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Apple iPad Mini 1 vs Mini 2 vs Mini 3: Which is best for me?

Apple’s iPad Mini 3 just hit stores, but with only a couple of changes over last year’s iPad Mini 2, is it worth the extra cash? Or should you go for the original iPad Mini, now only £199? Here’s our full comparison review, to show you what’s the difference and which is best for you.

Apple iPad Mini 1 vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: which is best for me?

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Prices at a glance

  iPad Mini iPad Mini 2 iPad Mini 3
16GB Wi-Fi £199 £239 £319
16GB Wi-Fi and cellular £299 £339 £419
32GB Wi-Fi £279
32GB Wi-Fi and cellular £379
64GB Wi-Fi £399
64GB Wi-Fi and cellular £499
128GB Wi-Fi £479
128GB Wi-Fi and cellular £579

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Design

All three iPad Mini tablets rock the same design, with a 7.9-inch screen and a 5.3-inch width that’s comfortable to clutch in one hand, making them perfect commuting buddies. The only real difference is the colour finish of the tablet’s rear: the iPad Mini 1 and 2 come in silver and ‘space grey’, while the iPad Mini 3 adds a coppery gold model to the mix.

Apple iPad Mini 1 vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: which is best for me?

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Media

Both the iPad Mini 2 and iPad Mini 3 pack the same Retina display, with a dense 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution, giving 326 pixels-per-inch (ppi). That means your HD movies, games, apps and basically everything else will look gorgeously sharp.

They’re both a huge step up from the original iPad Mini, whose main weakness was a lackluster screen. The 1024 x 768 resolution gives just 163ppi, and the difference is obvious to the naked eye, with even desktop icons appearing a lot more janky and pixellated. We also found the original iPad Mini’s screen was a little unresponsive compared with later models, which proved occasionally irritating when trying to tap links in a browser or playing with some apps.

Apple iPad Mini 1 vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: which is best for me?

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Features

If you’re hoping to carry lots of apps, movies, etc around on your new iPad Mini, then forget about the original tablet. The first iPad Mini only comes in a 16GB model, which fills up almost instantly once you start throwing movies on (most films are between 800MB and 1GB, or larger if they’re Ultra HD).

The iPad Mini 2 comes in 16GB or 32GB flavours, while the iPad Mini 3 has 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models. We’d recommend opting for the 32GB iPad Mini 2 if you want best value. That should give you enough space for all of your apps and plenty of TV shows when you bugger off on your hols for a fortnight.

All three tablets come with two connectivity options: Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and cellular (which requires a working SIM card).

A big problem with the iPad Mini 3 is the serious lack of new features compared with the iPad Mini 2. The only serious update is the TouchID fingerprint scanner, which allows you to unlock your tablet and authorise App Store purchases with your pinky. That’s all well and good on your iPhone, which you unlock dozens if not hundreds of times a day, but for a tablet it seems like a superfluous addition – and certainly not worth the bump in price.

Apple iPad Mini 1 vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: which is best for me?

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Performance

There’s no difference between the iPad Mini 2 and 3 here; both pack in Apple’s A7 chip and M7 co-processor, capable of running the latest creative apps and games from the App Store. However, the first iPad Mini uses the old A5 chip from the iPad 2, which is already showing some strain when it comes to recent 3D games. If you want your tablet to do more than browse the web and play Bejewelled, then look to the iPad Mini 2 instead.

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Battery life

All three tablets boast some of the best battery life you’ll find on a tablet. You can comfortably get two or three days of standard use between charges, or pack in a mighty ten hour movie/TV watching binge session before the iPad Minis die.

Apple iPad Mini 1 vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: which is best for me?

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Cameras

As always, we’ll start by stating the obvious. Only annoying tourists use iPads to take photos. Stop it, stop it now!

Of course, if you really must snap away with your tablet, then take your pick of the three iPad Minis. They all feature a 5-megapixel auto-focus iSight camera on the back, plus a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera above the screen for chatting online.

Apple iPad Mini vs iPad Mini 2 vs iPad Mini 3: Verdict

The original iPad Mini is obviously dated now, with its unresponsive, low-res screen and creaky processor, and the fact that it’s only £40 cheaper than the iPad Mini 2 makes it tough to recommend even if you’re counting every penny. It’s fine if you just want something small and light to browse the web, flick through your photo collection and so on, but just four crisp tenners bags you a faster, more capable device with a beautifully sharp screen.

The iPad Mini 2 also comes in a 32GB model, which would be our personal pick out of all of the iPad Mini variants. For £279 (Wi-Fi only) you get an excellent tablet with enough space for a sizeable collection of apps and media.

Conversely, the iPad Mini 3 offers too little return for its £319 asking price. For a start, if you want a respectable amount of storage then you’ll immediately have to splash out £399 on the 64GB model – there’s no in-between 32GB option. And considering the only advantage you get is the TouchID scanner, that’s just a pointless waste of cash.

Check out our full iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2 and iPad Mini 3 reviews.

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