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iPad mini review

The original iPad mini is still good, apart from that screen

Onto the iPad mini interface. iOS 7 was a complete redesign that ditched the gradient-heavy look that had been around since the introduction of the first iPhone, and as I've mentioned earlier, the iPad mini can also be upgraded to iOS 8.1

While it was a bit of a shock at first, the general consensus is that it was a much-needed shake-up by Jony Ive who replaced the ousted Scot Forstall as interface designer.

Gone are most of the shadows in favour of a much flatter design. Since iOS 7 runs on all recent iPads, iPhones and iPod touches (I'm currently testing version 7.1 here), it should be a familiar experience to anyone with an existing Apple device.

Holding the iPad mini in portrait mode is easy enough thanks to the weight. Prodding the icons on screen isn't too difficult, nor does it feel like you're going to push the tablet out of your hands and onto the floor.

iPad Mini review

The iOS interface is simplicity itself. Any users not familiar with Apple's mobile operating system will pick it up in no time. The icons are presented in a 4 by 5 layout, and unlike on the iPhone they rotate when you move the tablet into landscape format.

The ability to place icons in the bottom dock means you can have the apps you want on the home screen. Dragging and dropping said apps on top of one another allows you to create folders with ease, which you can rename to anything you want.

With iOS 8, Apple has greatly improved the number of controls you can access directly from the Home screen, and indeed from any screen.

To enter the app switcher, simply double-click on the Home button to see a Cover Flow-style view of all your app windows. Swiping left and right lets you see all the apps that are open but in a 'suspended' state, while tapping on one launches it.

iPad mini review

Swiping on the screens themselves scrolls them normally, but swiping on the app icons moves them more quickly, which is great if you have lots of apps open that aren't currently in use. Force quitting apps is done in this view by swiping upwards on an app window, and you can use two fingers to quit two apps at once.

As iOS matured, there were increasingly loud grumblings about the fact that many commonly used controls were buried in subsections of the Settings app, with only volume, brightness and AirPlay available via quick controls. Thankfully Apple has addressed this with a new control overlay that you call up by swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen.

iPAd Mini review

There are buttons here for volume and brightness, AirDrop and AirPlay, music or video playback, as well as shortcuts to the clock, timer and camera functions. Perhaps best of all, a row of five buttons in the centre provides quick on/off switches for Airplane mode, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb mode and rotation lock.

These were almost all available in iOS 6 but much more fiddly to get to, requiring drilling down into various different Settings menus. Do Not Disturb is a new, handy mode that stops all notifications except for any you choose specifically to allow.

The Lock screen will show the cover art of any music track that's playing and also gives you playback and volume controls as well as a shortcut to Camera mode. Handily, the Control Centre overlay can also be swiped in from the Lock screen.

iPAd Mini review

Searching your iPad is done using Spotlight and this is revealed from any Home screen by swiping downwards form the centre of the screen with one finger.

It searches pretty much all the content on the device, though you can exclude certain things like Notes or Messages from searches in the Settings. If you search for something that isn't on the device you get an option to run the search on the web or Wikipedia.

However, Apple is still catering for the iPad owners with some handy gestures to make things easier to move around. Instead of double tapping the home button to switch apps, touching the screen with four fingers and swiping left and right will move you through the most recently-used apps, and pinching all digits together will return you to the home screen.

This is really helpful when using the tablet on the move, as it means you don't need to shuffle the palm around to hit the home button - and it's really cool too. It's an even more intuitive system on the iPad mini than the iPad 'proper', as it somehow fits the screen size better.

By default, iOS 8 does quite a lot of animation when you open and close apps, and has a slightly space-age "parallax" effect that uses the built-in gyroscope to move the wallpaper slightly to the left or right depending on how you tilt the device.

This isn't to everyone's taste: indeed some users reported it gave them motion sickness. Luckily it can be disabled by going into Settings > Accessibility and choosing Reduce Motion, where you will also find options to increase contrast and reduce transparency effects.

Disabling these settings lightens the processing load, so they are worth looking at if you're not particularly partial to zooming.

iPAd Mini review

The Notification Centre, revealed by swiping down from the top of any Home screen, can show notifications from any supported apps and you can enable or disable these using the Settings app.

By default you'll see a Calendar view with a weather summary, but you can also see messages, emails, eBay notifications and much more here if you choose to switch them on.

Apple might be criticised for bringing older technology to the iPad mini, as the A5 chip with 512MB of RAM doesn't sound like a lot when you can buy the quad core Google Nexus 4 smartphone with 2GB of RAM for the same price as the mini, and with the same amount of storage too.

However, in practice it's really rather hard to fault Apple's interface performance when using the device in day to day use. It's definitely not got the grunt of the larger new iPad Air or even the iPad mini 2, but the performance of iOS 7.1 and even iOS 8 on this older hardware is still perfectly acceptable.

The only real gripe, and it's one you'll hear time and again from me throughout this iPad mini review, is the fact that the screen is too low-res.

It simply saddens me to see menus we're used to on both iPads and iPhones not having the same sharpness as before... and we're certainly not used to seeing Apple take a step back in quality.

If you've never used a top end smartphone or tablet, this won't be an issue as the display is fine, and technically still HD in terms of pixel count. But the Retina display on the mini 3 is unquestionably superior and once you're used to Retina quality the lower resolution of the older screens is very noticeable.

Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet
Flash Memory Capacity16 GB
Processor ManufacturerApple
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyiPad mini
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformiOS
ColourWhite, Silver
Operating SystemiOS 6
Brand NameApple
Form FactorSlate
Processor TypeA5
Screen Size20.1 cm (7.9")
Screen Resolution1024 x 768
Weight (Approximate)313 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyIn-plane Switching (IPS) Technology
WWAN SupportedYes
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Cellular Generation4G
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution5 Megapixel
Height199.9 mm
Width134.6 mm
Depth7.1 mm
Screen ModeXGA
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMD543NF/A
Product NameiPad mini MD543NF/A Tablet
Product LineiPad mini
Aspect Ratio4:3
Manufacturer Part NumberMD543NF/A
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

The whole package. In a smaller package.

A beautiful display, powerful A5 chip, FaceTime HD camera, iSight camera with 1080p HD video recording, ultrafast wireless, and over 275,000 apps ready to download from the App Store. iPad mini is an iPad in every way, shape, and slightly smaller form.

Package Contents
  • iPad mini MD543NF/A Tablet
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • USB Power Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year