(Pocket-lint) - The iPad Mini 4 replaces the iPad mini 3 and with it closes the book on one of Apple's laziest upgrades in recent years.
Overshadowed by huge advancements with the iPad Air 2, last year's iPad mini 3 struggled to find its place in the range, coming across as a device that was neither top-of-the-tree in terms of power, nor offering enough of a pull against the increasing competition at the time.
So is the iPad mini 4 the same story for 2015, or does it elevate Apple's small-scale iPad back to top form? We've been using the new iPad mini 4 to find out.
iPad mini 4 review: Finding its place
The iPad mini 4 completely replaces the iPad mini 3. It sits alongside the now two-year-old iPad mini 2 (or iPad mini with Retina display, as it was known upon release) - the latter which is now considered the budget option.
The iPad line also includes the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2, which feature a larger screen. Then there's the iPad Pro which comes with a keyboard and is a wholly different wannabe laptop-like replacement.
Compared to the mini 2, the iPad mini 4 is a huge step up with enhancements on all facets of the device: from the anti-reflective screen, to the new and more powerful processor. The mini 4 still isn't as powerful as the larger-screen iPad Air 2, which is higher up the range, but it still certainly more than holds its own.
There's still the Touch ID fingerprint scanner for quick login, using Apple Pay (if you want) or instead of using a password in some apps, such as Dropbox.
iPad mini 4 review: Slimmer design
As the name suggests, the iPad mini is small; designed to offer mobile workers a bigger screen than the iPhone, but one that isn't as large as the iPad Air or Pro lines.
Like previous iPad mini models, the iPad mini 4's screen is the same 7.9-inches on the diagonal, offering a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution. That size combined with the thin surrounding bezel makes it portable, even pocketable for bigger winter jacket - and despite offering the same screen size the new model has even shaved some size and weight from the design.
It now measures 203.2mm x 134.8mm x 6.1mm and weighs 299 grams compared to the iPad mini 3's 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm measure and 331g weight vital statistics. This time around finishes come in Silver, Space Grey, and Gold.
The changes are small, but the new model is smaller, thinner, and lighter which can only be seen as a positive thing for this model. It's now the same thickness as the iPad Air 2, and no longer feels like a fatter sibling when the two sit side by side.
Although the button and speaker configuration hasn't changed, the iPad mini 4 now gets the Air 2's anti-reflective screen, making it much better when used on the go, especially if you find yourself on a train or by the pool enjoying the sun (ok, we know it's approaching winter, but here's to dreaming). In well-lit environments we had no issues seeing what was on the screen, something that can't always be said for the iPad mini 3.
iPad mini 4 review: iPhone 6 performance
We should say that we've never been overly disappointed with the performance of the iPad mini. With the iPad mini 3 it wasn't that it was incapable, simply that it made no sense to pay so much more to purchase one over the iPad mini 2. With the new iPad mini 3 the gap between the 2 has been widened.
Surfing the web, writing documents, watching movies: it's all been fine and dandy in the past, and it's the same with the new model too.
While the iPad mini 3 lagged behind the iPad Air 2 by some considerable margin, meaning that to go compact was to also take a hit on performance, the iPad mini 4 tries to address that situation. In many ways it is an iPhone 6 in a bigger casing, so there's plenty of power - although not to iPhone 6S levels of power.
The iPad mini 4th gen gets the same processor as 2014's iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, and the same storage options: 16GB (£319), 64GB (£399), and 128GB (£479) - the cellular SIM option starts from £419 (ouch). There's no way to add a microSD card, so you'll want to consider storage size carefully upon purchase, especially considering the potential cost implication.
Like we say, it's not that the iPad mini 3 was poor, but the mini 4 really shows its worth. Comparing the two when loading games and apps and it's noticeable how much faster everything loads with the latest model. No waiting around here. It makes it all together a much more zippier experience thanks to that increased power.
There's also double the memory for processing games, which is also great for video and image editing. Add improvements to Wi-Fi (now the faster ac format), Bluetooth 4.2 (instead of 4.0), and other sensors like the inclusion of a barometer, and it all helps bring the mini 4 up to speed with the rest of the range.
Just like with the iPhone, the iPad mini 4's processor is accompanied by the M8 motion coprocessor, which monitors movement and helps with general power saving options. Although, unlike the phone, it's not like you're going to use the iPad to go on a run or anything. We're sure some games and apps will make use of the technology though.
The performance enhancements also open new options for the included cameras. The new 8-megapixel camera on the rear, the same one that can be found in the iPad Air 2, now features Burst mode and Slow-mo if that's your cup of tea. Picture quality of those images is as good as those found on the Air 2. We wouldn't recommend you snap your life on it, but the results aren't bad.
iPad mini 4 review: iOS 9 operating system
Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 9, brings a number of iPad-focused features with it including Spilt View and enhancements to the keyboard. For a full lowdown check out our feature by following the link below.
While Spilt View works well, the iPad mini 4 doesn't benefit from the iPad Air 2's screen real estate and so things can get a little tight. It's basically the equivalent of working with two iPhone 6 Plus screens side-by-side. So you might need your glasses.
The iPad mini 4 is faster, slimmer and more accomplished than its iPad mini 3 predecessor. This time around the mini succeeds in finding is place, despite not being as altogether powerful as the iPad Air 2.
For most that doesn't mean the mini is a compromise; this is as much iPad as many will need. It's a lovely, compact tablet with anti-reflective screen coating that makes it good for watching movies, playing games, and reading or writing on the go.
If you want to get the most out of Split View multi-tasking in iOS 9 or need some extra performance then the larger-screen iPad Air 2 is the one to go for. Otherwise, especially if you are looking for compact, you needn't make tricky compromises - the iPad mini 4 will serve you well as an on-the-go tablet.