So Apple have had their autumn iPad event, and unveiled 2 ‘new’ iPad’s. I’ve air-quoted ‘new’ as they technically are, but the revamped full (large) iPad, now called the iPad Air, is a pretty low key set of updates. I’ll run through them shortly. But the new iPad Mini with its clamoured for Retina display is more worthy of the ‘new’ monikor.
The iPad Air is the new, lighter, thinner iPad. It takes on the thinner side bezels introduced in the original iPad Mini and measures just 7.5mm deep and weighs less than 0.5kg.
It includes a faster A7 chip with 64-bit “desktop-class” architecture bringing up to twice the speed and graphics of the last iPad (4th generation). And that’s about it really! Sure it as the new M7 coprocessor that was introduced with the iPhone5S on board. But that’s all about enhanced motion tracking and sensors to provide accurate movement data for fitness apps. You’re not strapping this to your arm and going running.
It has the same great 10 hours of battery life. Excellent. New faster dual antenna WiFi and wider 4G support. Mmmkay.
If you’re due an upgrade go for it. If I had last years 4th generation, or even the year before’s 3rd gen I wouldn’t bother. Heck Apple is even STILL selling the iPad2 as the cheaper alternative, not the 3rd or 4th gen models, because if they did that’s all anyone would buy.
Onto the iPad Mini….
I have an original iPad Mini with 3G and love it. It’s my go to portable device and combines great connectivity, with the perfect size for both working and media consumption. Let me tell you what I don’t want it to be, any thicker or heavier. Exactly how iPad2 owners waiting for the next model felt.
So, here we have the new iPad Mini With Retina. And here’s the problem with it.
The thing so many people were clamouring for was the Retina display. Just like they were when the 3rd gen iPad was due. And those same people seemed to forget that the 3rd gen iPad was thicker and heavier than its predecessor.
Sure enough, the same thing has happened again with the new Mini.
Original iPad Mini – 7.2mm deep. New iPad Mini With Retina – 7.5mm deep.
Original iPad Mini (WiFi) – 308g. New iPad Mini With Retina (WiFi) – 331g.
Original iPad Mini (WiFi + 4G) – 312g. New iPad Mini With Retina (WiFi + 4G) – 341g.
It’s thicker and heavier. Not by huge amounts no, but the 3rd gen wasn’t massively heavier than the iPad2. But you noticed it.
Then there’s the battery life. The Retina display sucks battery at a much faster rate, so to keep the same great 10 hours of operation, there has to be a bigger battery (hence the size and weight increases). When I upgraded to the 3rd Gen iPad from the 2 I found the battery life simply wasn’t as good. And many colleagues experienced the same feeling.
And that larger battery takes longer to charge too. We don’t know the mAh rating of the new With Retina yet, but Apple have quoted watt hour comparisons – the original iPad Mini had a 16.3-watt-hour batter, while the new With Retina has a 23.8-watt-hour unit.
Also, lets not forget the resolution issue wasn’t as bad on the original Mini. Due to it’s smaller screen size, it’s 1024x768px resolution gives a 163 pixels per inch (ppi). The iPad2 has a ppi of 132 so in basic terms the lower resolution display is less noticeable on the iPad Mini. And the Retina display is of less benefit too. Apple already touted 300 ppi as the level that the human eye cannot discern any level of clarity beyond – so boosting the new iPad Mini to 326 ppi is, well, pointless. 
That’s the same ppi density as the iPhone’s have, but with smaller screens they are meant to be held much closer to your face than the 7.9″ display iPad Mini.
So the new iPad Mini With Retina does have the latest processor, which in all honesty is a surprise, so it packs the same A7 chip and M7 coprocessor chip as the new iPad Air. And it has the same WiFi and cellular improvements, meaning for the first time you can actually base your iPad decision purely on size, and if you opt for the smaller model you won’t compromise on specs.
I don’t go much beyond casual gaming on my Mini, but based on some feedback I’ve had, some of the newer more intensive games struggle to play smoothly on the current Mini. If you plan on gaming a lot, then that is definitely one good argument for the Mini With Retina and its superior processing power.
But for me, there isn’t enough new features to warrant upgrading to the new iPad Mini With Retina as yet. Apple typically updates its hardware annually with fairly modest improvements each time, but recently those improvements have been less and less compelling. If TouchID had been in either new product (like the supposed leaked images), that might have been enough to sway me, but for some reason (possibly supply constraints) it isn’t.