Apple iPad Mini 3 review
|Review: January 2015|
In a nutshell: The iPad Mini 3 is a compact iPad with a Retina display and a fast A7 processor. It also now features a Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor for extra security.
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The iPad Mini 3 is identical to the iPad Mini 2, except that the home button now includes Touch ID and it runs IOS 8. There's also a Gold version available, in case good taste isn't quite your thing. We'd say, stick with last year's model, or consider the Sony Z3 Tablet Compact instead.
Design & looks
The iPad Mini 3 is identical to the iPad Mini 2 down to the last millimetre in size and gram in weight. It's the same device. There are only two changes - first, it's available in Gold, in addition to White and Space Grey. Second, the home button now includes Apple's Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor for extra security.
Still, it's a beautiful-looking tablet, as is everything crafted by Apple. The Mini version of the iPad is significantly more compact than the iPad Air 2, and the weight is less, although it's by no means the lightest tablet around, despite what Apple's marketing hype would have you believe. Sony's Z3 Tablet Compact has the same size screen but weighs 20% less. In fact, the Apple is one of the heaviest tablets of its size. Hmm.
Putting that complaint aside, we must praise the build quality of the iPad Mini 3. It's superb as always.
As for the screen, the Retina display is identical to last year's. It delivers 2048 x 1536 pixels for a stunning 326ppi pixel density. The display is bright, with excellent colour fidelity, and has a low latency too, making it one of the very best displays on any tablet. Full marks!
Same A7 processor
Now the A7 processor is no slouch, but the iPad Air 2 has the upgraded A8X processor, and we really wanted that for the Mini 3 too. Technology moves forward, and the iPad Mini 3 is stuck with the same processor as the iPhone 5s from over a year ago. The RAM is also stuck at 1GB, which even budget Android smartphones exceed.
Despite all this, in reality the OS runs lag-free and the device is capable of running even the most demanding games.
The tablet comes in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB versions. The 16GB may be too cramped if you download a lot of games, but those higher memory versions really push the price up. As with all Apple products, this choice is always difficult to call.
One thing that's changed since the release of the previous iPad Mini, is that Apple has released iOS 8. Of course, users of the Mini 2 can upgrade to iOS 8 free of charge, but it's always nice to have the latest version pre-installed.
iOS 8 is a significant update, but not one that will be very visible to users. The Camera app has more options, there's better predictive typing, and app sharing for family members, among other changes.
iSight camera & FaceTime HD
There's no change on the camera front, apart from the new options in iOS 8. The rear-facing BSI camera has 5 megapixels, autofocus and HDR, and records video at full HD 1080p resolution. The front-facing camera has a 1.2 megapixel resolution and can make FaceTime video calls at 720p HD resolution. It also has BSI capability for better performance in low light conditions.
These are good, useful cameras and we have no complaints in this department.
As well as the memory size and colour choices, the tablet comes in two versions - one with 4G LTE cellular capabilities and GPS and GLONASS receivers - and one without. The 4G version costs £100 more, and most people will probably choose the Wi-Fi-only version instead.
Both versions include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a 3.5mm stereo headphone mini-jack and a Lightning connector. The Wi-Fi is the fastest currently available, supporting dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO.
As with nearly everything else, the battery is the same as in last year's model. It has a solid 23.8 watt-hour capacity and provides up to 10 hours of continuous use from a single charge.
There's nothing wrong with the iPad Mini 3. It's a lovely device with excellent performance. We just wish that it had moved forward from one year ago.
We awarded the iPad Mini 2 four stars out of five, and we're doing the same for the iPad Mini 3. But in the past twelve months, other manufacturers haven't been standing still like Apple. Tablets are getting faster, lighter, with more memory, better cameras and longer battery life. Snapping at Apple's heels are a number of hungry Android tablets, and moving decisively ahead is the absolutely stunning Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. The Sony does all that the iPad Mini 3 does, with a slimmer, lighter design, expandable memory, and it's waterproof as well. And before you ask, it costs less too.
Apple iPad Mini 3 features include:
- Operating system: iOS 8
- Display: 7.9 inch LED backlit multi-touch IPS screen with 2048 x 1536 pixels
- 5 megapixel BSI camera with autofocus, touch focus & face detection
- HD 1080p video recording, secondary HD 720p camera for video calling (FaceTime)
- Music & media player
- Messaging: Text, photo & video messages, email with document attachments
- Assisted GPS (cellular version only)
- Digital compass
- Internet: Safari web browser, YouTube
- Built-in stereo speakers
- Processor: A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
- Memory: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB or 128GB models
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, Lightning connector, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
- 4G LTE , UMTS/HSPA, GSM/EDGE (Wi-Fi + 4G model only)
- Size: 200 x 135 x 7.5 mm
- Weight: 331g (Wi-Fi model) or 341g (Wi-Fi + 4G model)
- Battery: 23.8 watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
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