iPad Mini Goes A7 and Retina
We called the first generation iPad Mini the Mini Cooper of 7-inch tablets because it seemed expensive for the specs it had. Consumers found it hard to stomach the premium price tag of the iPad Mini which has a lower resolution display and a dated A5 processor compared to the more affordable Android tablets with newer hardware and better displays.
With a complete overhaul of its internals, can the iPad Mini with Retina display still be called "the competition's worst nightmare"? Or has the Android camp kept a step or two ahead of Apple this year? Read on to find out more. Here's a quick overview of the specs of the two generations of iPad Mini tablets:
Design and Features
The new iPad Mini looks exactly like its predecessor such that you will be hard pressed to notice the slight differences between the two devices until you pick them up. Based purely on numbers, the new iPad Mini is 0.3mm thicker and 23g heavier. In reality, the slight gains can be felt although the new iPad Mini still feels solid and comfortable in general handling.
Its thicker and heavier chassis is attributed to the 6,471mAh battery, which is significantly larger (in capacity) than its predecessor (4440mAh). It is noteworthy to mention that the new iPad Mini has the highest battery capacity of its category today. The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 comes in at a close second with its 6,000mAh battery. Considering Apple managed to squeeze in a larger capacity battery inside the chassis without adding too much bulk, that's quite an engineering feat. Here's an overview of how the new iPad Mini fares against the other tablets of its class in terms of physical attributes:
|Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display||Apple iPad Mini||Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0||Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8||Google Nexus 7 (2013)|
|Thickness (mm)||7.5||7.2||7.95||3.0 ~ 7.3mm||8.65|
7.9-inch Retina Display
The chief criticism of the original iPad Mini has finally been resolved - the new iPad Mini comes with a Retina display sporting a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. In case you don't know by now, that's the same resolution as the 9.7-inch iPad Air. Due to the smaller screen size, the new iPad Mini has a higher pixel density of 326ppi which is on-par with the iPhone 5S. Here's a close-up photo comparing the old and new screen:-
Be warned though, existing first-generation iPad Mini users should not handle the new iPad Mini for too long as the Retina display is simply stunning. Everything is sharper and better on the new iPad Mini to the extent that you may start wondering how you ever coped with a lower resolution display for the past 12 months - we kid you not! We've even browsed webpages and read e-books without needing to zoom in because the screen was able to resolve intricate details thanks to its high pixel density display.
|Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display||Apple iPad Air||Apple iPad Mini||Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0||Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8||Google Nexus 7 (2013)|
|2,048 x 1,536||2,048 x 1,536||1,028 x 768||1,280 x
|1,920 x 1,200|
Despite the appreciable sharpness and clarity of the new display, there have been discussions about the quality of the displays in the iPad Air, the iPad Mini with Retina display and its competitors. Detailed analysis done by AnandTech and DisplayMate revealed that the the color gamut (which affects color accuracy) is a significant disappointment.
AnandTech - "The iPad mini with Retina Display has the same color gamut as the standard iPad mini, which is narrower than the iPad Air and less than the sRGB coverage we normally look for. The biggest issue here is that there are other smaller tablets in this price range that do offer sRGB coverage (e.g. Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9)."
DisplayMate - "And finally… the iPad mini with Retina Display unfortunately comes in with a distant 3rd place finish behind the innovative displays on the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and new Nexus 7 because it still has the same small 63 percent Color Gamut as the original iPad mini and even older iPad 2. That is inexcusable for a current generation premium Tablet. The big differences in Color Gamut between the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and Nexus 7 and the much smaller 63 percent Gamut in the iPad mini Retina Display were quite obvious and easy to see in the side-by-side Viewing Tests. See Figure 1 to compare the widely disparate Color Gamuts and Figure 2 to see the very large Color Errors that result. This all appears to be due to incredibly poor planning. Instead of moving up to the higher performance (and cost) Low Temperature Poly Silicon LCDs, Apple chose to continue gambling on IGZO, which has resulted in both production shortages and inferior products."
Consumers who are very particular about the display quality should take a good read at the extensive testings done by the two sites (source links above). For the mainstream consumers, do these findings affect the appeal of the new iPad Mini? Is it a deal breaker? In all honesty, we don't think so.
As mentioned by both sites, the difference in color accuracy is evident only when you conduct a side by side comparison. Now that's not a norm for consumers - unless the display quality is evidently bad. So unless you are in a profession that deals with photos color accuracy and video content, the color gamut issue shouldn't affect your daily usage of the tablet. On its own, you would still be well served by what the iPad Mini with Retina Display can deliver.
We've done quite an extensive coverage of Apple iOS 7 in a number of articles. For a full breakdown of iOS 7, check out everything you need to know in these articles:
- What you need to know about iOS7
- 7 Tips for using the new iOS
- 7 battery saving tips on iOS 7
- 11 details you may have missed in iOS 7
Similar to any new iOS 7 device, you can download the iWork productivity apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) and iLife creativity apps (iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand) for free on the App Store. The apps are also available as free updates for existing users and are optimized to support the 64-bit processors (such as the A7 chip used on the latest devices). Previously, these apps would have set you back a total of US$45.
