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Apple iPad Mini 3 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Still great, now with more storage options and Touch ID

The Bad

  • You should save your cash and get the iPad Mini 2
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We review the Apple iPad Mini 3, the gold-tinted tiny tab rocking TouchID.

Apple’s iPad Mini 3 reveal felt a little half-arsed at best, taking up around 27 seconds of the launch event where we also saw the Air 2 drop. As if the lack of stage time wasn’t telling enough, we were also a little disappointed to see little change over the previous iPad Mini – just a fresh lick of paint, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and some new storage options.

Apple iPad Mini 3 review

So, Apple’s iPad Mini enthusiasm may be dwindling, but don’t write off the iPad Mini 3 so soon. After all, the iPad Mini 2 was a five-star slim-and-light slab of brilliance, one of the best tablets we’ve ever used. Here’s our full review of this gold-tinted tiny tab…

Apple iPad Mini 3 design: Golden shower

The only aspect of the iPad Mini 3’s design which has changed from the second generation is the new golden model. To be honest, I’m not too surprised. It doesn’t need to be any smaller or lighter; if Apple had shaved it down, you’d practically be left with an iPhone 6 Plus.

Like the previous iPad Minis, the iPad Mini 3 is slender, light and perfect to take on your commute, especially if you end up wedged into a train carriage with a hundred other sweat-infused unfortunates every day. You can comfortably clutch it in one hand for ages without aching your biceps and slip it easily into a bag when you’re done, even a decent-sized handbag.

Apple iPad Mini 3 review

So, that golden finish, then. It’s something that so far has divided Recombu Towers. Some of us immediately started stroking and purring over it, like it was a real slab of gold. Personally, I like that it’s more coppery than blingy, but I’m still not completely convinced. My main qualm is the white strip at the top (housing the cellular components), which breaks up the effect and looks jarringly out of place. Surely this chunk could have been coloured the same, to keep the effect consistent?

Apple iPad Mini 3 screen and media: Deja vu

Exactly the same 7.9-inch screen has been used in the iPad Mini 3 as the iPad Mini 2, and while that’s not the worst news as the display is still one of the best you’ll find on a compact tab, it’s still disappointing given the Air 2 improvements.

Apple iPad Mini 3 review

For its full-sized tablet, Apple has made the display thinner than ever – a design decision made to improve sharpness, while reflectivity has also been cut down. Sadly the iPad Air 2’s gain is the iPad Mini 3’s loss, as these design improvements are notable by their absence here.

At 326 pixels-per-inch, your eyes will still be treated to crisp images enhanced by realistic colours. Viewing angles are as wide as you’d like and, to be fair, the top brightness levels are strong enough to cancel out most unwanted glare anyway. Of course, having to crank that brightness right up isn’t an ideal solution, even with the iPad Mini 3’s solid battery life.

Apple iPad Mini 3 review

Apple iPad Mini 3 features: Can’t quite put my finger on it…

So far, so very familiar. The iPad Mini 3 has almost no new design elements to speak of, while the 7.9-inch screen is the same display we saw on the previous mini tab. So, unless you’re desperate for that coppery finish, what’s the point of the Mini 3?

Well, one of the biggest/only changes in this third iteration is the inevitable introduction of Touch ID. This fingerprint scanner is embedded in the home button, just as it is in the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and it’s just as effective in its tablet debut as it is in Apple’s smartphones, allowing you to unlock the tab and also authorise App Store transactions.

Of course, it isn’t quite as essential a feature on a tablet as it is on the iPhone. Pretty much every smartphone owner will unlock their handset a hundred times or more over the course of a single day, so you want a way to get in quickly but securely. Touch ID is as near-perfect a solution as you’ll find right now. However, not only do tablets rarely leave the home, we maybe only unlock them a handful of times at most each day, or sometimes not at all. So, do we really need a fingerprint scanner?

Apple iPad Mini 3 review

Storage options have also changed for the iPad Mini 3, which is actually well worth mentioning as there’s no expansion via memory card; you’re therefore stuck with whatever you choose, so choose wisely. While the iPad Mini 2 came in 16GB and 32GB versions, the iPad Mini 3 has 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, so at least you’ve got some roomier options now.

If you want to carry a few movies around and also download plenty of apps, you should aim for at least the 64GB model, or you’ll swiftly run out of space and end up deleting stuff.

As with the first two iPad Mini tablets, you can pick up a cellular model if you want to slip in a SIM card and stay connected wherever you roam, with full 4G LTE support. Sadly there’s no 802.11ac WiFi support, another feature skipped from the Air 2’s updates list.

Apple iPad Mini 3 review

Apple iPad Mini 3 performance and battery life: Repeating myself

There’s nothing new to discuss when it comes to performance and battery life: the iPad Mini 3 sports the exact same A7 processor as the iPad Mini 2, giving the same great experience. Everything including the latest graphics-chugging games ran with smooth frame rates and you can expect a full ten hours of video streaming per charge. We managed to get a whole weekend’s worth of use without plugging the iPad in, which is something we see from too few tablets.

Apple iPad Mini 3 cameras: And again…

Once more, nothing to report. The iPad Mini 3 sports the same optics as the iPad Mini 2, namely a 1.2-megapixel front-facing ‘FaceTime’ camera and a 5-megapixel ‘iSight’ lens. Both cameras perform admirably and you get a host of new tools with iOS 8.1, including manual controls and the brilliant super-slow motion and time lapse modes.

For a full run-down of the camera tech, check out our iPad Mini 2 review.

Apple iPad Mini 3 verdict

We’re in a quandary of sorts here.

The Apple iPad Mini 3 is a fantastic tablet. and we’d happily use it every day. It’s great for watching movies, getting creative, playing games, staying connected with your mates and everything else you’d possibly want a tablet for.

But for £80 less you can buy the iPad Mini 2, which is basically the same device except without that TouchID fingerprint scanner. So obviously we’d instruct you to do just that, unless you’re in dire need of more than 32GB of storage space, especially since TouchID adds very little.

To make it perfectly explicit, this isn’t the iPad Mini 3. It isn’t even the iPad Mini 2.5. It’s the iPad Mini 2.05 and that makes it difficult to recommend.

Specification

Screen size7.9-inches
Screen resolution2048 x 1536 (326ppi)
Weight331 grams
OSiOS 8.1
Front camera1.2-megapixel
Rear Camera5-megapixel
ProcessorA7 processor
Memory1GB RAM
Storage16GB, 64GB, 128GB
4G LTEYes (in cellular model)
Bonus featuresTouch ID

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