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December 31, 2013

Apple iPad Mini 2 (Retina Display) Review

Everyone saw it coming — that Apple’s 2nd iPad Mini will sport a Retina Display just like the other iPads in its generation. So now it’s here and everybody wants one. Check out our full review of the iPad Mini with Retina Display after the jump.

When we first ordered the iPad Mini 2 last week, stocks were sparse and at least 4 of the stores we went to and asked had them all out of stock.

Either there were limited inventory set aside for the Philippines or demand was so high they immediately ran out after the first batch came in. We suggest reading our first-generation iPad Mini review first before proceeding.

Design and Construction.

As usual, Apple didn’t make any design changes with the iPad Mini 2 compare to the old one from a year ago. What they changed is the internal hardware — better processor like the iPhone 5S, larger battery, better screen.

The larger battery size was added to compensate for more power required by the Retina Display. As such, the dimensions of the iPad Mini 2 got a bit thicker by a hair (7.2mm vs. 7.5mm).

The only other cosmetic changes they made are the colors — space gray and silver (no longer black and white). Just like the iPhone 5S, we believe this slight change in color is more of a visual indicator that it is the new device and not the older generation.

Everything else is exactly the same as the old one — power button and 3.5mm audio port at the top, volume controls and lock switch on the right side, speaker grills and lightning bolt port at the bottom. The dual microphones are situated the the top end.

As we mentioned this before, the Mini 2 is still very thin and very light that you would not think twice of bringing all the time because of the negligible weight and thickness it added to your daily luggage.

Display.

It’s pretty obvious the focus of this new update is the display. Apple has been like that with the previous iPads so the Mini 2 is just routinary. From a mere 1024×768 pixels (163ppi), Apple doubled the horizontal and vertical resolution to 2048×1536 pixels. That’s a pixel density of 325ppi which is already in the Retina display range.

HD games and apps looked much more stunning on the iPad Mini 2. Movies looked just as great too. You will clearly notice the difference when you place the two iPad Minis side by side.

The screen has fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating which minimizes smudges and fingerprints on the display area.

OS, Apps and UI.

The smaller screen proved to be a challenge when it comes with using the virtual keyboard. With the bigger iPads, it was easy to touch-type with both hands as the size and distance of the keys were enough.

With the iPad Mini, it’s already cramped. This obstacle will actually force you to change the way you type — by holding it with both hands and finger-typing with the thumb, just like what you would do with a large smartphone.

Perhaps, one of the biggest strengths of the iPad Mini is its operating system and app ecosystem. iOS, despite its simple and straightforward UI implementation, has truly matured. It has not really changed its look since day one which helped it adopt to all sizes of iOS devices it’s been installed into — iPod Touch, iPhone and iPads.

Multimedia and Camera.

The iPad and the iPad Mini has always been a great device for multimedia — apps, gaming, podcasts, movies and streaming. With the higher resolution screen, HD games and movies looked way better than before.

Perhaps our only complaint (and this is the quintessential one) is that you are being forced to be dependent on iTunes as your media hub. While it makes things simpler and more organized, the limitations are also sometimes crippling.

As for the camera, we did not notice any improvements from the old one. Picture quality is already good though for a tablet, and so is the video.

Performance and Benchmarks.

The iPad Mini 2 came with the latest 64-bit Apple A7 chip which makes sure that the Retina display works flawlessly and the experience is the same if not better than its predecessor. So while you won’t really feel a big difference form the old Mini, the performance is as good or better in some occasions.

We did a couple of benchmarks just to see how it fares — it scored 10,193 on 3DMark (Ice Storm Extreme) and 447.8ms in Sunspider.

Gaming is one of the iPad Mini’s strong suits and with the Mini 2, it continued to be a gaming powerhouse. For a sleek and portable tablet, you can enjoy any of the hundreds of thousands of games in the App Store.

Connectivity and Battery Life.

The iPad Mini 2 has all the basics like WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth. There’s an optional 3G/LTE variant as well. What’s lacking is NFC which is becoming a standard in devices.

Like the iPad with Retina display, the iPad Mini 2 also got a little thicker due to added battery capacity. This made sure that the original 10 hours of battery life from the previous generation is maintained with the new models, despite the power-hungry display upgrade.

In our actual use, we still managed to get about 9 hours on a single full charge from running a full HD video in a loop at 50% brightness and 0% volume.

And since our review unit is just the WiFi model, we’re unable to test the mobile connectivity (LTE).

Conclusion.

The iPad Mini with Retina display is essentially the same iPad Mini we used to know and love. It’s just faster and better. The improvements are exactly where we wanted them. Our only complaint is that Apple priced it way higher than we expected (almost 20-25% from the previous version) putting it in the same price range as the bigger iPads.

Apple continues to make the iPad Mini a great portable device — sexy, portable and powerful. We just could not figure out why’d they go for silver and space gray.

It’s available on Globe and Smart under various postpaid data plans. It is also being sold in the Apple PH Online Store, starting at Php20,490 for the 16GB WiFi-only model.

iPad Mini Retina Display price list:
iPad Mini 2 16GB WiFi: Php20,490
iPad Mini 2 32GB WiFi: Php25,490
iPad Mini 2 64GB WiFi: Php30,490
iPad Mini 2 128GB WiFi: Php35,490

iPad Mini 2 16GB WiFi + LTE: Php26,990
iPad Mini 2 32GB WiFi + LTE: Php31,990
iPad Mini 2 64GB WiFi + LTE: Php36,990
iPad Mini 2 128GB WiFi + LTE: Php41,990

iPad Mini 2 specs:
7.87-inch IPS LCD display @ 2048×1536 pixels, 325ppi
Apple A7 chip, dual-core processor
16GB, 32GB, 64GB internal storage
WiFi 802.11 a/c, dual-band 2.4GHz & 5GHz
4G/LTE (optional)
Bluetooth 4.0
5MP iSight rear camera
1080p video recording
1.2MP front-facing camera
720p Facetime
Assisted GPS with GLONASS
Silver/White and Black/Space Gray
iOS 7
Li-Po 23.8-watt-hour battery
200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm (dimensions)
331 grams (341 grams for LTE) weight

What we liked about it:
* Great display quality
* Great performance
* Long battery life
* Impressive design and profile

What we didn’t like:
* Way more expensive than previous iPad Mini
* No expandable storage option
* New color variants aren’t inspiring

iPad Mini with Retina display due in Q3
iPad Mini with Retina display now in Villman for Php21k
Smart announces pricing, plans for iPad Air, iPad Mini 2

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Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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