The original iPad mini is gone, but this non-Retina model was past its prime anyway

The iPad mini 2 becomes Apple's cheapest tablet, though you can still get some refurbished deals for less.

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Apple’s original iPad mini is no longer an option if you’re looking to grab a new tablet on the cheap.

As pointed out by Ars Technica, Apple has removed the 7.9-inch iPad mini, which had been selling for $249, from the Apple Store. The least expensive option for a new Apple tablet is now the iPad mini 2, which starts at $299.

Granted, at more than two and a half years old, the original iPad mini is hardly worth recommending at this point anyway. Before its discontinuation, it was the only iPad without a Retina display, and its dual-core A5 chip originally appeared in 2011’s iPad 2. (Apple stopped selling the iPad 2 over a year ago.)

If a dirt-cheap iPad is what you’re after, you can still go the refurbished route and get an original iPad mini for $209 from the Apple Store. But again, you’re better off spending $249 for a refurbished iPad mini 2, which adds a Retina display and a much more powerful A7 processor. It’s a bit thicker and heavier than the original, but well worth the trade-off in performance and display quality.

Among larger iPads with 9.7-inch displays, the cheapest option is the first-generation iPad Air, which took over the $399 slot from the fourth-generation iPad last fall.

Why this matters: The timing is a bit unusual, as Apple hasn’t announced any new iPads lately, and probably won’t until the fall. But with rumors hinting at a larger "iPad Pro" in the works, Apple may want a head start on thinning out an already-dense tablet lineup. It’s not like there were a lot of good reasons to keep buying the original iPad mini anyway.

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