Apple may have skimmed over the iPad Mini 4 at its September press event, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthy of your time and attention. In fact, we think it's the best compact tablet around, and it's certainly a welcome return to form for Apple after the disappointing iPad Mini 3. However, is it necessarily worth £100 more than the iPad Mini 2? To help you decide, we've put both tablets head to head to see which one comes out on top. We've compared their design, display, performance, camera and storage options to make sure you buy the tablet that's right for you.
Dimensions: The iPad Mini 4 is considerably lighter and slimmer than the iPad Mini 2, measuring 203x134x6.1mm and weighing 299g. The iPad Mini 2, on the other hand, is a fraction shorter and wider, measuring 200x135x7.5mm and weighs 331g. It's not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, though, as both are still very comfortable to hold and easy to use one-handed.
One important addition on the iPad Mini 4 is Touch ID, which is absent on the iPad Mini 2 (although it was included on the iPad Mini 3, which was otherwise identical to the Mini 2). This is Apple's fingerprint sensor, which is built straight into the home button, allowing you to unlock the tablet from sleep mode, use your fingerprint instead of passwords and pay using Apple Pay in supported apps. This adds an extra layer of convenience to the iPad Mini 4, as it lets you get stuff done much faster than having to constantly type in your card details every time you want to buy something, and it also makes the tablet more secure.
Materials: Both tablets are made from aluminium and are extremely well made. They feel tough and durable, and much more high-end than similarly priced plastic tablets. For that extra touch of class, the iPad Mini 4 is now available in gold in addition to the standard space grey and silver options.
Winner: TIE - Unless you're dead-set on having a gold iPad Mini or Touch ID, both tablets are beautifully well-made and equally stunning in their own right.
Screen size and resolution: Just like the iPad Mini 2 before it, the iPad Mini 4 has a 7.9in 2,048x1,536 resolution display. This gives both tablets an equal pixel density of 324 pixels-per-inch, so both displays look as sharp and detailed as the other.
Screen technology: Both tablets use the same LED backlit IPS panel, but the iPad Mini 4 is the first compact Apple tablet to have a fully laminated display as well. Whereas the iPad Mini 2's screen is comprised of three individual components (the IPS panel, touch sensor and cover glass), the iPad Mini 4's display combines these three layers into one, eliminating the air gap and reducing the amount of internal reflections.
It's the same process Apple used for the iPad Air 2 and, as we've since found out in our Expert Reviews calibration tests, it makes a big difference to the screen's overall picture quality.
Picture quality: In practice, there was never anything particularly wrong with the iPad Mini 2's screen. It was bright, clear and images looked perfectly acceptable. However, colour accuracy was quite low for a compact tablet, as it covered just 68.6% of the sRGB colour gamut. Black levels were also quite high at 0.57cd/m2 and contrast was fairly mediocre at 714:1.
The iPad Mini 4's fully laminated display, on the other hand, is far more colour accurate, covering 94.8% of the sRGB colour gamut and increasing contrast to a much more respectable 914:1. Black levels were also lower at 0.48cd/m2, but brightness remained around the same, at 438.70cd/m2 compared to the iPad Mini 2's 411.48cd/m2.
Winner: iPad Mini 4 - It may have an identical resolution to the iPad Mini 2, but the iPad Mini 4's fully laminated display really does deliver superior colours and more detail in darker shadow areas. It also captures fewer reflections, making it easier to use in a wider variety of lighting conditions. It's a display that finally brings the Mini on par with Apple's larger iPad Air 2, and it means you no longer have to compromise on image quality just because you want a smaller, more portable tablet.
Processor and Graphics: The iPad Mini 2 uses one of Apple's dual-core 1.3GHz A7 chips, whereas the iPad Mini 4 uses the newer dual-core 1.5GHz A8 chip – the same chip inside the iPhone 6, not the A8X inside the iPad Air 2. Both tablets have 1GB of RAM, though. As a result, the iPad Mini 4 is significantly faster than the iPad Mini 2, scoring 1,694 and 3,058 in the single and multicore tests of Geekbench 3, while the iPad Mini 2 only managed 1,385 and 2,485 respectively in the same tests.
