Buying this iPad is a terrible choice, but nostalgia is stronger than logic

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Buying this iPad is a terrible choice, but nostalgia is stronger than logic
Here we are near the end of 2022, and Apple just suddenly announced a new, redesigned base iPad, and a new iPad Pro. And with that, now all iPads feature a modern design with the thin, symmetrical black bezels, and some even have the power of the M2 chip, the same one that's in a modern MacBook Pro!

So what am I to do, as an iPad fan? Why, of course – buy two old iPad mini 3 tablets for the sake of nostalgia. I mean, I already have modern iPads that look like the brand new ones, and are plenty powerful enough for everything I may want to do on them…

Instead of buying the new iPads, I went on a nostalgia trip and got myself some old ones, from 8 years ago, with nearly 10-year-old processors inside...

Let's check out how Apple tablets handle themselves with age, just for fun! But first, a little tale on why I bought those ancient tablets in the first place, and why you definitely shouldn't do that.

The iPad mini 2, followed by the mini 3 and 4 were my first iPads… so, it's about nostalgia

I know I'm not alone in this – a lot of us are nostalgic about our first anything, be it a car, perhaps a gaming console or a PC, tablet or a phone. Is this healthy? Debatable. Is it rational?

Surely not, but nostalgia can be a beautiful (and powerful) thing, so I do understand why some of us, perhaps most of us, would buy an old and basically unusable thing just to own it.

So, storytime – back in 2013 I worked for a music streaming and distribution service. The name's not important, but what mattered to me was all the traveling – I loved it. At first I had to move to Berlin, Germany, for a couple of months, where I vividly remember buying my first 2-in-1 laptop. The kind that is basically a Windows tablet, but comes with a keyboard you can snap it on, turning it into a laptop – those were new and exciting back then! And I was already in love with tablets…

Prior to that, I had used several Android tablets from the era, plus my ex-girlfriend's iPad 2 (a 2011 model). And boy, did I fall in love with that iPad. Despite it running iOS 4.3, which was far from the clean, gorgeous mobile productivity beast that iPadOS 16 is today, it was so much fun browsing the web on that slate.

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So, a bit later in 2013, here I am using a Windows 2-in-1, alongside my "real" work laptop, which was also my personal one. The company I worked with decided to get new MacBooks for a lot of its employees, but for me – the guy who's going to travel the most (on my way to Amsterdam next) – they made the executive decision to get a stationary Mac mini. Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, I didn't mind lugging the little Mac mini and setting it up with a display in every new office I went to, because it was my first exposure to MacOS, which I hated at first. But it was a fun, new experience, and I did eventually grow to like MacOS, way more so than what Windows has become.

In any case, in Amsterdam I had a few presentations I occasionally wanted to show in meetings, and I couldn't use my not-portable Mac mini for that. Everyone had a work-provided MacBook and could easily do their own presentations, so I had to find my own workaround while pretending I wasn't jealous.

One day I just went to the store to look for some presentation device, and lo and behold – the then-new iPad mini 2 was out. And it was affordable! At the time – it didn't seem that small either. So I figured I'd pick that up and see if it'll be good for doing my presentations through it. We had a projector in every office, and the iPad could connect to it with a Lightning Digital AV Adapter...

Back in their heyday, those iPad mini models made me and a lot of other people happy, they were more than just devices

The whole office presentation lore stops mattering around that time, because I was so in love with this little iPad that I started using it for everything! Video calls with my friends and parents, browsing the web, watching YouTube – it was all so novel to do on such a premium-feeling, thin device back in 2013.

All Android tablets I had used prior to this iPad were plastic and cheap-feeling, with bad displays that had backlight bleed and weak viewing angles, but most importantly – they were slow. This iPad mini 2 didn't have any of those problems, and besides that 2011 gen-2 iPad I briefly used previously, it's likely the reason why I still love iPads so much, to this day.

