- Vastly improved display quality and color saturation
- Dramatically lighter than its predecessors
- Upgraded A8 processor enables multi-tasking
- Cameras support burst mode photography
- Battery life is long, but remains unimproved over previous models
- Pricey compared to market competition
Quick TakeThe display, design, and performance improvements make a compelling case for the iPad mini 4.
In a possible attempt to declutter the mini tablet landscape and make up for past transgressions, Apple has discontinued last year’s iPad mini 3 and has replaced it with the iPad mini 4 – a solidly designed mini tablet with a vastly improved display and amped up processor that rivals the performance of the much-lauded iPad Air 2. But is it worth spending the extra money if you’re still happy with your first-generation iPad mini? Keep reading to find out.
Build & Design
Aside from the noticeable difference in depth, the mini 4 is also significantly lighter, weighing in at only 0.65 pounds (298.8 grams) for the Wi-Fi only model and 0.67 pound (304 grams) for the Wi-Fi plus cellular model. This represents a vast improvement over previous incarnations: the iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 2 both tipped the mini-scales at 0.73 pound (331 grams) and 0.75 pound (341 grams) for the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi plus cellular models, respectively.
The iPad mini 4 is also a souped-up version of the earlier generation, powered by a 1.5GHz A8 processor. This is a substantial improvement over the A7 processor that came stock on the mini 2 and 3. According to Apple, this translates to a CPU that’s 1.3 times quicker on the uptake and graphics that perform 1.6 times faster. The mini 4’s A8 dual-core processor isn’t to be confused with the A8X tri-core that comes included with the iPad Air 2, but it still signifies critical performance improvement that renders it noticeably more responsive and enables multi-tasking, such as running apps side-by-side and viewing picture-in-picture video. Additionally, the iPad mini 4 comes with 2GB RAM, which is double that of the first-generation design. Another upgrade is the motion coprocessor, which moves from an M7 in the previous generation to an M8.
As with the 3, the iPad mini 4 comes in three optional body colors: silver, space gray and gold. Touch ID, the oft-maligned and buggy fingerprint ID sensor that’s built into the tablet’s home button, is also included.
One of the most visibly notable improvements of the iPad mini 4 is the vividness of its Retina display. When you line up the official display specs, it all reads like a carbon copy of the first-gen: 7.9-inch diagonal LED-backlit display; 2048 x 1536 resolution at 326 pixels per inch (ppi); fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. However, performing a visual side-by-side reveals a marked improvement in image quality and color saturation, which according to Apple is 44 percent better.
The 4 is also the first mini to include a fully laminated display, which eliminates on the amount of space between the display and the cover glass. That, in addition to antireflective coating, produce images and text that are much more sharply focused and are closer in quality to that of the iPad Air 2.
Buttons & Ports
Those waiting for the addition of a microSD card slot or USB port will no doubt find themselves disappointed again, as little has changed with the arrival of the iPad mini 4 with regard to ports and buttons and things that live along the tablet’s spine. The power button is still in the same location, as are the up-and-down volume controls – but this time around, Apple has chosen to slightly recess the volume buttons and entirely do away with the side switch that used to perform double-duty as screen rotation lock and system mute. Both functions are now accessible as software features that are accessed via the pop-up control center.
Also unmoved from the top spine is the headphone jack, however the microphone itself has been repositioned to be closer to the camera module on the back side, presumably to cut down on accidental muffling. The iPad mini 4 also comes with a revamped speaker design that mimics the single-row design found on the iPad Air 2 and iPhone. The SIM tray port for Wi-Fi plus cellular models is still in the same location, as is the standard Lightning connector.
Following in the footsteps of the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4 also brings along Touch ID sensor technology which resides just under the home button, records your fingerprint, and enables you to bypass secure PIN entry when unlocking it. Touch ID encountered hiccups on release of the mini 3, but these issues appear to have been ironed out with the release of iOS 9. Unfortunately, Apple decided against adding its second-generation Touch ID technology to the mini 4, which is a standard feature that comes with the iPhone 6s and is said to be significantly faster and less prone to error.