There were no iPad Mini 3 wishlists flying around the web. Because the iPad Mini 2 is such a close-to-flawless product, nobody had the imagination to improve on the beautifully built, apptastic mini tab.
Including, it seems, Apple.
The differences between the iPad Mini 3 and its predecessor boil down to this: the new one gets Touch ID fingerprint scanning for unlocking the tablet and paying for iTunes purchases. And it comes in gold.
One more difference: the Mini 2 now starts at a (relatively) bargainous £240, with the Mini 3 slotting into the £320 price bracket.
So is paying with your thumb worth the upgrade?
Still the best small tab around
If the iPad Mini 2 didn’t exist, we’d be gushing over this lovely bit of kit just like we did last year.
Because everything is the same. The same slim-but-not-too-slim 7.5mm aluminium build, small-but-not-too-small 7.9in screen and incredibly sharp 2048 x 1536 resolution. There’s no noticeable tweaks to the iPad Mini’s screen tech. Whites are still printer paper-pure, contrast is excellent and colours are mostly accurate and appealing. We say mostly because there are still a few hues, reds in particular, that both the iPad Air and even tablets like the Kindle Fire HDX pick up that the iPad Mini misses. Still, it’s not something every user will spot and colour reproduction is more than good enough for Netflix and the web. If you need a tablet for working with images, we’d recommend the iPad Air 2 instead.
The iPad Mini 3 isnt treated to the same anti-reflective coating and display lamination technique seen on the Air 2 either - a small difference but one that makes the gap between the two iPad models bigger. In terms of aesthetics, both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 get a new gold model to join the silver and space gray options.
READ MORE: Apple iPad Mini 2 review
Power and performance remains the same too, that is very, very good. This tablet is as smooth as we’ve seen from Apple, with no stutters or lag. Still, spec fans will be disappointed that the iPad Mini 3 misses out on the A8X processor and M8 motion co-processor, the brains behind the iPad Air 2. In time, we might see more games and video editing apps that make use of this extra grunt. For now, we’re not complaining too much.
For stamina, at least, the iPad Mini 3 just about matches the bigger Cupertino tablet. Like its predecessor, it lasts just shy of the iPad Air’s ten-hour battery life. For a tablet, that’s very respectable and means only having to charge the iPad Mini every other day at most.
Screen: 7.9in 2048x1536 (326ppi) Retina display, IPSProcessor: A7 chip with 64-bit architecture, M7 co-processorRAM: (unspecified)OS: iOS 8.1Camera: 5MP rear with 1080p video, 1.2MP frontStorage: 16/32/64/128GB (non expandable)Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 3G/4G optionalDimensions: 134.7 x 200 x 7.5mmWeight: 331g (341g with 3G/4G)
Touch ID and iOS 8.1
We said there weren’t many iPad Mini 3 wishlists, but the one feature iPhone users have been asking for on the iPad is Touch ID.
It becomes such an ingrained habit, pressing a finger or thumb to the iPhone’s home button, that switching to a Touch ID-less iPad gets terribly confusing. Well that's no longer a problem, as the Mini 3's joined the fingerprint-recognition party. It’s faster and more accurate than when it was first introduced and still just as easy to set up.
So what can you do with it? First up, replace your pin code to unlock the iPad, a feature Samsung has added to smartphones such as the Galaxy S5, albeit in a slightly less elegant implementation. Then there’s fingerprint authentication for iTunes and App Store purchases, which is a nice timesaver that lets you wave bye-bye to entering your password every time.
Apple Pay, only available in the US for now, adds support for lots more online transactions - including booking Uber cabs. It’s worth noting that, unlike the iPhone 6, you wont be paying via NFC in shops with your Mini 3. To be fair to Apple, pressing an iPad Mini 3 to a contactless card reader would look a bit ridiculous.
As for iOS 8.1, you can download this on to your iPad Mini 2 now, so it’s not much of a selling point for the new model. The additions are welcome though, both in terms of ironing out bugs in iOS 8 and adding long-hyped productivity features such as syncing files, links and messages with Yosemite (on MacBooks and iMacs) via Continuity when logged into iCloud.
READ MORE: iOS 8 review
That’s right. The iPad Mini 2 is now only being stocked by Apple in 16GB (£240) and 32GB (£280) sizes, both non expandable of course.
That means if you want more than 32GB, the Mini 3 is your only option. In another business-minded move, the Mini 3 skips the 32GB model altogether.
It is available in 16GB (£320), 64GB (£400) and 128GB (£480) sizes, with on average an extra £100 for 3G/4G capabilities. Of course that makes the 64GB model look like a sensible option: if you're spending £320 on 16GB, why not go the whole hog and spend £400 for four times the storage?
Essentially, if you can limit yourself to 32GB or less of storage, then buy an iPad Mini 2. Any more and you don’t get the choice.
Apple iPad Mini 3 Verdict
This is essentially an iPad Mini 2s or more accurately still, an iPad Mini 2 with Touch ID.
The changes are comically minimal and the most interesting new features are available via a software update to iOS 8.1 if you have a last-gen iPad Mini.
If this is your first Apple tablet AND the futuristic fingerprint authentication appeals to you AND you need more than 32GB storage, this is the best choice. But in all other cases, we’d say that £80 is simply too much money to justify choosing the Mini 3 over the brilliant, and now brilliantly priced, iPad Mini 2.
READ MORE: The best tablets you can buy