Apple iPad mini 3 review: A touch of gold
A touch of gold
Apple has upgraded the default gallery with a new Search option. The smart suggestions implemented within the new Spotlight and Safari browser work here too. You can search by place, date, people, nearby location, etc.
Just like before, images are organized by date and location, for those that have been geo-tagged. This view is called Moments. You can go a step back, to Collections view where you can better view your sorted photos into groups with labels and much smaller thumbs. Finally, there is the Year view. It squeezes your collection into tight grids for each year.
There is a new default album called Recently Deleted. It stores your recently erased photos for 30 days before deletes them for good. Each photo shows the days remaining until deletion. It works like a recycle bin and, of course, you can restore the files you want.
Shared photos are available - the tab has all your Photo streams. Photo Stream, which acts like a social sub-network, works really well and is very simple to set up. You choose what pictures to share and which people to share with. Your buddies on the receiving end will be able to like them and post comments. You can invite users you want to share your Photo Streams with via email or get invited. If you are using the new Family Sharing options you can easily configure Photo Streams shared between your homegroup.
If your iCloud Drive is active you can gain access to your cloud gallery and browse it on the iPad mini 3 without the need of storing it locally. If you have opted to store everything in your iCloud Drive, you can save precious space and still have access to your images and videos. You'll need a working internet connection, of course, and the iCloud Drive free quota is only 5GB.
Viewing images on the Apple iPad mini 3 is a pleasure thanks to its superb display.
One of the major new additions to the Photos app is the new integrated image editor. It supports standard features such as crop, rotate and filters, but it also offers advanced settings allowing full control over light (exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, black point), color (saturation, contrast, cast), black & white (intensity, neutrals, tone, grain). In case you aren't into meddling with your photos, you can use the new intelligent Auto Enhance feature, which will do things automatically for you.
Thanks to the new third-party access to the Photos SKD, now developers are able to add their own editing settings, filters, sharing options, among others.
The music player hasn't changed its white, flat looks but has gained new functionality. You can create playlists, delete songs right from within the player and reorder tabs whichever way you like. Album view is available too - you access it by flipping the device landscape. It lists all the covers to the albums you have in your library. Tapping on an album thumb lists all the tracks in it.
The Now Playing screen hasn't changed in functionality neither is the settings. Even in its seventh major iteration iOS still fails to offer configurable equalizers.
If you are logged in with an Apple ID that supports iTunes Radio (it's a regional thing), your iOS 8 music player will get an additional iTunes Radio tab. It's a music streaming service with a huge selection from the iTunes Store available for streaming.
The stations are divided by genres, but once you add a station, you can choose to remove artists or add more songs from an artist/group. You can preview a station before adding it to your list.
In case you like a particular song, you can buy it with just one tap. History is available and you can always return to buy songs later. A Wish List is available as well.
iTunes Radio is ad-free if you are an iTunes Match subscriber. Otherwise, every 7 to 10 songs are interrupted by about 15sec worth of commercials.
The videos app allows you to upload only supported formats via iTunes or purchase videos from the iTunes store. This is an extremely disappointing showing by a platform that is supposed to excel at multimedia consumption.
The lack of extra functionality is bad enough, but having to use just an extremely limited number of media formats or resorting to converting files, which is both slow and inconvenient is a real deal-breaker if you think your shiny new tablet should be able to easily playback anything you throw at it.
Top-notch audio quality
The audio output is yet another area where the iPad Air mini 3 isn't much different from its predecessor. However, this time this is good news as the new compact slate delivers the flawless audio output we've come to expect from Apple's devices.
When used with an active external amplifier the iPad mini 3 gets excellent scores for clarity and matches that with excellently high volume levels. Plug in a pair of headphones and you get a minor spike in stereo crosstalk, but no other degradation whatsoever. It doesn't get much better than that.
Check out the table and see for yourself.
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