It seems like ages since Apple made the iPad mini back in 2015, and since then things were somewhat stagnant in the series of mini iPads. Apparently, people assumed that the mini’s middle-size market position would eventually be dampened out by ever-larger phones and the repositioning of the iPad as a laptop replacement. Well nowhere in sight, Apple surprised everyone by releasing iPad mini 5 and no exaggeration, but definitely, it is everything one wants in a tablet.
Though it doesn’t mean that there is a significant upgrade, with no real mini tablet competition, iPad mini is a satisfying experience. Apple believes that people buy a mini iPad for its size and not for its price. So size does matter.
Together with a 7.9-inch display, it is a portable phone which feels comfortable to hold single-handedly and to operate with two hands. Externally, there is no significant upgrade, and it is almost the same as the iPad mini 4. But underneath the bright display, a surprise awaits. Apple has fine-tuned the tablet to work with the first generation Apple pencil. It’s portable and easy to use. Writing seems like a breeze when all you have to do is to flick open the Smart Cover and instantly scribble some notes.
The iPad is ultrafast, all because of its iPhoneXS-class chipset. Beware if you underestimate by its size. However, the small screen is better for reading and writing functionality than writing productivity, but it can handle Adobe Lightroom editing just as well as the iPad Air 2019 from a performance standpoint.
We are also amazed by its battery life giving us slightly better results than Apple’s promised 10 hours of battery life in our tests. It’s coupled with fast-charging capabilities, so you don’t have to wait forever to gear up the knocked out iPad mini.
Well, nothing surprising about its price. It is expensive and costs more than the slightly larger iPad 9.7 due to its superior fully-laminated screen, markedly faster chipset and convenient quick charging tech- benefits come with a price to pay.
It was anticipated that it would be a scaled down version of the iPad Pro, but its bezel-heavy design and lack of second-gen Apple Pencil support proved us wrong. Instead, it is a small, upgraded tablet of 2019.
Price and release date
The iPad mini is smaller than the rest, but it is yet expensive. The cheapest is the Apple iPad 9.7 (2018) which starts at $329 (AU$469 / £319) and is often on sale for a lower amount. The new iPad mini starts at $399 (£395 / AED 1,599 / AU$599) for a 64GB Wi-Fi-only version. The top-end model is quite a lot more at $679 (AU$1019 / AED 2,729 / £669). That version comes with a cellular connection and 256GB of storage.
Not to forget the additional charges that accessories like Smart Cover and fast charging USB-C-to-Lightning cable bring, but they all are less expensive than the iPad Air (2019) and significantly cheaper than the iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9.
Design and display
This iPad mini is an ideal small tablet. We found its 7.9-inch screen to be the perfect size to carry the iPad one-handed and reach our thumbs across the entire on-screen keyboard with our 2 hands. While using this tablet, we almost detested larger phones.
There is hardly anything new here-it is the same external design which is now nearly seven years old. There are two different opinions on the design. The first says that Apple hasn’t bothered to change its ‘blown-up older iPhone’ design. It’s undeniable dated. The second way is that Apple didn’t need to change it.
People love the iPad mini series-it is lightweight at 0.66 pounds only and perfectly portable. It can be taken anywhere, anytime without worries of carrying it contrary to what it feels like to carry iPad Pro 12.9 at times.
This does not mean it is perfect. Surely it has its weaknesses. The bezels remain thick around the screen and seem like a reversion, and the decision to use the 1st-gen Apple Pencil instead of the far superior second-gen Pencil Apple developed for the new iPad Pro is extremely strange. It has a bright, fully-laminated Retina display, same as the older iPad mini 4. Technically, it means the protective glass is wafer-thin, and the screen digitizer is pressed up against it, unlike the thicker glass and resulting gap seen in the iPad 9.7 screen. But practically, it means drawing with the Apple Pencil feels more natural like you’re drawing directly on the screen.
A development in the new mini tablet is a wide P3 color gamut to display more shades of color and True Tone Display technology. True Tone adjusted the white balance to match our environment. The screen was bluer outside in the park and, transitioning in the office; we saw a very faint yellow tint that was easier on our eyes. Things are the same on many fronts — you still get a physical home button with Touch ID on the front — no Face ID or fancy haptic button here — and 2 stereo speakers at the bottom. On the back, there’s the same old 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera, which takes at best medium-good photos. There is a headphone jack and the Lightning connector on the bottom, not a USB-C like the new iPad Pros.
The Apple Pencil
The small screen does not allow ample room to work with, but it is effective at editing photos in Lightroom, drawing in Procreate and scribbling notes in Notability. You just have to pan and pin-to-zoom a lot more. It is the best note taking iPad that is portable too, and it has its own merit-no comparison with the other iPads which gives large canvases.
