iPad mini 2 still packs the most value into a tiny tablet

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Apple stops selling its last non-Retina iOS device.
Despite a slight speed bump, the iPad mini 4 just isn't worth the money.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The new iPad mini 4, just announced last week, is good but probably not as good as it should be. In recent benchmark tests, it performs only slightly better than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus of 2014. It’s still nowhere near as fast as the current-generation iPad Air 2 and it’s only a tad faster than the iPad mini 2, which Apple is still selling for $269. Believe it or not, you’re still probably better off getting the two-year-old iPad mini instead.

The report of the iPad mini 4’s measurable speed improvement comes from Ars Technica, which quickly snapped up the new device and put it to the Geekbench test. It scores a 3,121 overall, 3,569 for the integer benchmark, 3,360 for floating point and 1,748 for memory.

It turns out that Apple overclocked the A8 processor in the iPad mini 4 to 1.5 GHz, not far off from the 1.4 GHz A8 chip in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. This means overall that the new iPad is about 20 percent faster than the previous iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 2, which both used an A7 processor.

The iPad mini 3 is gone, but for $130 less than the latest model you can grab a very capable iPad mini 2. The only features you’d be missing out on are a small speed bump, Touch ID and Split View multitasking. If you ask me, none of those in particular warrant the extra 130 bucks. Plus, if you want more storage, the 32GB iPad mini 2 is only $319 now. If you wanted anything more than a 16GB iPad mini 4, you’d have to get the 64GB option for $499. Now you’re looking at almost $200 more than the iPad mini 2. You probably aren’t that desperate to use two apps at once.

Granted, the iPad mini 4 does have one more perk over the previous-generation as well as the iPhone 6 and new iPod touch: 2GB of RAM. That’s on par with the iPad Air 2 and probably helps significantly to power Split View multitasking.  More RAM won’t necessarily increase the speed too much, but it does mean the iPad mini 4 is less likely to forget about the apps you’re using or have to reload Safari tabs after they’re inactive.

Overall, it just doesn’t seem like the newest iPad mini is worth all that cash. I’m not even sure if Apple would disagree, since iPad mini has been barely more than a footnote on stage the past two years. And last year’s iPad mini 3 wasn’t that great of a value either for $399.

If you’re shopping for a new iPad and don’t know which one to buy, Apple also conveniently compares the models on its website. It’s far from a Geekbench breakdown but can still put things into perspective. One thing is clear though: Apple doesn’t care much about the new iPad mini models these days, so why should you?

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  • Whocares

    Black Friday, iPad Mini 2 will be <$179. I got it last year at $225.

  • yep no reason to upgrade from an iPad Mini 2, not until the Mini 5.

  • DMacB

    Before I got my first iPad, there were a few things I wanted to see. First, I wanted a smaller iPad. Check. Then, I figured I should wait for a retina display on it. Check, plus as a bonus it was equivalent to the Air. So I bought the mini 2, and I love it. The next thing I’m waiting for, before I think of an upgrade, is 3D touch brought to the iPad.

  • pjs_boston

    The author is dead wrong on this one. The processing speed improvements in the iPad Mini 4 are only one factor.

    Here’s the big deciding factor in favor of the iPad Mini 4: it comes with a fully laminated, anti-reflection coated display that can achieve 100% of the sRGB gamut. Simply put, the iPad Mini 4 display blows the iPad Mini 2 display out of the water and onto the scrap heap. Since the iPad is essentially a big display, the quality of the screen is key.

    However, if that weren’t enough, here are some more notable improvements in the iPad Mini 4:

    it’s 10% lighter,
    it’s 20% thinner,
    it has 60% faster graphics,
    it has Bluetooth 4.2,
    it has 802.11 ac wifi,
    it has Touch ID,
    it supports burst mode photos,
    it shoots slo-mo video, and
    it has a barometer.

    That’s a lot of improvements for $130 more…

    • Tom

      Great response to the article. Given all that you have listed, it makes the original article appear extremely poorly researched and lacking key facts that would help the reader agree or disagree whether the iPad Mini 4 is worth the extra cash over the Mini 2.

      • pjs_boston

        Thanks, Tom!

        That’s the nicest reply I’ve ever received from a web comment…

    • kcz7

      Mhmmm….. Let’s see.

