Apple iPad mini review: Best (small) iPad ever. iPad mini models by year

Compare iPad Sizes: Find the Perfect Fit in 2023

You have decided to buy a tablet and are looking for a new or refurbished iPad. However, you still have some doubts about the different iPad sizes.

Apple’s tablet has evolved and changed several times since its first introduction. Of course, it has become considerably more powerful over the years, but it has not grown in size.

Being the regular iPad, the iPad Pro, the iPad Air, or the iPad mini, it’s worthwhile to know everything about the iPad screen sizes and dimensions to find the perfect fit for you.

What are the different iPad sizes and dimensions?

There are quite a few differences between several iPad models’ height, weight, and screen size. We have grouped the devices by product line: the regular iPad, the iPad Pro, the iPad Air, and the iPad mini.

This way, you can check out the differences between the iPad dimensions and screen sizes by comparing the product family and not solely the generation.

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We have seen ten generations of the regular iPad until now, with screen sizes ranging between 9.7 and 10.9 inches. The latest standard iPad, the iPad 10 of 2022, has seen the biggest screen size in this lineup.

ModelYearScreen sizeInches (H/W/D)Millimeters (H/W/D)
iPad 10 2022 10.9″ 9.79 x 7.07 x 0.28 248.6 x 179.5 x 7.5
iPad 9 2021 10.2″ 9.8 × 6.8 × 0.29 250.6 × 174.1 × 7.5
iPad 8 2020 10.2″ 9.8 × 6.8 × 0.29 250.6 × 174.1 × 7.5
iPad 7 2019 10.2″ 9.8 × 6.8 × 0.29 250.6 × 174.1 × 7.5
iPad 6 2018 9.7″ 9.4 × 6.67 × 0.29 240 × 169.5 × 7.5
iPad 5 2017 9.7″ 9.4 × 6.67 × 0.29 240 × 169.5 × 7.5
iPad 4 2012 9.7″ 9.5 × 7.31 × 0.37 241 × 186 × 9.4
iPad 3 2012 9.7″ 9.5 × 7.31 × 0.37 241 × 186 × 9.4
iPad 2 2011 9.7″ 9.5 × 7.31 × 0.35 241 × 186 × 8.8
iPad 1 2010 9.7″ 9.56 × 7.47 × 0.50 243 × 190 × 13

iPad Pro

The latest 11-inch and 12.9-inch models of the iPad Pro come with a powerful M2 chip and 5G support. The dimensions are the same as its predecessor, which evolved from the 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch sizes of the previous models.

ModelYearScreen sizeInches (H/W/D)Millimeters (H/W/D)
iPad Pro 12.9″ (6th gen) 2022 12.9″ 11.04 × 8.46 × 0.25 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4
iPad Pro 11″ (6th gen) 2022 11″ 9.75 × 7.03 × 0.23 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9
iPad Pro 12.9″ (5th gen) 2021 12.9″ 11.04 × 8.46 × 0.25 280.6 × 214.9 × 6.4
iPad Pro 11″ (5th gen) 2021 11″ 9.75 × 7.03 × 0.23 247.6 × 178.5 × 5.9
iPad Pro 12.9 (4th gen) 2020 12.9″ 11.04 × 8.46 × 0.23 280.6 × 214.9 × 5.9
iPad Pro 11″ (4th gen) 2020 11″ 9.75 × 7.03 × 0.23 247.6 × 178.5 × 5.9
iPad Pro 12.9″ (3rd gen) 2018 12.9″ 11.04 × 8.46 × 0.23 280.6 × 214.9 × 5.9
iPad Pro 11″ (3rd gen) 2018 11″ 9.75 × 7.03 × 0.23 247.6 × 178.5 × 5.9
iPad Pro 12.9″ (2nd gen) 2017 12.9″ 12.04 × 8.69 × 0.27 305.7 × 220.6 × 6.9
iPad Pro 10.5″ (2nd gen) 2017 10.5″ 9.87 × 6.85 × 0.24 250.6 × 174.1 × 6.1
iPad Pro 12.9″ (1st gen) 2015 12.9″ 12.04 × 8.69 × 0.27 305.7 × 220.6 × 6.9
iPad Pro 9.7″ (1st gen) 2015 9.7″ 9.4 × 6.67 × 0.24 240 × 169.5 × 6.1

iPad Air

The iPad Air dimensions range from the 9.7″ of the first model in 2013 to the 10.9″ screen size of the latest iPad Air 5 released in 2022.