We are gravely disappointed with the iPad mini pencil. It is the first generation Apple pencil which is paired and charged by plugging into the bottom of the iPad, something that does not befit the mini and the cap is easy to lose. It would have been better if Apple had given its second generation pencil that magnetically clips onto the side of the iPad and charges wirelessly.
The pencil is more prolonged, heavier and loves to roll off the table. It’s also missing tool-switching gestures that come with tapping the flat side of the Apple Pencil Gen 2 or double-tapping the screen to wake the iPad Pro. The new pencil is more comfortable to hold, charge, and keep track of. The new pencil is definitely superior to the old one. So if you get the iPad mini, keep track of the cap.
The Pencil itself works just like the first-gen Apple Pencil on any other iPad: it’s swift and responsive, works great across apps that support it. But it’s not bundled in the box so wait for another shoe to drop: it costs another $99, which raises the total cost of the new mini to $500 to start. Apple should be considerate about adding Pencil support in the future.
Performance and Specs
As the saying goes, don’t judge the book by its cover. For iPad mini, it is better not to judge it by its size. The tablet can boast for handling 3D games and heavy-duty productivity apps like Adobe Lightroom, Procreate, and Adobe Premier Rush smooth, thanks to the Retina Display.
It borrows the Apple’s A12 Bionic chipset found inside the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max and beats all small tablet competition in every benchmark test. With a Geekbench multi-score of 11,541, it tied the iPad Air 2019 (11,575) and was only bested by the iPad Pro 11 and Pro 12.9 (18,104). That’s nearly double the multi-core score of the entry-level iPad 9.7 (5,786). iOS 12 and the A12 chip allowed the iPad mini (2019) to multitask with two apps open at once without slowdown, but the limited screen space meant we didn’t last long in Split View. Instead, we feel as if the horsepower overkill here will be used for weighty apps down the road, like the forthcoming Photoshop for iPad and Adobe Project Gemini. On the go photo editing and sketching has a future in mini iPad series.
The iPad mini 2019 comes in two sizes: 64GB and 256GB as people usually opt for 64Gb of storage while also paying for iCloud. This, in turn, is better than the 32GB and 128GB iPad 9.7 configurations. The 32GB iPad 9.7 is a harder sell to the average consumer with lots of on-device photos.
Moving on to the camera, the iPad mini has an 8MP rear camera with an f/2.4 aperture and a 7MP ‘FaceTime HD’ front camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The specs of both cameras are dated, and the pictures and 1080p video are good, but not great. It’s ideal for reference shots, as your iPhone will always do a better job.
Apple promises 10 hours of battery life from the new iPad mini. From our lab tests, we got just over 11 hours of screen-on time while the iPad mini 2019 was surfing the web on Wi-Fi. It’s standby time was equally impressive without battery draining overnight.
The iPad mini-series has consistently had healthy battery life, and now for the first time, it has excellent recharge speeds. Combined with a fast charging USB-C-to-Lightning cable, we were able to go from 0% to 100% in just two hours and 19 minutes.
iPads are renowned for taking ages to charge, but here were our much-improved fast charging speeds:
- 15 mins: 18%
- 30 mins: 35%
- 60 mins: 54%
- 75 mins: 67%
- 90 mins: 79%
- 20 mins: 93%
- 50 mins: 98%
- 2h 19m: 100%
iPad 9.7 (2018)
The iPad 9.7 is bigger in size but cheaper than the iPad mini (2019). However, there are bargains to make. The mini has a fully-laminated display, while the 9.7 version has thicker glass in front of the screen, making the screen look a bit recessed. It also has an older chipset and only comes in 32GB and 128GB internal storage sizes. It’s still one of the best buys for people who just want an iPad without extras.
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iPad mini 4
Similar to iPad mini 2019 in size and screen technology, the iPad mini can still be found on sale at a few retailers. Well, there are compromises to make on a faster chipset, the fast charging, True Tone Display, and Apple Pencil support. For some people, that will not make a significant difference.
Without any significant design change from iPad mini 4, the iPad mini (2019) is still the best small tablet to carry single-handedly. Its 7.9-inch screen is perfect for reading and watching videos on the go, and that fits nicely into Apple’s News Plus and TV Plus ecosystem.
Its dated design really contrasts with what’s on the inside: the powerful A12 Bionic chipset that runs circles around all small tablet competition and Apple Pencil compatibility. The first gen pencil is its con side, and we secretly wish to have the magnetically attached pencil with it. The iPad mini is the most likeable iPad. Its charming size sells it, even if the iPad 12.9 remains better for productivity and illustration and the iPad 9.7 is the best in terms of value.
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- Same specs as the larger iPad Air, but in a smaller size
- Headphone jack (yes!)
- Great performance
- 1st-gen Apple Pencil
- Lightning port instead of USB-C
- Old design with giant bezels