In case you blinked, Apple just gave the nearly-forgotten iPad mini its biggest update in two years

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The new iPad mini 4 gets a newer chip and lighter/thinner build(Credit: Apple)

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Easy to lose among today's announcements was Apple's brief mention of a new iPad mini. While it doesn't look like the iPad Air is getting updated this year, the iPad mini 4 brings the mini-slate into alignment with last year's iPad Air 2.

It's almost hard to believe that the iPad mini was, only two or three years ago, considered by many to be the future of Apple's tablet lineup. But as interest in tablets has waned, smartphone screens have grown bigger and 2-in-1s have become more common as mobile PCs, Apple is now framing the future of the iPad as a 12.9-inch productivity tablet.

The iPad mini? Its biggest upgrade in two years got just a few seconds of mention at today's event.

The new iPad mini 4 is a smaller version of the razor-thin iPad Air 2: just 6.1 mm (0.24 in) thick. It also weighs in at 299 g (0.65 lb), 10 percent lighter than the last two iPad minis.

Though it keeps the same Retina Display as the last two models (7.9 inches, 2,048 x 1,536 resolution), the iPad mini 4 has an upgraded A8 system-on-a-chip. That isn't Apple's latest model (the A9 and A9X power the just-announced iPhones and iPad Pro, respectively), but it's still a generation newer than the A7 (ye of 2013) found in the iPad minis 2 and 3.

The new iPad mini also gets the improved cameras found in the iPad Air 2: 8 MP on the rear and 1.2 MP on the front.

The iPad mini 3, which was never a highly-recommended product, is now obsolete, with the Mini 4 taking its place in Apple's pricing structure. The two-year-old iPad mini 2 lives on in the budget slot, which now starts at US$280.

Orders are already open for the iPad mini 4, starting at $400 for 16 GB and Wi-Fi only.

Source: Apple

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