ModelYearScreen sizeInches (H/W/D)Millimeters (H/W/D)
iPad Air 5 2022 10.9″ 9.74 × 7.03 × 0.24 247.6 × 178.5 × 6.1
iPad Air 4 2020 10.9″ 9.74 × 7.03 × 0.24 247.6 × 178.5 × 6.1
iPad Air 3 2019 10.5″ 9.87 × 6.85 × 0.24 250.6 × 174.1 × 6.1
iPad Air 2 2014 9.7″ 9.4 × 6.67 × 0.24 240 × 169.5 × 6.1
iPad Air 1 2013 9.7″ 9.4 × 6.67 × 0.30 240 × 169.5 × 7.5

iPad mini

Last but not least (at least in power) comes the iPad mini. The first iPad mini launched in 2012 had a screen size of 7.9″, which Apple kept unchanged until the iPad mini 6, which has a screen of 8.3″.

ModelYearScreen sizeInches (H/W/D)Millimeters (H/W/D)
iPad mini 6 2021 8.3″ 7.69 × 5.3 × 0.25 195.4 × 134.8 × 6.3
iPad mini 5 2019 7.9″ 8.0 × 5.3 × 0.24 203.2 × 134.8 × 6.1
iPad mini 4 2015 7.9″ 8.0 × 5.3 × 0.24 203.2 × 134.8 × 6.1
iPad mini 3 2014 7.9″ 7.9 × 5.3 × 0.30 200 × 134.7 × 7.5
iPad mini 2 2013 7.9″ 7.9 × 5.3 × 0.30 200 × 134.7 × 7.5
iPad mini 1 2012 7.9″ 7.9 × 5.3 × 0.28 200 × 134.7 × 7.2
apple, ipad, mini, review, best, small


Choosing the right iPad size depends on your particular usage and your preferences. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach in this case.

You might prefer to get a bigger tablet to get more power, like in the case of the iPad Pro, or sacrifice a bit of performance to carry the tablet around comfortably, as it happens with the iPad mini.

You can also choose the iPad Air if you want to get good value for money and a size and weight that stays in between or the regular iPad to enjoy the original experience.

To guide your purchase, read our article with the 5 best refurbished iPads you can buy in 2023 and the 5 best places to buy a refurbished iPad, which will allow you to save money while getting the same exact factory-new performance with a warranty.

Check out our compared iPad models in real time below and choose yours on RefurbMe.

Apple iPad mini review: Best (small) iPad ever

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  • New design in an even smaller package
  • Big camera upgrade
  • Fast
  • Stereo speakers sound great
  • Touch ID is very practical

Mashable Choice is a badge of honor, reserved for the absolute best stuff you can see, use, or do. If it’s Choice, it’s worth your time.

How do you use your iPad? Has it replaced your laptop, or do you use it primarily to consume content?

I’m firmly in the second camp. I could do some work on an iPad, but I’d have to make compromises. My MacBook is simply a better workhorse, no matter how cool the iPad Pro looks in Apple’s promo shots. The iPad is great for reading a book, a magazine, browsing the web, playing games, and watching the occasional video clip.

But my problem with most iPads is that they’re too big. I’ve tried many iPads and I’ve always returned to my trusty old iPad mini, which Apple kept on life support for years, occasionally refreshing its innards but keeping its basic design the same.

No more. For the first time since the original launched in 2012, the iPad mini (opens in a new tab) has been redesigned — and the wait was worth it.

Just the perfect size

I’ve been harping about this for years: The iPad is so much better if it’s truly portable. And the 6th generation iPad mini is, by far, the most portable iPad. It fits in small bags and larger s, and it can comfortably be held with one hand for longer periods of time. It’s the only iPad you don’t have to plan for; just take it with you as you would your phone, and you’ll probably find some place to stow it away.

