7, the iPad mini 2 has the advantage. While 7in is a typical screen size on other tablets, the 4:3 aspect ratio and 7.9in screen size on the iPad mini means there’s quite a bit more display on view and it feels less cramped. In terms of size and resolution, while maintaining a tablet that’s handheld, we have to say that Apple has got the balance bang on.
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