Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display

The new iPad Mini somehow shrinks down the iPad Air into an even more compact package, sacrificing nearly nothing. It's more expensive than before, but it's also the perfect smaller tablet.

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It's amazing to think that, just a year ago, the iPad Mini was positioned as a smaller "budget" iPad without as much power as the 9.7-inch version. Now it's a powerhouse and a top-end tablet. The new iPad Mini has a 2,048x1,526-pixel Retina Display that's exactly the same resolution as the larger iPad, and a far faster 64-bit A7 CPU that parallels what's in the iPhone 5S and iPad Air, plus that M7 co-processor. In fact, you could easily call the iPad Mini with Retina Display a shrunken-down clone of the new iPad Air.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

If you pick up the new Mini, it feels a lot like the old Mini. The differences become clear if you look closely, but you'd never know from a distance. The Mini comes in two colors: white-and-silver looks the same as last year, but the black-and-slate model has been subtly adjusted to "space gray," using the same lighter-metal back as the iPhone 5S and iPad Air.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Other than that, nothing's really changed in the iPad Mini's form. It has the same basic compact design as last year, which the iPad Air now also adopts: thin side bezels, a flat back, and a generally wafer-thin, metal-and-glass look. While it's technically a bit heavier than the older model, being 0.3mm thicker, and a 23-gram difference for the Wi-Fi version or a 29-gram difference for the LTE model, you wouldn't notice a difference.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Without a doubt, if you're a big reader, the massive jump in screen resolution is the most welcome change on this Mini. But what's most impressive, and hard to truly appreciate at times, is that there's no drop-off in pixels in the smaller screen size compared with on the Air. And, the Retina Display already looked good on the Air's 9.7-inch display.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Other 7-inch tablets routinely hit 1080p or better resolution, such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX, with 1,920x1,200-pixel resolutions and 323 pixels per inch. The Mini's 2,048x1,536 resolution amounts to 326 pixels per inch, offering even better pixel density over a larger amount of screen real estate. And the Mini's screen is 7.9 inches with a closer-to-square 4x3 aspect ratio, not the 7-inch wide-screen form factor of the aforementioned Google and Amazon tablets.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)


If you're a gamer or a serious user of apps like video-editing or media-rich programs, you'll notice gigantic speed boost on the Mini, thanks to its leap from an A5 last year to an A7 this year. Applications that hiccuped before now run smoothly; multitasking and high-end, demanding tasks like graphics rendering, video editing, and the like are effortless. Actually, it turns out, the A7 processor on the Retina Mini according to Geekbench 3 tests isn't exactly the same as the iPad Air's: it's 1.29GHz, the same as the iPhone 5S processor, while the 1.39GHz A7 on the iPad Air is a little faster. The new iPad Mini has twice the RAM of the last Mini: 1GB to 512MB, but the same as the Air.

In all our benchmark tests, the new iPad Mini performed a little bit slower than the Air, but close enough to put it in nearly the same territory. It's miles beyond last year's iPad Mini, performing up to 4 to 5x faster or even more depending on the benchmark. And, compared with the Google Nexus 7 released earlier this year, it's a significant leap forward. As a result, apps run nearly identically on the iPad Air and the new Mini, again because they're running almost exactly the same hardware.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The Wi-Fi antennas have also gotten an upgrade to MIMO technology, just like the iPad Air. MIMO promises better throughput, and better range with dual antennas. The new Mini did seem faster over office Wi-Fi, and wherever else I tested it.

The iPhone's handheld design feels good for screen-tapping arcade games, but it's got a small screen. The iPad Air is great for games, but it's better for larger-scale board games and tap-to-move strategy titles. The Mini is the perfect in-between. Now that its graphics have taken a serious step up, it's also capable of playing anything on the App Store without a hitch. Infinity Blade III, Riptide GP2, and others look fantastic. And, with iOS game controllers on the horizon, the Mini could be an intriguing fit for a controller case/accessory.

Here's some good and somewhat surprising news: the iPad Mini's battery life looks to be as good as the iPad Air's. Our first battery-test run was eye-popping: 14 hours and 14 minutes of video playback, beating Apple's claim of 10 hours. The Air lasted 13.2 hours, while last year's iPad Mini ran for 12.1.


The one thing the Mini isn't? Cheap. If affordability is your game (and really, who doesn't want an affordable gadget), Android, Kindle, and other tablets offer far more budget-friendly alternatives. And many of them aren't bad at all for their catch-all offerings: the Google Nexus 7 has a bright 1080p display, great portability, and lots of storage for a low price.

But, if you want a small tablet with no limitations, that can run the best gamut of high-end apps, display productivity-type applications in a larger amount of screen space, and play games amazingly, the iPad Mini with Retina Display is hands-down the way to go.


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Pining posted a comment   

You list the price as $439 for your review. directly below that shows one can buy it for between $639 and $1115........

I didn't even bother reading your review, Fanboy. Another Editor's Choice for another apple product. How's the sponsorship going?

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  • Pining


    "You list the price as $439 for your review. directly below that shows one can buy it for between $639 and $1115........

    I didn't even bother reading your review, Fanboy. Another Editor..."

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