The design played a big part – not only how premium it felt, but those super-thin side bezels, and iconic, bigger top and bottom bezels. Such bezels are undesirable now, and officially gone from all modern iPads now that the new base iPad got redesigned, but I still find them appealing to this day, and, obviously, very nostalgic.

That little iPad mini 2 got me through a lot, during a very exciting and memorable part of my life.

So, moving on with the story, I later came back home and gifted my iPad mini 2 to my mom, bought an iPad mini 3, which had Touch ID instead of a basic home button, and eventually an iPad mini 4, which was much more powerful.

But despite their feature upgrades, one thing all of those iPads had in common was their design. Aside from tiny thickness and size differences, they all looked the same, and most iPad mini accessories (usually keyboard cases) that I bought worked on all, which was convenient.

"Maybe that'll fill the void in my soul"

So now, many years later (or at least it feels like "many years"), those early iPad mini models are dirt cheap second hand, and there's a good reason for it – they're basically unusable nowadays, unless you're very patient.

One day recently, I was rewatching a comedy special by one of my favorite comedians Doug Stanhope, where he has a bit on buying stuff he doesn't need. He tells a story about watching Hoarders with his girlfriend, but instead of paying attention to anything that's going on, he's just looking at people's old things, then drunkenly buying similar ones from eBay.

As funny as his bits are, a lot of them are relatable too. It got me thinking about what my orange microwave is, and… the iPad mini quickly came up. And since they cost like 50-to-80 bucks nowadays, I decided to buy… two.

I looked at the ads, chose two iPad mini 3 models, since those are essentially the iPad mini 2, but with Touch ID. So I would get my nostalgia fill, but also a modern unlock method.

The first iPad mini 3 that arrived on my doorstep was a locked one, so the specs don't matter; it'll just be a display unit, which I'll turn into a hipster "work of art" by framing it.

But the second one I actually planned to use – an unlocked 16GB iPad mini 3.

So, realistically, am I really using it? Let's talk about that…

Don't buy an old iPad, because…

Again, the iPad mini 3 that I bought just recently in 2022 is basically an iPad mini 2, but with Touch ID. Same Apple A7 processor from 2013.

And as you can probably guess, that mobile chip from 2013 isn't holding up too well these days, even if it was pretty darn quick back in its heyday. Today the iPad mini 3 is stuck on iOS 12, which is clearly too much for the good ol' A7 chip. While the home screen is responsive, pretty much everything you click on takes a bit to react.

And all of your favorite apps have moved on from that 2013 era, expecting newer processors with more power. So even though you can download YouTube, Instagram, Netflix, and so on, you'll get outdated versions that look worse and run as good as they look.

Wi-Fi seems to have changed quite a bit over the last many years also, since the iPad can't really connect to my router if it's a room or two away from it, which is not an issue for my other (modern) devices.

So what can you do with an iPad as old as this, if you really wanted to bring some life back to it, and were patient enough?

Well, I personally might dig out one of my old iPad mini keyboards and turn it into a little retro gaming machine. It also runs mobile games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas perfectly fine, which is cool!

You can also still use it for watching YouTube, Netflix and the likes, just be prepared for longer loading times than you're probably used to these days.

It's also semi-usable for browsing the web, but again – quite slow to load modern pages. And as a large display for your security cameras, or a smart home hub – it can probably handle that too.

But ultimately, for me it's just a nostalgia piece that I'll barely use, and am not even sure if I should've bought it in the first place.

Isn't nostalgia beautiful? And unhealthy, probably?...

What's your most nostalgic phone, tablet, or other tech device?

Share your experience with us – what old phone, tablet, or other tech toy from yesteryear hits you hardest in the nostalgia these days? Have you bought something like that purely to have it, not so much to actually use it?

For me personally, in addition to the iPad mini, I find the SEGA Genesis game console super nostalgic, plus the Japanese Nintendo Famicom, and… oh boy, so many things come to mind…

PS: Although you should stay away from old iPad minis, you may want to check out our iPad mini (2021) review and get yourself that one! You know, for actual use.

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