Mobile Technology

Review: iPad mini 3

Review: iPad mini 3
Gizmag reviews the lesser of Apple's 2014 tablets, the iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag reviews the lesser of Apple's 2014 tablets, the iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
View 15 Images
Like the two previous iPad minis, the Mini 3 has a 7.9-in screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Like the two previous iPad minis, the Mini 3 has a 7.9-in screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
That aluminum unibody build should also look familiar (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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That aluminum unibody build should also look familiar (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Apart from Touch ID, the iPad mini 3 is the iPad mini 2 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Apart from Touch ID, the iPad mini 3 is the iPad mini 2 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Password manager apps are a perfect fit for the iPad mini 3's Touch ID sensor (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Password manager apps are a perfect fit for the iPad mini 3's Touch ID sensor (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPad mini 3 starts at US$400, $100 more than the almost-identical iPad mini 2 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPad mini 3 starts at US$400, $100 more than the almost-identical iPad mini 2 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The display is sharp (326 ppi), but its narrow color gamut isn't improved over last year's model (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The display is sharp (326 ppi), but its narrow color gamut isn't improved over last year's model (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPad mini 3 still weighs 331 g (0.73 lb) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPad mini 3 still weighs 331 g (0.73 lb) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPad Air 2 got thinner than its predecessor, but the Mini 3 is still the same 7.5 mm (0.3-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPad Air 2 got thinner than its predecessor, but the Mini 3 is still the same 7.5 mm (0.3-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Touch ID is great, but is it worth $100? (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Touch ID is great, but is it worth $100? (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPad mini 3 doesn't have many gaps, but it also doesn't improve much on last year's Mini (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPad mini 3 doesn't have many gaps, but it also doesn't improve much on last year's Mini (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
We reviewed the space gray version, but the iPad mini 3 also ships in silver and gold (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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We reviewed the space gray version, but the iPad mini 3 also ships in silver and gold (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Another look at the iPad mini 3's 7.5 mm thickness
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Another look at the iPad mini 3's 7.5 mm thickness
Gizmag reviews the lesser of Apple's 2014 tablets, the iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gizmag reviews the lesser of Apple's 2014 tablets, the iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
View gallery - 15 images

The newest iPad mini is the smallest iPad update yet – to the degree that isn't really a new device. But is it still worth a look? Join Gizmag, as we review Apple's "new" iPad mini 3.

Want the Cliff's Notes version of our iPad mini 3 review? Okay: it's an iPad mini 2 (formerly "iPad mini with Retina Display"), only with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Oh, and there's now a gold color option. The end.

That isn't an exaggeration either. Same screen, processor, RAM, battery and cameras – all in the same body. Apart from Touch ID and gold, the iPad mini 3 is quite literally an iPad mini 2.

The display is sharp (326 ppi), but its narrow color gamut isn't improved over last year's model (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The display is sharp (326 ppi), but its narrow color gamut isn't improved over last year's model (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

It's too bad – because, for many of us, the iPad mini is the perfect size. Last year the Air and Mini were nearly identical ... one awesome tablet, two sizes to choose from. But this year the Air is sitting in the driver's seat, with the Mini passed out in the back.

I'm not sure why Apple blew off the iPad mini this year, but it could have to do with phablets. With big-screened phones (including one from Apple) eating into tablet sales, maybe the company sees the larger iPad Air as the one more likely to survive the threat?

... or it could be the real iPad mini 3 simply wasn't ready for 2014. Apple still needed something to sell as "new" for the holidays, so an iPad mini 2 with Touch ID is what we got.

Whatever the reason, this is a surprising change. Last year it looked like Air and Mini were going to be equals from then on. But this year there's no question which iPad is better.

Password manager apps are a perfect fit for the iPad mini 3's Touch ID sensor (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Password manager apps are a perfect fit for the iPad mini 3's Touch ID sensor (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Disappointment aside, the iPad mini 3 is still a great little tablet. It still has the Mini's winning combination of portability and screen size, along with the same sharp Retina Display (though its color range still isn't the best). It runs iOS 8, performs well and has long battery life. Most importantly, it has the App Store's leading tablet app selection.

Take all of that, add Touch ID and you still have one of the best mini-tablets you can buy – maybe even the best.

So why not run out and buy the iPad mini 3? Well, the problem is Apple (and tech companies in general) has trained us to expect significant upgrades every year. We want to hand over the same wad of money and get back something better than we got last year. The iPad mini 3 only barely does that.

iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPad mini 3 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

As it stands now, Apple is saying Touch ID is worth US$100. That's because the otherwise identical iPad mini 2 is hanging around for another year at $300, while the iPad mini 3 starts at $400.

Touch ID is the best fingerprint sensor around. It's an easy way to secure your tablet, and iOS 8 even lets you use it with third-party apps. The marriage of Touch ID and password manager apps, like 1Password and LastPass, is about as good as it gets.

But $100 for Touch ID – and nothing else – just seems too steep. For most people, I wouldn't recommend paying $400 (or more) for the iPad mini 3.

That aluminum unibody build should also look familiar (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
That aluminum unibody build should also look familiar (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

... but there's a bright side here. The iPad mini 3 isn't a great deal, but the iPad mini 2 is. $300 for a high-end tablet with the same sharp screen, long battery life and app selection? That's more like it.

Just 13 months ago, $330 got you an iPad mini 1 with an ancient processor and dated (even at the time) display. Now, for $30 less than that, you get a tablet that's not just better – it's about two generations better.

The iPad mini 2 might be the best iPad value yet.

The iPad mini 3 still weighs 331 g (0.73 lb) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPad mini 3 still weighs 331 g (0.73 lb) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The iPad mini 3 is Apple's second-best tablet, but unless you see Touch ID as a $100 feature (or really, really like gold), we recommend passing on it. Your money will go farther on either the cheaper iPad mini 2 or the bigger and better iPad Air 2.

The iPad mini 3 is available now, starting at $400 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi only model.

Product page: Apple

View gallery - 15 images
1 comment
Lewis M. Dickens III
Well Will, that leaves room to make it a phone too... next year.
And with app friendliness of 8 It could be fantastic, especially with the i41CX+ if they stop scaring the bejesus out of Antonio, which is exceedingly stupid on their part.
If you don't understand the historic importance of the HP41CX, I don't know what to say. It instantly killed the slide rule. If you were and engineer back then you would have had one.
Include a super accurate clock that synchs with the NBST Standard Time and WOW! They make it free for all you know.
So much for Dick Tracy!
bill