Of course, you could say that about the old iPad mini as well. But the new one has nearly all the goodies that pricier iPads have.

First, it has a larger display: 8.3 inches versus the old iPad mini’s 7.9 inches. The bezels on all sides are narrower than before, giving the iPad mini that Pro/Air look. It’s also a little shorter and lighter (but also a hair thicker), though you probably won’t notice the difference. There basically are no tradeoffs here: it’s a bigger, better display in a slightly smaller, prettier package.

An old criticism of the iPad mini goes like this: Phones are already pretty big, so aren’t you better off just getting a big iPhone? The answer is: It’s not the same thing at all. The iPad mini has a display that’s more than twice the size of the one on the largest iPhone (forget about diagonal measurements; think about surface area). It’s far better for reading books and magazines, and vastly better for playing games.

apple, ipad, mini, review, best, small

Apple did not bestow Face ID upon the iPad mini, but it did give it something (arguably) better: Touch ID built into the power button on the top right. It works without a mask on, it’s fast and reliable, and it’s in the perfect place in both portrait and landscape mode (though you will have to register two fingerprints to make the most of it). It’s better than Face ID in another small way: After unlocking your device, Face ID requires you to swipe up to access your stuff. On the iPad mini, all you need to do is hold your finger on the reader for a fraction of a second longer and the device will fully unlock.

Overall, the iPad mini looks exactly as you’d expect: Like a small iPad Air. It feels solid and compact in the hand, like a perfectly sized book. My review unit was in the silvery Starlight color, which may not be as dazzling as it sounds, but it looks good in contrast to the pitch-black display bezels. If I had to nitpick, the curvy sides of the old iPad mini may have felt a little comfier during long reading sessions, but it really is a small difference.

apple, ipad, mini, review, best, small

The old Lightning port is gone, replaced by the more versatile USB-C port. Good riddance; hopefully the iPhone goes the same way soon. However, with much pain in my heart, I have to inform you that the 3.5mm headphone jack is gone, just like on the iPad Air and iPad Pro. On the iPhone, which is waterproof and a lot smaller, this is understandable. But on the iPad, I just don’t see a good reason to remove this port, and I will probably keep grumbling about it forever.

Apple sent me an Electric Orange Smart Folio that’s tailor-made for the new mini. Like other Smart Folios from Apple, it’s designed perfectly, propping my iPad at exactly the right angle in landscape mode. At 59, it’s a little pricy, though.

The display the iPad mini deserves

The 8.3-inch display on the mini has 2,266 x 1,488 pixel resolution at 326 pixels per inch, with 500 nits of maximum brightness and True Tone support. In one way, this is overkill: the pixel density is much higher than what you get on the iPad Pro, which only has 264 pixels per inch. The brightness is a little lower, you don’t get ProMotion (Apple’s term for dynamically adjusted 120Hz refresh rate), but the display is still pretty great.

apple, ipad, mini, review, best, small

The iPad mini’s display doesn’t get the 120Hz refresh rate and it does suffer from the “jelly scrolling” effect, but you probably won’t notice it in real life usage. Credit: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE

As much as I like the mini’s form factor, I do have to admit that larger iPads work better in certain scenarios. As an additional display through Apple’s Sidecar, the iPad mini is usable, but barely. Some apps just don’t look like they’re designed for the mini’s display, which is especially apparent when a humongous keyboard shows up in landscape mode covering more than half of your screen.

The display does have one minor flaw: One side refreshes slightly slower than the other, creating a dizzying effect that’s been dubbed “jelly scrolling.” I had to look for it, and I was only able to notice it while scrolling through a long page of text in portrait mode, and only when I quickly scrolled down, then up, then down again. The issue is there, but I would never notice it in real life. I guess one has to wonder whether this sort of thing is subtly affecting me in some way, perhaps by making me nauseous after a long scrolling session, but I don’t think you have to worry about it at all.

