Apple iPad mini 4 review: A great device, but ageing
Apple iPad mini 4 review: Software and performance
iOS 9 is a big step forward for all recent iPads, but the iPad mini 4 is the first small Apple tablet able to take full advantage of its most powerful features. Unlike its mini-sized predecessors and any of the larger iPads older than the first iPad Air, the mini 4 can use Split View to have two applications running on screen at the same time.
That’s because, inside the iPad mini 4, you’ll find an Apple A8 processor. Note that’s not the same as the A8X in the iPad Air 2, which has improved graphics performance, and it’s not the same as the A9 used in the new iPhone 6s. But, compared to the previous generation, it’s a decent step up in performance, and makes the iPad mini 4 comparable to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 in its benchmark results.
However, benchmarks are only a proxy for the real-world performance of the device, and here we were a little disappointed. Although it’s obviously quicker than its predecessor, some games such as Star Wars: Uprising still had occasional little stutters.
The bigger question is exactly how valuable the Split View feature is when using a smaller-screen iPad. Sure, you can have two applications on screen at the same time – but with this screen size, it’s largely pointless. Yes, you might want to dip into other applications – for example, opening Messages to fire off a quick reply – but would you want Messages and Safari open at the same time on a screen this small?
And how about battery life? Well that’s as good as it ever was, with the iPad mini 4 returning a time of 10hrs 43mins in our video rundown test. It isn’t quite as good as the 14hrs 7mins achieved by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8in, but ten hours is good by any standards, especially since Apple has reduced the capacity of the battery from 6,350mAh in the iPad mini 3 to 5,124mAh here. (Note that we’ve changed the brightness we set the screen from 120cd/m2 to 170cd/m2 to better reflect typical use. We retested the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 for comparison, but results for other tablets won’t be directly comparable.)
Apple iPad mini 4 review: Verdict
In many ways, the iPad mini remains the small tablet to beat. The performance enhancements in this version keep it ahead of its competitors, and iOS 9 is now well ahead of Android as a tablet operating system for most people. The quality of third-party applications on iOS, particularly those designed specifically for iPads make it a superior platform overall.
However, the size of the iPad mini now feels like too much of a compromise. If you want something to carry around with you at all times, the Apple iPhone 6s Plus is a better option. And, if you’re looking for something that can replace a laptop in many circumstances, the iPad Air – or even the iPad Pro – is a much better option.
It’s hard to see who the iPad mini is actually for, and who it would suit better than either a big iPhone or a bigger iPad. Apple has done an amazing job creating a small, powerful tablet. But it feels like, for most people, a small, powerful tablet just isn’t useful enough to make it a recommended buy.
Not convinced that you want to spend this much on a small tablet? Have a look at Alphr’s guide to the Best Tablets of 2015.