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iPad mini 2 Retina: Apps, camera and verdict

evan kypreos

By Evan Kypreos

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

iPad mini 2: Apps and iOS 7

One of the biggest advantages of the iPad mini 2 is one that only Apple can provide – the App Store. There’s almost half a million apps optimised for the large 4:3 screen size. You can pretty much find anything you want to, whatever your special interest or need. It’s a killer feature and really adds a huge amount of value to the tablet experience compared to the relatively weak, for tablet app at least, Android and Windows stores.

The iPad mini 2 also comes with iOS 7, the restyled Apple mobile operating system. Some much-needed additions have been included such as an improved notification panel, quick-search and control centre. iOS 7 is still less customisable than Android and Windows, but it does have a few neat tricks.

For a list check out our iOS 7 tips and tricks feature.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the biggest omission from iOS 7 is the ability to create user profiles. It’s not something that is particularly necessary for phone owners, but for tablets, which are often given to young children to play with, it’s an issue that both Android and Windows tablets deal with well.

iPad mini 2 23

iPad mini 2: Camera

The iPad mini 2 gets a camera upgrade but, just like with the iPad Air, it’s not the one we expected. Rather than an increase in the number of pixels Apple has increased the sensor -- and therefore the pixel -- size of the iPad mini 2’s front and rear cameras.

iPad mini 2 london

The London skyline usning the iPad mini 2's rear camera

In theory the bigger pixels should allow in more light, thereby providing better images in dim conditions. In practice we found low-light pictures still come out noisy, although better than other similarly sized tablets and a lot better than the previous mini.

In well-lit conditions the camera works well. Shutter speed is quick enough to capture moments on the first try and overall image quality is adequate for day-to-day social snapping. You even feel slightly less of a berk taking photos with iPad mini Retina because it’s so much smaller than a full-size tablet.

iPad mini 2 london comparison

A zoomed in shot of the previous London skyline picture. From left to right: iPad mini, iPad mini 2, Google Nexus 7. The iPad mini 2's camera offers more accurate colour and more detail

An extra mic has been added to improve voice capture for Siri and also sound for video. It is a better at capturing voices but we found that it picks up even small amounts of background noise.

iPad mini 2 london

Our low light test shows the iPad mini 2 gets better results in low light. From left to right: iPad mini, iPad mini 2, Google Nexus 7.

iPad mini 2 – Battery Life

As we’ve already mentioned the iPad mini 2 comes with a bigger battery, from 16.3 Wh to 23.8 Wh. This doesn’t mean that it manages to outlast the previous iPad mini though, because the processor is a lot more powerful and the screen a lot sharper and brighter.

iPad mini 2 1

The iPad mini 2 compared to the iPad Air

It does manage to last the claimed full ten hours, even with a high brightness setting. In our mixed usage test we got 9.5 hours of constant use. This included three hours of web-browsing and emailing, three hours of streaming video, an hour of benchmarking, a couple of gaming, taking photos and some reading. With the screen down to half brightness or lower 15 hours of use is achievable.

The iPad mini 2 also charges at a fair pace. A 30-minute blast provides 16% of power from nothing.

Should I buy the iPad mini 2 Retina

Just like the iPad Air before it, the iPad mini 2 has a strong case for being crowned the best tablet in its class. However, the iPad mini 2 comes with a serious set of solid and very price-conscious competitors.

The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 7 come in at £199 for the most basic model, making both £119 cheaper than the iPad mini 2. If you only intend to use your tablet as an e-reader, casual web browser and video player it’s hard to justify the extra expense. On the other hand you may well find that you start using the iPad mini Retina for more than you expected.

If you already own an iPad mini then the jump in screen and processor quality justifies the upgrade, especially since you can sell your old one for a tidy sum or make a gran or child very happy indeed, with a kindly hand-me-down.

Aside from the 7-inch Android tablets you might also want to consider the mini’s bigger brother, the iPad Air. It costs £80 more, looks just like the mini Retina, but you get a 9.7-inch screen which makes using it for work related tasks – like writing – better.

Verdict

The iPad mini 2 has improved exactly where it needed to. Better screen, better camera and much faster processor are all present, but it’s not a wildly different experience from the original iPad mini. That’s no bad thing as the iPad mini 2 is one of the best small-form tablets on the market, even if the extra cost is a little hard to justify.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 9
  • Build Quality 10
  • Design 10
  • Performance 10
  • Screen Quality 10
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Value 7

diddler

October 24, 2013, 10:19 pm

I would have liked to have had ac wireless.

pikachu

October 25, 2013, 10:32 am

Not everything. If Apple wanted to increase the price then they should also increase the amount of memory, considering how little the hardware actually costs to do this.

Too greedy.

Zeus

October 25, 2013, 10:32 am

Kinda agree but with the mac books only coming with AC now my guess is ac will be main stream on Ipads and Iphones next year :(

Ton

October 25, 2013, 11:27 am

so you get about the same specs as a nexus 7 or the new amazon tablets but with half the memory and about 50^% more expensive

deadlake

October 25, 2013, 3:08 pm

The A7 looks 4 times faster than the snapdragon in the nexus 4 and 7. Does this count as the same? The screen is 4:3 ratio, useful for reading with unlike the pillarbox screen on the nexus 7. Did I mention the tablet apps...
And one last thing has google fixed the touch screen in the nexus 7 v2, mixed reports as to if a patch has gone out on this?

pikachu

October 25, 2013, 8:23 pm

It is amazing how all your replies missed my point.

I am not a fanboy. I buy whatever is the best, but I do not like being exploited either.

I only mentioned that the amount of memory should be increased, their lowest option is 16GB, which is way too low for something in this price category. Memory is cheap, so they can do this, but instead they charge extreme amounts for each memory upgrade. This is greed.

Rafa

October 26, 2013, 2:43 pm

you can't compare 5S with 727k pixels to 3146k Ipad retina. 4x more pixels could also mean 4x less performance.

I still want one!

Jules Stoop

October 27, 2013, 4:28 pm

You're talking about storage, not memory (RAM). I guess that's why people missed your point.

Deadlake

October 27, 2013, 6:26 pm

No, it your point. The nexus 7 has a completely different technology performance level which lies between both mini and mini retina. You come across as saying that the mini retina is over charging for the same spec as the nexus 7. They are clearly different. That was my point,. Storage is always expense on apply platform unfortunately, depends what you want to compromise on. Nexus 4 and ipad owner.

thatgeekdad

October 27, 2013, 11:28 pm

Anyone know if they up'd the RAM to 1GB on the mini 2 or is it still 512mb?

Oaf

November 7, 2013, 5:17 am

S4 Pro SoC in the Nexus 7 is over a year old, so the iPad wins on that front. Amazon's tablets are a very good deal, though.

John Simmons

November 13, 2013, 3:08 am

1 gb

Christopher Sanders

November 17, 2013, 1:50 am

I tried an Amazon and wont be going back to it. Its not even full Android.

Christopher Sanders

November 17, 2013, 1:51 am

Its 1.3 for mini and 1.4 for air.

Evan

November 17, 2013, 4:00 pm

It's 1GB. It's essentially the same insides as the iPhone 5S

alex mason

November 17, 2013, 8:07 pm

Doesn't anyone think that they don't have more than 1GB RAM because they just don't need it? I'm beginning to think Android is a bit more resource hungry and I think that is partly down to having to work across many different devices, just like windows. The only way to get Android running like butter seems to have been to throw tech at it. 2-3 GB of ram and 8 core processors belting out 1's and 0's at 2.2 GHz. Not that long ago those figures wouldn't be looking out of place on a desktop or laptop sitting in PC World.

I've always thought that rapid growth in hardware performance simply leads to lazy programming, programming who's inefficiencies grow to use that performance. Granted, apple has an advantage here by having a handful of devices confined to a walled garden, they are able to have a nicer time when it comes to optimisation.

Also see the PS3 and XBOX 360. Look at their hardware. Its fricken ancient and yet, highly optimised programs mean they're still relevant even though hardware performance has sky rocketed on PC and now in the new consoles.

KitKat, from what I have seems to be addressing this. I have heard its not as demanding on resources and that is a good thing. With current crappy battery life across all smartphones, being less power hungry can only be good.

Ton

November 17, 2013, 8:58 pm

you are partially right, there is a case to be made to compare andoid v ios with windows v osx, where osx needs only to deal with about 20 30 configs, most of them all in ones or laptops whereas windows has to deal with millions of different ones.

i saw a stat recently that shows that more than 11000 distinct types of android device were operating. That kind of commoditising always comes with a efficiency penalty

however, the ram thing, i don't think its that simple, don't forget that apple acctualy made it nearly impossible for a long time for any non apple app to multitask, and even today (small screen to) multitasking is done less than on android, the ram size is getting bigger but the growth seems to be in devices which would be natural for multitasking, ie tablets and phablets.

alex mason

November 17, 2013, 9:01 pm

Some very good points there Ton.

