The smaller iPad that Steve Jobs said Apple would never make is back, new and improved in the form of the iPad mini 2 Retina. The first iPad mini was successful because of its iPad-like design and its lightness but despite a slightly low-rez screen and rather limp processor. Compared to the new Nexus 7 it looked and felt like last year's tech, which fair play of course it was. So, has Apple addressed those issues and made the iPad mini something you would now buy for any reason other than you couldn't afford a real iPad? In a word, yes.
For its new junior tablet Apple has kept the cool big boy iPad design but has made some significant improvements to the display, processor and camera.
If there was an area that the original iPad mini struggled in it was the screen. The 7.9-inch IPS display was bright and colourful, but the 1024 x 768 162ppi display wasn't as sharp as most people would have liked.
The iPad mini 2 fixes this issue with a 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution screen with an impressive pixels per inch number of 324, that’s almost exactly the same as the excellent screen on the Google Nexus 7 (323dpi). Video and games look great on screen and the difference in brightness and sharpness from the original to the new iPad mini is obvious.
The iPad mini 2 shares its bodywork with its predecessor (which incidentally is still available for £249 versus the Retina machine's £319). It has roughly the same dimensions, although it is 20g heavier and like the original iPad mini it has a slim aluminium unibody design.
An ever-so-slightly matte texture on the back helps provide some grip and rounded corners make it a comfortable tablet to hold with one hand. The edges are diamond cut, exposing the shiny aluminium beneath. It's not as comfortable to hold as the Nexus 7 but that's a small niggle.
All the buttons and switches are made of metal and there are only two inputs, a 3.5mm headphone socket at the top and a Lightning port (Apple’s proprietary charging and data transfer tech) at the bottom, between the two speaker grilles.
This new iPad mini comes with the same 64-bit A7 processor as the iPhone 5S. It’s an impressive performer and wipes the floor with the A5 processor of the original mini.
Unfortunately, one of my favourite new features of the iPhone 5S, Touch ID (the fingerprint scanner in plain English), hasn't made it to the iPad mini 2. Nor is there any sign of microSD card storage expansion though that was hardly to be expected.
Apple's latest mobile OS, iOS 7 has been out for more than a month now and it has had a mixed reception - some people, including me, think the design is a little too childish and simplistic. Design aside though iOS 7 comes with a host of improvements over the older version that do make it a worthwhile upgrade.
The new notification bar and control centre let you quickly access your latest updates and make swift changes to important settings like screen brightness. Android users have enjoyed these types of features for years and while Apple has gone some way to providing more functionality, you still can’t tinker anywhere near as much as you can on the likes of the Nexus 7.
The iPad mini 2 also gets a minor camera upgrade, but Apple hasn’t provided too many details about what’s changed other than that it’s better in low light. It likely means that the sensor has increased in size and the pixels are a little bigger than before, but you’ll still get five megapixels. It’s a similar story with the front-facing camera. It has a 1.2-megapixel sensor like the previous iPad mini but Apple claim better performance in low light.
Apple says the mini 2 will have 10-hour of battery life, that’s exactly the same stated performance as the previous model. I'd say Apple is being pretty straight with customers here so you should see see at least nine hours from a charge no matter how hared you hammer it.
As with all iPad's price is a bit of an issue. Apple offers the iPad mini with Retina display from £319 for the Wi-Fi 16GB model or £419 for the 3/4G and Wi-Fi model. New to the range is a 128GB internal storage option, which retails for £559 for Wi-Fi or £659 for Wi-Fi and 3/4G. That’s more than the original but the specs are better. The base model is still £120 more than the Nexus 7 though.
Verdict: The two areas of concern that we had from the first iPad mini have both been addressed. The screen is even sharper than the one on the iPad Air and the performance is great thanks to a new processor. The price is still a bit steep but the new iPad mini is a big leap froward over the old one.
Price: From £319