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iPad mini 4 vs. iPad mini 3: Should you upgrade?

ipad mini 4 vs 3 should you upgrade head
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The iPad Mini occupies an interesting little niche in the Apple ecosystem, especially now that the iPhone Plus is out. It’s made to be a handheld pad with a bigger screen than an iPhone but more maneuverability than an iPad, sort of in the e-reader size. It seems Apple is intent on keeping the line going with the iPad Mini 4, so let’s take a look at what new with the latest Mini generation and how it stacks up to the Mini 3.

Read: Best iPad Mini accessories

Please note: The iPad Mini 4 is replacing the Mini 3 entirely, so the Mini 3 is discontinued going forward. For those of you considering which to purchase, this typically means that Mini 3 iPads will quickly sell out, pop up at discounted prices via re-sellers, and then become very hard to find – something to keep in mind if you want to buy one.

Image used with permission by copyright holder


Apple loves updating its displays, but in this particular instance the iPad Mini remains relatively unchanged. The screen is still an LCD Retina display, and it’s still 7.9-inches in size, so if you found the Mini screen too small (or too large) that will still be a problem for you in the new model.

The resolution is also unchanged. It sits at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. That’s not 4K territory, but it’s still respectable for a screen of that size, so don’t worry about watching your videos or playing your games on this screen.


Do you like using a Mini for Facetime? Do you envision snapping a lot of café pictures and want to get a really good latte Instagram? The iPad Mini 3 came with a rear camera with 5-megapixel capabilities, iSight features, and 1080p clarity, plus a front-facing camera that offered 1.2-megapxiel clarity of selfies and video chat.

The Mini 4 come with the same front-facing camera at 1.2-megapixels, so Facetime experiences will remain unchanged. However, the rear camera received an upgrade to an 8-megapixel camera, which is good news for you and all your Instagram efforts.

If these cameras sound familiar, that’s because they are the same cameras found on the iPad Air 2, simply housed in a smaller frame.

Chip power

Now we come to the big processor question. Is the Mini 4 faster than its predecessor? In brief, yes. The Mini 3 used a processor called the A7, which was made way back in 2013. The Mini 4 has been upgraded to an A8 chip with second-generation 64-bit architecture. According to Apple’s explanations, that means it’s around 30 percent faster in compute tasks and 60 percent quicker in graphics. In other words, this is great news if you want the Mini to sneak in some sports streaming or play some demanding video games.

Keep in mind that Apple is reserving its tip-top processor power for the A9/A9x chips, which are found in the latest iPhones and the iPad Pro, so it won’t be the best iOS performance you can experience. Still, it should be a significant upgrade.

Read: Spec showdown: iPad Pro vs. iPad Mini 3

Sensors and wireless


Generally, the sensors are identical between the two generations, and used for the same purposes. There’s the basic accelerometer and gyroscope, which make sure that the iPad screen tilts. There’s your Bluetooth capabilities, which are mostly unchanged except that Bluetooth has been upgraded to version 4.2 on the Mini 4. Very few peripherals even use Bluetooth 4.2 yet, but it’s nice to have it for future-proofing, and it’s backward compatible with older Bluetooth accessories.

This will be a minor point for some and more important for others. Both of the Minis use dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fi protocols. However, while the iPad Mini 3 supports 802.11 a/b/g/n, the Mini 4 supports a/b/g/n and ac.

802.11ac is a newer standard that is compatible with every other standard on the books, and also allows WiFi to be faster and more effective. If you aren’t the sort to pay much attention to how your WiFi operates, you may not notice the difference. If you really need high-quality streaming, you may be very appreciative. You will need an 802.11ac router for this to have an impact — Wi-Fi can only operate on a standard supported by both a router and the device connected to it.

Size and weight

Apple loves to make things smaller and lighter, and they even managed to slim down the iPad Mini 4, which weighs between 0.65 and 0.67 pounds. The Mini 3 weighed between 0.73 and 0.75 pounds. The thickness also decreased from 7.5mm to 6.1mm.

Read: Apple iPad Mini 3 review

iOS support

This may not be as important as some of the hardware specs for the Mini 3 vs. Mini 4, but it is worthwhile to note that the Mini 4 will come prepackaged with iOS 9, whereas you will have to download iOS 9 to replace iOS 8 on a Mini 3 when the software becomes available.

Why does this matter? It’s worth noting because iOS features do make Apple products a bit time sensitive. In other words, a couple years down the line you may find that the Mini 3 no longer supports some apps or features of the latest iOS, while the Mini 4 will still offer support for the latest software. In other words, if you want to keep your Mini as long as possible, go for the 4.


Ahhh, now we come down to it. What is the price difference between these two dueling pads? Well, there isn’t one. Your wallet will feel the same either way. Both options start at $399 for the basic version with 16GB of storage and Wi-Fi only. Storage jumps up in increments to 64GB and 128GB for both models, and the price eventually makes its way all the way to $729 , which includes 128GB and cellular data. Even the color options are the same.

Since the pricing is identical, if this is your first iPad Mini and you have your heart set on it, then there’s no reason not get the Mini 4. But if you are thinking about upgrading, or choosing between the Mini and another type of iPad model,it may not be worthwhile. The new model’s main improvement is the A8 processor, which is must quicker than the old A7, but the Mini 3 is quick enough to last a couple more years.

Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
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