iPad mini review

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

iPad Mini review
The definitive iPad mini review

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When it comes to the iPad mini, it's clear Apple is doing what it has always done and made it into a multimedia hub for the 'modern user on the go'... which in today's terms is the same as every tablet out there.

However, very few can cope with the raw power and breadth of offering available in the iTunes library, which brings a smorgasbord of music, video and books to the device - and that's before you even get into the subject of using third party apps to extend the experience.

TV and Movies

The iPad mini suffers from the same thing that all the other iPads do: namely that the 16GB version, which was the poster child of the original iPad mini and is now the only version you can buy, is too small to really pack with the movies and apps that you want.

With the release of the Retina-imbued new iPad and its successors, the size of apps like iMovie has soared, so combine that with a whole series of HD video or your favourite movies and you can see why it makes sense to pay a fair bit more to get more storage on your tablet. Except you can't any more unless you opt for a newer iPad mini 2 or iPad mini 3.

ipad mini review

It's a pretty big issue that plagued the first 'new' iPad, and although the lower-res display of the mini doesn't need as many pixels, the sizes for download are still the same.

Comparing a TV download through the iTunes app in SD and HD quality wouldn't be that different - or so you'd think. In reality, the HD quality videos are much more impressive on the iPad mini, meaning you'll always be tempted to fork out a little more to get the extra sharpness.

And there's another problem: the cost of downloading things through the iPad mini. An HD TV series can be purchased for around $39, but in "real life" (as in, on the shop shelves) it can be over half that for a Blu-ray version of the same episodes.

It's not just Apple that charges these high prices, but in reality it's a real issue - you want to power up your new tablet with loads of video, and unless you want to find a way to get access to files without heading through the iTunes store, which many won't, we can see many new iPad users being frustrated by this limiting access.

ipad mini review

There's the other issue here: the lack of file compatibility. The iPad mini will play .mp4 files fairly easily, but if you fancy chucking on a DivX or AVI option then that's out of the question. There are third party applications you can use, but these can be extremely buggy and cost extra to put on your tablet.

But that's the griping out of the way - as a video player, the iPad mini is excellent. It's just the right size and weight to hold two-handed in landscape mode, and if you're OK with it not feeling as secure in one hand, a decent heft to hold with a single set of digits.

The headphone jack is also well-placed - holding it with the Home Button to the right will keep it completely palm free, and if you choose the other direction you'll find it's just clear enough to not get in the way all the time.

We will admit that not being able to hold it in one hand securely will be an issue for some, and Apple shouldn't be pretending that it will be a comfortable experience for many, but the wider screen is so much better than on the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD that we can't really be annoyed too much.

The ability to fine tune how you slide through the video to get to the section you want, the ease with which you can jump in and out of episodes or movies or the simple one-touch option to fire the movie out to a bigger screen through AirPlay is all intuitive and impressive. There might be an issue getting what you want on the iPad mini, but once it's there it's one of our favourite devices to use for video.


Music is also well-placed on the iPad mini, with a simple to use interface and a much better price range for new songs should you want to keep up to date with the latest and greatest of the hit parade.

ipad mini review

Before the first iPad made its debut we wondered how Apple would increase the size of the interface to make use of all the space on the screen, and while it's a little expansive on the larger version, the iPad mini revels in the larger amount of room to show albums and tracks but also makes it much easier to hit the buttons on the screen.

Like with the video option, the AirPlay function is easily accessible, but only when available, which makes it a much easier system to use if you want to pump your tunes around the house.

The sound quality through headphones is, as ever, excellent, although when playing it through the speakers the fact they're chucked down one end of the device does mean the sound quality isn't as good, especially if it's placed with the connector facing downwards (obviously).

The sound is rich enough to get away with should your DJ be taken ill an hour before the party, but it's not going to win any audio quality contests.

Overall though, and especially with wireless headphones, the iPad mini is great for tunes, in terms of being able to choose new songs through the store from the Music app to high-res album art playing on the lock screen - as well as the aforementioned music controls it gets from the Control Center.


With the smaller screen size, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this may be an e-reader above all else – well, no, as the iPad mini is no better for e-books than its larger brother.

It's superior in terms of portability and ease of holding, but the main advantage dedicated e-readers like the Kindle PaperWhite have is the fact the display is passive, and therefore doesn't cause as much eye strain.

The iBooks app is decent enough, with a fun bookshelf layout and an easy to use interface that means you can swipe or tap to head through the tomes. However, given many people now have Kindle accounts, the dedicated app from Amazon is superior in our view.

It seems odd that iBooks isn't actually pre-installed on the iPad mini, as it seems to be a core feature of the device at the screen size, but you'll be prompted to download it when you head into the App Store for the first time.

The reading experience is fine, but as with many LCD screen-based e-readers longer sessions aren't as pleasurable as they are on the e-ink devices, simply because the screen quality causes more strain on the eyes. The lower resolution means that words aren't displayed as sharply on the screen, which is a shame, but it's not the end of the world… just another area where the cost savings have been met.


The gaming prowess of the iPad mini has been called into question slightly, as the onboard chip certainly isn't the most powerful Apple has ever cranked out.

That worry was confirmed when firing up some higher-power games, such as Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, which looks phenomenal on both the iPad 3 and new iPad 4.

Graphics were much blockier, although the gameplay was smooth enough and the three-axis gyro made playing shooting games a little more fun – this coupled with the smaller dimensions of the device but with a larger screen made some games a heap more playable than before.

Apple has crafted the iPad mini to attract the casual gamer; while others will work fine on the device, don't expect to be wowed by the gaming prowess.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.