After much speculation, the first Apple iPad Mini hit our shelves in November 2012, followed by the iPad Mini 2 a year later, then the iPad mini 3 and in 2015 the iPad mini 4.
While this family of iPads has a smaller screen and lower price point than the iPad Air it still packs a pretty big punch in terms of tablet specifications.
Reaction to the mini series has been positive, with reviews praising the lack of compromise from its larger, more expensive brother. While pricier than many competing Android tablets it does offer the full iOS tablet experience in a smaller form factor without giving up much in features and key specifications.
It's ideal for anyone who wants an iPad at a lower cost or for those who regularly use their iPad on the move and are looking for an even more portable solution.
iPad Mini specifications and comparison
The iPad mini family now includes the original iPad mini, the iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3 and the iPad mini 4. While each has had various major and minor upgrades along the way they all share some core features: namely a 7.9-inch screen and non expandable internal memory between 16GB and 128GB.
At present the officially available models are the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 4, however you'll also find the iPad mini 3 listed in our comparison tables as some stock is still held by retailers. It's worth looking out for deals on these as prices of discontinued models can be low and they're still well supported with good features and power so you won't necessarily notice the difference over the very latest model.
iPad Mini 2 vs iPad mini 4
The iPad Mini 2 is much the same as the original version, with a couple of important improvements in two key areas.
The most noticeable difference is the new Retina Display. This is a vast step up from the 1024 x 768 resolution to a massive 2048 x 1536. That's the same screen as the iPad Air, but because it's packed into a smaller size the display appears even sharper - it's got an incredible 326 ppi pixel depth, almost twice the original.
The iPad Mini 2 also benefits from a 64-bit A7 chipset that provides some serious horsepower.
In comparison, the latest and greatest iPad mini 4 boasts the powerful new 1.5GHz dual core Apple A8 CPU, 2GB RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage. It also has a greatly improved camera, a component that's been largely unchanged since the original mini. And it features the TouchID fingerprint sensor, which is not present in the iPad mini 2.
If you're looking to get a cheap iPad and aren't fussed about cutting edge specs the iPad mini 2 is more than capable of satisfying most requirements. However if you're likely to be using more demanding apps and think you'll better from the improved camera it's worth considering an iPad mini 4 instead.
Which SIM card do you need for the iPad Mini?
The mobile broadband enabled iPad Mini has an integrated SIM card slot which means you don't need any additional hardware to get online. If you're buying an iPad new on a contract or PAYG deal it will come with a compatible SIM, otherwise you'll need to pick up a SIM separately.
All of the iPad Mini family uses the newer 'Nano SIM' format, while other models accept a different size. See the table below for SIM card compatibility between the various iPads.
|iPad (Wi-Fi + 3G)||•|
|iPad 2 (Wi-Fi + 3G)||•|
|New iPad / iPad 3 (Wi-Fi+3G)||•|
|iPad with Retina Display / iPad 4 (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad Air (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad mini (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad mini 2 (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad mini 3 (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad mini 4 (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
|iPad Pro (Wi-Fi + 3G/4G)||•|
iPad Mini deals and prices
As of 2015 the Mini was priced from £219 (16GB iPad mini 2) at the official online Apple store. Due to small profit margins, you'll struggle to find it much cheaper in other stores, but special offers do sometimes come up for a small saving.
If you decide to pick up an iPad Mini on a contract deal it's possible to grab one for nothing - although you're not really getting a free iPad Mini. In truth it's much like a hire purchase deal; you'll pay northing up front, but your monthly bill will be higher than usual, and over a long contract (normally two years). You can use our comparison table above to compare all the best mobile broadband iPad Mini offers.
This might not sound great, but it really depends on your circumstances. If you don't have a few hundred pounds burning a hole in your pocket, but do have a steady income and know a Mini is going to fulfill your needs for a couple of years, this is a great way to get your hardware without a big up front cost.