Apple iPad mini 2 Review

December 9, 2013 by Sarah White Reads (19,125)

Thanks to the dual-core 64-bit A7 chip in the new Apple iPad mini 2, the device runs almost as fast as the more expensive iPad Air. The Air clocks in at about 1.4Ghz while the iPad mini is closer to the iPhone 5S at 1.3GHz. It features the same 1GB of RAM as the iPad Air, which is a bit of a disappointment given the power of the processor. Still, benchmark tests and real-world use show that this tablet is fast, and users won’t have much to complain about. But a boost in RAM would speak better to the longevity of the device’s performance as technology moves forward in the next couple years.

Apple iPad mini with Retina display and iMovieApps open like a breeze, especially when compared to an iPad 2 that is running iOS 7. On the iPad 2, the animated transitions are decidedly slow and clunky, but the mini 2 handles them with ease. Apps zoom open, and the content is up and running in a flash. Testers also, happily, did not encounter any app crashes or lags while surfing Safari or playing games on the device. Anyone with an older iOS device running iOS 7 will certainly notice a difference after trying out iOS 7 on a newer device like the iPad mini. Streaming content was fast, without any buffering issues, however, such issues are also dependent on the available internet connection.

TPCR streamed Netflix, Hulu Plus, played a show downloaded in HD, and browsed videos on YouTube. Everything looked great, with good color representation and a crisp image, and the volume is loud enough for personal use. Volume on tablets is never stellar, given the compact size and awkward placement of the speakers, but the mini does a more than acceptable job.

Scrolling through web pages and apps is easy, and the touch display is highly responsive. Compared side-by-side with the iPad 2, the mini loaded pages faster, while the iPad 2 took far longer to download images. The mini 2 is much faster to let users start scrolling down a page, while the iPad 2 has a lag between the time it takes to open a webpage and actually being to start scrolling down.

Storage

Just like with each generation of iPads that have come before, each model of the iPad mini 2 has a set amount of storage, which users can’t expand it using a miniSD card. The lowest available storage is 16GB, which might have been enough storage two or three years ago, but today seems a bit meager.

Light users that are only interested in basic apps and browsing the web might find 16GB to be more than enough space. But heavy media users will feel the crunch and will find themselves deleting and re-downloading content in order to keep up with the gigabytes of today’s media. This is, and always has been, a frustrating reality for iOS users, and it is a big reason shoppers will turn to Android devices that offer expandable storage. An HD movie can be anywhere from 3GB to 4GB, then add in music, maybe a TV show or two, some photos, all your favorite apps, and 16GB diminishes very quickly.

Those willl to put up with some additional hassle to access SD cards or USB drives can turn to an accessory like the Kingston MobileLite Wireless or Apotop Wi-Reader Pro.

Even so, bringing up the storage caveats with the iPad mini makes it impossible to ignore the price point of other 7-inch tablets. The 16GB Wi-Fi iPad mini with Retina display starts at $400 while the Google Nexus 7 16GB starts at $230. The Nexus 7 does not feature expandable storage, but at $270, the 32GB Wi-Fi model is still cheaper than the 16GB iPad Mini with Retina Display. The Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch tablet does not have expandable storage either, but the 64GB model can be purchased for $310 at the time of this writing, while the 16GB model is just $230.

Apple iPad mini with Retina display Rear ViewHowever, at $100 less than the iPad Air, some users might feel the mini serves as an affordable option in comparison. Choosing the mini over the Air is essentially a difference in screen size and a hair of processing speed, which isn’t much of a compromise.

Software

The second generation iPad mini runs iOS 7, the latest mobile operating system from Apple.

Update: Apple has released an update to iOS 9.1 for this model.

For users that have multiple Apple devices, they will enjoy the synchronicity between them all. With iCloud and the ability to download apps compatible for both the iPhone and iPad, keeping devices within the Apple ecosystem makes it easy to pick up where you left off on any device. iOS 8 certainly shines on this device, and makes it a more enjoyable experience than on older iPad models.

Way back with the release of iOS 7, Apple began offering its iWork and iLife suites to anyone that purchased a new Apple iOS or OSX device. iWork lets users collaborate on documents in the cloud, as well as edit files on the go whether on OSX, iOS, or iCloud. The iLife suite offers software such as iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband. Once a user fires up a new device, the apps are available in the App Store as free downloads.

Camera

The 1.2MP front-facing camera is adequate for FaceTime and Skype sessions, while the 5MP rear camera offers decent photographs. However, most users are probably packing more megapixels in their smartphones, but the 5MP iPad mini camera will suffice in a pinch.

Even though the it doesn’t boast very impressive megapixels, the rear-facing camera does a decent job of taking photos as long as there is a decent amount of lighting. Photographing scenes with low lighting will be difficult due to the lack of flash on the device. But with some artificial light, any moment can be captured, albeit a bit grainy. The camera app works the same as it does on other iOS device, so users can pinch to zoom or tap on the screen to focus the camera on different areas. Using the focus feature comes in handy to help balance the lighting in a photo. Users can tap on darker or brighter objects to get a decent white balance in most photos, which will significantly impact the final product.

TPCR found that colors ran a bit cooler, leaning closer to blue tones rather than the warmer red and orange tones. In brightly lit settings or direct sunlight, the photographs are undoubtedly sharper with more saturated colors. But even on a cloudy winter day, TPCR found that the iPad mini was able to nicely capture the white, red, and green in a scenery shot featuring snow, bricks, and bushes.

Battery Life

Apple iPads have a reputation for their ability to maintain an impressively long charge. Users are able to rely on a single charge to get their tablet through day without having to recharge. The iPad mini 2 carries on this tradition.

Apple advertises up to 10 hours with regular use while connected to Wi-Fi, and 9 hours while on a cellular network. TPCR found the results were on par with advertised times, with the battery lasting around 11 hours with just basic web surfing and app usage. When streaming content, playing music, or using Bluetooth, it was closer to the 10 hour mark.

TPCR also found that while the tablet was idle, the charge barely dipped. However, this can vary depending the amount of apps users have running in the background or push notifications that are enabled.


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