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iPad mini 3 review

evan kypreos

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Reviewed:

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iPad mini 3
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  • iPad mini 3
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  • iPad mini 3
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  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 3
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  • iPad mini 3
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  • iPad mini 3

Summary

Our Score:

6

Pros

  • Good hi-res screen
  • Solid design

Cons

  • Essentially the same tablet as the iPad mini 2 but a lot more expensive

Key Features

  • 7.9-inch Retina screen
  • Dual-core A7 processor with quad-core GPU
  • 5-megapixel rear camera
  • Aluminium unibody design
  • iOS 8
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £319.00

What is the iPad mini 3?

It’s not often that Apple drops the ball on a product – but this is definitely a dropped ball. The iPad mini 3 isn't a bad tablet by any standards; it’s just almost identical to last year’s iPad mini 2, which is still on sale. For less money.

So what are the differences? The first is minor – the iPad mini 3 is available in a new gold version. The second is more interesting. It comes with Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint scanner built into the Home button.

Watch the iPad mini 3 video review:

These changes aren’t enough to warrant the £80/$100 extra Apple expects you to fork out for the iPad mini 3 over it’s predecessor. The simple fact is that most people would be better off buying the 32GB iPad mini 2 for £279/$349 or going for the bigger iPad Air 2, which comes with a bevy of new features and benefits.

Even though most of the technology on the iPad mini 3 is a year old, we’ve put it through its paces to find out if it can still hack it.

SEE ALSO: Best Tablets Round-up

iPad mini 3: Design

The iPad mini 3 is one of the best-designed tablets around. Made of aluminium with a shiny diamond-cut edge where it meets the screen, it looks and feels great in your hand. There’s a light texture to the rear which makes it grippy and easy to hold, even with just one hand.

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The iPad mini 3 (right) looks identical to the iPad mini 2

At 331g it’s not the lightest 8-inch tablet on the market – the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is lighter. Regardless, the mini 3 doesn't weigh much and is easily manageable for long stints of browsing or watching movies.

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All the buttons are made of metal, adding to the premium feel of the tablet. The power button is at the top and the volume buttons are on the right-hand side – they're all easily accessible. There's a mute/rotation lock just above them, which is something Apple has removed from the larger iPad Air 2.

The Lightning port – Apple’s proprietary data transfer and charging connector – is located at the bottom, surrounded by the speaker grilles.

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It’s an accomplished design, one we liked on the iPad mini and the iPad mini 2. The iPad mini 3 is still streets ahead of other tablets when it comes to look and feel.

There’s only one alteration in terms of design, and that’s a metal ring around the Home button.

Related: iPad Air 3

iPad mini 3: Touch ID

As we’ve already mentioned there’s only one noteworthy difference between the iPad mini 3 and it’s predecessor, and that’s the addition of Touch ID.

Touch ID is a biometric security system that enables you to easily unlock your iPad by pressing your fingerprint on the sensor built into the Home button – we saw it first on the iPhone 5S.

The brilliance of Touch ID doesn’t work quite as well on the iPad as it does on an iPhone. You use your phone at regular short intervals, rather than for long periods at a time, so quick unlocking is more important on a mobile. Also, because your phone is always with you, it’s more likely you’ll lose it. Most iPads stay at home and are used for long stretches, so there’s less locking and unlocking involved. Still we’re not really complaining – unlocking with Touch ID is slick and it makes using the iPad mini 3 that little bit easier.

iPad mini 3 vs iPad mini 2 13

Once Apple Pay has properly trickled through, though, Touch ID will make a lot more sense on an iPad. Apple Pay lets you make purchases easily, just by touching your finger to the the Home button.

Retailers have clamoured to join up to Apple Pay, and with good reason. Eliminating steps that make consumers drop out of the purchase funnel is a key aim of all online retailers, and one of the big blockers is having to input credit card and delivery details. Online shops spend countless hours and a great deal of money refining this process, but nothing is quite as slick as Apple Pay. It makes the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2 the world’s most technologically advanced shopping carts.

The NFC chip Apple introduced on the new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch is not included in the iPad mini 3. It makes sense. Apple's NFC is limited to touch-to-pay and the iPad is too big and too clunky to be used as such a device. No big loss there. There’s one case where NFC would be useful on the iPad mini 3, and that's to use it as a mobile till to receive payments.

Avi

October 28, 2014, 9:22 pm

of course Apple did this on purpose as to not allow the mini to out do its bigger brother. From now on all minis will be one step behind iPad air's from a performance perspective

Casper

October 29, 2014, 7:39 am

I think they will shift between them. So next year the Mini will see a big upgrade and the Air a modest

Jmac

October 29, 2014, 7:51 am

Nope. The Air needs a differentiator beyond screen size. Thing is, the Air 2 may be x% faster in CPU/GPU, but last year's Air / Mini 2 were already more than fast enough for 99% of what 99% of people do.

Apple has a big problem, already showing in flatlining iPad sales, in that the majority of people who want an iPad already have one, and it does what they need it to do so there's no compelling upgrade justification. The proportion of people who "need" to have the latest and greatest tablet is pretty small, and I doubt many will be compelled to upgrade from any "Retina" iPad just for the faster chips and Touch ID in the new models.

I'm a case in point - I have the original Retina iPad, which admittedly is showing its age on some apps, but for the vast majority of what I do it's more than capable. I consider myself a techy person and like to have new tech, but while I change iPhones fairly frequently (currently on a 5S and contemplating a 6) I can't justify to myself the cost of upgrading my perfectly usable and cosmetically perfect iPad.

Casper

October 29, 2014, 8:02 am

Think you're right regarding the specs, the Mini is easily fast enough. But the shifting upgrade I'm mentioned was about design. So next year will see a new Mini design but not the Air

Gareth Burleigh

October 29, 2014, 4:35 pm

Fully agree with everything you say Jmac there is just no NEED to upgrade as they run just fine, even my Daughters iPad2 is up to any task she throws at it.

However must say once I upgraded my iPhone 4 to a 6 last week my original Retina iPad looked so clunky next to it that I ordered an iPad air 2.

However that was certainly a case of want over need.

Gareth

Paul

October 31, 2014, 7:22 am

ipad 3rd gen takes ages to charge compared to air and aie 2

Jmac

November 2, 2014, 8:03 am

Fair enough, but I doubt you're right. They're more likely to ditch it altogether as it's starting to look a bit unnecessary sandwiched in the increasingly small utility gap between the shrinking case of the "full sized" iPad Air (Air is smaller than 4, makes it closer to the Mini in portability) and the encroaching big screen iPhone 6 Plus.

Jmac

November 2, 2014, 8:05 am

Don't have an Air to compare, but am sure you're right. Thing is, I've never noticed my 3rd gen iPad being slow to charge. I pop it on a cradle when it's not in use so it's always topped up, and the battery lasts more than long enough for any situation I've ever encountered. I genuinely can't remember it ever running out of battery. I'm sure others have different experiences depending on how they use the device.

Jmac

November 2, 2014, 8:07 am

Haven't bothered upgrading my 5S to a 6 (don't really want a bigger screen and the 5S is immaculate so no sense upgrading for the sake of it) but even so, I expect I'll succumb to the same new iPad temptation soon enough - just a matter of time... :-)

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