The iPad Mini 4: A Big Boost to the Mini 3 and Mini 2

Should You Buy or Upgrade to the iPad Mini 4?

Image © Apple

While all eyes were on the iPad Pro, Apple also announced a brand new iPad Mini.  While the iPad Mini 4 only took up a few sentences in Apple's presentation, it represents a significant jump for fans of the 7.9-inch iPad.   It also completely replaces the iPad Mini 3, which is no longer for sale on Apple's website.

It is not a major surprise Apple didn't take much time announcing the iPad Mini 4.  It doesn't need a lot of explaining to the tech-savvy crowd.  It is virtually an iPad Air 2 in Mini form.  

But don't underestimate it.  

The iPad Air 2 marked a departure in the iPad lineup.  Until then, the iPad had mostly followed the iPhone.  It used the same processor, though sometimes with a very slight performance increase, and the same amount of random access memory (RAM) for applications.  The iPad Air 2 changed this by introducing the A8X tri-core processor, which is a huge performance boost over the iPhone, and 2 GB of RAM, which gives the iPad enough memory for smooth multitasking.   

By contrast, the iPad Mini 4 runs the same A8 processor found in the iPhone 6, which is essentially a dual-core version of the A8X.  This means the iPad Mini 4 doesn't have quite the same performance, especially while multitasking, but it is definitely in the same ballpark.  In fact, the iPad Air 2 is only 5-10% faster in performance in terms of running a single app.   This means the iPad Mini 4 can utilize the side-by-side multitasking introduced in iOS 9, which is only available for the iPad Mini 4, iPad Air 2 and the new iPad Pro line of tablets.  

The iPad Mini 4 starts at $399 for an entry-level 16 GB Wi-Fi-only model. If you want a detailed look at what you get with the iPad Mini 4, you can read my review of the iPad Air 2.  

Should you buy an iPad Mini 4?

The biggest difference between the iPad Mini 4 and iPad Air 2 is size.  And that can be both a pro and a con.  The Mini offers portability both outside the house and inside the home.  It's easy to walk around with it and use it with one hand.  The iPad Air's bigger screen comes in handy when you need to do a lot of on-screen manipulation, where the larger size offers more room, but the Mini is plenty big enough for most people.  

If you plan to do a lot of work, the iPad Air 2 may prove to be a little more productive.  The bigger screen will help with typing and allow you to pay close attention to detail.   If you don't plan to use it for work, or if you need the extra portability it offers, the Mini 4 is a great choice.

Should you upgrade to the iPad Mini 4?

If you own the original iPad Mini, it is time to upgrade.  The original Mini used the iPad 2's chipset, which is extremely dated.  In fact, you will be absolutely amazed at how much faster the Mini 4 is than the original Mini.

If you own the iPad Mini 2 or iPad Mini 3, you should skip this generation.  Sure, the latest and greatest is always faster, but the only major difference you will see is the ability to utilize the side-by-side multitasking.  And you can still use Slide Over multitasking, which lets you quickly and easily jump in and out of a second app.

If you have a full-sized iPad and are thinking of going Mini, now is a good time.  Anyone that has a non-Air version of the iPad should think about upgrading.  If you have an iPad 4, you can possibly wait another generation, though the iPad 4 isn't compatible with any of the new multitasking features.  Owners of the original iPad, iPad 2 or iPad 3 should definitely think about buying a new iPad.  Those models are getting long in the tooth, and you will see a major upgrade in processing power and features by jumping up to a new model.