Apple iPad mini with Retina Display Review

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If you’ve seen an iPad mini, you’ve seen an iPad mini with Retina display. Well, until you turn the panel on. On the exterior, the mini hasn’t changed (much), which means that first-generation accessories such as cases and screen protectors will also work on this generation. There’s a 0.03mm increase in the thickness, but it’s so subtle that the vast majority of peripherals won’t be impacted by it. In fact, the new mini is the same thickness as the new iPad Air, though the mini weighs a fair amount less (0.73 pounds for the Retina mini compared to 1 pound for the iPad Air).

The unibody design is back in full force, with rounded corners, twin speakers along the bottom, and a Lightning port. Along the edges, you’ll find a power button up top, with volume rockers + a mute switch (which doubles as an orientation lock) on the right side. As has become the norm with Apple, the design here is nothing short of beautiful. It’s simple, understated, and very rigid. Unfortunately, the rear is pretty prone to showing scratches, but it’s still plenty sturdy. We’d recommend picking up a case if you’re interested in keeping your new slate free from nicks, but if you aren’t concerned about a few battle scars, the unit itself can certainly take a beating and keep on ticking.

The main exterior change is the LCD. The original iPad mini had a relatively ho hum 1024x768 resolution, while the new guy on the block ratchets it up to 2048x1536. For those crunching the numbers, that’s the exact same resolution as the iPad Air boasts, which means that the new mini actually has a higher pixel density. In practice, the LCD is simply stunning. It’s a pleasure to gawk at, with colors showing as rich, details sharp, and viewing angles amongst the best in the industry. At 326ppi, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular display on any mobile product.

While we’re on the topic of hardware, it’s worth bemoaning the lack of a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Strangely, Apple opted to not include the token feature of the iPhone 5s on the new iPads. It’s probably a decision made due to cost and supply chain constraints, but either way, the new iPad mini has a traditional, clickable Home button that does not read your fingerprint. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The reality is that people unlock their phones more than their tablets, often by orders of magnitude. Touch ID doesn’t feel essential on a tablet.

The iPad mini with Retina display feels exactly like the original, which is to say: it’s really light; it’s rigid and sturdy; and it’s possible to use it one-handed. That last fact is what truly sets it apart from the iPad Air. While the full-sized iPad Air is respectable on many levels, it’s just too big for many consumers. For those who prefer a more portable tablet, the iPad mini’s size is far more suitable.

On the software side, iOS 7 feels light and nimble on the new mini. That’s largely thanks to the 64-bit power-plant packed within. The new mini was gifted with the same A7 processor that’s embedded within the more expensive iPad Air and iPhone 5s. There’s 1GB of memory, as well as a quad-core graphics chip (PowerVR G6430). Apple’s iWork productivity suite is now free for any who wishes to download, with Pages (for document processing), Numbers (for spreadsheets), Keynote (for presentations), and iMovie + iPhoto offering up loads of sleek ways to get work done on the go. These apps are undoubtedly worth the download; Apple has engineered them to work well on the tablet, which can’t be said for some apps in the App Store.

One of the iPad’s greatest differentiating factors is the monumental amount of apps in the App Store that are tailored for tablet use. In the Windows and Android worlds, it’s still tough to find apps that are tooled specifically to work on larger displays. Don’t get us wrong; there are still plenty of programs that aren’t built to scale beyond the size of an iPhone, but overall, the Apple App Store is home to more tablet-optimized programs than any other ecosystem.

Overall, whisking through the OS, swapping in and out of apps, and flipping the screen between vertical and horizontal orientations was a breeze. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition — which inexplicably stuttered in typical use — the iPad mini with Retina display manages the increase in pixel count with poise. The entire experience can best be described as fluid, with no annoying hang-ups or lag to speak of. Even with a bombardment of notifications flying in during a 1080p movie viewing, there were no dropped frames or slowdowns.

For the most part, iOS 7 is iOS 7 -- it's a solid update from Apple for mobile devices. For more on our take on the operating system itself, be sure to check out the software section of our iPhone 5s review.

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MikeCammisa one year ago

Good review, just to expensive for what you get though

realneil one year ago

"the new iPad mini isn’t priced to compete. It’s priced into a category of its own"

A high priced place where Apple seems to be most comfortable.

Dave_HH one year ago

Can't say I disagree with that but you do get a higher-end device for the dollars.

realneil one year ago

[quote user="Dave_HH"]Can't say I disagree with that but you do get a higher-end device for the dollars.[/quote]

iDevices are elegant and highly functional too. But many of us are forced into buying less expensive devices because of that high price.

It's lucky that other devices are getting to be so darn good.

My iPad second gen is still functioning after being dropped onto some bricks and now has a cracked screen. It still works, but it's cheaper to buy another brand than it is to fix the iPad. Crying


SmogHog one year ago


Here's how the screen stacks up

dc7 one year ago

I don't understand why they can't put a GPS and micro SD slot in these things. I was hoping for a GPS in the 5th Gen Touch, seriously looking at the EVGA Tegra Note.

anotherscott one year ago

re: "I don't understand why they can't put a GPS and micro SD slot in these things"

Choose a cellular model ($130 additional) and you get the GPS. If you connect with t-mobile, you also get 200 megabytes of data a month at no charge... and it is good to have data availability if you want GPS, because many GPS programs use real-time internet connectivity for things like traffic rerouting and POI location.

anotherscott one year ago

My quibble with the review is that it keeps talking about the Mini as a 7" tablet, comparing it to Google Nexus, etc. It is a 7.9" tablet, which is essentially 8". It does not functionally compete with 7" Androids, it competes with the more expensive 8" Androids. It has almost 40% more display area than a 7" Android tablet, it's an enormous difference. I use Android as well. I find their 7" models too small. But unlike the 7" models, I find the iPad Mini and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 both comfortable to use. Anything smaller, I'd just use it in a more limited fashion and stick with a phone or iPod Touch at that point.

Dave_HH one year ago

We've corrected this review and downgraded the rating to HotHardware "Approved" due to cost and limitations in RAM and expansion.

choetechusa 11 months ago

I bought my retina Mini and am happy with it. I don’t use it while comparing my screen constantly to the various metrics published on the web. I ran the image retention text on a Marco Arment's web page, and didn’t see anything on my device that concerned me. The retina screen is nicer that I expected it to be, and I am happy with how I spent my money. 

AlfredDaher 8 months ago

i love my ipad mini with retina display. it isn't huge and heavy like full sized ipads and its price isn't outrageously expensive. overall i am extremely happy with this tablet

StaticFX 8 months ago

I hate mine.....


ok i dont have one lol - I got a Nook HD+ because it was far cheaper and really, i wanted to read on it :) - netflix (many google + apps work on it) so that was a bonus

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