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Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Which is best for me?

We compare and review two of the best mini-tabs around, the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact and Apple’s iPad Mini 3, to see which is best for you.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: At a glance

Tablet Apple iPad Mini 3 Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
Screen 7.9-inch IPS LCD (324ppi) 8-inch TFT LCD (283ppi)
Weight 331g 270g
Processor Apple A7 Snapdragon 801
Storage 16/64/128GB 16/32GB + microSD memory card
SIM? Yes, 4G Yes, 4G
Camera 5-Megapixel 8-Megapixel

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Design

At 7.9-inches and 8-inches respectively, the iPad Mini 3 and Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact are a great size for clutching in one hand while you poke and prod with the other. I don’t have the biggest mitts around, but I had no problem holding both of these tablets around the back, especially the slender Sony.

If you’re the shallow type who demands gorgeous good looks from all of your tech, either tab should also suit. Sony and Apple have stuck to their usual design blueprints, which is good news because they both know how to assemble tech in a visually appealing fashion.

So the iPad Mini 3 looks more or less identical to the iPad Mini 2, with that sleek metallic backing now also available in a coppery gold colour. Meanwhile, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is basically a big Xperia Z3, with the neatly rounded trim take the edge off the rectangular build.

Sony’s tablet does have one advantage, however. Chuck both tablets in a bath and the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is the only one that’ll emerge unscathed. It’s fully water resistant, with flaps covering the important ports so no liquids sneak in.

What’s the point? Well, it’s handy if you use your tablet in the kitchen or bathroom, as spillages are bound to happen. You can also just about use the Sony tab in the rain, although water on the screen does tend to make it go a little schizo (apps opening and closing unexpectedly and so on).

If you’re more interested in security, Apple’s tablet packs the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. It’s a quick and easy way to unlock the device, without worrying about some thievy types watching your PIN pattern over your shoulder.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Movies and media

A serious highlight of both tablets is the display, with both tabs rocking Full HD screens. Apple’s iPad Mini sports the sharper resolution (324ppi vs 283ppi) but the difference is minimal and the Xperia offers a widescreen aspect ratio, which means less letterboxing when watching back movies.

Both screens are also bright enough to cancel out any harsh glare when you’re out and about, so you won’t be left squinting to see what’s going on.

Sony’s baby does offer a couple of advantages over the iPad when it comes to media. The first is digital noise cancellation, which helps to effectively drown out any external chatter – great news for noisy commutes. However, you do need to use Sony’s compatible earphones for the feature to work (they have built-in mics which relay background noise to the tablet).

Secondly, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact boasts a microSD memory card slot. That means you can cheaply expand up to over 128GB at little expense, giving you plenty of space for films, music and anything else you want to cart around.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Families

If you’ve got sprogs, the Apple App Store offers up a huge variety of educational software that’ll keep them entertained, and you can now share your apps with the rest of your clan thanks to iOS 8’s new Family Sharing features. In addition, family members can share photos via a group album, stay organised thanks to the group calendar and even broadcast their location on a map.

Of course, Google also allows you to share photos and calendars, among other things, so you’re also covered by the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. And once the tab gets updated to Android Lollipop, you’ll be able to set up individual accounts for each family member too, so they can have their own login, desktop, etc. on the one tablet. Apple’s iPad doesn’t currently allow this.

On the other hand, Android users can’t share Play accounts, so your family members can’t share your apps.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Games and creative

Gamers will be content with either tablet, thanks to the Full HD resolution and powerful processors, which allow the latest games to run with smooth frame rates. The iPad Mini is more future-proof with its 64-bit processor of Apple’s own creation, but neither tablet should show signs of ageing for a good while.

Bear in mind that if you own (or plan to own) a PS4, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact allows streaming of games direct from your console, via Remote Play. Basically, it means you can keep playing even when your telly’s been hijacked for some reality TV gubbins, just by connecting your controller to the tablet and using it as a second screen.

If you’re after a tablet to get creative (say, photo or video editing), we’d recommend the iPad Mini. Apple’s baby has strong support on the App Store with tons of great editing software available, plus the screen’s 4:3 aspect ratio is better suited to editing than the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact’s widescreen display.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Battery life and mobility

Both tablets are obviously slim and light, so handy for carting around all day – in fact, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact even slipped with surprisning ease into our jeans pocket, although it made sitting down rather awkward (and painful). However, the iPad Mini 3 offers the best battery life here, with a full ten hours of movie playback per charge. Sony’s tablet isn’t a slouch either thankfully, with around six hours of video action per charge.

Both tablets also come with an LTE option, so you can plug in a SIM card and get some 4G streaming on the go.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Cameras

If you need a device to Skype your mates, either tablet will work. Their front-facing cameras are sharp enough to keep a crisp picture and even shoot the odd shameless selfie.

You also get an 8-megapixel snapper on the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact’s rear and a 5-megapixel camera on the back of the iPad. They’re perfectly fine for shooting your family members as they stand around gormlessly near a tourist attraction, as long as you don’t mind looking like a total tourist. To minimise how much of a pratt you look, try the Sony tab. It basically looks like a huge phablet anyway, so you might just about get away with it.

Apple iPad Mini 3 vs Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Verdict

These two mini tabs are both excellent all-round portable devices, offering very different user experiences. While they’re both great for messing around online, watching movies or playing with apps, the Sony packs extra features such as digital noise cancellation, console streaming and water resistance. Meanwhile, the iPad Mini offers up Touch ID security, crazy-long battery life and the brilliant App Store (now shareable amongst family members).

Read next: iPad Mini 1 vs Mini 2 vs Mini 3 – what’s the difference?