Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) - A 7.9-inch LTE Tablet

Launch SRP: S$618

Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) - 7.9-inch LTE Tablet

7.9-inch LTE Tablet

It's been about a month since Apple launched the Wi-Fi model of the iPad mini in Singapore and other countries around the world. Despite the reports of lukewarm consumers' reception to the 7.9-inch tablet (including the launch in Singapore), Apple announced that three millions iPads were sold in just three days

The cellular model was initially slated to ship at the end of November amidst fears of delays due to supply chain issues and low yield rates of some components. Fortunately, Apple managed to launch the iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) model on the last day of November. The three local telcos also launched their respective price plans for the iPad Mini and there were reports in the forums of stocks running out. On-site at some of the sales venues, consumer interest seemed to be much higher than the Wi-Fi model as queues appeared to be longer. What's so enticing about the cellular model of the iPad Mini? Is its LTE capability worth an extra S$170? Well, let's find out in this review. To start off, here's a quick look at the (minor) differences between the two models of iPad Mini.

Comparing the Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi+4G) and Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi)
Device Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi)
OS iOS 6.0.1 iOS 6
Processor Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz
RAM 512MB RAM 512MB RAM
Storage 16/32/64GB 16/32/64GB
Display 7.9-inch LED-backlit IPS display 7.9-inch LED-backlit IPS display
Resolution 1024 x 768 pixels 1024 x 768 pixels
Cameras Rear: 5-megapixel rear autofocus camera with BSI, F2.4,
and five-element lens

Front: 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD
Rear: 5-megapixel rear autofocus camera with BSI, F2.4,
and five-element lens

Front: 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD

Battery Capacity 4440mAh 4440mAh
Networks GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
HSPA+ 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
LTE 1800
N.A
Connectivity & Features Three-axis gyro / Accelerometer / Ambient light sensor / WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n / Digital compass / Assisted GPS and GLONASS Three-axis gyro / Accelerometer / Ambient light sensor / WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n / Digital compass

Dimensions
Weight

200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm/ 312g 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm/ 308g
Launch Price $618 (16GB), $748 (32GB) , $878 (64GB) $448 (16GB), $578 (32GB), $708 (64GB)

 

Design & Features

Despite having to accommodate a nano SIM card slot and cellular antenna, the iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) weighs just 4g heavier than the Wi-Fi variant. Everything else including its 7.2mm thin profile remains the same, which we feel is another example of an amazing feat of engineering by the team at Apple. The iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) model ships with iOS 6.0.1 out of the box. For a full list of what to expect from the tablet in terms of software features, do check out our original review of the iPad mini (Wi-Fi) edition

 

 

Network Performance

As the tablet only supports 1800MHz LTE band spectrum, you are bound to lose the 4G connectivity in certain areas in Singapore where there is only dedicated 2600MHz coverage. Even without 4G LTE connection, the cellular model is able to support up to 42Mbps downlink speed on HSPA+ networks. If you are confused about the different network terms and want to know more about 4G, do read our Tech Guide to 4G LTE.

 

LTE Speed Tests on the Apple iPad mini

We've done a couple of LTE speed tests on smartphones (1) (2) (3) and we subjected the iPad Mini to the following tests too: 

  • Pinging a local server (Singapore, NewMedia Express) via the Speedtest.net app to check its download and upload speeds
     
  • Downloading a 20MB MP4 file from Dropbox
     
  • Downloading a 20MB MP4 file from Gmail
     
  • Downloading a 1.6GB ISO file via a local server to determine the top speed
     

The tests were conducted at four different locations:

  • North: Woodlands, Causeway Point
     
  • Central: Raffles Place
     
  • East: Changi Airport Terminal 2
     
  • West: Chua Chu Kang Lot 1
     

 

Synthetic Benchmark: Speedtest.net

The first test was to determine the latency, download and upload speeds. We used the Speedtest.net app as it is one of the most widely used apps for testing mobile internet speeds. We ran the app on the New Media Express server three times to get the average score.

Download Speeds (Mbps) - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
32.49
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)
22.2 (indoor)
26.45 (outdoor)
Raffles Place
(Central)
29.47 (indoor)
12.44 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East)
36.53

 

Upload Speeds (Mbps) - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
23.55
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

4.16 (indoor)
25.11 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
4.76 (indoor)
19.23 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East)
27.72

 

Ping (ms) - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
36
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

35 (indoor)
33 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
35 (indoor)
34 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East)
78

 

 

Real-world Download Speed Tests: Dropbox Test

Our second test involved downloading a 20MB file from Dropbox, arguably the most widely used cloud storage service (even HTC and Samsung offer it on their phones).

Time Taken (secs) to Download 20MB File from Dropbox - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
60.2
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

104.8 (indoor)
92.8 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
141.9 (indoor)
92.2 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East)
66.5

 

 

Real-world Download Speed Tests: Gmail Test

Our second test involved downloading a 20MB file from Gmail, to mimic the typical usage scenarios of mainstream consumers who need to download email attachments.

Time Taken (secs) to Download 20MB File from Gmail  - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
11.6
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

13.7 (indoor)
10.1 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
13.7 (indoor)
17.7 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East
20.7

 

Real-world Download Speed Tests: 1.6GB ISO File Test

Our final test was to download a freely distributed CentOS ISO image file that is 1.6GB in size. We observed the top download speed for thirty seconds that it could achieve.

Top Speed (MB/s) Achieved When Downloading 1.6GB ISO file - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
2.6
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

1.9 (indoor)
2.2 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
2.9 (indoor)
1.8 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East)
2.7

 

Analysis

As the iPad mini only supports one of the two LTE band spectrums used here, its results may seem worse off the ones we recorded in September. However, it is noteworthy to mention that we are not comparing on equal grounds; the speed tests we've done so far were all conducted on smartphones and the iPad Mini is the first tablet to be tested.

