The Difference Between the iPad Mini 4 and the Original iPad Mini

iOS 8 on the iPad mini
Apple, Inc.

The original iPad mini was one of the best-selling iPads of all time, so it is easy to find them for sale on eBay, craigslist and other marketplaces. But should you buy an original iPad Mini? Or should you splurge and buy an iPad Mini 4 directly from Apple? They may look the same, but the iPad Mini 4 is a considerable jump from the original Mini.

The Original iPad Mini Was Modeled After the iPad 2

The iPad Mini debuted alongside the iPad 4, and thanks to its lower price tag, it outsold its bigger brother by a considerable margin. But tablet size and the price tag weren't the only differences between the two. The iPad 4 was faster, had a more powerful graphics processor and crisper graphics on the screen.

In order to keep the price down and compete with cheaper 7-inch Android tablets, the original iPad Mini was essentially a second-generation "iPad 2" with a smaller form factor. It sported the same processing chip and 1024x768 display. The big differences between the original Mini and the iPad 2 were the cameras, which were much improved on the Mini, and support for 4G LTE.

Yes, the iPad 2 was so long ago that most of us were using 3G instead of the much faster 4G LTE networks. And that should tell you about the leaps we've taken in technology since the original iPad Mini.

But the biggest caution flag when contemplating an iPad Mini isn't the technological difference. It's the fact that the original iPad Mini is obsolete. Apple no longer supports the Mini with newer versions of the iOS operating system. Worst, new apps will not support the Mini.

The price may be right on the iPad Mini, but there are other ways to buy a cheap iPad. The iPad Mini 2 is the oldest 7.9-inch iPad that is not obsolete.

The iPad Mini 4 Is Basically a Smaller iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 was released in October of 2014 and stuck around until March of 2017. This is a testament to just how good the Air 2 was that Apple didn't feel the need to make any tweaks to it for almost three years. And while the iPad Mini 4 isn't quite as fast as the iPad Air 2, it enjoys all of its other features wrapped in a sleek 7.9-inch form factor. It is also the only iPad Mini that is still for sale on Apple's website.

How much better is the iPad Mini 4 compared to the original iPad Mini?

  • The iPad Mini 4 is five times faster
  • It sports a 2048x1536 "Retina Display" compared to a 1024x768 screen resolution
  • The 8 Megapixel (MP) back-facing camera is takes better pictures than the original Mini's 5 MP camera.
  • The iPad Mini 4 has a 64-bit architecture compared to the original Mini's 32-bit architecture, which means the iPad Mini 4 is still fully supported by Apple, including operating system updates and new apps in the App Store.

Should You Buy the 2018 iPad Instead of the iPad Mini 4?

The iPad Mini 4 is a great tablet, but it isn't as fast or even as cheap as the latest 9.7-inch iPad. it may be easy to assume the smaller iPad is going to sport a smaller price tag, but the iPad Mini 4 is $70 more expensive than the iPad's 2018 model. The newest iPad is also twice as fast as the iPad Mini 4 and supports the Apple Pencil, which is an advanced stylus used for drawing on the iPad's display.

The iPad Mini 4 does have one distinct advantage. It comes with 128 GB of storage. A 9.7-inch iPad with 128 GB of storage runs $29, or $30 more expensive than the iPad Mini 4. But that price difference doesn't make up for the slower processor.

Unless you really prefer the smaller size, the best deal for the iPad Mini 4 is to buy one used to get the most bang for your buck. Even shopping Apple's refurbished store, you may be better off with a cheaper 2017 iPad compared to the iPad Mini 4.

Shopping iPad? Check out our Buyer's Guide to the iPad.