Lastly, even though the iPad mini looks a lot like the iPad Air and iPad Pro, it does have slightly thicker bezels. It’s barely noticeable, but it means that Apple could’ve squeezed a bigger display in there, and it might still happen in future iterations.

Speed and battery life

I could just end it there, because there really isn’t that much to say about a device running Apple’s latest mobile processor, the A15 Bionic. It’s not as powerful as the new iPad Pro which runs Apple’s latest desktop chip, the M1. But you’ll only notice that if you juggle several heavy duty apps and do serious work — and if you do those sorts of things often, you should get an iPad Pro (or a MacBook, heh).

I’ve never had the iPad mini slow down, even when I ran two apps in split-screen mode. I played a few games of Hearthstone and Sonic Racing without any hint of slowdowns, though the battery drain was pretty intense.

apple, ipad, mini, review, best, small

The iPad mini is plenty fast for modern games, but the battery will drain pretty quickly while gaming. Credit: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE

Overall, the standard iPad rules apply to the mini as well: If you’re going to play games, or use it aside your main computer as a secondary display, and connect it to many Bluetooth devices, the charger will be your friend. For casual usage, it’ll certainly last a few days between charges, and like all iPads, it’s pretty good at conserving battery life when it isn’t doing anything.

This is the first iPad mini to have a 5G chip. My review unit was Wi-Fi only, so I couldn’t test the 5G connection, but it usually means faster download speeds and a strain on the battery.

Camera and speakers

The new iPad mini has stereo speakers positioned on top and bottom, which means you get a proper stereo effect when playing music in landscape mode. It’s not overly loud, but the sound is surprisingly good with clear vocals and plenty of detail, though you shouldn’t expect to hear a lot of bass.

The camera on the iPad mini is a single, 12-megapixel shooter with f/1.8 aperture. It’s roughly like having an older iPhone camera on the iPad: You don’t get Night Mode, but it’s fast and it will produce great photos during the day.

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In the evening, the photos get shoddy pretty fast. It’s a nice reminder of how good today’s smartphones are when it comes to low-light photography.

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The new, 12-megapixel selfie camera on the iPad mini is pretty close to the selfie camera on the latest iPhones. Credit: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE

On the front, the upgrade is even bigger: The iPad mini now has a 12-megapixel selfie camera (up from 7 megapixels) with f/2.4 aperture and 1080p video recording at 60fps. The most important upgrade, feature-wise, is Center Stage, which tracks your location and makes sure you’re in frame during video calls. Night Mode is absent here, too, so forget about night-time selfies, but the iPad mini’s selfie camera is better than the iPhone selfie camera in little ways. For example, if you zoom out, you’ll get a much wider field of view in selfie mode than you would on the iPhone.

The iPad mini is practical for selfie videos as you can comfortably hold it with one hand. Credit: stan schroeder/mashable

Tablets, in general, aren’t the best devices to take photos with. But among all the iPads, the mini is the one that benefits from an upgraded camera system the most, as it’s the least clunky to hold while taking photos or videos. And with the new, ultra-wide selfie camera, you could actually carry it around in one hand and take a video of yourself doing something with the other. Try doing that with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The Pencil in the right place

The new iPad mini is the only iPad mini that supports Apple’s 2nd generation Pencil. Apple sent me one to play with, and it was definitely the most underwhelming part of the review process. My handwriting is so crappy that I couldn’t get the iPad to recognize my Pencil-scribbled words, and my drawing skills are equally awful.

This is less about the iPad mini and more about the Pencil itself, so I’ll stop here. If you use and love the Pencil, know that you can use it with the new iPad mini just like you can with the iPad Pro models. And being the latest model, the Pencil sticks to the iPad mini’s side where it also charges automatically, which is vastly preferable to the old Pencil’s clunky Lightning connector.

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The 2nd generation Pencil is a good companion to the iPad mini, if you’re into that sort of thing. Credit: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE

It’s great, but it all boils down to one thing

The iPad mini is as close to perfection as an iPad can get. It’s a smaller iPad Air that does nearly everything better. It’s missing some Pro features, but few that I would pay extra for. It’s practical, pretty, and portable.