Hence, it is not fair to compare the performance of the devices since they have different hardware components - the differences are are even apparent from one phone to another. Moreover, there should be more 4G LTE subscribers on SingTel's network now compared to three months ago. There are also other variables such as server location, available bandwidth and network conditions that may affect the results.

To get a more accurate picture of the actual surfing speeds on the iPad Mini, stay tuned as we follow up with further updates across multiple telcos when SingTel and StarHub complete their island-wide deployment of the 4G LTE networks.

Nonetheless, the web surfing experience on the iPad Mini was great. In areas with 4G LTE connectivity, web pages and downloads were appreciably faster. Even when there was no 4G connection, we were still able to watch YouTube videos smoothly without having to pause and buffer.

 

Battery Performance

Apple rates the battery life of the cellular model to be about 9 hours of web browsing using a cellular data network. We ran the iPad Mini on an intensive battery test, which involves a video with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels being looped on the unit. The test is performed under specific parameters such as:-

  • Screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • 4G LTE and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Test Tablets Compared
Specifications/Device Apple iPad Mini
(Wi-Fi + 4G)
Apple iPad Mini
(Wi-Fi)
Google Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Toshiba Regza Tablet AT270
Processor
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Quad-core 1.2GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1.4GHz
  • Quad-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 7.9-inch
  • 7.9-inch
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.7-inch
  • 7.7-inch
Display Type
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD
  • PLS LCD
  • Super AMOLED Plus
  • AMOLED
Display Resolution
  • 1,024 x 768 pixels
  • 1,024 x 768 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
  • 1,024 x 600 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
Dimensions
  • 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm
  • 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm
  • 193.7 x 122.4 x 10.5mm
  • 193.7 x 122.4 x 10.5mm
  • 196.7 x 133 x 7.89mm
  • 204.5 x 135.2 x 7.85mm
Weight
  • 312g
  • 308g
  • 340g
  •  344g
  • 340g
  • 350g
Battery Capacity
  • 4440mAh
  • 4440mAh
  • 4325mAh
  •  4000mAh
  • 5100mAh
  • 3940mAh

Based on our battery test, the difference between the battery mileage of the two models of iPad mini is minuscule (6 minutes). Power consumption is slightly higher at 2.35W, which also led to a small drop in the Portability Index.

Under normal usage conditions, the cellular model of the iPad mini could last us through a day of web surfing, constant 4G LTE connectivity, video playback and games. When it comes to daily usage, the iPad mini has one of the best battery mileage among the tablets we've reviewed and you are not likely to be searching frantically for a power source halfway through the day.

 

Conclusion

As the first 4G LTE 7-inch tablet in the market, the Apple iPad Mini commands a premium price over its counterparts. Coupled with the fact that it works on only one of the two LTE bands used in Singapore, it becomes less enticing as an option for consumers.

Looking across the board of tablets with cellular connectivity, there are several good (if not, better) alternatives to the Apple iPad mini. For example, the 32GB Google Nexus 7 (3G) is priced at US$299 (~S$365 based on exchange rate at point of publication; and if we should hazard a guess, it could fetch a local price in the region of S$450). In comparison, the 32GB iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + 4G) costs twice as much at S$748! That's a considerable price gab considering the difference between both devices is quite marginal such as not having expandable flash memory storage. In fact, the Nexus 7 has a much higher battery life and offers a higher resolution display, although it's a tad smaller than the iPad Mini.

Available in the market for more than half a year, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is also a good contender considering its sub S$600 street price (as opposed to the 16GB cellular edition of the iPad Mini that's priced at S$618). Its superior Super AMOLED Plus display and higher resolution easily trumps the iPad Mini while still delivering a better battery performance. With its memory card slot, you can top up its default 16GB built-in flash memory storage to a further 32GB, bringing the total storage capacity to 48GB. You also can make voice calls on the tablet, if your primary smartphone runs low on power.

Putting mobile connectivity aside, the iPad Mini still holds some key advantages over the competition such as the wide range of tablet-optimized apps (over 250,000), top-notch design, build quality, light weight and superb user experience. As iterated in our original review of the Wi-Fi edition, the iPad Mini is a device that's best personally experienced firsthand to form an accurate opinion. Its plus points are quite easily observed soon after you try it out, just that it may not be the most cost effective option.

If budget is not a factor for you, we will recommend the iPad Mini without hesitation. However, when the market is awash with affordable and sometimes better alternatives, consumers are more than likely to go for the best deals that their budgets can afford. Yet another factor to consider is your content consumption. If you're primarily watching videos, the current crop of Android tablets and their proper 16:9/16:10 widescreen aspect ratio are more ideal. For those who're more likely to spend time with e-books and browsing/reading content off the internet, the portrait aspect ratio of 4:3 used on the Apple iPad Mini would be more appealing as it feels more natural with a larger reading area.

For those who've made their decision to get the iPad Mini and are considering to go for a two-year contract from any of the three telcos, do take a look at our in-depth analysis of the price plans. If you are sitting on the fence thinking which model of the iPad Mini to get, it all boils down to convenience. Will you fork out an additional $170 for mobile data connectivity on-the-go or can you live with tethering from your smartphone? The former choice is obvious for heavy users of the tablet on the move, but if you're the sort who will only need occasional data connectivity and would like to save on the steep costs associated to get the cellular edition, the Wi-Fi edition could well be sufficient.

8.0
Design
9.5
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
9
Performance
8
Value
7
The Good
Super thin and light design
Solid build quality
iPad optimized apps
Overall usage experience
The Bad
Expensive
Lower-res display