The new iPad Mini comes with the same 5-megapixel rear camera sensor with f/2.4 aperture, five-element lens, backside illumination and a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD front-facing camera as the iPad Air and iPad 4. For a gauge of its image quality, do check out our iPad 4 review.
The new iPad Mini is the third product in Apple's line up to sport the new A7 dual-core processor which is based on a 64-bit architecture and has an M7 motion co-processor. The processor's clock speed is similar to the iPhone 5S at 1.3GHz, which is a tad lower than the iPad Air (1.4GHz).
We'll be comparing the new iPad Mini against its predecessor and the iPad Air, as well as a few flagship Android tablets with high resolution displays. It's worth noting that the new iPad Mini has 1GB of RAM, compared to 512MB in the first generation iPad Mini and 2GB that's now common in Android devices. The GPU in the A7 SoC is the quad-core PowerVR (Series 6) G6430.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms, including iOS. Its Ice Storm benchmark is based off the OpenGL ES 2.0 API and is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture compute devices. It includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
3DMark now consists of three test sections: Ice Storm, Ice Storm Extreme and Ice Storm Unlimited. Most recent flagship devices easily maxed out the score on Ice Storm; as such, we will focus on Ice Storm Unlimited.
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited used off-screen rendering resolution at 1080p, higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets. It also disables vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result, thus making it ideal for chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets.
Despite having a higher resolution display, Apple claims that the battery in the new iPad Mini is able to provide up to 10 hours of web surfing on Wi-Fi, watching video or listening to music. If you recall, that claim is similar to last year's model. We find out if it meets that mark.
Our standard battery test for tablets has the following parameters:
- Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
- Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Even though the new iPad Mini comes with increased battery capacity, it lasted 50 minutes shorter than its non-Retina predecessor at about 6.5 hours. The Nexus 7 (2013) could last 31 minutes more due to its smaller display and slightly lower resolution.
If we take a look at the Power Consumption chart, the new iPad Mini registered the highest power consumption in its class of tablets. This is primarily partly due to the fact that it has the highest resolution display among the 7 to 8-inch class of tablets. This trend was also mimicked when comparing the iPad 2 and iPad 3 when the latter introduced a Retina display. Having said that, the increase in power consumption is within expectations.
In the Portability Index where where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage against its size and mass, the new iPad Mini tied with the Yoga Tablet 8 for the third position. The first generation iPad Mini, being slimmer, lighter and with longer battery life, naturally took the top spot.
The new iPad Mini is everything we've come to expect - a stunning Retina display, 64-bit A7 dual-core processor and a slim form factor. With the support of 475,000 tablet optimized apps and over 170 million iPads sold, the iPad Mini with Retina display is set to be one of the top gadgets to get this year. For those who've been clamoring for the ideal iPad Mini, the dream has arrived and it's probably worth the premium it commands.
Even so, we feel that its price points and the stiff competition could be deal breakers for some consumers. With a base price of S$548 (16GB, Wi-Fi) and S$728 (16GB, Wi-Fi + 4G), the iPad Mini with Retina display is much more expensive than the S$379 Google Nexus 7 (2013) (16GB, Wi-Fi) and its S$529 cellular counterpart (32GB, Wi-Fi + 4G).
If you are planning to spend a lot of time on your tablet with either productivity or even content creation, there is no better option than getting an iPad. The sheer number of tablet optimized apps available for the iPads is easily the best asset that Apple has over the competition followed by its range of official and third-party accessories such as keyboards and cases.
For consumers who are on a budget or feel that the iPads are too expensive, the Nexus 7 (2013) is worth considering as it is value for money. The Nexus 7 has a good display and packs a lighter chassis. While the Play Store lacks in tablet optimized apps, mainstream consumers who just want a tablet for reading and watching videos will do just fine with the Nexus 7.
As for consumers who are in a dilemma over buying the iPad Air or the iPad Mini, it actually depends on your preferences and needs. The iPad Mini with Retina display is essentially a smaller version of the iPad Air and delivers similar performance. When it comes to portability, the iPad Mini with Retina display is the obvious choice. However, comic fans and people in the creative profession will appreciate the bigger display with better color accuracy.
If you are still contemplating on your purchase, head over to our dedicated article on upgrading to the iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina Display. Decided on one and planning to get it with a two-year contract? We have you covered too with our telco price plans comparison articles:
- Apple iPad Air Telco Price Plans Comparison
- Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display Telco Price Plans Comparison
Bought a new iPad recently? Congratulations on your purchase! We have compiled a list of ten apps to get you started on the iPad.