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iPad mini review

The original iPad mini is still good, apart from that screen

When it comes to the iPad mini, it's clear Apple is doing what it has always done by making it into a multimedia hub for the 'modern user on the go'... which in today's terms is the same as every tablet out there.

However, very few competitors can cope with the raw power and breadth of offering available in the iTunes Store, which brings a smorgasbord of music, video and books to the device - and that's before you even get into the subject of using third-party apps to extend the experience.

TV and Movies

The iPad mini suffers from the same thing that all the other iPads do: namely that the 16GB version, which is the only model left of the first generation mini, is too small to really pack it with the movies and apps that you want.

With the release of the Retina-imbued iPad Air, iPad Air 2, mini 2 and mini 3, the size of apps like iMovie has soared. Combine that with a whole series of HD video or your favourite movies, and you can see why it makes sense to pay a fair bit more to get extra storage on your tablet (with upgrading the only option here).

iPad mini review

It's a pretty big issue that plagued the first 'new' iPad, and although the lower-res display of the mini doesn't need as many pixels, the sizes of downloads are still the same.

Comparing a TV download through the iTunes app in SD and HD quality shouldn't be that different – or so you'd think. In reality, the HD quality videos are much more impressive on the iPad mini with Retina display, meaning you'll always be tempted to fork out a little more to get the extra sharpness.

And there's another problem: the cost of downloading things through the iPad mini. An HD TV series can be purchased for around £35, but in 'real life' (as in, on the shop shelves) it can be over half that for the Blu-ray version of the same episodes.

It's not just Apple that charges these high prices, but it's still an issue – you want to power up your new tablet with loads of video, and unless you find a way to get access to files without heading through the iTunes store (which many won't) we can see many new iPad users being frustrated by this limiting access.

iPad mini review

There's another issue here: a lack of file compatibility. The iPad mini will play MP4 files fine, but chucking on a DivX or AVI video is out of the question if you stick to using Apple's own Videos app and iTunes. There are third-party applications you can use however, and truthfully even the free ones – or those that offer decent free functionality with optional paid extras – can be pretty good.

But that's the griping out of the way. As a video player, the iPad mini is excellent. It's just the right size and weight to hold two-handed in landscape mode, and if you're okay with it not feeling as secure in one hand, it's a decent heft to hold with a single set of digits.

The headphone jack is also well-placed – holding it with the Home Button to the right will keep the any wires away from your hands, and if you choose the other direction you'll find it's just clear enough to not get in the way all the time.

I'll admit that not being able to hold it in one hand securely will be an issue for some, and Apple shouldn't be pretending that it will be a comfortable experience for many.

But the wider screen is so much better than on the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD that we can't really be annoyed too much.

The ability to fine-tune how you slide through the video to get to the section you want, the ease with which you can jump in and out of episodes or movies, and the simple one-touch option to fire the movie out to a bigger screen through AirPlay are all intuitive and impressive.

There might be an issue getting the media you want onto the iPad mini, but once it's there it's one of our favourite devices to use for video.

Music

Music is also well-placed on the iPad mini, with a simple-to-use interface and a much better price range for new songs, should you want to keep up to date with the latest and greatest tunes.

iPad mini review

Before the first iPad made its debut we wondered how Apple would increase the size of the interface to make use of all the space on the screen.

While it's a little expansive on the larger version, the iPad mini revels in the larger amount of room to display albums and tracks, but it also makes it much easier to hit the buttons on the screen.

As with the video option, the AirPlay function is easily accessible when it's available. This makes it much easier to use if you want to pump your tunes around the house.

The sound quality through headphones is, as ever, excellent. Playing sound through the speakers isn't so good however because of their position at one end of the device, especially if the device is placed with the connector facing downwards.

The sound is rich enough to get away with should your DJ be taken ill an hour before the (small) party, but it's not going to win any audio quality contests.

Overall though, and especially with wireless headphones, the iPad mini is great for tunes. Choosing new songs through the store from the Music app or having high-res album art playing on the lock screen are both fantastic experiences – as are using the aforementioned widget controls on the multitasking menu.

Books

With the smaller screen size, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this may be an e-reader above all else. But atually the iPad mini is no better for e-books than its larger brother.

It's certainly superior in terms of portability and ease of holding, but the main advantage dedicated e-readers like the Kindle PaperWhite have is their use of passive displays, which doesn't cause half as much eye strain.

The iBooks app is decent enough, with an easy-to-use interface that means you can swipe or tap to head through the tomes. However, given many people now have Kindle accounts, the dedicated app from Amazon is superior in my view.

iPad Mini review

It's odd for iBooks not to come pre-installed on the iPad mini, as it seems to be a core feature of the device at this screen size. Still, you'll be prompted to download it when you head into the App Store for the first time.

The reading experience is fine, but as with many LCD screen-based e-readers, longer sessions aren't as pleasurable as they are on the e-ink devices, simply because the screen quality causes more strain on the eyes.

The lower resolution means that words aren't displayed as sharply on the screen, which is a shame, but it's not the end of the world… just another area where the cost savings have been met.

Gaming

The gaming prowess of the iPad mini has been called into question slightly, as the onboard chip certainly isn't the most powerful Apple has ever cranked out.

That worry was confirmed when firing up some higher-power games, such as Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, which looks phenomenal on the newer iPad mini 3.

Graphics were much blockier, although the gameplay was smooth enough and the three-axis gyro made playing shooting games a little more fun. This coupled with the smaller dimensions of the device but with a larger screen made some games a lot more playable than before.

Apple has crafted the iPad mini to attract the casual gamer; while other titles will work fine on the device, don't expect to be wowed by the gaming prowess.

Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet
Flash Memory Capacity16 GB
Processor ManufacturerApple
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
GPSYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyiPad mini
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformiOS
ColourWhite, Silver
Operating SystemiOS 6
Brand NameApple
Form FactorSlate
Processor TypeA5
Screen Size20.1 cm (7.9")
Screen Resolution1024 x 768
Weight (Approximate)313 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
TouchscreenYes
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyIn-plane Switching (IPS) Technology
WWAN SupportedYes
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Cellular Generation4G
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution5 Megapixel
Height199.9 mm
Width134.6 mm
Depth7.1 mm
Screen ModeXGA
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMD543NF/A
Product NameiPad mini MD543NF/A Tablet
Product LineiPad mini
Aspect Ratio4:3
Manufacturer Part NumberMD543NF/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

The whole package. In a smaller package.

A beautiful display, powerful A5 chip, FaceTime HD camera, iSight camera with 1080p HD video recording, ultrafast wireless, and over 275,000 apps ready to download from the App Store. iPad mini is an iPad in every way, shape, and slightly smaller form.

Package Contents
  • iPad mini MD543NF/A Tablet
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • USB Power Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year