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Apple iPad Mini 4 First Impressions

Patrick Afschar Kaboli (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 09/19/2015

From an unloved stepchild to a Shining Star? According to some rumors, Apple would discontinue its iPad Mini entirely. There was hardly any mention of the Mini at the last keynote event. There was not even a news item. Nevertheless: The iPad Mini 4 has arrived - and more effort has been put into it than expected. It is even allowed to bear the iOS 9 banner.

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For the original German review, see here.

Rarely has an Apple device been released with so little hype prior to its release as our present review sample. Normally the opposite is true: Malicious tongues even claimed that a fourth edition of the iPad would not be launched at all. Instead, the focus was placed on the new iPhones and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in Cupertino. Moreover, if the listener were not attentive, the only two sentences concerning the Apple iPad Mini 4 at the keynote event would have been missed. The first sentence dealt with the price, and the second was when Phil Schiller promised that the power of the iPad Air 2 has been packed in the casing of the new Mini. That was it. There is not even a news item in the German Apple news section about it.

Despite it all, Apple's iPad Mini 4 is the first iOS device of the preceding keynote event that sees the light of day - and the first that comes with iOS 9. In addition, it is equipped with a "new" chip - the Apple A8 known from the 6th generation iPhones, and marginally improved cameras. The iPad Mini 4th generation is also slightly slimmer. That is basically it since neither Force Touch nor 3D Touch have found their way into the little iPad. But wait - there is something else: The A8 chip operates at a slightly higher clock rate in the iPad Mini 4, and Apple throws in 2 GB of working memory. That equals to twice the capacity compared with the precursor.

Nothing has changed in terms of price, design or available colors. Once again, the iPad Mini 4 comes in Space Gray, Silver or Gold, with the option of 16, 64 or 128 GB of storage as Wi-Fi or LTE models. The price starts at 389 Euros (~$440). The top-of-the-line model costs around 709 Euros (~$802); our review sample with 64 GB of storage and LTE is sold for 609 Euros (~$689).

We dedicate this preview test primarily to the performance of the "new" SoC, the photo quality of the new cameras, the screen, and the maximum possible battery life. An in-depth review will follow in the coming weeks before we look at the new iPhones starting next Friday. Some aspects concerning handling will also be different thanks to 3D Touch.

Apple iPad Mini 4
Processor
Apple A8 @ 1.5 GHz
Graphics adapter
PowerVR GX6450, Memory: 450 MHz, 4 clusters, 20 nm
Memory
2048 MB 
Display
7.9 inch 4:3, 2048 x 1536 pixel, capacitive, multitouch, Retina Display, IPS, glossy: yes
Storage
64 GB SSD, 64 GB 
, 55.5 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm jack, 1 Fingerprint Reader, Sensors: touch ID, 3 axix gyro sensor, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, aGPS, Glonass, compass, Lightning (USB 2.0)
Networking
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.2, UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); LTE (frequency bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, 41); nano-SIM
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 6.1 x 203.2 x 134.8 ( = 0.24 x 8 x 5.31 in)
Battery
19 Wh Lithium-Polymer, 5124 mAh, Battery runtime (according to manufacturer): 10 h
Operating System
Apple iOS 9
Camera
Webcam: FaceTime camera (1.2 MP; 720p); iSight camera (8 MP, f/2.4, 1080p, slo-mo, time lapse)
Additional features
Speakers: stereo speakers, Keyboard: virtual, 12 Months Warranty, supported audio formats: AAC (8 to 320 kbit/s), Protected AAC (via iTunes Store), HE‑AAC, MP3 (8 to 320 kbit/s), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX and AAX+), Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV; supported video formats: H.264 Video: max. 1080p, 60 frames per second, High Profile Level 5.0 w/ AAC‑LC Audio max. 160 kbit/s, 48 kHz, stereo audio formats: .m4v, .mp4 and .mov; MPEG‑4 video: max. 2.5 Mbit/s, 640 x 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile w/ AAC‑LC Audio max. 160 kbit/s per channel, 48 kHz, stereo audio formats: .m4v, .mp4 und .mov; Motion JPEG (M‑JPEG): max. 35 Mbit/s, 1280 x 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw format, PCM stereo audio in .avi format
Weight
304 g ( = 10.72 oz / 0.67 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Price
609 Euro

 

First Impressions

There is not much to say about the casing of the fourth Apple iPad Mini. If you have seen one, you have seen them all. Well, almost. In fact, until now, the 4th generation iPad Mini has been the slimmest and lightest. It has taken a major step, especially in its height of now only 6.1 millimeters (~0.24 in; iPad Mini 3: 7.5 millimeters/~0.3 in). At the same time, Apple has reduced the weight of the small iPad. With a weight of 304 grams (~11 oz), the LTE model is almost ten percent lighter than its precursor. Apart from a fraction, its length and weight are also the same. The differences are only seen in a direct comparison - typical for Apple. This is also true for the impeccable build and material quality. No more should be said about the casing within the framework of a preview.

