For a long time, Apple has neglected the iPad Mini, updating it with minor improvements rather than a significant redesign. The upgrades to the entry-level iPad were barely evident in 2020. Still, Apple revamped the iPad Mini to align it with the rest of its tablets for 2021.
After using the new iPad Mini for a couple of weeks, we can finally answer the question: who, exactly, should buy this little tablet that barely beats the iPhone 13 Pro Max in size?
iPad Mini 2021 General information
If you’re looking for a little tablet that doesn’t skimp on power, the iPad Mini is your best bet.
Despite its smaller 8.3-inch screen, the iPad Mini is comparably powerful to the iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. However, the gadget lacks a Smart Connector, which would allow for simple accessory integration, and the display size does limit multitasking.
When compared head-to-head with comparable compact tablets such as the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8, the iPad Mini comes out on top in terms of battery life and overall performance. The iPad Mini’s performance is slightly better than the 9th-generation iPad’s and on the level with that of the iPad Air in most situations. The 8.3-inch screen may make multitasking and other multitasking-intensive tasks feel more cumbersome than they would on a larger device.
A new design and a new port
It’s almost absurd how portable an iPad Mini can be. You can operate the 8.3-inch tablet with a single hand. It’s stunning and easy to use without hurting your hand(s). And since we’re bringing up the subject, let’s talk about what everyone’s avoiding. It’s more expensive than the Fire HD 8 or Fire 7, but it has a far more premium design and build in exchange for the extra cash.
The edges are made of flat, smooth aluminum with notches for the antenna bands if you have a cell device, just like the iPhone 13 or the iPad Air. Speakers, the volume up and down buttons, and the power button with Touch ID are located on the top of the smartphone when held upright. Even though the TrueDepth sensor for Face ID would have fit into the device’s narrow bezels, Apple instead implemented Touch ID, much as it did with the iPad Air.
The fingerprint sensor is concealed under the power button and covered with frosted glass for a sleek appearance. It was easy to add a fingerprint or two, and the feature works wonderfully. The iPad Mini’s design without a home button is superior in every regard. It’s also in a pretty good location, no matter how you hold the tablet, so don’t worry about that.
The USB-C port, another major upgrade, can be found at the tablet’s base. The absence of Apple’s proprietary Lightning port paves the way for new kinds of interaction with the iPad Mini. An external drive, or the more universally compatible dongle, can be plugged in to transfer information. The true benefit may be that you can reduce the number of chargers you need to bring with you.
The package includes a 20-watt power adapter and a USB-C to USB-C cord. Now that Apple has updated the iPad Mini with USB-C, the ninth-generation iPad is the sole tablet to continue using the older and more cumbersome Lightning connector.
The tablet’s rear is relatively uncluttered, but the protruding 12-megapixel camera makes it impossible to lay the Mini flat.
Purple, pink, Starlight (silver), and Space Gray are the four color options for the iPad Mini.
The new screen and Center Stage feature
The 8.3-inch Liquid Retina screen is the device’s main selling point. In our tests, the new iPad Mini had more vibrant colors and excellent contrast than its predecessor. The screen’s performance is comparable to that of the iPad Air. Images have a lifelike quality, and the video plays without any hiccups.
Using the Apple Pencil on the new display is also more satisfying than on the old iPad Mini, with less latency and a more natural appearance of the written words flowing into the screen.
The newer Apple Pencil, though, may magnetically attach to the right side of the iPad. Furthermore, the Apple Pencil can be charged wirelessly from the iPad Mini, making it even more convenient to keep the two devices together.
We don’t mind the width of the side bezels at all; they provide a little more room to rest our iPad Mini in our hands. You’ll need plenty of space to handle and use a device that measures just 7.69 inches in height and 5.3 inches in width.
The TrueDepth sensor and the Face ID facial recognition system are located on the device’s top (when kept upright). The iPad mini is an excellent device for video conversations and content capture, thanks to the inclusion of the Center Stage feature. Your face will remain in view and be somewhat magnified during a video conference or FaceTime session. If you get up to stretch or refill your drink, it will pan and start moving with you to maintain your position in the shot.