      -The average customer could care less (and probably doesn’t even know) about a barometer in their iPad.
      -Slo-mo & burst mode…. My phone does that pretty well. I still laugh at people taking pics (& selfies; goodness smh) with their iPad.
      -Touch ID is good for people who use it, but it’s not a “feature” worth upgrading for.
      -Same with Wifi AC. N is doing just fine.
      -It still has BT. Sure there’s new benefits with the updated 4.2 but not enough to upgrade.
      -Faster graphics? Sure. It’s a better cpu/gpu upgrade than the A7. Not sure about 60%, but it’s obviously still going to be better. . . . If you’re a heavy gamer I guess that matters. I haven’t ran into any problems on any games I play on my iPm2.
      -Thinner & lighter? Hahahahahah….. Apple always stresses that topic. Guess what people want. Better battery life. I’m not some scrawny armed skinny jeans wearing person. I could care less about those features. I want a bigger battery. I wear man pants with man pockets that can fit stuff in them.

      I agree there’s some definite improvements, but I’m with the author on this one. Just not enough “features” to really justify an upgrade.

      • kevinkee

        Mmm let’s see
        – I am an average customer and I like the fact that it has barometer no matter what it’s for but I can always google to find out
        – It’s 2015 and taking photo with iPad Mini is so normal
        – Better security is a feature totally worth upgrade for
        – N is fine, AC is better
        – Better BT is always welcome
        – Better and faster graphic in iPad is no brainer, it is a major deal breaker! What are you talking about? I am playing games a lot on iPad, esp the newest titles which require better graphics to run smoothly
        – So you want to lugging around a thicker and heavier iPad Mini? Talk about backward, please do so if you love to be unsexy.

        The total sum of all of the above is more than enough features to really justify the upgrade.

      • kcz7

        You sound like a Grade A apple fanboy. Good job. I’m a dual user (Android & iOS). My opinions are my opinions. That’s all.

      • Leor Roynsky

        Although he does come off as an apple fanboy, the major pro of the iPad Mini 4 is indeed the A8 chip. Although as the article mentions its only a 20% boost, that’s doesn’t account for the graphics which got a major upgrade of about 60% (as he mentioned). So yeah, if you’re into gaming on your iPad then maybe you’d look into the iPad Mini 4. I feel that anyone with an iPad Mini 2 or iPad Air (or better) should be fine waiting for the next iteration of iPads next year.

      • pjs_boston

        The main selling point of the iPad Mini 4 is the display. It is a fully laminated Retina screen with an anti-reflection coating and 100% sRGB color gamut.

        A side-by-side comparison of the screen on the iPad Mini 4 and the iPad Mini 2 is eye popping.

        BTW, the entire UI of iOS 8 is accelerated by the Metal graphics. As a result, the 60% increase in graphics performance in the iPad Mini 4 delivers real world benefits every day.

        You talk a big game, but you’re not very knowledgable. In my town we call that being full of crap.

      • kcz7

        You had my approval until you decided to be childish and throw some shade. I was almost going to up vote your comment. Hahaha, you’re just another Apple fanboy. Good job on being opinionated and showing some class. Typical.

      • Richard Ludwig

        Pretty sure you started the childish behavior by whipping out the “Apple Fanboy” comment. The poster you originally directed the comment did no name-calling, just presented a dissenting opinion.

        Feel free to continue laughing at me and others who take pictures with our tablets – I’ll never understand what you find so funny. The iPad, especially the mini, is a fantastic camera platform and I like having a larger viewfinder. Not to mention it’s convenient – I get far more use out of my iPad than I do my phone, so I don’t have to put my iPad away and get out my iPhone to take a picture (unless I want to use a feature only found on my phone).

        Also, the poster was absolutely correct – many people take photos using their tablet, for many reasons (including not having a phone). The device has a camera, and a really good one to boot, so why laugh?

      • kcz7

        Because it’s funny. That’s why I laugh.

    • 2oh1

      I agree completely. Touch ID alone is a very compelling upgrade.

  • Yeboi

    Is it worth it to upgrade to a mini 4 if I have an iPad 2?

    • pjs_boston

      You bet! The difference is night and day…

    • luxetlibertas

      If you prefer a full-size iPad, it might be a good idea to wait for the iPad Air3, of the Air2 when if gets $100 cheaper. Even without the price drop, the iPad Air2 is worth considering. I love mine.

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  • Miriam Lasington

    I think best value for money is the iPad mini 2 over that of the iPad Pro or Mini 4. With the money I save, I could get a Lumiy Lightline 1250 LED desk lamp =)

  • Benny

    I’m mulling over buying an iPad mini (mostly for reading (casual and for uni), little gaming, movies, etc.). Do you think it’ll be worth getting the mini 4, or just save a few bucks and get the mini 2?