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The iPad Mini 4 was a strong tablet at launch, and – especially given that I was worried we wouldn't ever see a new iPad mini – still a welcome addition to the family a few years on.

I'm not sure why Apple launched this powerful little tablet with so little fanfare at the iPhone launch a few years ago, but I guess it wanted to make sure the iPad Pro and new handsets grabbed all the headlines.

That's a shame, as there's a lot to like here – even though it was a little on the aged side in terms of the components being used, so be even warier now. 

We liked

The display on the iPad mini 4 is really lovely. It's got less glare, a lovely resolution and pin-sharp clarity; in short, it's a joy to look at everything on this tablet, and that hasn't really changed over the years.

iPad mini 4 review

The power and performance are really strong too; while it's not quite at the new iPad level, it's perfectly capable of doing everything I wanted – and the media performance in particular is very strong.

The app library remains a key strength of the iPad line-up, and shouldn't be taken for granted on this smaller iPad – especially as on that sharper screen everything looks colorful and pleasant.

We disliked

This will come as no surprise, but it would have been mega if Apple has decided to throw 3D Touch onto this device. The mini 4 has the ability to run it (in terms of screen clarity), and while I understand that the brand wants to hold some toys back to make the next iPad mini impressive, there could have been something better here.

The split-screen option doesn't quite work on the cramped screen, but that's a decent optional extra rather than a key function, so it's hard to see that as a massive negative.

Using the Apple A8 chipset seems to have improved the battery life, but it leaves the actual performance of the slate a little behind the rest of the range.

iPad mini 4 review

It's not a big deal day to day, and it's clearly been done to keep the cost down, but were the mini 4 to have the newer chip it would have been a more compelling purchase by far.

Verdict

The iPad Mini 4 is going to be an underground hit for Apple. While the Mini 3 was woefully disappointing (coming with literally just Touch ID and a new color as upgrades over the mini 2), there's a real step forward here.

The mini 4 should have been launched earlier, and could have helped to reduce the slowdown in tablet interest we've seen recently. I'm still not convinced that tablets will mimic phones in terms of sales in the future, but better hardware and an upgraded design will at least help in this respect.

The little things that irk Android fans remain of course – using iTunes to transfer anything across is still a slight hindrance, but it's manageable, and it's not as onerous as it used to be thanks to the changes in the operating system that enable you to do such things wirelessly.

Apple did the iPad mini 4 a disservice by launching it so discreetly. It's a powerful, compact device that doesn't cost a huge amount – combine that with Apple's App Store library, and you've got something very impressive.

Despite being a little older, the price is a little high compared to some other cheap options around (and the new iPad, which is larger and better specified bar the storage option, is actually more inexpensive

First reviewed: September 2015