Cameras & Multimedia

The cameras of at least the last two iPad Mini generations lagged slightly behind other premium tablets. Apple has modified the primary camera of the new 4th edition, and has now installed one with eight million pixels rather than the previous 5 MP sensors. The front-facing camera is still an old acquaintance: The FaceTime camera with 1.2 megapixels can also record HD videos. As before, the primary camera records Full HD.

Nevertheless, miracles should not be expected from either camera. In sufficient ambient light conditions, the primary camera shoots decent photos with natural, vivid colors. However, picture noise can be seen against a cloudy sky and the quality is average. The front-facing camera makes the most of its low 1.2 million pixels, but it cannot perform any magic tricks, either. Therefore, as the name suggests, the front-facing camera's main application field will remain to be FaceTime. One thing was clear after the first shot: Upgrading just for the sake of the cameras is not worthwhile.

Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Front-facing camera
Front-facing camera

Display

Yet another point where nothing has changed: The screen. Without fail, Apple has been using the same screen since its second iPad Mini, the iPad Mini Retina. 7.9 inches, Retina resolution of 2048x1536 pixels are all based on an IPS display. Complaints? Not necessarily. With 326 ppi, the pixel density is still more than sufficient for sharp fonts and graphics. We cannot complain if the rates and color reproduction are satisfying. However, the precursor was not one of the best in its class in terms of screen rating. Its brightness and the contrast in particular, did not fulfill the claims of an ultimate high-end tablet.

The screen of our current review sample manages to score a bit better after all. The brightness is now over 400 cd/m² on all measuring points, and it is distributed well with an illumination of 91 percent. The black level of 0.58 cd/m² has also been improved slightly, but is by far not enough to celebrate. However, the resulting contrast of 709:1 is satisfactory. A first glance at the grayscale levels and colors confirm the very good outcome of Apple's iPad Mini 4. The sRGB color space is almost completely covered. The shifts in the grayscale and colors are almost consistently within the imperceptible range. Primarily the decent image quality makes up for some aspects, and lets the screen rating of the iPad Mini 4 look good overall.

Grayscale
Grayscale
Colorspace: sRGB
Colorspace: sRGB
Farbsättigung
Farbsättigung
ColorChecker: sRGB
ColorChecker: sRGB
440
cd/m²
423
cd/m²
443
cd/m²
424
cd/m²
411
cd/m²
429
cd/m²
409
cd/m²
407
cd/m²
401
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 443 cd/m² Average: 420.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 91 %
Center on Battery: 411 cd/m²
Contrast: 709:1 (Black: 0.58 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 2.15 | 0.8-29.43 Ø6.4
ΔE Greyscale 2.72 | 0.64-98 Ø6.6
Gamma: 2.29
Apple iPad Mini 4
PowerVR GX6450, A8, 64 GB SSD
Apple iPad Mini 3
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
Adreno 330, 801 MSM8974AC, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Google Nexus 9
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1 (Denver), 32 GB eMMC Flash
Screen
-13%
-27%
-43%
-17%
Brightness middle
411
357
-13%
258
-37%
531
29%
430
5%
Brightness
421
344
-18%
261
-38%
518
23%
411
-2%
Brightness Distribution
91
86
-5%
91
0%
91
0%
92
1%
Black Level *
0.58
0.61
-5%
0.66
-14%
0.77
-33%
Contrast
709
585
-17%
805
14%
558
-21%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
2.15
3.35
-56%
3.66
-70%
6.29
-193%
3.17
-47%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
2.72
2.09
23%
2.51
8%
7.04
-159%
3.29
-21%
Gamma
2.29 105%
2.4 100%
2.22 108%
2.78 86%
2.39 100%
CCT
7012 93%
6851 95%
6450 101%
8600 76%
6746 96%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
55
100
73.75
62

* ... smaller is better

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Performance

At the keynote event, Apple boastfully promised that the performance of the iPad Air 2 would be packed in the compact casing of the iPad Mini 4. Thus, users who prefer the smaller tablet will not have to accept any performance losses. Why Apple should then install the A8 chip known from the 6th generation iPhones and not the A8X from the Air 2 remains a well-kept secret. The A8 in the iPad Mini 4 clocks 100 MHz faster at 1.5 GHz than those in Apple's smartphones, and is supported by two rather than one GB of RAM. The third calculating engine of the A8X will certainly not be able to compensate that. A PowerVR GX6450 from Imagination takes care of graphics power. This GPU was the fastest in its category at the time of its release, and will provide the fourth iPad Mini with more than enough graphics performance. It will not be enough to defeat Apple's iPad Air 2, though.

