Back in September 2015, Apple unveiled the iPad mini 4, which went on sale the very same day. Despite being squeezed in between the impressive 12.9in iPad Pro, a new Apple TV and the shiny Rose Gold iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the iPad mini 4 actually represented a big update for the little tablet.
However, it’s now been almost two years and the same iPad mini is available. Apple has chosen to concentrate on its bigger tablets and leave the iPad mini 4 as the only 7.9in model in the lineup.
Read our iPad mini 4 review to find out more, discover what’s good and what’s not so-good, and decide whether this is the tablet for you.
Price and availability
The iPad mini 4 is available to buy now from Apple and third-party resellers both online and in stores. While there were originally a number of different options available to consumers, following a recent Apple Store update, there are now only two: 128GB WiFi, and 128GB WiFi + Cellular. There are still a number of colour options available – don’t worry!
The 128GB iPad mini 4 with WiFi will set consumers back £419, giving Apple’s mini iPad a higher entry point than before the recent update (it used to offer a 32GB iPad mini 4 for £379).
The WiFi + Cellular iPad mini 4 will set you back a little bit more at £549, although we’d argue that most people don’t require cellular connectivity – and even if you do, a lot of the time it’s easier to tether from an iPhone.
The iPad mini 4 with 128GB of storage is available to buy from the Apple Store right now.
iPad mini 4: Design and build
The iPad mini 4 is essentially a smaller version of the iPad Air 2, both inside and out. It’s certainly a much bigger update than the update between the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3 was (Apple simply added the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and a gold colour option but left the design and specs the same), with a new, thinner design and loads of internal improvements.
First, let’s take a look at design and build. It’s a really, really good-looking tablet, still available in Gold, Silver and Space Grey but with a thinner chassis and some new Smart Cover colour options that look fantastic (and you’ll need to get a new Smart Cover even if you’ve already got one for your older iPad mini, because the magnets seem to have been repositioned). Pair that with one of Apple’s new Silicone Cases for the iPad mini 4 for all-round protection.
We’ve gone for a Gold model with a Midnight Blue Smart Cover and we think it looks gorgeous, with its premium aluminium finish and smooth rounded edges, plus its now super-slim 6.1mm. That’s 18% thinner than its already thin predecessor.
It is also lighter, at just 299g (or 304g if you opt for the cellular model), so you’ll be able to pop this iPad into a small bag or even a large pocket and you’ll hardly notice it’s there.
So all together, those measurements are 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1mm, at 299g. That’s compared with the iPad Air 2’s 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm at 437g, so it’s certainly more portable than it’s bigger sibling, though of course you’ll get less screen estate at 7.9in diagonally compared with the Air 2’s 9.7in.
Aside from that, there’s nothing particularly noticeably different in terms of design between the iPad mini 4 and its predecessors. It has lost its mute/lock rotation slider, just like the iPad Air 2 did, but you can quickly and easily access those settings within the Control Centre panel by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
iPad mini 4: Hardware and performance
Taking a closer look at that 7.9in display on the iPad mini 4, you’ll find that it’s the same resolution as the iPad mini 3 and 2, as well as the iPad Air 2 and iPad Air, at 2048 x 1536 pixels. That equates to a 326 pixels per inch pixel density, higher than the Air and Air 2’s 264ppi.
That’s not to say that the iPad mini 4 hasn’t had some screen improvements, though. The resolution may be the same, but there’s a new anti-reflective coating to help with use outside in the sun, and better still Apple has removed the gap between the cover glass and LCD (all part of the slimming process) to make the tablet feel more solid and dramatically improve the contrast.
The result is a crisp, clear screen that offers stunning colours that is ideal for watching videos or playing games. Of course, the bigger screen on the iPad Air 2 is even better for videos, and while both tablets support the new Split Screen feature in iOS 9, there’s no doubt that running two apps side-by-side is a better experience on the bigger screen, but it’s a sacrifice many will be happy to make in exchange for more portability and a bit of a saving when it comes to cash.
Inside the iPad mini 4 is the Apple-designed A8 chip compared with the A7 from the iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 2, which represents a big speed boost (although it’s not quite as fast as the A8X you’ll find in the iPad Air 2). That’s paired with an M8 co-processor that takes on all of the sensors to ease pressure on the A8, helping to keep things running more efficiently.
Our Geekbench 3 processor test found that the iPad mini 4 managed 1719 in the single-core test and 3101 in the multi-core test. That’s compared with the Air 2’s 1816 and 4523 respectively, which reveals that apps requiring more than one processor core should be much faster in the Air, but any that only need a single core should run at almost the same speed.
It’s impressive stuff for an iPad of its size, and in reality you’ll find that the iPad mini 4 is a smooth, speedy machine, even when running two apps at once with Apple’s new multitasking tools.
Graphics power is good, too, although still not as good as the Air 2. The mini 4 managed 37fps and 15fps in the T-Rex and Manhattan GFXBench tests respectively, compared with the 52fps and 25fps achieved by the Air 2.
But it is much faster than the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3, which scored 22fps in T-Rex and 9fps in Manhattan.
You’ll still find the Touch ID fingerprint sensor beneath the Home button with the iPad mini 4, but it hasn’t been upgraded to the new, super-fast generation boasted by the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Still, it’s a great feature for added security and convenience, plus Apple Pay.
The iPad mini 4, as mentioned, is now only available in 128GB, despite launching with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, along with the option of WiFi-only or WiFi + Cellular if you want mobile connectivity.
That WiFi is 802.11ac, which can theoretically run up to 866Mbps, and there’s Bluetooth 4.2.
When it comes to battery life, the iPad mini 4 achieved a score of 3975 in the GeekBench 3 battery test. You can expect the tablet to last for around 6 hours of active use but if you only use it from time to time that battery life can stretch to days if not weeks.
The battery benchmark score for the iPad mini 4 is actually lower than the iPad mini 3’s score of 4098 and lower than the iPad mini 2’s 3990, and in fact comes in as the iPad with the worst battery life out of all of Apple’s range, but not my a large margin.
iPad mini 4 review: Cameras
We’re becoming slightly more accustomed to the idea of taking photos on a tablet, particularly when it’s an iPad mini, so we know that many people will be pleased to hear that the rear camera has been bumped up from 5Mp to 8Mp, which isn’t bad at all. It has quick auto-focus and good face detection, too.
The photos below have been resized to 800×600 pixels, down from 3264×2448 (click for full-res images)
You’ll also get Burst mode and Slo-Mo video (120fps at 720p) thanks to the A8 chip. Panoramas can be captured at up to 43Mp and look fantastic.
Video is 1080p at 30fps, and is great quality with accurate colours and sharp details, up until you start trying to shoot in low light, and the same goes for still photos, but for a tablet you’re looking at a good camera that’ll outshine many rivals.
On the front, you’ll find a 1.2Mp camera, which is not so great compared to the 5Mp front facing camera of the iPad Pro 9.7, but it is the same as the one found in the iPad Air 2.
iPad mini 4: Software
As can be expected, the iPad mini 4 runs iOS 10, and will be upgradable to iOS 11 with no issues. We won’t go into detail here about the software because we could talk about it for days, but you can find out everything you need to know about iOS 10 and iOS 11 by following the links below.