Ton

November 17, 2013, 9:04 pm

it is actually a bit of a cheat, the s4 pro has last years name but it was produces with a newer template than that.

also as far as day to day use is concerned i have yet to see anybody say that the qualcomm cpu is a problem, The other factors, store, screen etc will be an issue and there the (half as expensive) nexus 7 is not behind the mini, the simple fact that i can buy a 32 gb nexus 7 for 255 euro, while a mini with 32gb will cost me about 500 is a big difference. If money is not an issue i guess use would be, browsing would be the mini, video the nexus

The amazon ones are interesting but limited by no access to the play store.

Oaf

November 17, 2013, 9:19 pm

I suspected that was the case (with regard to the SoC). I was recently looking into a tablet to replace my old iPad 2, and I was trying to choose between the iPad mini 2 and the Nexus 7. I ended up getting the mini specifically for the apps and iMessages.

iKrontologist

December 10, 2013, 9:49 am

The whole reason iOS doesn't need more ram is because it's locked to running on HFS file system. Which was written primarily for single threaded Motorola chips and Floppy Disk storage. Even though Apple upgraded it to HFS+, all that added really was the ability to utilize Apple's "Preemptive Task Management". Which is basically an add on feature to suspend one task in order to run a more important one!

This is as close to true full Multitasking as Apple has gotten to, except in both Copland (true ground up 64bit kernel (Nukernel) w/ pervasive multithreading for IBM PowerPC RISC chips) and Rhapsody OS (used as Server OS preview of OS X on BSD FFS Fast File System).

The really great thing Apple missed out on when Amelio killed Copland to buy BeOS or NeXTStep, was it was no doubt as good as either of the systems Apple was trying to buy and it's 64bit Nukernel sat on a relational database file system w/ full pervasive multithreading and real multitasking. It's really a shame that Copland was killed.

Because if it hadn't, it would have forced Microsoft to actually finish Windows Cairo/WinFS Project in the 90's to compete with Copland. Which was really another outstanding example of Apple's own innovative engineers and development every bit as good as NeXTStep and BeOS! ......and of the three modern OS's, only Copland could run Apple's own native Mac programs, frameworks and API's without stacking layers of abstraction on top of an archaic old file system with it's own 2040 DEATH Wish Bug in HFS+!

I can't imagine why Apple is still hanging onto this old file system, when they've had so many chances to kill it. First with Copland, next why didn't go to FFS like what BFS runs on? Top this off with ZFS from Sun. A 128bit file system that can be configured as a relational database file system for Enterprise Oracle Servers and Cloud based computing! ....it's around 10yrs ahead of any other file system out today and the crazy thing is that Apple's Copland (possibly based on Copeland database system) File System could have easily been reconfigured as a 128bit file system!

In all reality this is the main difference between the two systems of Android vs iOS. One still relies on "Preemptive Task Management" vs the other being fully capable of "Preemptive Multitasking"!

So while iOS relies on tasks stacked one on top of the other, Android like Linux is fully capable of Pervasive Multithreading and Multitasking. If you can only run one task at a time while suspending the rest, naturally iOS will appear to be faster. But..... if you could actually test Multitasking side by side, Android would kill iOS in performance by being able to run more than one task at a time!!!

On OS X they run HFSX on top of HFS+ and so it can run limited Multitasking, but only on these virtual sub file systems and not on HFS+ itself!

kkonstan

December 16, 2013, 2:25 pm

The amount of cluelessness in this comment is amazing.

andyvan

December 17, 2013, 12:32 pm

Would you care to explain why? We don't have a problem with people disagreeing, but it's makes for a better discussion if you actually back you point up with an explanation.

Andrew Munster

December 18, 2013, 12:43 am

You andrones need realise that apple tables have bench marks 33% faster then their nearest rival. BTW it is 1mb of ram..

Andrew Munster

December 18, 2013, 12:50 am

Apple has had true multitasking since 0SX 10.00 and with that multitasking they developed the protective memory system where each program runs in it own memory bubble if it crashes then it does not crash other programs that are running and the system windows included that tech with window 7 8years later.

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