iPad Mini 2 with Retina display review - now just £219
Processor: Dual-core 1.3GHz Apple A7, Screen size: 7.9in, Screen resolution: 2,048x1,536, Rear camera: 5 megapixels, Storage: 16 / 32GB, Wireless data: 4G (optional), Size: 200x135x7.5mm, Weight: 331g, Operating system: iOS 8
The imminent arrival of the iPad Mini 4 has pushed the price of the slightly even longer-in-the-tooth iPad Mini 2 (formerly known as the iPad Mini with Retina display) even further down, making it a good choice for anyone who doesn't need the latest 'new and shiny'. It shares an almost identical specification to the iPad Mini 3 sans the Touch ID fingerprint reader that isn't as useful on a tablet compared to an iPhone. So really, it's not that old. Especially considering it's available for £219 for the 16GB variety or £259 for the 32GB.
It's also less than the original iPad Air, which has the same hardware inside and the same 2,048x1,536 resolution, so if you're looking for a smaller Apple tablet, the iPad Mini 2 is certainly the one to buy. That said, it's also important to note that the iPad Mini 2 is no longer available in all of the storage capacities that it once was, with only 16GB and 32GB models the only ones available.
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-size 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 TouchID fingerprint reader, which was launched with the iPhone 5S. When we first saw TouchID, 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, save in the knowledge that you'll only have to enter it the once. While not having a fingerprint reader isn't the biggest loss, and wouldn't dissuade us from buying this tablet, it is a bit of shame that it took Apple another generation of iPad to include Touch ID.
Pushing the resolution up to 2,048x1,536, Apple has quadrupled the resolution from the original iPad Mini's 1,024x768. 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-size 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.