Should You Upgrade to the iPad Mini 4?

Is the iPad Mini 4 worth it?

Apple, Inc.

With the release of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the iPad Mini 4 holds a rather awkward place in Apple's lineup.  The Mini 4 is essentially an iPad Air 2 in a 7.9-inch form factor, which makes it a great tablet for the family or for those who would like a smaller iPad for its mobility. The A8 processor in the iPad Mini 4 is the same as the one found in the iPhone 8, which means the iPad Mini 4 isn't quite as fast as the iPad Air 2, but it is in the same ballpark. And the ability to hold the iPad Mini 4 easily in one hand and manipulate it with the other makes it ideal for those who want to stand or move around while using their iPad.

So why the awkwardness?  

The iPad Mini 4 is priced at $399. And now that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has been released, the iPad Air 2 is also priced at $399, which negates the $100 discount buyers usually receive when going with the smaller iPad. Luckily, some retailers like Amazon have begun discounting the iPad Mini 4, so if you go with the upgrade, you may want to avoid buying directly from Apple.

And should you even be thinking about an upgrade in the first place? Whether you are looking at the iPad Mini 4 or the iPad Air 2, we'll look at whether or not it is time to upgrade your old iPad.

If you have an original iPad...

You should absolutely upgrade. There are few words needed on this one. The only question for owners of the original iPad is whether to upgrade to the iPad Mini 2, the iPad Air 2 or the iPad Pro. The original iPad is no longer supported and runs on an older version of the iOS platform.  This means it is not compatible with the latest apps. There are still some uses for the original iPad, but those who upgrade will see a world of difference.

Upgrade Recommendation: Definitely.

If you have an iPad 2, an iPad 3 or the original iPad Mini...

Believe it or not, all three of these are essentially the same iPad. The biggest difference between the iPad 2 and the iPad Mini is size. The Mini has an upgraded camera and supports 4G LTE networks, but in terms of processing power and screen resolution, it is exactly the same as the iPad 2.  

The iPad 3 has a Retina Display, which doubles the screen resolution of the iPad 2.  It also has an upgraded graphics processor to support the screen. But the main processor is the same as the iPad 2.

And how does that iPad 2 hold up?  It's still going, but you can definitely tell that it is slowing down.  Compared to newer iPads, there are a lot of delays when opening apps or engaging spotlight search. It also doesn't support the new multitasking features that debuted with iOS 9.  All of this makes it a great time to upgrade.

Upgrade Recommendation: Yes.

If you have an iPad 4...

The iPad Mini 4 is a huge upgrade to earlier iPads, but while it easily twice as fast as the iPad 4, it is difficult to recommend an upgrade in this instance. The iPad 4 is still a great tablet. It runs fast on the latest operating system and it is still compatible with all of the apps in the App Store. It may run slower while actively task switching, but the iPad's operating system does a great job of managing resources, so any slow down from having multiple active apps is minimal.

The one area where the iPad 4 falls short is in multitasking. The newer iPad Air and iPad Mini 4 support Slide Over multitasking, which allows you to bring up another app in a column on the right side of the iPad's display. The iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 go beyond Slide-Over to support Split-Screen apps, where each takes up a half of the iPad's screen and Picture-in-a-Picture for videos. Picture-in-a-Picture is actually pretty cool when you want to watch a show and browse the web at the same time. How to Multitask on the iPad.

Upgrade Recommendation: Maybe.

If you have an iPad Air, an iPad Mini 2 or an iPad Mini 3...

The iPad Mini 2 and the iPad Mini 3 are basically the same tablets, with the sole difference between the 2 and the 3 being the addition of Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor that can unlock the iPad and is compatible with Apple Pay. And both versions of the Mini have the same guts as the iPad Air.  

Only one generation behind the iPad Mini 4, these tablets still hold up very well. Most people won't notice any real difference in performance, and the only feature lacking on these tablets is the ability to do Split-Screen multitasking and Picture-in-a-Picture video. For those who need to multitask, Slide-Over may be just as good as Split-Screen. And while Picture-in-a-Picture is cool, the video ends up being rather small on the Mini's screen.

Upgrade Recommendation: No.