iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Which small tablet to buy?

Following the main event that was the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 3 has launched alongside the bigger Apple tablet. But how does it compare to one of the finest Android tablets out there, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4?

It’s not hard to see why there were so few clues concerning the iPad mini 3 ahead of its unveiling. It was brilliantly camouflaged on the Apple supply line, posing artfully as an iPad mini 2.

Cheeky quips aside, the iPad mini remains a very good compact tablet. But has its lack of advancement made it susceptible to attack from the Android elite?

Let’s pitch it against the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and see what happens.

Related: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Design

iPad mini 3: Aluminium construction, 7.5mm thick, 331g
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Plastic construction, 6.6mm thick, 294g

The iPad mini 2 was the best-looking and best-feeling compact tablet around. The iPad mini 3 looks and feels identical, with the subtle enhancement of a new gold model and a flush Touch ID home button.

That means that the mini 3 takes the crown by default, with its slim aluminium body and chamfered edges still a mile ahead of anything else.

Let’s face it, while the plastic and faux-leather Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a lot of things, handsome it is not. It is a fair bit lighter, though.

buton

iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Screen

iPad mini 3: 7.9-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS screen
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: 8.4-inch 2560 x 1600 AMOLED display

Apple’s IPS Retina displays are the best LCD screens in the business, and the iPad mini 3 looks to continue that. Its 7.9-inch screen combines with a 2048 x 1536 resolution to produce 326ppi – that’s exactly the same pixel density as the iPhone 6.

Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 display is bigger at 8.4-inches. What’s more, with a 2560 x 1600 resolution, it produces a higher pixel density of 359ppi. To top it all off, the Galaxy Tab uses AMOLED panel technology to create a more vibrant, higher contrast picture.

Of course, we the iPad mini 3 hasn’t been released yet, but we’re pretty confident the Samsung wins this one.

amoled

iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: CPU and RAM

iPad mini 3: Apple A7 dual-core CPU, 1GB RAM
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Exynos 5 Octa 5420 quad-core CPU, 3GB RAM

The iPad mini 3 sports exactly the same A7 CPU as last year’s model, which is undoubtedly a little disappointing.

Get past the downer of not having a spangly new piece of silicone to boast about, however, and you’ll realise that the 64-bit Apple A7 chip remains one of the fastest on the market. Apple was right to boast about it at the iPhone 5S’s launch.

Benchmarks showed last year’s iPad mini 2 to be faster than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 in almost every way, which means that the iPad mini 3 is too.

iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Storage

iPad mini 3: 16/64/128GB
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: 16GB, microSD slot up to 128GB

The iPad mini 3 has a far more generous array of storage options than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4, with the lowest of these corresponding to the sole 16GB Samsung option.

In addition, you can get a 64GB or 128GB iPad if you so wish.

One advantage that the Samsung has, though, is the ability to fit it will a microSD card. This can carry the device right up to and beyond the top iPad mini 3 model.

cams

iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Cameras

iPad mini 3: 5-megapixel camera, f/2.4 lens, 1.2-megapixel front camera
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: 8-megapixel camera, f/2.4 lens, 2.1-megapixel front camera

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has a seemingly superior camera set-up, with both the rear and front cameras squeezing in more pixels than the iPad mini 3 equivalent.

However, in practice they’re likely to be much of a muchness, assuming that Apple hasn’t improved the mini 3’s snapper from last time.

Both can be said to take pretty decent pictures for a compact tablet – which isn’t really saying that much, admittedly.

buttons

iPad mini 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Software

iPad mini 3: iOS 8
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4: Android 4.4 KitKat, TouchWiz UI

As always in these comparisons, one of the biggest differentiating factors is the OS each tablet uses.

The iPad mini 3 may be a relative disappointment, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 may have wowed upon its release, but the former still has the better tablet software.

Apple’s iOS is better than Android on tablets, thanks to better optimisation and (particularly) a vastly superior selection of tablet-specific apps.

tops

Early Verdict

Early signs suggest that the iPad mini 3 is the weakest tablet update Apple has ever launched. It’s essentially an iPad mini 2 with Touch ID stuck on.

Despite that – and despite our rave review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 earlier in the year – we’d still choose the iPad mini 3.

That’s because the iPad mini 2 remained the best compact tablet around right up until the launch of its successor. That the iPad mini 3 is only the slightest smidgen better is besides the point when it comes to a straight up comparison.

It’s nicer to hold, it’s faster, and it has superior software.

MORE: Best Tablets to buy 2014

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor