iPad Mini 3 review - gone and mostly forgotten

iPad Mini 3 hero shot
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
319

The iPad Mini 3 was a great tablet, but with the largely identical iPad Mini 2 available for less, justifying the price was tough

Specifications

Processor: Dual-core 1.3GHz Apple A7, Screen size: 7.9in, Screen resolution: 2,048x1,536, Rear camera: 5 megapixels, Storage: 16/64/128GB, Wireless data: 4G (optional), Size: 200x135x7.5mm, Weight: 331g, Operating system: iOS 8.1

Year on year we get a new version of an Apple product that's slightly better than the one the year before. Because of this, it came as a bit of a shock when the iPad Mini 3 launched in late 2014. It's definitely not that it's a bad tablet per se, especially considering it's still, specs-wise, build-wise and OS-wise, better than the competition in many ways, it's just that there were no significant changes over the model it superseded, the iPad Mini 2.

The thing is, there are only three notable things that differentiate itself the iPad Mini 3: it comes in gold, has the TouchID fingerprint reader feature, and the Wi-Fi+Cellular version now includes the Apple SIM. Obviously, with these changes, the iPad Mini 3 selling for the same price as the Mini 2 wouldn't be all that big of a problem, a typical Apple upgrade for the same money. The big sticking point now is that the iPad Mini 2 is still on sale at £219, yet the much better Mini 4 can be found for £319. Apple seems to have wiped the iPad Mini 3 from existence and have stopped manufacturing new models.

We can partly understand why so few changes were made, 2013's product line-up (the iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 and iPhone 5S) all had the same processor, making the range all a bit too similar, with very little actually differentiating them. When the Mini 3 released in 2014, it all initially seemed to be about choice, with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus offering something different to smartphone users, and the iPad Air 2 being put back as the fastest, most powerful Apple mobile device; it would seem that the iPad Mini is back to being the smaller, portable and more budget offering.

Sadly, the iPad Mini 3 is a tablet that's no better than its predecessor, and the iPad Mini 4, released in 2015, absolutely blew it out of the water. All of this led us into something of a bizarre review that while mostly positive, the price ultimately cast a negative shroud over it.

iPad Mini 3 build quality

At face value, there isn't really any denying that the iPad Mini 3 has still cemented itself as one of the best-made tablets on the market. Its sleek aluminium body gives it a reassuring level of toughness and quality that you just don’t get with generally cheaper, plastic tablets.

iPad Mini 3 rear

The fact that it's also one of the best-looking tablets helps as well, with the nice and thin bezels, full glass front and perfectly neat curved edges reaffirming its premium product status. While the iPad Air 2 might be just a little bit thinner at 6.1mm, the iPad Mini 3 isn't exactly hefty at 7.5mm.

iPad Mini 3 side

As we said with the previous two iterations of the Mini, Apple's third go at the Mini nails that perfect balance between screen size, at 7.9in, and overall physical size. It fits perfectly well in one hand, letting you hold it like an eReader or a book. If you're the kind of person who travels for work a lot or needs something to do for a commute, the iPad Mini 3’s size is just right for both portability and usability. It’s clearly no surprise that other tablet manufacturers are distancing themselves from 7in 16:9 screens to 8in 4:3 displays, such as with the Nexus 9, as Apple have lead the charge. 

iPad Mini 3 volume buttons

Cast your attention to the right side of the tablet and you'll spot the easily-reachable volume buttons and slider switch (now removed from the iPad Air 2), which can be used use for the screen rotation lock or to mute the device.

iPad Mini 3 screen

2013 saw the introduction of the Retina display to the iPad Mini 2; with the 2014 model keeping the same screen, with a gloriously crisp resolution of 2,048x1,536; which can also be found on the iPad Air 2. It's worth mentioning that with just a narrowly smaller screen, the iPad Mini 3 actually has a higher pixel density (326ppi vs 264ppi).

iPad Mini 3 hero shot

If I'm honest, it’s actually very hard to tell the two apart. If you stare hard enough you get slightly sharper text on the Mini, but it’s a close-run thing and you won't really be able to tell the difference in general day-to-day use. Image quality is obviously where it’s most important and the iPad Mini 3 is generally pretty good. Thanks to its IPS panel, viewing angles are almost perfect, easily able to see the screen, even from those extreme viewing angles.

Using our colour calibrator to measure the screen quality showed that the screen’s measured black luminance was a dark 0.45CD/m2 and its contrast ratio was a decent 798:1, while brightness was a respectable 365.62cm/m2. Colour reproduction wasn’t so good, though, with the screen only producing just about 67.1% of the sRGB colour gamut. This final measurement doesn’t exactly tell the whole truth, however, as coverage isn’t really the only important thing: it obviously depends on which part of the colour spectrum is causing the problem, as to how noticeable it is in general. With that in mind then, in day-to-day use the Mini produces rich and vibrant colours and is Perfect for browsing the web thanks to its clean and bright whites. That being said, it's not really the best tablet screen that you can buy, and for detailed photos, the high-quality iPad Air 2 and the more recent iPad Mini 4 has a significantly better display.

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