It’s not entirely without flaws. There’s no headphone jack, the jelly scrolling issue does exist, and battery life could be better.

The 499 starting price (opens in a new tab) for the 64GB model seems fair, but 64GB is low for an iPad. There is no 128GB model. The only upgrade is to 256GB, which has a significantly higher starting price of 649 (opens in a new tab).

That’s exactly one hundred bucks less than the very similar but larger iPad Air, and also 100 more than the previous generation iPad mini. The price bump is unfortunate, but the new iPad mini is a big upgrade. And it’s a better deal than the Air: It’s cheaper with a better front camera, faster processor, and 5G (if you opt for the Wi-Fi Cellular variant).

Still, when it comes to the iPad mini, the first thing you need to think about is that display. If you value more screen real estate over portability, get something else. If it’s the other way around, the iPad mini is the best tablet you can get.

iPad mini (2021) review

The new iPad mini 2021, also called the iPad mini 6, is a powerful device with a crisp smaller screen, 5G connectivity support, and a stylish and compact design that makes it easy to insert into bags and even larger s. It won’t be the best iPad for everyone, but it’s undeniably the best small tablet money can buy.


  • – 5G connectivity is limited
  • – Battery life could be better
  • – Doesn’t include stylus

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Two-minute review

The defining feature of the iPad mini (2021) is its small stature, and like the iPhone 13 mini this is a device that marries a scaled-down design that will be popular with many users with top-end specs and power.

Think of it like an iPad Air 4, but shrunk down and with a more powerful chipset inside. It inherits a similar design to the iPad Air 4, with square edges, no home button and a USB-C port on the bottom edge.

The 8.3-inch display is crisp, and it’s bright enough for outdoor use, as well as for everything you’d want to do with your tablet indoors. Apple calls this an “all-screen design”, but we’d argue that the thicker bezels mean that’s a rather bold claim.

That said, this iPad mini is easier to hold because of these bezels, so they’re not necessarily a negative. You’ve got the choice of four colors – Purple, Pink, Space Gray or Starlight.

Apple has ensured that the iPad mini shines in the specs department, thanks primarily to the new A15 Bionic chipset, which has impressed us with its performance during our testing time.

There’s also either 64GB or 256GB of storage, depending on which model you opt for.

5G is also now available on the iPad mini, which is a first for Apple’s smaller tablet. That means you can connect to next-gen networks, if you opt for the cellular version and have a supporting carrier.

The changes here over the iPad mini 2019 are incremental, but the sixth iteration of the iPad mini brings improvements in a variety of areas. It isn’t the absolute-best iPad, but it’s out-and-out the best tablet you can buy if you’re looking for a small device.

iPad mini (2021) release date and price

The new iPad mini (iPad mini 6) was revealed alongside the iPhone 13 range at Apple’s launch event on September 14, 2021 and it came out in the US, UK and Australia 10 days later.

You can order it now from Apple’s website, and we’re seeing it in stock at a variety of other retailers too. The price for the iPad mini 6 starts at 499 / £479 / AU749.

You can see all the for the new iPad mini models below, for both the 64GB and 256GB storage sizes, and the Wi-Fi-only or Wi-Fi cellular options. It’s worth noting that the 2019 iPad mini came in 32GB or 128GB options, so storage has been doubled for the 2021 model.

New iPad Mini (2021)

Connectivity storageWi-Fi 64GBLTE 64GBWi-Fi 256GBLTE 256GB
US Price UK Price AU Price
499 £479 749
649 £619 979
649 £619 979
799 £759 1,209


The new iPad mini isn’t quite mini enough for one-handed use, but it’s noticeably easier to use than even the iPad Air 4 because of its small size. This feels like the perfect compromise, in terms of form factor, between the iPhone 13 Pro Max and a larger tablet like the iPad Air 4.

Its dimensions of 195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3mm (that’s notably smaller than the last-gen mini) make it one of the smallest tablets we’ve ever used, and it’s an enjoyable experience for anyone who doesn’t need a larger screen for watching video and more.