But first things first. Initial tests show that Apple's iPad Mini 4 has made a major leap forward compared with its precursor. The Mini 3 falls behind even further in the graphic-driven tests than in the system benchmarks. The browser performance also speaks clearly for the iPad Mini 4 - at least when compared with its precursor. However, the new iOS 9 operating system also plays a role here. Repetition of tests with Apple's iPad Air 2 resulted in significantly better outcomes in the browser tests than under iOS 8.

One of the greatest steps forward is in the internal storage. The drive's rating via PassMark exhibits an improvement of whole 257 percent over the iPad Mini 3.

At present, we can therefore note: Apple's iPad Mini 4 has made a great leap forward compared with the 3rd generation in terms of performance. However, the new iPad cannot deliver the promised performance on the level of Air 2.

Geekbench 3
64 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
3097 Points ∼8%
Apple iPad Air 2
4530 Points ∼12% +46%
Google Nexus 9
3154 Points ∼8% +2%
64 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
1714 Points ∼35%
Apple iPad Air 2
1816 Points ∼37% +6%
Google Nexus 9
1879 Points ∼38% +10%
AnTuTu v5 - Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
46574 Points ∼58%
Apple iPad Mini 3
37527 Points ∼47% -19%
Apple iPad Air 2
63292 Points ∼79% +36%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
36109 Points ∼45% -22%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
41749 Points ∼52% -10%
Google Nexus 9
56577 Points ∼70% +21%
Linpack Android / IOS
Multi Thread (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
1645 MFLOPS ∼56%
Apple iPad Mini 3
1480 MFLOPS ∼50% -10%
Apple iPad Air 2
2428.68 MFLOPS ∼82% +48%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
770.167 MFLOPS ∼26% -53%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
799.368 MFLOPS ∼27% -51%
Google Nexus 9
892.416 MFLOPS ∼30% -46%
Single Thread (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
935 MFLOPS ∼92%
Apple iPad Mini 3
887 MFLOPS ∼87% -5%
Apple iPad Air 2
1021.11 MFLOPS ∼100% +9%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
384.557 MFLOPS ∼38% -59%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
403.045 MFLOPS ∼39% -57%
Google Nexus 9
670.667 MFLOPS ∼66% -28%
3DMark
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
9844 Points ∼12%
Apple iPad Mini 3
7798 Points ∼10% -21%
Apple iPad Air 2
10379 Points ∼13% +5%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
14318 Points ∼18% +45%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
13832 Points ∼18% +41%
Google Nexus 9
12420 Points ∼16% +26%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
25254 Points ∼5%
Apple iPad Mini 3
19674 Points ∼4% -22%
Apple iPad Air 2
31542 Points ∼7% +25%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
13781 Points ∼3% -45%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
19885 Points ∼4% -21%
Google Nexus 9
39070 Points ∼8% +55%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
18737 Points ∼9%
Apple iPad Mini 3
14699 Points ∼7% -22%
Apple iPad Air 2
21707 Points ∼10% +16%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
13897 Points ∼7% -26%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
18123 Points ∼9% -3%
Google Nexus 9
26455 Points ∼13% +41%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
21.5 fps ∼4%
Apple iPad Mini 3
13.2 fps ∼2% -39%
Apple iPad Air 2
37.6 fps ∼7% +75%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
5.5 fps ∼1% -74%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
11.6 fps ∼2% -46%
Google Nexus 9
31 fps ∼6% +44%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
15.3 fps ∼4%
Apple iPad Mini 3
8.8 fps ∼2% -42%
Apple iPad Air 2
27 fps ∼7% +76%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
2.8 fps ∼1% -82%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
11.7 fps ∼3% -24%
Google Nexus 9
22.5 fps ∼6% +47%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
47.8 fps ∼3%
Apple iPad Mini 3
22.7 fps ∼1% -53%
Apple iPad Air 2
70.4 fps ∼4% +47%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
22.8 fps ∼1% -52%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
27.4 fps ∼2% -43%
Google Nexus 9
57.8 fps ∼3% +21%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
37 fps ∼8%
Apple iPad Mini 3
28.6 fps ∼6% -23%
Apple iPad Air 2
52.1 fps ∼11% +41%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
14.1 fps ∼3% -62%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
27.6 fps ∼6% -25%
Google Nexus 9
43.4 fps ∼9% +17%
PassMark PerformanceTest Mobile V1
Disk Tests (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
66990 Points ∼49%
Apple iPad Mini 3
18775 Points ∼14% -72%
Apple iPad Air 2
72371 Points ∼53% +8%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
24230 Points ∼18% -64%
Google Nexus 9
25334 Points ∼18% -62%
CPU Tests (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
48558 Points ∼11%
Apple iPad Mini 3
35280 Points ∼8% -27%
Apple iPad Air 2
73235 Points ∼16% +51%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
19108 Points ∼4% -61%
Google Nexus 9
35765 Points ∼8% -26%
System (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
4367 Points ∼30%
Apple iPad Mini 3
2030 Points ∼14% -54%
Apple iPad Air 2
4979 Points ∼34% +14%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
5487 Points ∼37% +26%
Google Nexus 9
8354 Points ∼57% +91%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
9962 Points ∼20%
Apple iPad Mini 3
5722 Points ∼12% -43%
Apple iPad Air 2
10512 Points ∼21% +6%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
4376 Points ∼9% -56%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
4754 Points ∼10% -52%
Google Nexus 9
8210 Points ∼17% -18%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
2557 ms * ∼4%
Apple iPad Mini 3
5447 ms * ∼9% -113%
Apple iPad Air 2
2396 ms * ∼4% +6%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
7894.5 ms * ∼13% -209%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
6963.2 ms * ∼12% -172%
Google Nexus 9
4030.5 ms * ∼7% -58%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
329 ms * ∼8%
Apple iPad Mini 3
440 ms * ∼11% -34%
Apple iPad Air 2
291.1 ms * ∼7% +12%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
1067.1 ms * ∼27% -224%
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
1054.8 ms * ∼26% -221%
Google Nexus 9
919.3 ms * ∼23% -179%
WebXPRT 2015 - Overall Score (sort by value)
Apple iPad Mini 4
144 Points ∼18%
Apple iPad Air 2
158 Points ∼20% +10%

