Apple iPad mini with Retina Display Review

Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: It comes as no surprise that the iPad mini with Retina display is a barn-burner when it comes to performance. It’s the first 7” slate to be equipped with a 64-bit processor, and considering that the internal composition here is quite similar to that found in the iPhone 5s and the iPad Air, we expected very similar benchmarking results. Apple's decision to include the top-of-the-line A7 processor in the smaller of the two iPads is commendable. Given that it’s the cheaper of the two, Apple could have perhaps gone with a cheaper, slower A6 processor. We’re thrilled to see the mini getting premium treatment, even if the MSRP on the Retina-equipped mini is $70 higher than the MSRP on the original. Frankly, that price hike feels justified for the performance boost that comes with the optimized A7 SoC.

From a design standpoint, there’s really nothing to see here that wasn’t seen already in the initial version of the iPad mini, but the overall package is far more compelling. The form factor suits those who are only interested in smaller tablets that can be used in one-handed operation, but more importantly, the iPad mini with Retina display offers plenty of reasons for those who ignored the first edition to finally bite. There’s a meaningful amount of prospective customers who waited on buying an iPad mini until Apple revealed one with a Retina panel; after all, it’s pretty tough to use a non-Retina display on an Apple product once your eyes have been treated to Apple's high res panel.

But Apple did more than just increase the pixel count; it also threw in a potent processor to ensure that iOS 7 could run fluidly. The iPad mini with Retina display is fairly deceptive from that perspective. At a glance, the hardware looks the same, signaling a rather humdrum revision. But in practice, it’s a strong update from the first gen model.

The only major niggle is the major price. At $399 and up, you won’t find a more expensive 7” slate that’s not dipped in gold. The high-flying Nexus 7 starts at just $229, and it’s really tough to say with a straight face that the new iPad mini offers $170 more than Google’s alternative. While the iOS ecosystem’s strength can’t be denied — and that’s certainly worth some amount depending on your existing reliance on it — the new iPad mini isn’t priced to compete. It’s priced into a category of its own. Attempting to compare this slate with the cadre of other 7” tablets will simply lead to a lot of out-of-whack conclusions, and that’s just fine by Apple. The company is moving in the opposite direction of bargain basement, giving Android and Windows-based slates even more latitude to fight it out for consumers who aren’t willing to spend more than $200 or $250 for a tablet -- and depending on who you talk to, that may be a fair swath of the market.

So, if the iPad mini with Retina display isn’t really competing with the likes of the Nexus 7, what’s it competing against? The answer could, in fact, the iPad Air. The only real competitor is another of Apple’s products, which retails at $100 more. Given that framing, the mini seems the more practical of the two. You get the same internal prowess, the exact same screen resolution, and a savings of $100. Plus, it’s more compact and more mobile, though obviously images are going to look smaller on its smaller 7-inch display. If you’re sold on the iOS ecosystem and are evaluating your iPad options, the mini is tough to ignore, as long as a 7 or 8-inch device is something you're considering. If you aren’t married to the iProduct universe, the Nexus 7 is probably a more practical, cost-effective choice when you look at the price delta.

  • Sleek, compact design
  • Fast A7 chip is up to the task of gaming
  • iOS 7, if you like the new interface
  • Same long battery life as before
  • Robust app ecosystem
  • Nice Retina display
  • Needs more system RAM
  • So-so camera performance
  • Very pricey for the segment
  • No Touch ID fingerprint sensor

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