Up until recently, I didn’t consider myself a tablet person. My iPhone was able to answer my needs which was mostly using basic social media apps like Twitter and Facebook. My phone was also able to do well with other apps I like Flipboard and a few games that include Clash of Clans. I love gadgets but when it comes to consumption of content, I am one of the least active around. That’s why I disposed of the iPad Air and the iPad mini I previously owned. Recently, however, I found myself once again looking for a new tablet. My needs have somehow changed and I came to discover that there are apps that are simply better used on a tablet. Size, I’ve realized, matters.
And so I decided to get a tablet, again. My search for a new tablet boiled down to two main considerations — the platform and the size. Being mostly an Apple user, I wanted an Apple tablet since I’m already invested in the ecosystem. Android has improved over the years and was a serious consideration but the iPad has certain advantages that no one can ignore. Long story short, I picked an iPad mini 4. I find its size just right for my needs. It has a big enough display, yet it is also convenient to lug around. Was my decision to get the iPad mini 4 the right decision? Find out in this review.
Design, Display and Hardware
As with any gadget review, let’s start with the iPad mini 4’s hardware. Apple has found a way to make a thinner tablet with each iteration of the iPad mini. The iPad mini 4 is thinner than the iPad 3, although not by much.
Thinner also means lighter, and with the days I spent so far with the iPad mini 4, I am glad Apple made it slimmer. For a device that’s meant to be held for long periods, any difference in weight, however tiny, is a welcome change. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons I chose an iPad mini 4 over an iPad Air 2. Although the added real estate is an attractive proposition, the weight of the device is not a compromise I wanted to take.
The iPad mini 4 sports the same design we’ve grown accustomed to with previous Apple tablets. Overall though, the iPad mini 4 is a shrunken iPad Air 2. And that says a lot about the build, the finish and the great looks of the iPad mini 4.
Love the excellent finish on the back of the iPad mini 4
Apple made a few changes from the iPad mini 3. The 7.9-inch display of the iPad mini 4 has a similar resolution, which is 2,048 x 1,536. This is actually the same sharpness you will get from the much older iPad mini 2. With the iPad mini 4, Apple dropped the toggle switch so if you want to lock the orientation, you need to swipe up and do it through the control panel. The volume rocker has been moved higher which means that old cases will not fit with the iPad mini 4.
Other hardware changes in the iPad mini 4 include a new glass panel with laminated display and anti-reflective coating. This is the same type of display used in the iPad Air 2 and the bigger iPad Pro. The new display has a better color reproduction, it is crisp and it is viewable under direct sunlight.
Under the hood of the iPad mini 4 is an Apple A8 chip and 2GB of RAM. The A8 processor is a bit dated when compared to the faster A8X processor on the iPad Air 2 and the A9X on the iPad Pro.
The iPad mini 4 comes with iOS 9, the latest from Apple. It is the same OS that runs on other newer tablets, even the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. On the iPad mini 4, iOS 9 adds a few added functionalities like the Slide Over, the Split View and the picture-in-picture mode. All these features contribute to a better multitasking experience on the iPad mini 4.
Slide Over is quite handy. It is a small strip that contains shortcuts to apps and can be summoned by swiping from the right of the screen. The active screen is paused when slide over commands are used. You can actually open apps on the strip but it’s a bit cramped. For quick views, it’s a bit handy. The opened app can be dragged to the center, which then activates another feature, the Split View.
Slide Over looks like this on the iPad mini 4
Split Screen is a good feature but it feels cramped on the iPad mini 4
Split View is a combination of two opened apps viewed side by side. On bigger iPad, this is great but on the smaller iPad mini 4, it feels awkward. Picture-in-picture view works when using the media player from Apple. You can play video and pin it on the screen, allowing you to work on other apps if you like.
Overall, iOS 9 works smoothly on the iPad mini 4. It’s not as fast as the experience on the iPad Air 2, but it’s fast enough.
Performance, Camera and Battery Life
As mentioned, iOS 9 works well on the iPad mini 4. For basic tasks and non-heavy apps, the iPad mini 4 is a delight to use. It is better than the iPad mini 3 and the iPad mini 2, although it’s not better than the iPad Air 2. Not even equally good. But this is expected since the iPad Air 2 has better internals.
So the quick observation is, the iPad mini 4 is fast, but not too fast. When playing movies and games, the iPad mini 4 is more than capable. For most users, this will be enough reason to get the iPad mini 4 over other options in the market, even those that run Android.
The camera is where the iPad mini 4 has seen a substantial improvement. The rear camera now has an 8-megapixel sensor, a bump from the 5-megapixel sensor in the older model. However, the front camera, or the FaceTime camera, is still a 1.2-megapixel affair but it now has burst mode. It’s more than enough for video calls but selfie shots would not look as great as on the iPhone.
The iPad mini 4’s main camera is decent, but not great. The iPhone is still better at taking photos, although the iPad mini 4 is not far behind. In well-lighted settings, the iPad mini 4 takes good photos but in low-light setups, the iPad mini 4 shows limitations.
Battery life of the iPad mini 4 is good for about 8 to 10 hours of continued use. iPads are known for their good battery life and the iPad mini 4 did not disappoint. Apple’s official claim is 10 hours so that sounds about right. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on, battery life is naturally reduced. Overall, I am pleased with the iPad mini 4’s battery.
Is the iPad mini 4 for you?
This question has a simple answer. If you’re looking for an 8-inch tablet, get the iPad mini 4. Although it costs a lot for a small tablet, it will be a worth it in the long run. Apple’s devices are tough and dependable the iPad mini 4 is no exception. If budget is an issue, you should consider the iPad mini 2. It practically has the same display as the iPad mini 4 but it costs much less. Skip the iPad mini 3 since its only main difference from the iPad mini 2 is the Touch ID. For cheaper tablet alternatives with the same specs as the iPad mini 4, look for Android tablets in the market.
If you are looking for a bigger tablet, the iPad Air 2 is a good option. Its price is not far from that of the iPad mini 4 and it has faster hardware.
The iPad mini 4 is a good upgrade from the iPad mini 2 and the iPad mini 3. While people practically ignored the iPad mini 3 for the almost non-existent upgrade from the iPad mini 2, the iPad mini 4 makes this small tablet line relevant again. The iPad mini 4 has a faster processor, a better display, an improved camera all wrapped in a slimmer chassis. All these upgrades are welcome. It is easy for me to recommend the iPad mini 4, especially if price is not an issue.
As a device, the iPad mini 4 is superb, as I may have clearly conveyed in this review. If not for its high price tag, the tablet would have actually gotten a better rating. All things considered, it is still a worthy buy.