- Touch ID
- Gold color option
- Improved 64GB and 128GB storage
- Apple SIM lets you jump between cellular carriers
- No improvement in display or camera
- $100 more expensive than its predecessor, which is near the same device
- No improvement in weight
Quick TakeIf you can live without Touch ID and are happy with the traditional silver and space gray external body colors, there’s little reason to choose the iPad mini 3 over the cheaper iPad mini 2.
Much of the buzz around the release of the iPad mini 3 appears to be aimed at the fact it’s not the drastic improvement over its predecessor that everyone was expecting. In fact, it’s essentially the iPad mini with Retina Display, or iPad mini 2 as it is now known, but with Touch ID and a new gold color option added on. Is this enough to warrant an upgrade to an iPad mini 3? Read on to find out.
Build and Design
In comparison with previous iterations, the iPad mini 3’s body design demonstrates no marked change. Dimensions still come in at 7.87 inches tall (200mm) and 5.3 inches wide (134.7 mm). Its thickness also matches that of past versions, measuring 0.29 inch (7.5mm) – not quite the slimming down we might have expected (the iPad Air 2 is the smallest of the bunch at 0.24 inches 6.1mm thick). Its max weight of 0.73 pounds for the Wi-Fi only version (the Wi-Fi plus cellular model weighs 0.75 pounds) seems yet another missed opportunity to make the mini lineup a more lightweight and palmable device.
Under the hood, it’s got an A7 chip with 64‑bit architecture and an M7 motion coprocessor that’s a more ideal engine for use with iOS 8, unlike the A5 chip that came stock with the first generation iPad mini. This is all well and good, but just bear in mind that the iPad mini 2 also includes an A7 chip with the same architecture, describing another non-improvement for the 3. Similarly to the iPad mini 2, the mini 3 comes with 1GB RAM.
Aside from its dimensions, the inclusion of a gold body option and added Touch ID home button functionality (more on that below), the iPad mini 3 is essentially a replica of the first generation iPad Air. Take away Touch ID and the option to go gold, you’re left with a more costly reproduction of the iPad mini 2.
In keeping with Apple’s penchant for putting forth the best onscreen quality in the biz, the iPad mini 3 includes retina display that delivers crisp quality images and high definition video playback. Resolution is 2048×1536, with 326 ppi (pixels per inch). Unfortunately, Apple again seems to have missed the boat by failing to upgrade the display with antireflective coating or lamination, both of which provide a significantly enriched viewing experience on the visually superior screen of the iPad Air 2. That’s not to say the iPad mini 3 delivers inferior visual resolution. Quite the contrary. But if you’re looking for any marked improvement over the predecessor model, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Buttons and Ports
Apple is in no rush to appease those clamoring for the inclusion of USB ports and microSD card slots, and the iPad mini 3 is evidence of that. Looking along the device’s spine for any new additions is a fruitless endeavor that turns up nothing more than what you have already come to expect: a standard on/off button that also doubles as a sleep/wake button, a 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, dual microphones, side-by-side speakers, volume controls, and a side switch that can be set as a screen rotation lock or a mute function in the preferences configurations.
The front face is adorned with the classic home button which now serves dual purpose as a Touch ID sensor. Aside from the gold body option, the Touch ID sensor is the most significant improvement of the iPad mini 3. During setup (or later on, if you don’t want to engage it immediately) the iPad walks you through the process of programming the Touch ID sensor to recognize your fingerprint for one-touch access. Once you’ve set up Touch ID, you’re no longer required to key in a secure PIN to gain entry to your iPad mini 3. Better yet, Touch ID access also enables instant sign-in to your installed secure apps so that you don’t have to manually enter in passwords. It also works to eliminate the hassle of having to key in your password every time you make a purchase in the App Store, iTunes or iBooks. Apple Pay is also automatically unlocked by fingerprint Touch ID, but can only be used in online stores.