The iPad Mini 4 also has superior gaming performance compared to its older sibling, as it not only managed a higher score of 925 frames in the onscreen Manhattan test of GFX Bench GL (which renders at the device's native resolution and is almost double what the iPad Mini 2 managed with its score of 548 frames), but its offscreen result (which renders at 1,080p regardless of screen resolution) was also much faster. Here, the iPad Mini 4 produced 1,330 frames, while the iPad Mini 2 topped out at 830 frames.
Battery: As well as being faster, the iPad Mini 4 is also the more power-efficient tablet of Apple's two compact tablets, as it managed 10h 43m in our continuous video playback test when the screen brightness was set to 170cd/m2, while the iPad Mini 2 lasted just 9h 12m. This still works out to around weeks' worth of light usage or a full day of heavy use, but it nevertheless gives the iPad Mini 4 yet another edge over the Mini 2.
Winner: iPad Mini 4 - Both tablets are exceedingly fast and have excellent battery life, but the iPad Mini 4 wins on both counts here. It's also the more future proof device, as its newer, more energy efficient hardware put it in greater stead to deal with Apple's increasingly more demanding iOS releases.
With the iPad Mini 4's rear camera, Apple has finally made the jump from 5-megapixels to 8-megapixels, allowing you to take higher resolution pictures compared to the Mini 2. That's not to say the iPad Mini 2's camera isn't any good, as it coped well both indoors and outdoors in bright weather conditions. There isn't detail available, though, particularly when you zoom in, and pictures start to get quite noisy in low-light.
The iPad Mini 4 also struggled in low-light, but its larger resolution means there's more detail on show throughout each photo. In terms of colour richness, though, both cameras are roughly on par with each other. As for extra features, both cameras can capture Full HD video recordings, and both support HDR and Panorama shots. The only major difference separating the two cameras is the iPad Mini 4's new Burst Mode and slow-motion video feature, the latter of which lets you shoot 120fps slo-mo videos at 1,280x720.
^ The iPad Mini 2 takes lovely, bright photos, but detail is rather lacking when you zoom in
^ The iPad Mini 4, on the other hand, offers more detail and equally bright, vibrant colours
Winner: iPad Mini 4 - The camera on the back of your tablet is never going to replace the one on your smartphone, but the iPad Mini 4 definitely has the superior sensor. Pictures are not only more detailed, but the additional features give you more options to get create with your various media files.
Storage & Price
Neither tablet has a microSD card slot, so you'll need to make sure you buy one with the right amount of storage when you walk out of the shop. The iPad Mini 2 is available in 16GB and 32GB models, which are priced at £219 and £259. The iPad Mini 4, however, eschews the 32GB option for 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, which cost £319, £399 and £479 respectively.
This is a shame, as 16GB is starting to look slightly stingy on such a high-end tablet, as it doesn't leave a lot of room for apps, games and photos. It also causes problems when Apple releases a new version of iOS, as this sometimes requires you to have multiple gigabytes of free storage before it can be downloaded, which can often be a bit of a squeeze if you're already close to full capacity.
On the other hand, 64GB is probably far too much for your average user, although it does mean you don't have to worry about managing your apps quite as often as you would with the 16GB model. I think that 32GB strikes just the right balance, so it's a bit disappointing this isn't available on the iPad Mini 4.
All things considered, the iPad Mini 4 is by far the superior tablet. It's faster, has a better screen and a longer battery life. It also has Touch ID, which is being integrated into more and more apps to make buying things much easier and more convenient, and its camera takes better pictures.
Of course, this is to be expected given that it's brand-new and the very latest model, but that's not to say you shouldn't consider buying the iPad Mini 2 completely, as it's still excellent value for money if you don't want to pay top price. It still has plenty of speed, so you definitely won't be disappointed with it if you'd rather save some cash. It's also a particularly good choice if you want to buy something for your kids to use rather than having to lend them your own tablet all the time. However, if you're more concerned with having the latest and greatest compact tablet around, then the iPad Mini 4 is the undisputed winner.