Apple iPad mini 4 review: A great device, but ageing
While Cook made it seem that the mini 4 wasn’t a compelling iPad proposition, it’s exactly what everyone expected the iPad mini 3 to be: a shrunken version of the iPad Air 2.
But over a year later, is that enough? The answer, I think, is no: unless you want this size of iPad right now, at present, you’re better off going for a large iPhone or a bigger iPad. And, given the age of the device, even if you really want a mini iPad then it might be worth waiting a few months to get one.
Apple iPad mini 4 review: Design and build
As we’ve come to expect from Apple, there’s no skimping on the build quality of the iPad mini 4. It’s the same design that has served well for a couple of generations, with a beautiful aluminium body available in gold, “space grey” and silver. The body has shrunk very slightly, though, with the iPad mini 4’s dimensions of 134 x 6.1 x 203mm proving just a mite more slender than the iPad mini 3’s 135 x 7.5 x 200mm. However, you’d be seriously pushed to notice the difference between the two devices by simply glancing at them.
There are hardware buttons for power and volume, as well as the ever-present home button on the front. You won’t find a mute button, though, as this is now banished into software. The speakers have slightly changed, too, with a single row of holes rather than several, but audibly I couldn’t tell the difference.
One difference you will notice over the iPad mini 3 is the screen: Apple has included a new panel that knocks spots off the old version. It’s still the same 2,048 x 1,536 resolution, which makes for a crisp 324ppi, but the colour gamut has been improved, making it much more accurate than older models. Where the previous generations were only capable of reproducing around two thirds of the sRGB gamut – a shortcoming which left colours looking a touch pale and washed out at times – the iPad mini 4 now covers 94.8% of the colour range. At last, the iPad mini has a screen that matches that of the iPad Air.
That’s not all, however. The display improvements have seen the iPad mini 4’s maximum screen brightness increase by 20%, with it now hitting an impressive 438cd/m2. Contrast has improved too, improving from 798:1 on the iPad mini 3 to 914:1 on the new model. Brighter, punchier, more colourful – it’s a considerable step up acrosLights the board.
There is, of course, a pair of cameras, and although I still think photography on a tablet is a silly idea, at least the 8-megapixel rear-facing camera doesn’t entirely suck. In daylight, in fact, it’s pretty decent – you only really start to see its limitations indoors or in lower light. I haven’t seen a better tablet camera – but that’s not saying much. There’s the usual slew of standard Apple camera features: panoramas, 1080p video and 120fps slow-motion video, all of which again suffer indoors but are perfectly adequate outside.
Last, but by no means least, there’s Touch ID. This can, of course, be used simply to log in to the device (and it’s a whole lot better than using a six-digit passcode). But it’s also the key to using Apple Pay on the iPad. No, there’s no NFC built in, so you can’t use it as a contactless card, but you can use it for the App Store and in-app purchases if the developer supports Apple Pay, which is reasonably useful.