Every year we’re used to Apple’s new tablets being significantly better than the previous generation. As a result, the iPad Mini 3 came as rather a shock when it launched last Novemeber. It’s not that it’s a bad tablet (it’s still, specs-wise, build-wise and OS-wise, great), it’s just that there were no significant changes over the previous model, the iPad Mini 2.
In fact, there are just three things differentiating the iPad Mini 3: it now comes in gold, it has the TouchID fingerprint reader, and the Wi-Fi+Cellular version now has the Apple SIM. With these changes, the iPad Mini 3 selling for the same price as the old tablet wouldn’t be so much of a problem, a typical Apple upgrade for the same money. The big sticking point is that the very similar iPad Mini 2 is still available, for £80 less.
We can understand why so few changes were made, as last year’s product line up (the iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 and iPhone 5S) all had the same processor, making the range rather samey. This year, it all seems to be about choice, with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus offering something different to smartphone users, and the iPad Air 2 being put back as the fastest, most powerful Apple mobile device; it would seem that the iPad Mini is back to being the smaller, portable and more budget offering.
Unfortunately, it also means that the iPad Mini 3 is a product no better than its predecessor, and we’ll have to wait for the iPad Mini 4 to see something new and different. All of this leads us into rather a bizarre review that’s largely positive, but with the price casting a negative shadow over it.
iPAD MINI 3 BUILD QUALITY
There’s no denying that the iPad Mini 3 is still one of the best-made tablets out there. Its aluminium body gives it a reassuring level of toughness and quality that you just don’t get with plastic tablets.
It helps that it’s also one of the best-looking tablets as well, with the thin size bezels, full glass front panel and neat curved edges all making it look like a premium product. While the iPad Air 2 may be thinner (6.1mm), the iPad Mini 3 is hardly fat at 7.5mm.
As we said with the iPad Mini and iPad Mini 2, the iPad Mini 3 strikes the perfect balance between screen size (7.9in) and physical size. It fits easily in one hand, letting you hold it like a book or an eReader. If you travel a lot or want a tablet for a commute, the iPad Mini 3’s size is perfect. It’s no wonder that other tablet manufacturers are moving away from 7in 16:9 screens to 8in 4:3 displays, such as with the Nexus 9, as Apple has shown that this is the right size for smaller tablets.
On the side of the tablet you get the easily-reachable volume buttons, plus a slider switch (now removed from the iPad Air 2), which you can use for mute or the screen rotation lock.
iPAD MINI 3 SCREEN
Last year saw the iPad Mini 2 get a Retina display; this year’s model keeps the same screen, with a resolution of 2,048×1,536; the same resolution as used on the iPad Air 2. With a slightly smaller screen here, the iPad Mini 3 has a higher pixel density (326ppi vs 264ppi).
To be fair, it’s hard to tell the too apart. If you stare hard you get slightly sharper text on the Mini, but it’s a close-run thing and you can’t tell the difference in day-to-day use. Image quality is where it’s important and the iPad Mini 3 is generally very good. Thanks to its IPS panel, viewing angles are excellent, and you can easily see the screen, even from extreme angles.
We used our colour calibrator to measure the screen quality. This showed that the screen’s black point was a dark 0.45CD/m2 and its contrast ratio was an decent 798:1, while brightness was a healthy 365.62cm/m2. Colour reproduction wasn’t so good, with the screen only able to produce 67.1% of the sRGB colour gamut. This final measurement doesn’t quite tell the whole truth, as coverage isn’t the only important thing: it depends which part of the colour spectrum is causing the deficiency, as to how noticeable it is. With that in mind, in day-to-day use the Mini produces rich and vibrant colours and is great for web browsing thanks to its clean and bright whites. That said, this is not the best tablet screen that you can buy, and for detailed photos, the high-quality iPad Air 2 has a much better display.