Apple’s smallest iPad got a big update in 2021. If you’ve been waiting for a better iPad mini, the 2021 review announced alongside the iPhone 13 is a tempting prospect. This is what we love about the new iPad mini.
Powered by Apple’s A15 Bionic system-on-chip
One of the most outstanding features of the iPad mini sixth generation is the incorporation of Apple’s latest A15 Bionic system on chip (SoC). This is the same chip that powers Apple’s flagship smartphones like the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, marking a huge leap in performance over the previous iPad mini.
The fifth-generation iPad mini had an A12 processor, first introduced in 2018 alongside the iPhone XS. While the A12 continues to function and is supported by software, the A15 includes three years of performance and efficiency improvements.
While the A15 Bionic in the iPad mini is fundamentally the same chip as the one in the iPhone 13, the former points of reference show a 2-8% performance penalty compared to the iPhone 13. This suggests that Apple has slightly lagged the chip. ( binning anyone?), but the performance difference will be hard to spot in real-world use.
The A15 Bionic in the mini also lacks the extra GPU core that Apple saw fit to put in the iPhone 13 Pro. This led Apple to call the iPhone 13 Pro SoC the world’s most powerful mobile chipset, but at twice the price of an iPad mini, that was to be expected.
Buying an iPad mini powered by A15 right now is a great option if you want to get many years of support from your tablet. We don’t know when Apple will update the tablet again (it could be before three years this time), but the A15 is likely to make its way onto iPads and iPhones in the next few years.
A new and modern design
The iPad mini’s form factor is its biggest draw, with a physical size close to that of a generously-sized notebook (only much thinner, at just 6.3mm (0.25in). Slender, the design was dated compared to its contemporaries such as the iPad Air and iPad Pro line.
That’s no longer the case, as Apple has taken the time to redesign the mini. Despite being slightly shorter than the previous model, the iPad mini 2021 has a larger 8.3-inch screen with much smaller bezels than the fifth-generation model.
This change also causes Apple to abandon the home button, as it has done on other iPad and iPhone models. While the iPad mini lacks the Face ID facial recognition matrix seen on the iPhone 13, you can still unlock it with your fingerprint thanks to the scanner built into the power button on the side of the unit.
It has more screen real estate than any previous iPad mini, and it’s the smallest iPad mini Apple has ever produced.
A completely new camera system
Taking photos on your tablet can be criminally less atractive , but photography is often a sporadic activity and you never know when the perfect opportunity will present itself to take a picture. The iPad mini has a new 12MP wide camera on the rear of the unit, up from 8MP on the previous model.
The camera is better than the previous model in almost every way, with a larger sensor that lets in more light, a faster f / 1.8 aperture, and for the first time (on the mini), a Quad-LED flash for better shots in the dark.
Don’t underestimate the addition of the A15 Bionic SoC here either. Image processing is often one of the things that Apple improves year over year, so expect cleaner results from the improved image signal processor on the newer silicon.
On the front of the unit is a new 12MP ultra-wide lens, which enables one of Apple’s new standout features: Center Stage. This feature allows you to be tracked around the room while on a FaceTime call using ultra-wide perspective and software perspective correction.
5G and USB-C at last
Apple’s Lightning port is one of the latest proprietary connectors in the industry. Other iPad models, including the iPad Air and the premium iPad Pro line, have used USB-C connectors for a while now, and it’s finally time for the iPad mini to join them.
This means you can use any old USB-C cable to charge your iPad mini or connect USB-C peripherals like keyboards and mice directly to your tablet. If you use an external drive or sync your iPad mini with a computer, you will be able to take advantage of the faster transfer speeds, as the Lightning connectors still ultimately work at USB 2.0 speeds.
If you want your iPad to have a cellular connection, the cellular version of the iPad mini now comes with 5G support for even faster roaming internet speeds. Unfortunately, 5G coverage is limited to wavelengths below 6 GHz (no mmWave support yet), but it is still faster than 4G in supported regions.
For future-proof home wireless connections, Apple has updated the tablet to also be compatible with Wi-Fi 6 .
Now with support for Apple Pencil 2
Apple’s best stylus now works with the iPad mini, with support for Apple Pencil 2 in the sixth generation notebook. The stylus sits on the side of the tablet for charging and storage, though you’ll have to shell out an additional $ 129 for the pleasure.
This makes the iPad mini perfect for handwritten notes, annotating documents, or scribbling in apps like Paper and Procreate . With a screen size of 8.3 inches when measured diagonally, the iPad mini isn’t a canvas for serious digital artists, but it does have its uses nonetheless.
Can even turn your iPad mini into a makeshift drawing tablet for use with your Mac or PC.
Surprisingly well priced
While the equally powerful iPhone 13 starts at $ 799, the iPad mini it is $ 300 cheaper than its starting price of $ 499. You don’t get as much storage as an iPhone, the chip is a bit slower, and there’s no cellular support unless you go for the more expensive model, but the two devices are surprisingly well combined in terms of raw performance.
Using an iPad mini as a smartphone is neither practical nor recommended, if you don’t need a new iPhone and prefer a larger form factor with the same bite, the iPad mini is a compelling choice. Wondering how it compares to the rest of the iPad range? Take a look at our roundup of the best iPads .