Last year's iPad mini 3 was basically an iPad mini 2 with a Touch ID button.
This year's iPad mini 4 takes a bigger evolutionary step forward. In fact, it is the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 shrunk into a 7.9-inch tablet.
The mini 4 is the only Apple small tablet available in gold. It also comes in space grey and silver.
The design is virtually the same as its predecessor and bigger cousins, with an aluminium chassis and chamfered edges.
What is new is its fully-laminated design, which eliminates the air gap between glass and display and makes the tablet 18 per cent thinner than its predecessor. The mini 4 measures 6.1mm thick, similar to the iPad Air 2, and 1mm thinner than the iPhone 6s.
Maybe it is because the mini 4 is so thin that Apple has to get rid of the rotation switch above the volume control buttons. You can now only swipe up the Control Centre and tap on the orientation lock.
I like that the mini 4's display has an anti-reflective coating that significantly reduces glare compared to its predecessor. Colours are much more saturated too.
The mini 4 finally gets a camera upgrade. An 8-megapixel rear camera replaces the previous 5-megapixel one. However, the front camera is the same 1.2-megapixel one.
You can take panoramic pictures, shoot in burst mode and record slow-motion videos with the rear camera. The only thing missing is the dual-LED flash found in iPhone 6 and 6s.
Despite having a camera sensor that packs more pixels, image details are not much richer than the mini 3 although there is better dynamic range. But I still hate it when someone lifts a tablet, even a mini one, to take photos and blocks everyone else's view in the process.
The mini 4 uses the A8 processor found in the iPhone 6. It scored 1,663 (single-core) and 3,046 (multi-core) in the GeekBench 3 benchmark tests. This is not as fast as the Air 2, which uses an A8X chip and clocked 1,812 (single-core) and 4,544 (multi-core).
Nonetheless, launching apps and playing games still feel quick and smooth. It took 6sec to load graphics-intensive game Infinity Blade III - the same as the Air 2.
With iOS 9 on mini 4, you can use the Slide Over feature that lets you open a second app without exiting the app you are using by swiping on the right of the display. You can also use Split View feature that runs two apps side by side.
While these features are lag-free and the apps look sharp, the smaller screen makes the Split View a bit hard to use. I think both features are more suited to the upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
In our intensive battery test (which involves looping a 720p video with Wi-Fi on and the display at full brightness), the mini 4 managed 7hr 26min. The Air 2 lasted 8hr 15min before the battery went flat.
In practical use, I found that the mini 4 needed to be charged every other day when I use it to regularly check e-mail, browse Pinterest, flip through FlipBoard, read Facebook updates and ebooks.
PRICE: From $548 (16GB Wi-Fi) to $1,008 (128GB Wi-Fi + 4G, version tested)
OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS 9
PROCESSOR: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture. M8 co-processor
DISPLAY: 7.9 inches, 2,048 x 1.536 pixels
CAMERA: 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera
WEIGHT: 298.8g (Wi-Fi), 304g (Wi-Fi + 4G)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
Verdict: The Apple iPad mini 4 is the ideal iPad mini that should have been launched last year. A year late but still, better late than never. And it is the best mini tablet right now.
This article was first published on October 21, 2015.
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