Often the unloved tablet in Apple’s lineup, the latest mini-iPad is pretty much an iPad Air 2 with a 7.9-inch display.
It probably is what the poorly received iPad Mini 3 should have been, thanks to the improved CPU, 2GB of RAM, laminated display and overall thinner body.
It’s a fantastic little media machine that while pricey, has all the functionality of its bigger brothers. Just in a smaller package.
The iPad Mini 4 looks just like the iPad Mini 3 before it, which in turn looked just like the iPad Mini 2. Apple clearly feels it’s reached peak iPad design, and I mostly agree.
Those chamfered edges glisten, the curved sides sit comfortably in your hands, and the flat back helps the device perch, without rocking, on a table. It’s as slippery as ever, though: I often feel a little uneasy when holding the tablet in one hand.
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Along the side of the iPad Mini 4 is a volume switch, and a lock button sits along the top; Apple has done away with the rotation lock slider of the iPad Mini 3. This is in order to make the device slimmer – 6.1mm as opposed to 7.5mm – and the trade-off is fine by me. It’s lighter, too, by about 30g.
On the bottom you’ll find the precisely machined speaker holes and a Lightning charging port.
The defining feature of the iPad Mini 4, as its name implies, is its size. It’s far more manageable in one hand than the iPad Air 2 or 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and when placed next to the iPad Pro 12.9-inch the difference is almost comical.
In certain situations, I much prefer the compact style. Reading, for instance, is far better on the iPad Mini 4. I can hold up the device comfortably with one hand for extended periods, something that wouldn't be possible with a larger tablet. It also feels more natural to be reading on a device that is the actual size of a paperback book.
The iPad Mini 4 is also the perfect companion when out and about. Pulling it out on the bus, tube or train feels less intrusive to others – especially on jam-packed public transport – than it does with a full-sized tablet, which makes it a great little media machine to always keep around.
However, I don’t find the iPad Mini anywhere near as productive as larger devices. Its smaller display leads to a smaller on-screen keyboard, making typing more difficult and therefore typos more common. The size issue affects third-party keyboard accessories, too, which again makes them far less functional than their larger counterparts.
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Since it was announced months before the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the iPad Mini 4's display doesn’t feature True Tone technology. Still, this is a fine screen – in fact, of all the iPads this is the most pixel-dense panel.
The 2,058 x 1,536 display is the same as both the iPad Air 2 and smaller iPad Pro, but those pixels are packed much tighter together in the 7.9-inch panel as opposed to the 9.7-inch version.
This is also the first iPad Mini display to be laminated, ditching that tiny air-gap that previously sat between the glass and the actual display. Of all the changes in the iPad Mini 4 this is one of my favourites, and you’ll really notice the difference if you’re coming to the iPad Mini 4 from previous generations of iPad. It feels like you’re actually touching the pixels.
There’s a wider colour gamut too – the same as the iPad Air 2 – so the panel can display a broader range of hues. Again, put the iPad Mini 4 side by side with either the iPad Mini 2 or 3 and you’ll instantly notice the difference. Blacks are deeper, reds are more vivid and whites are less dingy.
It’s an all-round fantastic display, and a huge step-forward over the screen on the iPad Mini 2 and 3 – both of which I found a little washed out and lacking in vibrancy.
Outdoor usability remains limited, however, especially in direct sunlight – and after even a few minutes of use the display is an absolute fingerprint magnet.