Battery Life, Air vs. Mini?
Despite the powerful internals laying inside the iPad mini’s aluminium shell, I found battery life to be impressive. In my time with the tablet, the 23.8 watt-hour (Wh) only needed charging twice with a decent amount of use each day over a week or so: a fantastic result for a mid-sized tablet with a battery 28% smaller than the iPad Air.
Apple rates the second-generation iPad mini’s battery as being capable of ten hours of Wi-Fi web browsing, and in my experience this seems to be accurate. If you’re reading books on this device, not accessing the internet, you’ll likely achieve even better results, especially if you use a moderate brightness level. In gaming this tablet could probably achieve 6-7 hours, going on extrapolated data, although I didn’t actually test this definitively.
I did run our standard video playback test, where a 720p video is looped at 75% brightness in airplane mode until the battery dies. We haven’t tested a great deal of tablets using this test at TechSpot just yet, but we can compare the iPad mini to the iPad Air and Nexus 7 (2013) tablets.
iPad Air vs. Mini? It's a tie
It’s clear after using the device that the iPad mini with Retina display is the best small-sized tablet that money can buy. Its build quality is second to none, combining a portable form factor with premium materials, and performance that is on-par with the iPad Air, which is exactly what you want to see despite its smaller size.
Apart from the performance, the key improvement over the first-generation iPad mini is the display, which packs 3.1 million pixels into a 7.9-inch 4:3 panel. The crispness is certainly eye-catching and fabulous for reading text, and while the display is not without its flaws (gamut-wise), it’s reasonably easy to simply gloss over them. Of course it’s entirely up to whether you prefer the size of the iPad mini or iPad Air, but the former excels in the small-tablet arena.
Much of its success is also down to iOS and its sizable, noticeably superior tablet app collection. Android and Windows 8.1 are still far behind Apple in this respect, with the App Store including so many high-quality apps that it really lives up to the saying “there’s an app for that”.
The only major issue I have with the iPad mini relates to its price: $399 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, right up to $829 for the 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Considering the quality of the Retina iPad mini, $399 for the cheapest model is a reasonable price to pay, however let’s not forget Google does manage to undercut Apple by offering the still-very-good Nexus 7 for $170 less. What isn’t a reasonable price to pay is $100 for each doubling of device storage, or $130 to add in 4G radios; these price hikes are extortion considering the actual cost of parts, and are quite frankly unacceptable.
Price aside, Apple has once again produced a fantastic product with the iPad mini, and it’s sure to please anyone in the market for a small tablet this holiday season.
Pros: Very portable, with a well built, well designed body. Retina display is very crisp, powered by fast, significantly upgraded hardware. iOS has by far the best selection of tablet apps going around.
Cons: Pricey, especially for storage upgrades and the cellular model. Display color gamut is lacking.