Apple’s iPad Mini reviewed

Power matters

Inside, the mini’s brain consists of Apple’s A5 dual-core processor, which is the same class of processor found on the larger iPad 2. During our discrete testing, we found that the mini was actually marginally faster than the iPad 2, although you’d be pressed to see a difference when using apps in the real world. It’s not nearly as fast as an iPhone 5 or the 4th generation iPad, which are both based on Apple’s newest, and most powerful A6 processor.

While it would be fantastic to see the mini with a A6 chip, which includes quad core graphics, as well as a small Retina display, this would drive the price up considerably. For more on how the mini compared on our tests, check our benchmarks of the new tablet.

We did find that, while not perfectly fluid, the mini performed quite well on a suite of processor and graphics intensive games, including Real Racing 2 and Sky Gamblers – Air Supremacy. In fact, the mini’s size is just about perfect when it comes to portable gaming and is more comfortable to use as a game controller via the built-in accelerometer than a full-sized iPad. With the comparatively low price of games on the Apple App Store, the mini is probably the final nail in the coffin for the few dedicated portable gaming devices still out there.

The mini's compact shape makes it a fantastic hand-held gaming device and great fun with Sky Gamblers - Air Supremacy.

Battery life and accessories

With portability in mind, it’s good to see that the mini has a good amount of battery life. Since its last charging our test mini has lasted two days and still has 54 percent battery life remaining. Of course, how the mini’s battery will perform depends heavily on what you are doing with it, and ours has seen a combination of gameplay, movies, Wi-Fi tests and benchmarks, so it has been fairly busy.

The mini’s battery would not last as long on the Wi-Fi + LTE version, as a cellular connection can place considerable demands on power consumption. According to Apple, the mini’s 16.3-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery is rated for 10 hours of charge, or 9 with the LTE version.

Like its bigger brother, the iPad mini comes with its own Smartcover, only this one doesn’t have the metal bits, but otherwise it works in a similar fashion. By using magnets, the case figures out just where to attach, and there’s an additional magnet that helps the folded cover stay in place. Also, since the mini is lighter, it can be lifted by the cover without falling off, and only after a good amount of jiggling did it come loose.

There’s also a reasonable selection of mini cases from third party makers appearing, and you can read more about them here. The mini’s Smartcovers come in six colours, starting from $45.

The new Smartcover, minus the metal found on the larger iPad version (left). The magnets can support the mini's weight but it will fall off with some spirited jiggling (right).