Apple iPad mini 2 review: Moving up the ranks

Orlin Milinov, 22 November 2013.
Pages: 123456789101112

Tags: Apple, iOS

Performance benchmarking

The Apple iPad mini with Retina screen utilizes Apple's latest A7 chipset, which is found on the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s. It's the world's first 64-bit mobile system-on-a-chip and as usual, Apple claims it is twice as fast as the previous A6 chip with graphic performance improvements reportedly reaching up 4x that of the A6.

The Apple A7 28-nm chip is comprised of a 1.3GHz dual-core CPU, dubbed Cyclone, which uses ARM's ARMv8 microarchitecture (yet to premiere elsewhere). The GPU, while not officially confirmed, is believed to be the PowerVR G6430. The use of a 64-bit instruction set for the CPU enables Apple to put more than 4GB of RAM on its future generation of products, but the iPad mini 2, just like the iPhone 5s, packs just 1GB. Not that this feels insufficient - the way iOS handles multi-tasking you are extremely unlikely to run out of operating memory.

We've already benchmarked the performance of the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s so we know what to expect. The A7 is a potent chipset with blazing fast performance. Of course, our iPad mini 2 review would not be complete if we don't put it through the usual benchmarks too.

We start with the Geekbech 3 test to see how the CPU and memory are doing. Surprisingly, the iPad mini with Retina screen did worse than both the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s in this test.

Geekbench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    2937
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    2743
  • Apple iPad Air
    2688
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    2670
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2638
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    2561
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    2512
  • LG G2
    2243
  • HTC One
    1972
  • HTC One Max
    1899
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    1869

We also ran the iOS version of Linpack. Again, the new iPad mini scored worse than both the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s. It's still in the same league though, just not quite there with the rest.

Linpack

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad Air
    1008
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    970
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    969
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    940
  • Apple iPhone 5
    546
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    532

Then came time for the multi-platform GFXBench, which is really good at giving the GPUs a run for its money.

The iPad mini 2 scored the same as the iPad Air in the Egypt offscreen test, both sharing the second spot in our all-time chart, just few fps shy of beating the Galaxy Note 3 for the top spot. It's worth noting that the iPad mini 2 score in the Egypt test was more than three times better than what the original iPad mini scored - much in line with what Apple claim.

In the T-Rex offscreen test, the iPad mini 2 surprisingly outperformed both the iPad Air and the Galaxy Note 3, securing the first spot in this benchmark.

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (1080p off-screen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    68
  • Apple iPad Air
    63
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    63
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    60
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    60
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    60
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    56
  • LG G2
    54
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)
    43
  • HTC Butterfly S
    42
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    41
  • HTC One Max
    41
  • HTC One
    37
  • Apple iPhone 5
    30
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    30
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    17

GLBenchmark 2.7 T-Rex (1080p off-screen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad mini 2
    27
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    26
  • Apple iPad Air
    25
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    23
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    23
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    23
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    22
  • LG G2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    17.1
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Octa)
    17.1
  • Apple iPad 4
    16.8
  • HTC Butterfly S
    16
  • HTC One Max
    14
  • Google Nexus 10
    13.9
  • Sony Xperia Tablet Z
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    6.3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    4.9

We also ran the GFXBench on-screen tests. Quite expectedly, because of the iPad mini 2's higher resolution screen, it delivered a lower framerate than the iPhone 5s on the high-quality T-Rex graphic test. Still, from our real life tests the iPad seems perfectly equipped to handle every modern game hassle-free.

In this set of benchmarks the iPad mini with Retina screen scored the same as the iPad Air, but lower than the original iPad mini. This means that in pure rendering power the new GPU is barely powerful enough to compensate fully for the massive increase in screen resolution. As a result, the older iPad mini outputs a higher frame rate (though we are talking about a marginal difference).

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (on-screen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 5s
    53
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    53
  • Apple iPad Air
    49
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    49
  • LG G2
    48
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    43

GLBenchmark 2.7 T-Rex (on-screen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 5s
    37
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    26
  • LG G2
    22
  • Apple iPad Air
    21
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    21
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    14

Basemark X (off-screen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad Air
    15.727
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    15.456
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    11.446

Basemark X (on-screen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad Air
    13.651
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    13.77
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    7.769

3DMark - Ice Storm Unlimited

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad Air
    14991
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    14221
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    13415

Finally, we put the iPad mini 2 through the SunSpider and BrowserMark benchmarks to test Safari's JavaScript and overall browsing performance.

Interestingly, the iPad mini with Retina screen scored a bit worse than the iPad Air and the iPhione 5s on both benchmarks. It's a small margin though and the Safari browser on the iPad mini 2 remains one of the fastest browsers around.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Apple iPhone 5s
    403
  • Apple iPad Air
    421
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    421
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    569
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    587
  • Apple iPhone 5
    694
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    704
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    750
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    845
  • LG G2
    908
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    1046
  • HTC One
    1174
  • HTC One Max
    1295

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better

  • Apple iPad Air
    3659
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3549
  • Apple iPad mini 2
    3500
  • Galaxy Note Note 10.1 2014 Edition
    3138
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3041
  • Apple iPhone 5
    2825
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    2799
  • LG G2
    2718
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (S600)
    2438
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    2419
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2398
  • HTC Butterfly S
    2378
  • HTC One
    2262
  • HTC One Max
    2243
  • Sony Xperia Tablet Z
    2170
  • Google Nexus 10
    1773

Summing it all up, the iPad mini with Retina screen seems to be is as fast as the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s with only some marginal differences in test scores. The mini tablet has lots of graphics processing power and even managed to top our all-time chart in the offscreen GFXBench T-Rex test. However due to the immensely increased screen resolution, the iPad mini 2 renders graphics-intensive games in about the same frame rate as the original iPad mini. The new CPU coupled with the latest generation PowerVR Series 6 GPU make the A7chipset the best performer on the market and will leave nobody disappointed.

Siri is amazingly versed, speaks new languages

A new iOS version just can't afford to pay no attention to Siri. After more than two years in development the assistant has finally graduated from beta.

Just as the rest of the iOS 7, Siri now looks different. It always launches in full-screen and has a real-time voice graph. Another UI novelty is the option to edit your voice request with the keyboard in case Siri didn't hear you right.

Siri supports and understands English (American, Canadian, Australian, British), French (France, Canada, Switzerland), German (Germany, Switzerland), Japanese, Italian (Italy, Switzerland), Spanish (Mexico, Spain, US), Mandarin (China, Taiwan), Korean, and Cantonese (Hong Kong) languages.

Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iPad mini 2
The new Siri UI

The most important Siri upgrades, of course, are under the hood. Siri now has Wikipedia integration and it offers new voices, there is both female and male English US for example.

Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iPad mini 2
Siri in action

Siri can also carry out commands affecting the iOS - it can turn Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on/off, increase brightness, play voicemails, check other people's social network status, play iTunes Radio stations, etc.

Siri is a really powerful voice assistant capable of POI search. Assistance with restaurant booking is part of Siri's set of skills. It will search for exactly the restaurant you need and it will filter the results based on user reviews. You can run impressively detailed searches based on food type, location, outdoor, pool, price range, ratings, etc. This feature is not available in every country, though.

Siri would also answer lots of sports-related questions and it isn't limited to game scores - it does just fine with history, stats, player bios, player comparison, teams, records, etc. Siri should be able to return most of the info right onto its own screen, without switching over to the browser.

The same applies to movies. You will get all of your movie-related answers right inside the Siri window - anything about actors, directors, awards, movie stats, premieres and tickets, reviews, trailers, etc.

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