This wasn’t discussed much in the official announcement, but the iPad mini 4 is a pretty nice step above its predecessor with enhancements in a few key areas that definitely make a difference. The major things you need to know about with this iPad mostly falls in line with Apple’s upgrade patterns: thinner, lighter, faster. Though there are some performance differences at play as well…
Apple has upgraded the internal specifications to include the A8 processor and M8 motion co-processor with 2GB of RAM, which is a step up over the A7 and 1GB of RAM found in the iPad mini 3. Along with that, the rear facing iSight camera has been bumped to 8-megapixels, up from 5 in the previous generation, but the front facing shooter remains the same. Though this is only important if you actually value taking photos with a tablet. Touch ID is also still present, introduced last year with the iPad mini 3.
While raw benchmarks won’t tell the entire story here, Geekbench 3 did reveal that the newer model is slightly faster than the previous one. I’d hope so with a better processor, but the real difference is something you’ll experience system-wide using iOS 9 and the new software enhancements that come along with that.
If you’re into performance and keeping up with the latest features in iOS 9, the iPad mini 4 is definitely the way to go. The software experience is noticeably more fluid with this device, but along with that you can take advantage of the new Split View mode in iOS 9, which is not supported on the iPad mini 3. If you’d like to know about more iOS 9-specific features coming to iPhone and iPad, we recently put together a rundown of everything which you can find here.
Software and performance differences aside, some of the biggest changes come in the form of hardware refinements, several of which make an impact. First off, the iPad mini 4 is 18% thinner than its predecessor and weighs in slightly less at 0.65 pound (roughly 299 grams). The iPad mini 4 is also slightly taller than the last version and as you would expect, all of these changes slightly affect accessories. Unfortunately, your old iPad mini cases will not fit this time around. There’s no workaround here but to buy new cases for this thinner and taller mini. Apple’s new case selection is limited to the standard options at the moment, but I went ahead and picked up a Midnight Blue Smart Cover to kick things off.
The microphone on the back side has been re-positioned and there’s a new secondary mic on the side above the volume rockers. And as you might have noticed, Apple has ditched the mute switch this time around and has given the volume buttons a cleaner look to closely match the iPad Air 2. On the bottom end of things, the speaker grille has been reconfigured as well. Nothing special here, but these subtle design differences make the iPad mini 4 finally feel like something closer to the latest-gen iOS devices.
The 7.9-inch display on the iPad mini 4 sports the same 2048 x 1536 resolution as its predecessor, but it looks a ton better this time around. Apple went with a fully laminated display and anti-reflective coating on the iPad mini 4 which looks drastically better to my eyes and has a much darker bezel on the Space Gray model that I definitely prefer. This takes away that small air gap that was between the actual display panel and the top glass protecting it. Colors are crisp, contrast is much better, and the UI is literally right at your fingertips. It makes a huge difference when you see the two side-by-side in person.
So what have we discovered here? Well, the iPad mini 4 is the best iPad mini ever… Obviously. Aside from that nonsense, there are some pretty important changes being made here that I feel really add to the positive experience. Thinner, lighter, faster isn’t always the only thing that matters. It’s the improved display and design changes that really have me hyped about this new iPad mini. Is it worth upgrading to from the last generation? Probably not, but definitely from anything prior to the iPad mini 3. It starts at $399 for the 16GB model, but I went ahead and snagged the 64GB model for $100 more which I feel is definitely the better deal.