I wasn't really sure what to expect when looking at the Retina iPad mini 2. Would it have a poor battery? Would the screen be lower brightness? Would it somehow be made out of recycled chicken droppings?

Luckily none of that came to pass, and Apple managed to really raise the bar set by the first iPad mini, creating a new standard in the mini iPad arena. There would be no iPad mini 4 without the iPad mini 2, and the latter is still arguably better value.

We liked

The design of the iPad mini was great the first time around; so much so that Apple scaled it up and used it on the larger version. It's back in an almost identical form here, but seems less likely to chip, and still wows me with the all-encompassing aluminum design.

I'd also like to applaud Apple for managing to get large battery and powerful processor under the hood to make a tablet that led the market when it first appeared, and both of those features still work very well.

Battery life remains strong with iOS 9, the A7 chip works in a robust fashion, and the Retina screen, while massively overdue, is clear and crisp.

And then there's the usual Apple stuff I'm starting to tire of praising: the amount of 4G bands, the MiMo wireless connectivity to improve Wi-Fi, the strong catalog of apps… It's all there, and makes for a tablet that's beyond par in so many ways.

We disliked

Talking of things I'm tired of talking about, I'm going to mention the price again. It was so nice being able to avoid it with the iPad Air, coming as that did with a comparable tag to the competition in the larger-screen arena.

While it's slightly unfair to compare Apple to Google or Amazon, who both sell their devices for cost or slightly under to engage users with their ecosystems, Apple is taking that normal route of charging a bit more to make a profit – albeit the cost is much more palatable now.

And forcing you to use its ecosystem, of course.

iPad mini 2 review

It's a shame, because otherwise this is a flawless tablet. You might get a little annoyed at the colors not being as vibrant on the screen as on some competitors' screens, but I can't really call that a problem.

The storage issue should also be noted here, as it's linked to the price. While you can buy versions of the tablet that will have more than enough space for your content, the 16GB option isn't enough.

I'm not going to label this as a big negative, as it's completely down to user choice – but the step up in price from 16GB to 32GB is well worth the investment.

Verdict

The iPad mini 2 was almost flawless in so many ways when it launched. The rich app catalog meant it was a device that will grow with you, and the 64-bit A7 chip and Retina display were certainly future-proofing users from finding themselves with an outdated device.

The design is still the best in the tablet category, even though it's been a couple of years since launch.

The update to iOS 9 has improved things too – you can read about all the new features here, but in short it's helped bring some lovely tweaks to the system.

Even gaming is decent on this tablet, which is essentially all the first mini should have been… and a little more.

The upshot is that, despite being a couple of years old, it's a decent tablet for the money. Apple is going to keep supporting it for a couple of years, and it's packing the same screen resolution as the current iPad mini 4 (although with inferior technology).

It feels great, it's still fairly rapid at opening and closing apps, and thankfully there's still a 32GB variant on offer.

It's definitely the best budget tablet out there, and still worth a look as a gift – even if you might have to think about upgrading in a year or two.