A high resolution display and excellent performance make the iPad mini with Retina display an enticing option for any tablet buyer.
Design & display
The iPad mini with Retina display uses the same bevelled, laser cut edges, the same smooth, rounded corners, and the same well positioned volume buttons as its predecessor.
There's no other small tablet on the market that comes close to this kind of excellent craftsmanship.
The iPad mini with with Retina display is actually slightly thicker and heavier than the original mini. It measures 7.5mm thick compared to 7.2mm, and the Wi-Fi only version weighs 331g compared to the previous model's 308g.
The Wi-Fi+LTE model we reviewed tips the scales at 341g compared to 312g. The figures don't make too much of a difference in day-to-day use.
The rest of the iPad mini with Retina display is virtually identical to the original mini. Separated volume up and down buttons are located on the left side, just below a mute switch.
A well positioned power button is on the top, next to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and the Lightning connector is flanked by dual-speaker grills on the bottom.
The speakers pump out reasonable sound for a small tablet but it's too easy to muffle them with your hand when holding the tablet.
One significant disappointment is the lack of a Touch ID-equipped home button, which was first introduced on the iPhone 5s.
The iPad mini's retina display is obviously the star of the show. The screen has a resolution of 2048x1536, the same as the larger iPad Air. It's a huge upgrade from the original iPad mini's 1024x768 resolution.
The significant boost in resolution is immediately noticeable, especially if you're upgrading directly from the original mini. The biggest advantage is crisp and clear text, which makes the iPad mini with Retina display a superb reading device.
The screen is also bright, clear and possesses reasonably good sunlight legibility, though the glossy screen is reflective.
When viewed directly alongside the iPad Air, the mini produces colours that are less vivid. However, most everyday users won't be able to notice the difference unless they're comparing the two side-by-side.
Software & performance
The iPad mini with Retina display comes with the newest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 7. The bright colours and light menus do take some getting used to, and some of Apple's icons are just strange but overall, it's a significant improvement from iOS 6.
A new addition to the iPad mini with Retina display is Apple's decision to make its iWork and iLife apps available for free.
The list includes Pages, Numbers, Keynote, GarageBand, iPhoto and iMovie. Given these apps would normally cost over AU$42, they're certainly a nice bonus for new iPad mini owners.
The iPad mini with Retina display has the same internals as the iPad Air, and therefore runs the A7 processor first introduced in the iPhone 5s.
Apps open almost instantly, games are smooth and general performance feels snappy. Graphically intense game titles like Infinity Blade III and Real Racing 3 in particular are a nice showcase for what the iPad mini with Retina display is capable of.
The iPad mini with Retina display has a 5-megapixel rear facing camera that doubles as a full HD 1080p video recorder, while the front-facing FaceTime HD camera has a 1.2-megapixel sensor and can record 720p HD video.
Photos captured with the rear camera are of poor quality when compared to most current smartphones, though we suspect most users of the iPad mini with Retina display won't be too concerned.
Apple claims the iPad mini with Retina display is good enough for 10 hours of Web browsing over Wi-Fi or 10 hours of video playback. In our testing we found these claims pretty close to the mark and generally experienced over nine hours of battery life.
Even with heavy use consisting of Web browsing, video watching, music listening, the odd game and constant email, the iPad mini with Retina display easily pushed through a day and a half of use.
The iPad mini with Retina Display is available now in both Australia and New Zealand, though its slightly more expensive than the previous model, as follows:
|iPad mini with Retina Display 16GB Wi-Fi||$479||$599|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 32GB Wi-Fi||$598||$749|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 64GB Wi-Fi||$699||$899|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 128GB Wi-Fi||$799||$1049|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 16GB Wi-Fi + 4G||$629||$799|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 32GB Wi-Fi + 4G||$749||$949|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 64GB Wi-Fi + 4G||$849||$1099|
|iPad mini with Retina Display 128GB Wi-Fi + 4G||$949||$1249|