Updated: Oct 1, 2021
We finally get an update to the iPad Mini after two and a half years, and well, Apple’s done it yet again, folks. I’d say this is the best small tablet you can get right now.
Let’s talk hardware first. Apple has completely refreshed the Mini, with a new flat edge chassis that’s very reminiscent of the iPad Air. It’s nice, in terms of design consistency, and I do prefer the flat edge design that Apple has taken with the iPad Pro, iPad Air and now iPad Mini.
Our iPad Mini is in the Purple colourway, which is actually quite similar to the Purple iPhone 12 that was launched earlier this year. It’s not as bright as the Purple iPhone 12, perhaps a shade or two lighter, and it can appear a bit like a blue-ish silver in certain angles. Regardless, I think it’s a gorgeous colour.
The other colour options are Pink, Space Gray and Starlight, which is apparently a blend of silver and gold. I haven’t seen the Starlight colour in person yet, but from photos, it kind of reminds me of champagne gold, which I think would be a pretty nice colour on the chassis.
The bezels are also smaller now, with a Touch ID sensor integrated into the top power button, which means we get a new 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, slightly bigger than the 7.9-inch Retina display on the older Mini. The Touch ID sensor is okay, it does require like two seconds to read your fingerprint and unlock, but it’s not too bad.
The volume buttons have also been moved up to the top left corner, and one of the biggest changes is the support for the 2nd gen Apple Pencil. It snaps on magnetically to the right edge of the iPad Mini, and while the pencil is almost the entire length of the iPad, there is around 1cm of clearance on the top and bottom, which means the pencil won’t accidentally get knocked off. Below the charging part, you’ll get a SIM card slot here if you opt for the Cellular + Wi-Fi model.
On the back, you get the singular 12MP rear camera along with a True Tone flash. The rear camera has Focus Pixels, which is Apple’s name for phase detect auto focus, Smart HDR 3 and more. At the bottom, you get a USB-C port! Finally, Apple is taking another step away from Lightning.
As for the front, you get a new 12MP ultra wide front camera that has centre stage, the same feature that was introduced in the iPad Pro that automatically pans to track the subject during video calls, and can zoom in or out to fit more people in the frame. It’s a great feature for FaceTime calls with the family, and even in Zoom meetings, if you’re prone to getting up and walking around to use a whiteboard or something.
Anyway, let’s get into the inside of the iPad. It’s powered by the same A15 Bionic chip that’s in the iPhone 13, so this really is the most powerful iPad aside from the iPad Pro that you can get right now. Now, Apple typically doesn’t reveal the amount of RAM their products have, the iPad Pro was the exception to the rule.
Thankfully, some folks have found out from the Xcode 13 beta that the iPad Mini 6 has 4GB of RAM, which is definitely a decent amount for the tablet to run smoothly without any issues at all. The iPad Mini also comes with either 64GB or 256GB of storage. Personally, I’d say go for the 256GB of storage, especially if you’re used to downloading shows and movies for watching offline since those will add up quickly.
There’s also 5G and Wi-Fi 6 support, which means even faster internet speeds whether you’re at home or on the go. Apple claims you get 10 hours of battery life when browsing the web or watching video over Wi-Fi, and I’d say it’s pretty much there.
I charged it to full and got around 7 hours worth of usage switching between Netflix, Apple TV+, Libby and PS Remote play. I’d say my usage is a bit more extreme, since I was pretty much looking to fill my Saturday up with things to do on the iPad Mini, but a full charge should last most people a day or two with moderate usage, since most people probably won’t be spending hours on end watching shows on the iPad Mini.
As mentioned earlier, the screen is now an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display that can get up to 500 nits in brightness, and you get landscape stereo speakers which do get quite loud. They’re excellent for watching shows and movies, or even when you’re playing games.
Overall, content consumption on the iPad Mini is delightful. Movies and shows are sharp, vibrant and beautiful. And here, we get into the real reason, or some would say, the only reason why you might want to buy an iPad Mini. The size.
It’s perfect as a companion tablet. It’s the perfect size to lie in bed and watch a show, or read an e-book before bed. I can’t do that with my iPad Pro, it’s way too heavy. The iPad Mini is excellent for people who want that small form factor. It’s not the tablet you’re going to get if you want a laptop replacement or a tablet for drawing or video editing. You’ll be gunning for the iPad Pro or even the iPad Air for those purposes.
The iPad Mini is best as a lifestyle device, and that’s really how I used it during the time I’ve had it. I did my work on the iPad Pro, thanks to the handy keyboard folio case, typing up documents and email is a breeze. But whenever I was off work, I found myself reaching for the Mini for all my entertainment needs. In fact, I picked up journaling for a bit thanks to the Mini. I found it so much easier to scribble down my thoughts, my schedule for the week and more when I was using the Mini, compared to the iPad Pro, which felt more like a notepad than a notebook.
Heck, I even used PS5’s Remote Play feature with the Mini to do some daily in-game tasks like signing in to MLB The Show 21 for free cards or tinkering around with my squad composition. You could technically play slow-paced games on Remote Play, but it really depends on the speed of your internet connection, and that’s where 5G support comes in handy. You’d have to be fine with the occasional lag though. I did get some hits in MLB, although my connection dropped off once. For games like Stardew Valley or other relaxing games without any real combat needed, I think it’ll work just fine.
And of course, the iPad Mini ships with iPadOS 15, which means you get the multitasking features, although it’s a bit hard to do multiple apps at once because of the smaller screen size, and you do get Focus mode along with stuff like SharePlay coming later in the year, so you can watch the same show with your friends over FaceTime, Live Text and more.
So really, would I recommend this? Hell yes. I think it’s awesome, but only if it fits what you want. If you want a tablet that you can take plenty of notes on for school or work, edit photos or videos or do actual work, you’re better off going with the Air or the Pro for the added screen real estate. Even if you just want to watch shows and browse the internet, the new iPad 9 would fit your needs fine too, although it does only come with support for the 1st gen Apple Pencil.
You have to really want what the iPad Mini offers - a smaller form factor, support for 2nd Gen Apple Pencil, higher performance - and be willing to pay more for something that’s physically smaller. But if you fit all those boxes, the iPad Mini is the best small tablet you can get.
Content by Cheryl Tan