Well, the iPad mini 2 being a shrunken down version of the Air eh? Who saw that coming? Well, we all did.

We weren't really sure what to expect when looking at the new iPad mini though. 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's managed to really raise the bar set from the first iPad mini - albeit in a market where the rest of the market has massively raised its game.

We liked

The design of the iPad mini was great already; 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 us with the all-encompassing aluminum design.

We'd also like to applaud Apple for managing to get large battery and powerful processor under the hood to make a market-leading tablet, and both of those features work very well.

Battery life is strong, 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 we're 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 make a tablet that's beyond par in so many ways.

We disliked

Talking of things we're tired of talking about: we're 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 the ecosystem, Apple is using that normal route of charging a bit more to make a profit.

And forcing you to use its ecosystem, of course.

iPad mini 2 review

But that doesn't detract from the fact you can buy a Google Nexus 7 for 25-30% less than the comparable 16GB / 32GB option from Apple – and that increase in price to improve the amount of storage on board has no justification.

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 some in the competition, but we can 't really call that an issue.

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.

We're 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 means this is a little prohibitive for some.

Verdict

The iPad mini 2 is almost flawless in so many ways. The rich App catalog mean it's a device that will grow with you, and the 64-bit A7 chip and Retina display are certainly future-proofing users from an outdated device.

The design is still the best in the tablet category, with perhaps only the LG G pad 8.3 coming close.

On top of that iOS 7 is at least a step forward, while the update to iOS 8 has kept it fresh and finally being able to see things in the clarity they deserve is hugely important.

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

But the price is still something that really jars when you consider the rivals. The Nexus 7 has a crisp and clear screen, a strong app catalog (although not as polished) and a decent build – for so much less cash.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX follows the same path, but with a better processor – although not the greatest user interface.

We were torn when scoring the iPad mini 2 as, in a vacuum, there's nothing that touches it apart from the larger Air, and these are tablets in different categories. You wouldn't own both, but the iPad mini 2 is no longer a sidekick to the larger model.

Given the weight and size reduction of the iPad Air too, there's a strong argument to be for just stepping up and buying the larger tablet if you want to invest in a premium product - there's not much difference in price now Apple has upped the cost of the smaller option.

So here's the upshot: if you're willing more on a tablet and want it to be a little more portable, then the iPad mini 2 with Retina display can't be beaten. It's slick, fast, powerful and comes with so much free software and design wins that it will provide a trouble-free existence for many years.

But if you're thinking about saving money, the competition is strong too. It's nowhere near as good as the iPad mini 2, but for the cost reduction you can forgive a multitude of sins.

The iPad mini 2 might not be a sidekick to the Air in terms of spec but, thanks to Apple raising the price even further this year, it's playing second fiddle to its larger brother.