Here's why the iPad Mini 2 still makes a great gift

The iPad Mini 2 has most of the Apple goodies you love, while being the cheapest iPad you can buy.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
4 min read

Looking for a great gift? Consider the iPad Mini 2.

Josh Miller/CNET

The iPad Mini 2 is Apple 's oldest and most affordable iPad still in Apple's tablet lineup. It hits that sweet spot between what it offers and what it costs. And it's a great gift to give (or get for yourself) this holiday season. Here's why.

It's an iPad

The iPad is still the gold standard for tablets . It's defined by its elegant design, long battery life, fast performance, simple operating system and access to Apple's App Store -- all of which make iPads a great gift.

When the first iPad Mini debuted in 2012, people were drawn to its small size, light weight and low price, at least compared to a full-size iPad. But it lacked one crucial feature: a Retina display.

In 2013, the iPad Mini 2 arrived with a Retina display, and the problem was solved.

The iPad Mini 2 runs iOS 10, Apple's latest mobile operating system. You get features like picture-in-picture (when watching videos) and slide over (a tab slides over from the screen's edge to allow momentarily use of another app). That's as well as the ability to send iMessages, make FaceTime calls and have access to all those iPad-optimized apps.

Like other iOS devices, the iPad Mini 2 connects you to Apple's content ecosystem. So any previously purchased iTunes books, music, movies, TV shows or apps can be accessed -- something you can't do on Android tablets.

It's cheap for an iPad

Historically, the iPad has always had a big downside: price. That doesn't bode well for a gift budget. Apple's answer for thrifty gift givers is to offer older models at a discount.

The iPad Mini 2 costs $269, £239 or AU$369. It can sometimes be found on sale for as low as $200 in the US, too. For another $130, £120 or AU$160 you can get one with 4G LTE data. Let's just say with the money you're saving, you'll be able to afford the "nice" wrapping paper.

And while none of Apple's iPads support user-upgradable storage , the company doubled the base storage of the Mini 2 (and most of the other current iPad models) from a lean 16GB to a healthier 32GB back in September. So now you're getting more for the exact same price.

Apple iPad Mini 2 is an oldie, but a goodie

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Like comparing Apples and Androids

There are many wallet-friendly Android tablets you can buy as gifts. In the US and UK, there's the 2016 Amazon Fire HD 8 for $90 or £90. In the US and Australia, there's the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 for $220 or AU$299.

One of the lowest priced tablets in the US and UK is the non-HD Amazon Fire, at just $50 or £50.

These tablets are good to watch movies on, browse the web and read books -- the same things the iPad Mini 2 is good at. But the selection of apps optimized for the iPad still surpasses those available for Android-based tablets. Also, most apps debut on iOS before making their way over to Android -- especially big ones like the much anticipated game Super Mario Run.

Next to price, the biggest deciding factor here is going to be the operating system: Android or iOS. If the person you're getting a gift for is invested in the Apple ecosystem, the iPad Mini 2 is the cheapest way to go. If most of their devices run Android, something like the Asus ZenPad Z8 would be a good option. If they're an Amazon Prime member, consider an Amazon Fire HD 8.


The iPad Mini 2 is the thrifty gift to give for people already in Apple's ecosystem.

Josh Miller/CNET

iPad Mini 4: Better, but costlier

The iPad Mini 4 costs $399, £379 or AU$569. While the Mini 4 is definitely more expensive than the Mini 2, what exactly are you getting for that money?

The iPad Mini 4 is slightly lighter and thinner than the Mini 2. It has a faster processor, a better camera and comes in gold -- the iPad Mini 2 only comes in silver and space gray.

Both iPads have the same Retina display. Though the Mini 4's display has a better reflective coating and is fully laminated -- all that to say the screen looks slightly better.

Unlike the iPad Mini 2, the Mini 4 has a fingerprint sensor -- meaning you can use Touch ID and Apple Pay , for added security and to speed up purchases.

Also that more powerful processor lets the Mini 4 take advantage of split-screen apps, instead of the Mini 2's slide-over feature. That means the iPad Mini 4 can have two active apps share the screen. Whereas the Mini 2 can have two apps share the screen, only one app can be active at a time -- also, one app is in a tab off to the side.

There's a caveat, however: the asking price of the Mini 4 is identical to that of the iPad Air 2, which is slightly faster and has a larger 9.7-inch screen. If you're going to spend up for these features -- another $130, £140 or AU$200 over the Mini 2 -- and if you don't need ultraportability, you might as well go with that larger model.

Wrapping up

The iPad Mini 2 is a smart gift this holiday season -- especially if you're the one paying for it. Though it's three years old, it runs iOS 10, has a Retina display and is the cheapest iPad Apple sells directly. Now you just need to decide what color bow you're going to put on it.