Over the past year, if you asked iPad mini owners what one thing they’d change about the device, odds were good that they’d respond with “add a Retina display.” Well, they obviously weren’t unheard, as the second generation of Apple’s scaled-down (in size, but not usefulness) tablet does exactly that—but not only that. This year’s new iPad mini with Retina display (see, it’s right there in the name) melds the superb design and build quality of the original with that long-awaited high-res screen and the heart of an iPhone 5s for one fantastic portable computing powerhouse.
The first thing you’ll notice upon picking up the iPad mini is the design, which is, in a word, excellent. But if you’ve spent any time with last year’s model, you’ll already know that. This device is easily among the finest that Apple has ever designed, with a sturdy, quality feel and refined edges. Plus it just looks fantastic no matter if you go with the space grey or silver finish.
Switch on the device and the real magic begins. That’s when you see the real draw here: the Retina display. If you’ve previously used a Retina display-equipped iPad, you have an idea of what to expect here, but there’s still something about seeing all those pixels (3.1 million, the same as the larger iPad Air) squeezed onto the smaller 7.9-inch screen. Everything, especially text, simply pops off the screen with nary a jagged edge in sight.
We tested the iPad mini with Retina display with a diverse slate of apps, from iOS 7’s stock offerings to the likes of Flipboard and, of course, plenty of games, and the display performed exceptionally. It was easy on the eyes, bright, colorful, and sharp. It was only when we performed some A/B comparisons between the mini and the new iPad Air that we noticed the former comes up a little short in terms of color saturation when compared to its larger sibling (and even the iPhone 5s). Even noting this, however, when we returned to using the mini exclusively the decreased saturation (and slight drop in maximum brightness) wasn’t enough to harm the experience.
Speaking of experience, the mini’s new 64-bit A7 processor, borrowed from the iPhone 5s, handled everything—from iLife apps to the latest, greatest games—we threw at it with infinite finesse. This is one small yet immensely powerful device that’s more than up to the needs of casual and power users.
After putting the iPad mini with Retina display though its paces, we came away duly impressed. This is exactly what we’d been wanting, plus some. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting a high-res iPad mini, we can say without reservation that your ship has come in—and it’s a hot-looking speedboat, at that.
The bottom line. While its display isn’t quite as vibrant as the iPad Air’s, the second-generation iPad mini is still a fantastic device packing blistering processing speed and a gorgeous screen in one petite, flawlessly designed package.