The design here is more like the iPad Air 4 or the new iPhone 13 than the previous mini – it’s a flat-edged design that looks and feels premium, with a brushed metal effect on the rear of the tablet.

There are four color options: Purple, Pink, and Space Gray, plus a cream-like color that Apple is calling Starlight – you’ll see the Purple model pictured throughout this review.

The Purple and Pink colors are more bold and vibrant than the options for the iPad mini 2019 or the iPad Pro 2021, and we’d recommend choosing one of those shades over the more conservative Space Gray if you’re looking for a more eye-catching design.

The iPad mini weighs 293 grams (a touch less than the 2019 model), which means it’s easy to slide into a bag – and even a large jacket – and not feel the extra weight.

Apple has moved the buttons slightly on the new iPad mini, and you’ll now find the volume buttons are on the top edge, at the top right-hand corner. On previous versions, you’d find these on the right hand edge of the device.

There’s also no home button on the iPad mini 2021, which was a staple of past versions of this tablet. Instead, there’s a power button on the top edge in the left hand corner, and this is also home to the Touch ID sensor that enables you to use your fingerprint to unlock the tablet.

We’d recommend setting up fingers on both hands so that the unlock button is always within easy reach of one of your digits, whether you’re using the tablet in portrait or landscape orientation.

On the bottom edge of the tablet is the USB-C port, which is used for recharging the device as well as for connecting accessories. The iPad mini supports a variety of accessories such as the Apple Pencil, although it’s not as functional as the iPad Pro 2021 with its Thunderbolt connector.

The right edge houses the charger / connector for the Apple Pencil (second-gen), as well as the SIM tray. Note that the Apple Pencil doesn’t come with the tablet, so you’ll be spending more if you want Apple’s stylus.

The iPad mini also gets upgraded stereo speakers, which we found gave full and clear audio when listening to music or watching video on the tablet.


The iPad mini features an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, which offers good picture quality.

Apple says it’s an “all-screen design”, but we’d argue that that isn’t strictly the case, as there are thick bezels around the outside of the screen. These bezels aren’t necessarily an issue though, as they allow you to more easily hold the tablet without touching the screen. It’s far from an “all-screen” look, though.

The resolution is 2266 x 1488, which works out to 326 pixels per inch. That’s good for a tablet, but it isn’t the best resolution we’ve seen on a slate, and – most noticeably when you’re watching video – the resolution isn’t as strong as on some Android tablets or even the iPad Pro 2021 line.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find this is an issue though, and the screen is suitably bright and the picture quality is clear. Unlike the 120Hz iPad Pro line, the iPad mini features a standard 60Hz refresh-rate display, so you’re not getting a super-smooth experience when scrolling social feeds or playing games.

If you’re looking for a tablet with a smaller screen, the panel here will suit you very well; we’d have liked to see a 120Hz refresh rate, but it isn’t too much of an issue.

Specs, performance and camera

The iPad mini 2021 is powered by Apple’s new A15 Bionic chipset – that’s the same processor as in the iPhone 13 series, and it’s powerful enough to run any app or game you’ll find on the App Store, as well as for multi-tasking.

It isn’t as powerful as the iPad Pro’s M1 chipset, but we found it to be more than capable for everything we wanted to do on the iPad mini. If you need top-tier power, you may want to opt for the iPad Pro line instead, but most people will be happy with what’s on offer here.

We don’t yet know how much RAM is inside the iPad mini, but in our testing it proved more than adequate for everyday takes.

The Geekbench 5 benchmarking software gave us a multi-core score of 4700, which is similar to what we’ve seen for the iPhone 13. That’s significantly better than the iPad mini (2019), which scored 2680, but nowhere near as high as the iPad Pro 2021 on 7297.

That iPad Pro 2021 score is remarkably high, and we never expected the iPad mini to be able to compete with the M1 chipset – and the average user won’t need that sort of performance, even if they’re using a lot of power-hungry apps.

You can buy the tablet with 64GB or 256GB of storage – as usual there’s no microSD support, so you’ll be using the built-in storage plus whatever iCloud storage you have. If you’re planning to store a fair amount of media on your device you’ll likely want to go for the 256GB model.

