Apple originally introduced the 7.9″-screened iPad mini in 2012 as a direct challenger to numerous 7″ tablets from rival manufacturers, describing it as “every inch an iPad” with an uncompromised ability to run full-sized iPad apps. Today, Apple sells three different iPad mini models, all almost identical from the outside. Each model is sold in basic Wi-Fi-only and premium Wi-Fi + Cellular versions.
The original iPad mini ($249 to $379 from the Apple Store) is offered solely in a 16GB capacity and is the only model with a 1024×768 screen. It has an Apple A5 processor inside and is virtually identical in performance to a fifth-generation iPod touch and the since-discontinued iPad 2. However, the very nice 7.9″ screen size and a 7.2mm thickness make it a much better compromise for kids; the storage capacity is, however, extremely limited.
Debuted in late 2013, Apple’s iPad mini 2 ($299 to $479 from the Apple Store) was originally called the iPad mini with Retina display. It is offered in 16GB or 32GB capacities and has a 2048×1536 display with four times the resolution of the original model. The A7 processor inside is virtually identical in performance to the first iPad Air, and the wireless performance has been improved for both Wi-Fi and LTE cellular. Except for adding a second microphone for echo-cancellation, it looks the same on the outside as its predecessor.
Released in October 2014, the iPad mini 3 ($399 to $729 from the Apple Store) is virtually identical to the iPad mini 2. Apart from adding a Touch ID fingerprint sensor to the Home button and adding a gold color option to the prior silver and space gray versions, the iPad mini 3 is internally unchanged from the iPad mini 2, with the same screen, A7 processor, wireless performance, and battery life. It is sold in 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB capacities.
The iPad mini 2 and 3 have 326PPI screens, which is the same as the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5c, 5s, and 6, a major improvement over the non-Retina display on the previous model. You can choose the version that fits your needs; we find any mini to be a great pick for kids, with the mini 2 offering a great “sweet spot” of performance and pricing; the mini 3 is a better option if you need more storage capacity.