|Style & Handling|
|+ Touch ID||- Almost identical to mini 2|
|+ Good screen||- Overpriced|
|+ Great build||- Dated processor|
Verdict: The iPad mini 3 is a minor upgrade over last year’s model and given the price difference there’s very little reason to choose it.
The first two iPad mini’s were major, exciting devices, but it seems like Apple’s relegated the iPad mini 3 to a less prominent position, by giving it minimal upgrades and leaving it to be overshadowed by the iPad Air 2. So is it still a slate worth buying? Read on to find out.
With a 7.9 inch 1536 x 2048 IPS LCD display and a pixel density of 324 pixels per inch the iPad mini 3 has one of the better screens you’ll find on a tablet.
It’s sharp, bright, has good contrast and accurate colours (though notably not as accurate as the iPad Air 2). At 7.9 inches it’s also more travel friendly than a lot of tablets, though on the flip side it’s less immersive.
The only real disappointment with the screen is that it’s exactly the same as the screen on the iPad mini 2, but that already had a great display so we can’t be too harsh on it for that.
The design is the same as the iPad mini 2 as well. It’s got a slim, aluminium build with slightly curved edges and a sheet of glass covering the entire front. It’s 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm and 331g, so it’s not overly heavy, it feels good in the hand and it looks impeccably premium.
But again there’s no change from last year, which is a bit of a shame, especially as the iPad Air 2 has now slimmed down to a mere 6.1mm, making the iPad mini 3 almost look fat in comparison.
It is at least available in a new colour though, because alongside the old silver and space grey options there’s now a gold hue to choose. We can’t say this is our favourite shade, but it’s nice to have options.
With a dual-core 64-bit Apple A7 processor the iPad mini 3 is every bit as powerful (or should that be underpowered?) as the iPad mini 2. The problem is that it’s no more powerful and the A7 is getting on a bit now.
Performance in general is still pretty smooth, but it could certainly be better and as developers start to take advantage of the A8 and A8X chips found in the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 respectively the iPad mini 3 could start to struggle.
It should be able to handle mobile internet well enough for now at least though, with support for both 3G and 4G (if you pay extra for a cellular model) ensuring that you can stay connected at high speed when out and about.
There’s a 5 megapixel camera on the back of the iPad mini 3 and a 1.2 megapixel one on the front. The rear camera is capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps while the front-facing snapper can shoot video in 720p at 30fps and both are adequate but hardly exceptional.
The rear camera benefits from a handful of modes and options such as HDR but pictures will never be stunningly detailed, while the front-facing camera is just about up to the task of taking a selfie, but it fares better for video calls, which actually are quite high quality.
Once again though both of these shooters are the same as on the iPad mini 2, so it’s nothing to get excited about.
Without a shadow of a doubt the main new feature of the iPad mini 3 is Touch ID, or rather Touch ID and Apple Pay. The former lets you unlock your slate just by placing a fingertip on the home button. It’s fast, accurate and fairly secure.
The latter allows you to authorise payments in the same way, be it on the App Store or in apps themselves, though be aware that unlike the iPhone implementation of Apple Pay you can’t use it to pay for things in physical shops and restaurants, not that we can imagine you’d want to anyway.
Then there’s iOS 8, which ships with the iPad mini 3 but can also be downloaded on to most other iOS devices of the last couple of years. It’s not the overhaul that iOS 7 was, but it does add a handful of new features and interface tweaks.
For example there’s the Health app, which stores health and fitness data from a plethora of apps and devices, so you can see it all in one place. There’s also now support for third party keyboards, so if you don’t get on with the stock one you can replace it.
Apple promises up to 10 hours of life out of the iPad mini 3 for multimedia use and generally that promise is fulfilled, though if you use it for graphically intensive games you might only get around 8 hours. Either way this has well above average battery life for a tablet, but as with so much else it’s the same as the life offered by the iPad mini 2.
The mini 3 is available in 16, 64 or 128GB sizes and this is one reason you might want to choose it over the iPad mini 2, as the mini 2 now tops out at 32GB. On the other hand there is no 32GB option here, so if that’s the sweet spot for you the iPad mini 2 is a better buy.
Connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi and with the cellular model you also get 3G and 4G.
We can’t help but feel disappointed in the iPad mini 3. It’s not that it’s bad as such just that it’s such a small upgrade over the iPad mini 2, which combined with the fact that the iPad mini 2 can be bought for £80 less makes it a seriously tough sell.
Really the only reason to buy it is for Touch ID and even then we’d say you should think long and hard about whether that feature is genuinely worth £80 to you. Otherwise the iPad mini 3 is a good slate all round, but it’s no better than the mini 2.
There’s also an argument to be made for waiting for the iPad mini 4, especially as Apple didn’t bother to upgrade the processor in the mini 3 and that could really hold it back.
So it’s not bad, it can still stand up well to other small size tablets and if it existed in a vacuum it would be genuinely great, but it doesn’t and with the iPad mini 2 providing an almost identical experience for less money and the iPad Air 2 delivering a vastly superior experience the mini 3 begins to feel like a fairly niche and overpriced product.
Apple iPad mini 3 SpecificationScreen size: 7.9” IPS LCD (1536 x 2048) Screen Resolution: 1536 x 2048 display resolution Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 324 Processor: Dual core application processor RAM: 1 GB On-board Memory: 16/64/128GB Camera: 5MP (rear) 1080p@30fps, (1.2 megapixel front-facing) Operating system: iOS 8 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ No Battery capacity: TBC Colours: Silver, Gold, Space Grey Launch Date: Out Now Price: £319