That said, serious power users are likely to find that 256GB of storage isn’t enough. The new iPad Pro goes up to 1TB of storage, so it may be worth looking at that model if you’re intending to fill your tablet with apps and media.

There’s also 5G connectivity on the iPad mini for the first time – although the tablet won’t be compatible with mmWave 5G, so if you’re a Verizon customer you may want to look into this before you purchase the tablet.

The rear camera on the iPad mini is a 12MP wide snapper with an f/1.8 aperture and digital zoom up to 5x. It’s fine, and while it’s no substitute for your smartphone camera, if you’re using it for augmented reality experiences, or with other apps that need to use the rear camera, it’ll be satisfactory.

On the front of the tablet is a 12MP ultra-wide camera with a 122-degree field of view and an f/2.4 aperture. This is a very effective camera for video calling, and we found the quality here is better than from the shooter on the rear of the device.

Apple has also brought its Center Stage feature from the 2021 iPad Pro to the iPad mini. This enables the camera to track you when you’re on video calls, and ensure that you’re always in the center of the frame.

We found this to work well, and it’s especially useful when someone else enters the frame and you want them to be included in the video too.

iPad Mini review: A huge update to Apple’s tiniest iPad

Apple’s new iPad Mini hits stores on Friday. I’ve been using one for the past several days.

Apple typically updates its iPad, iPad Air and iPad Pros each year. But the 499 iPad Mini is unique. The last refresh was in 2019, and Apple typically sells it for a few years as an option for people who want a smaller tablet.

It isn’t a watered-down tablet. It has Apple’s latest chip, newer than the one even in the 549 iPad Air, and has a nicer screen and better speakers than the regular 329 iPad.

It’s also the first major redesign of the iPad Mini since the original model launched in 2012.

Apple’s iPad business continues to grow, likely driven by the pandemic as people find new ways to work and learn from home. iPad revenues were up 12% year over year during Apple’s fiscal third quarter. It launched new iPad Pros in May and is keeping that momentum going with the new iPad Mini and a new regular iPad.

The iPad Mini is the more exciting of the two since Apple made some big design updates to it. But small-screened iPads aren’t for everyone. Most people like having a big portable screen that can double as a work device, or one that offers a larger display for movies and other entertainment. But some people want something smaller, and that’s where the iPad Mini fits in.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s good

The iPad Mini has an 8.3-inch screen, which is smaller than the 10.2-inch “regular” iPad and the 10.9-inch iPad Air. But it’s bigger than the 7.9-inch screen in the last iPad mini thanks to the removal of the home button.

It’s like holding a really big iPhone compared with the other iPads. That makes it more appealing if you spend a lot of time on your iPad reading books, or want to use it to write down notes. It’s more of a portable gaming/video/reading machine than, say, something you’d want to pull out and attach a keyboard to for work or school. The screen is too small for that. And Apple doesn’t even make a keyboard for it.

I love the size. It’s perfect for reading on the couch, sort of the same way I’d use a Kindle, but with the option to also listen to music, continue texting with friends or check in on my fantasy football team. I’ve been a big iPad Mini fan since the first model was introduced, and I dig that it’s all-screen now, without a home button. Instead, there’s a small fingerprint reader in the power button, just like on the iPad Air. It takes some getting used to if you’re used to a home button or Face ID on an iPhone or iPad.

It has Apple’s latest A15 processor, which gives it a 40% processor bump and 80% graphics bump from the A12 chip used in its predecessor. It’s a noticeable change over my aging iPad Mini from 2019, especially now that Apple’s latest iPad update includes things like home screen widgets and improved multitasking. The graphics bump really just means it will hold up to the latest games and photo or video editing apps better than the last version, though serious photogs should consider the Pro models, which are more powerful.

Apple also added a 5G option to the iPad Mini for the first time, which means you can download apps, music and movies faster if you’re away from home. But you’ll pay an additional 150 for 5G support. It doesn’t support the fastest mmwave flavor of 5G like the iPhones and iPad Pro do, but those mmwave networks are still really sparse and you need to be standing near the tower to use them, so I don’t think that’s a huge loss right now.

