Apple iPad Mini 2013 Review

For better or worse, customers who purchase an Apple product know exactly what they’ll be getting: a high-quality device, a slick operating system, a nearly endless App Store and a hefty price tag.

The Apple tablet range may have evolved, but the blueprint remains the same. The Apple iPad Mini with Retina display is no exception, and it delivers on each of these points.

Hands-On Impressions

For those who have used Apple’s iPad Air, the iPad Mini with Retina will be strikingly familiar. In fact, they’re nearly identical apart from size in a tablet comparison. The 7.87-by-5.3-by-0.29 inch, 0.73-pound aluminum unibody design feels as premium and sturdy as ever, though it is ever-so-slightly thicker and heavier than the original iPad Mini.

One notable change is the improved heat dissipation, which renders the new iPad Mini fairly cool to the touch even under heavy load.

Tablet Tour

As has always been the case, a tour around the iPad Mini 2’s exterior reveals it to be pretty barren. There’s the standard power button and headphone jack up top, while the volume rocker and orientation lock are placed near the top of the right edge.

The Lightning port is on bottom, flanked by a pair of speakers. The absence of expandable microSD storage is no surprise, but it’s disappointing compared to tablets like the LG G Pad 8.3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.

Resolving the Details

The star of the iPad Mini with Retina’s show, as the name would suggest, is the shiny new Retina display. It’s been the subject of plenty of hype, and in this case it’s justified. The 7.9-inch display boasts a 2,048-by-1,536 resolution, which adds up to an impressive 324 pixels per inch.

In addition to besting the iPad Air’s pixel density, the Mini 2 effectively doubles that of the original iPad Mini. The result is a beautiful display that produces vibrant, accurate colors and crisp, razor-sharp text.

Under the Hood

The iPad Mini 2 is powered by the same dual-core A7 chip and M7 motion coprocessor combination found in the iPhone 5s and the iPad Air, though the A7 here is clocked at 1.3-gigahertz rather than the 1.4-gigahertz Air processor.

In practical terms, the slightly lower clock speed has very little impact on performance even in a side-by-side tablet comparison. The iPad Mini with Retina display is satisfyingly zippy, launching apps quickly and powering through games and other tasks with relative ease.

The battery life is also excellent, thanks to a larger battery accommodated by the slightly thicker body.

The Apple Line

At this point, there’s little to differentiate between the iPad Mini and the iPad Air other than the form factor. Both feature fantastic build quality, high-resolution displays and powerful hardware, though the Air’s A7 processor offers a slightly higher clock speed.

Compared to the original iPad Mini, however, the Mini 2 represents a significant upgrade in several ways. The Retina display is the main attraction, and it improves on the already attractive iPad Mini panel by leaps and bounds. The hardware upgrade is also significant, however, with the A7 blowing the now-dated A5 chipset out of the water.

The original iPad Mini is still a fine tablet, but it looks simply ancient compared to the iPad Mini with Retina display.

iPad Mini Alternatives

Although Apple’s newest tablet is among the best on the market, there are several worthy Android competitors. The diminutive Google Nexus 7 is a natural tablet comparison, as it offers a similarly brilliant 323 pixel-per-inch display and excellent build quality.

Its quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor also offers solid performance in a comparison of tablets, and the price is significantly more friendly than the new Mini. The LG G Pad 8.3 also offers excellent build quality and solid performance, though the 8.3-inch display means a diminished pixel density given the 1,920-by-1,200 resolution.

The poor brightness also leaves a lot to be desired. The inclusion of expandable microSD storage is a nice touch, however. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 also features expandable storage, as well as a highly functional S Pen, though it has little else working in its favor.

The 1,280-by-800 display is thoroughly antiquated, and the plasticky construction is a disappointment.