Legend

 
Apple iPad Mini 4 Apple A8, PowerVR GX6450, 64 GB SSD
 
Apple iPad Mini 3 Apple A7, PowerVR G6430, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Apple iPad Air 2 Apple A8X, PowerVR GXA6850, 128 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Samsung Exynos 5420 Octa, ARM Mali-T628 MP6, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Google Nexus 9 Nvidia Tegra K1 (Denver), NVIDIA Tegra K1 Kepler GPU, 32 GB eMMC Flash

* ... smaller is better

Temperature

The temperature development is reasonable - at least in the tests that we could perform to this point. The iPad Mini 4 does not get unduly hot under permanent load, and even stays slightly cooler than its precursor.

Max. Load
 35 °C33.3 °C32.6 °C 
 35.8 °C34.3 °C33.5 °C 
 36.9 °C38 °C35 °C 
Maximum: 38 °C
Average: 34.9 °C
34.8 °C35.9 °C35.8 °C
35.8 °C29.8 °C37 °C
36.9 °C42 °C37.5 °C
Maximum: 42 °C
Average: 36.2 °C
Power Supply (max.)  42.8 °C | Room Temperature 22.5 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Energy Management & Battery Runtime

The power consumption has not changed much since the 3rd generation. The rates are virtually identical in the idle range. However, the rates are not top notch, either. Under load, there are hardly any differences at the upper end. The 4th edition consumes slightly more power than the 3rd at the peak. On the other hand, we recorded considerably lower rates than in the precursor in the partial load range. We are curious as to how this will affect battery life; especially since the battery capacity has  now been reduced to 19.3 Wh (iPad Mini 3: 23.8 Wh). However, the manufacturer promises a Wi-Fi runtime of ten hours.

We could perform a preliminary runtime test even in the limited time. Apple's iPad Mini 4 lasted for an impressive 8:59 hours during Wi-Fi browsing while the other communication modules were disabled and the brightness was dimmed to 150 cd/m². However, it must be kept in mind that our current browsing test is considerably more demanding than the one we used on the iPad Mini 3. By comparison: The recently tested, new flagship from Asus, the ZenPad S 8.0, was depleted in less than six hours. There are, however, a handful of tablets that last significantly longer than the new iPad Mini, such as Acer's Iconia One 8.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 0.8 / 3.6 / 3.9 Watt
Load midlight 6.1 / 8 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Preliminary Verdict

It can be said at this point of time that Apple has improved some aspects of the iPad Mini 4 compared with its precursor. It can also be said that it cannot keep up with the performance of an iPad Air 2. Apple has simply promised too much, but this was obvious just by looking at the technical specifications. Nevertheless, the slightly higher clocked A8 chip combined with two GB of RAM provide the new Mini with impressive computing and graphics power. Both the internal flash memory and Internet browsing performance have increased tremendously. This is all bundled in an even slimmer and lighter casing. Above all, Apple has finally treated its iPad Mini 4 to a higher resolution camera - but only with moderate success. Upgrading just for the sake of the cameras will certainly not be worthwhile.

Our in-depth review will disclose whether switching to the new iPad Mini makes any sense at all. So far, the little iPad Mini is very much on the right track - especially since Apple has not increased the prices despite the weak Euro.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Apple iPad Mini 4 First Impressions
Patrick Afschar Kaboli, 2015-09-19 (Update: 2018-05-15)