The iPad Mini disproves the assumption that a less bulky electronic device is also less capable.
Apple’s A15 Bionic chip, which also runs the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, provides the juice for the iPad Mini. It can run standard business programs like Outlook, Slack, Photoshop, Word (the whole Office suite), and even management systems and spreadsheets.
Comparative testing shows that it performs nearly as well as the iPad Air and even the 11-inch iPad Pro at these fundamental tasks. In comparison to other similar-sized tablets, it packs a lot of punch. In the same spirit, a Fire HD 7 or Fire HD 8 will undoubtedly struggle to edit several images in bulk or produce a full-length film.
However, Apple is not launching a Smart Keyboard or Magic Keyboard for the iPad Mini, which is disappointing given the device’s unrealized potential. The iPad Mini’s ample processing power makes it a viable ultraportable option for completing work like writing papers, sending emails, etc. You can connect a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad to this gadget, but a case would give it a more polished look and feel. Apple also omitted the Smart Connector from this model’s build.
You can multitask if you like, but if you do, remember that the Split Screen mode only gives you a little room for each window. The iPad Mini is most comparable to the original iPad because it enables you to concentrate on a single activity until it is finished.
The iPad Mini is ideal for viewing media due to its size and 8.3-inch screen. Viewing old episodes of “See” and “The Morning Show” on a device of this size was a delight. It is portable enough to watch in the vehicle, on the train, or when lounging in bed or on the couch. Of course, we’ll be the first to confess that this was some of our most rigorous tests, and yes, even a tiny tablet may cause severe pain if it falls on your face while you’re out.
Gaming on the iPad Mini is fun because its screen size and design are comparable to those of the Nintendo Switch. Catalyst Black, a Fortnite-like game, played wonderfully on the device. The visuals in Real Flight Simulator can similarly be disorienting at times. Our virtual views were unobstructed while in the air, and building an underground railway system in Mini Metro was a fun way to wind down at the end of the day. There is more than enough processing power to run any game you want to play natively on an iPad.
The screen is the perfect size for watching videos, playing games, or reading an e-book. It’s an all-around gadget that aspires to be a miniature iPad in every sense.
If you ignore its compact size, the iPad Mini has the same processing capability as every other iPad. In fact, in our qualitative tests, it outperformed the iPad Air and the iPad 9.7. The A15 is a powerful processor and performs similarly to the A13 in the iPhone 13. We got well over Apple’s claimed 10 hours of playtime during our battery life test.
As a test, we looped a video at 50% brightness until the battery died. In addition to that, we disabled all forms of connectivity and monitored the area with two cameras for added safety. Ten hours and 45 minutes was the maximum time the iPad Mini lasted.
Apple is updating the iPad Mini 5G Cellular to work with the same 5G networks that were available on the iPad Pro. There is a catch, however, as just one of the primary 5G standards in the US is supported.
Sub-6 5G service, which the iPad Mini can use, is now generally available from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. However, this differs from the lightning-fast 5G standard (mmWave) that’s only available on the iPad Pro among Apple’s tablets.
This is Apple being practical, as you may not be interested in 5G mmWave, but Sub-6 is more likely to be available across the country. Cellular on the iPad Mini, when connected to 5G, can achieve 100 to 300 Mbps rates comparable to 4G LTE capabilities. A Sub-6 5G network’s main advantage is its increased bandwidth.
However, cellular is only included with some iPad Mini’s and comes at a hefty price of $150 if you want it.
You can do everything an iPad can do, albeit with some size constraints, and that’s why the iPad Mini is so appealing; it has a brilliant display and a powerful processor that’s up to the task. It can be challenging to switch between tasks, and there is no specialized keyboard case.
You only need to be receptive to size and interested in a very portable solution. This is the iPad Mini refresh that many current iPad Mini owners have been hoping for.
However, if this is your first iPad, it’s wise to weigh your options. For an additional $100, you can get the iPad Air, which offers nearly identical functionality and includes a Smart Connector for connecting optional accessories. The iPad, which retails for $329, is a more stripped-down version of the iPad Pro, but it is still thriving in terms of many of the same abilities.
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