Performance: Battery Life and Camera
iPad mini with Retina display Camera Performance -
On the phone side of things, Apple’s iPhone lineup has raised the bar significantly in imaging. By and large, the latest iPhone quickly becomes the camera to beat when looking at imaging performance. Sure, Nokia’s latest Lumia products go toe-to-toe, but there’s something to be said for Apple’s integrated hardware and software that pulls the most out of its optics.
On the tablet side, we’ll confess to never being big fans of capturing images or video with a slate. It just feels awkward, to be honest. However, the smaller iPad mini frame makes it at least marginally more acceptable in public. On the hardware side, the new iPad mini with Retina display includes the exact same 5MP iSight rear-facing camera as the original. It’s quite strange that Apple didn’t slip in an improved module here, but alas…
Thankfully, there is a bit of improvement to be found. Given that the sensor is paired with a 64-bit A7 SoC and a brand new image signal processor (ISP), the new iPad mini is capable of capturing superior images. The new setup can pull it in a bit more light in dim areas, and the overall color reproduction is more vivid. Put simply, the camera experience on the new iPad mini more closely resembles a mid-range smartphone than a tablet, as most tablet cameras are subpar at best. Have a look at the unedited samples below:
Unedited iPad mini with Retina display camera samples; click any to enlarge
iPad mini with Retina display Battery Life -
In our standard web browsing rundown test, which regularly reloads a Web page while cellular data is active, Wi-Fi is on and Mail / Twitter / Facebook are set to update every 15 minutes, we saw the iPad mini's battery exhaust itself after 11 hours. In everyday use, we had no issues getting through an entire workday. All told, we squeezed around 19 hours of use out of a single charge by using the iPad mini as we normally would -- involving multiple hours of browsing / checking notifications, and nonstop push updates from five connected accounts. For what it’s worth, Apple claims up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music, though our use found the claim to be a bit conservative.
Apple has managed to increase the battery size from a 16.3-watt-hour lithium polymer in the original iPad mini to a 23.8-watt-hour lithium polymer in the iPad mini with Retina display, and it's clear that internal components and the processing engines were engineered in such a way to have an even more minimal impact on battery drain. What’s interesting about this approach is that Apple took the exact opposite one in the iPad Air; in that model, the battery size actually shrunk in order to get the overall weight down. In any case, the new mini definitely has an improved battery this time around, but the actual usage time isn’t changing much. Why? All of those additional pixels in its high res display require more from the battery to stay lit, so Apple had no choice but to increase the battery in order to maintain its quoted usability figures after upgrading the device with a pixel-packed Retina display.