The cameras also received a much-needed upgrade. I don’t take photos with my iPad, since the one on my iPhone is always better and easier to reach for, but it’s a sharper 12-megapixel resolution and is still useful for snapping pictures of documents or other things you need to sign. The front-facing 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens is a more important upgrade. It replaces the lower-quality 7-megapixel camera on the older model and now supports Center Stage, which made its debut in the iPads Pro in May. It’s a great new feature, also in the new regular iPad, which tracks you as you move around during a video chat. It works great and I’m glad Apple started to bring this to all of its iPads instead of just the more expensive Pro models.

Several other updates bring the iPad Mini on par with its more expensive siblings. It has stereo speakers so you don’t hear sound coming out of just one side while watching a movie, a nice improvement from the older model. It also uses USB-C charging just like other iPads and MacBooks instead of Apple’s Lightning plug that is uses on iPhones. I just wish Apple would ditch the Lightning charger on its iPhones, too, so I could carry just one cable with me.

I don’t use the Apple Pencil often, but it’s super handy to have when I need to sign something. The new iPad Mini supports the better second-generation Apple Pencil, which sticks to the side of the tablet and charges magnetically. I used it to sign several child-care documents. Artists might like the feature that allows the smaller iPad to double as a portable sketchbook. Plus, the iPad software also supports the pencil for all sorts of stuff, such as writing in search bars, converting notes from handwriting to text and dragging and dropping photos. It’s useful to keep the pencil in your bag for when you need it.

Battery life remains about the same as the last iPad mini. Apple promises up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching videos or listening to music. That drops to nine hours if you’re on cellular. I found those claims are pretty accurate, using the device for about three hours per night three nights in a row for reading and browsing Reddit before I needed to recharge it. As usual, your mileage will vary depending on what you’re doing. Playing games will drain it faster, for example.

What’s bad

The volume buttons take some getting used to. They’re on the top if you’re holding the tablet in portrait mode, instead of on the side like on other iPads.

I’m spoiled by the far nicer ProMotion displays on the iPads Pro. It’s just a lot smoother for scrolling through a news article or apps like Apple sees ProMotion as something for professionals, though, which is also why it’s included only on Apple’s new iPhone 13 Pro models. I’d like to see it filter down to all of its products at some point.

The same goes for Face ID. While that appears only in Apple’s Pro iPads right now, it’s just so convenient that I’d like to see it on the iPad Mini. Instead, Apple embedded a fingerprint reader into the power button on the side of the iPad.

Also, without those Face ID sensors, you miss out on some of the fun Memoji that you might be used to sending to friends from your iPhone. It’s minor, but I missed Face ID on my iPad Pro, which unlocks instantly when I look at it.

Lastly, Apple sells only two storage options: 64GB and 256GB. You shouldn’t buy a tablet with 64GB of storage if you’re planning to download a bunch of apps and movies. Apple doesn’t even sell a 64GB iPhone 13 this year. Still, the 64GB is fine if you just need a little email and reading device, which I think is how most people probably think about the iPad Mini. But, if you do need all the bells and whistles, you’ll spend another 150, or 650 total, for the 256GB model. It costs 799 if you want that version with 5G.

That’s where things get tricky. I still think the iPad Mini has a lot of features you don’t even get in the iPad Air (Center Stage camera, 5G and a new processor). But you’re paying a lot for portability when you could get a still-great iPad Air with a larger screen and 256GB of storage for 749. And you can work on that if you add Apple’s expensive but very good 299 Magic Keyboard.

Should you buy it?

If you’re a fan of the iPad Mini, or have always wanted a smaller iPad, then yes, the iPad Mini is a good buy. I’ve always owned the smaller iPad and this is a nice big upgrade to the aging fifth-generation model.

But if you’re not dead-set on having the smallest iPad, you can save a lot of money and just get the iPad Air or even the regular iPad, which starts at 329 but lacks stereo speakers and does not support the new Pencil, 5G or some other modern options.

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