iPad Mini Review (2021): The Best Small Tablet Gets a Face Light | Engadget

Image Credit: Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Speaking of FaceTime, the iPad mini is equipped with the new 12MP ultra-wide front camera that supports Center Stage, the feature that automatically pans and zooms in to keep you in the frame during video calls. Every time I used FaceTime, I could move around in my (albeit small) kitchen and the mini’s camera followed me so my family could always see most of my face. There is, of course, a limitation – I often walked out of the camera’s field of view, but it followed me until I was almost no longer in the camera’s field of view. This is a handy feature for anyone like me who is regularly doing multitasking while catching up with loved ones over FaceTime.

The rear camera is also better than the previous mini, but I would not consider it a big selling point. It’s a 12MP wide camera with nf / 1.8 aperture, 5x digital zoom, Quad-LED TrueTone flash and Smart HDR 3 support. It can also take 4K 60 fps videos and Slo-Mo videos up to 1080p 240 fps. We have all seen a tablet photographer in nature, but since the shooters on our phones are far more capable than those on tablets, most people turn to the smallest screen in their pockets for photography. The photos of my fiancé and my cat that I took with the mini were good, but I was more likely to use the rear camera as a document scanner with the Evernote scannable app. And even in that case, was it better than using my iPhone? Not necessarily, just more convenient when I used the iPad mini as my standard device.

I may not have taken many photos with the iPad mini, but I use it for almost everything I normally turn to my iPhone for. The A15 Bionic chip on the inside makes the mini zipper feel, and it handled everything well I threw in it. I spent most of my time watching YouTube and Netflix videos, replying to messages in Gmail and Slack, taking notes in Evernote, saving wedding mail on Pinterest, browsing e-cookbooks in the Kindle app, and in Procreate and GoodNotes. The iPad mini did not struggle once, and compared to my iPhone, the larger screen of the tablet made it a much better companion when I wanted to be productive on the couch. The mini-games went smoothly, like Temple Run 2, Crossy Road and High rise also, though my efforts to beat these matches were anything but.

The 2021 iPad mini next to Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite.

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

While this did not affect the performance of the iPad mini I had, the storage capacity on the model you choose could have a significant impact on the way you use your mini in the future. The tablet comes in 64 GB and 256 GB models, the higher of the two costing $ 150 more than the other. This is a significant difference in capacity and cost, and it follows an unfortunate pattern in the iPad range – you find the same pricing structure in the iPad Air configurations. The previous iPad mini has the same minimum storage capacity, so we did not even get an upgrade here, and that’s a shame.

Although I do not think most people would use the iPad mini as a replacement for a laptop, it would just be nice to have a 128 GB model, just to have an intermediate option for those with stricter budgets. I would also hesitate to recommend the 64 GB model to anyone who wants to use their iPad mini as the digital folder for their documents, photos, books, scans and more. Since iPadOS 15 already takes up 7.5 GB of space, people can take up most of the internal storage quickly.

With the Apple Pencil

Another area that can eat up storage space over time is handwritten notes, scribbles, scribbles and other artwork you make with the second generation Apple Pencil. The previous iPad mini supports the first-gen stylus, but I was excited when I saw the newer Apple Pencil click on the side of the mini and align almost perfectly. The pencil is almost as long as the tablet, so it really feels like the two are made for each other.

Since I regularly use the Apple Pencil with my 11-inch iPad Pro, I was not surprised to see that using it with the iPad mini is a similar but even more limited experience. But that’s not a bad thing – I actually think the iPad mini excels as a digital notebook. It’s portable enough to go anywhere with you, and it’s much easier to balance in your hand while taking notes during a walking meeting. Apple also makes it very easy to take notes in iPadOS 15, with the Quick Note feature accessible by swiping from the bottom right corner of the iPad. This opens a small screen on the screen where you can write a quick shopping list or something you do not want to forget. The quick notes are stored in the Notes app, where you can upload and edit them at any time.

Apple has made the Notes app more robust over the years, so much so that it can be your most important note-taking tool. But there is no shortage of capable apps to use the Apple Pencil, and I was glad that two popular apps, Procreate and GoodNotes, work just as well on the iPad mini as any other iPad. Serious artists will probably want an iPad with a larger screen, as it only gives you more space to play with, in normal and split view. But those who are visual thinkers, those who prefer to sketch their thoughts will probably find the mini screen adequate. For example, I’m in the early stages of planning a wedding and I took the iPad mini with me on a few tour trips. Not only was it much less striking to take with me than my larger iPad, but I was also able to take quick photos with it, bring the images into Procreate, pull out colors I like in accessories and decorations, and experiment with them in concept sketches.

Apple iPad mini 2021

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Battery life

One thing that has not changed on the iPad mini is the estimated battery life. Like the 2019 model, Apple estimates that the disc should last up to 10 hours of battery life, and it’s a bit low again. With how much I used the device, I had to charge it every other day. The mini lasted an entire afternoon and evening, filled with scribbles, video streaming, email, light games and more (I used it for almost every task instead of my phone), and I was able to do most of the following day before battery use Life dropped to about 10 percent. I also performed a temporary battery test while playing a video clip on repeat until the tablet died, and the mini lasted about 12 hours.

Unlike the previous mini, the new model uses a USB-C port for charging, and it’s time. It’s good to see Apple switching the iPad family to USB-C, even though most people who want to buy an iPad mini have probably already scattered a few Lightning cables around their home. The mini also has a 20W USB-C charger from Apple, which can help you turn on the device quickly.


The spec sheet of the iPad mini has changed quite a bit, but the appeal of the tablet remains the same. It looks and feels different thanks to the redesign and the handful of new features that Apple has brought to it. Still, the iPad mini remains one of Apple’s most niche devices. But niche doesn’t mean less — with the iPad mini being similar to the iPad Air, you won’t sacrifice much by choosing it. However, I do not think most people will look at all the new benefits — things like a camera with Center Stage, USB-C charging, and even the A15 Bionic chip — and being convinced the iPad mini is above any other Apple to select tablet.

What it will come up with, as always, is size. The iPad mini remains the best small tablet out there, and you probably already know if an 8-inch tablet has a place in your life. This either solves a specific problem or it’s not the case – and if you fall into the second category, you probably prefer larger screens anyway.

But if you upgraded to the 5th generation iPad mini in 2019, the decision to upgrade now is not entirely cut-and-dry, and it’s mostly due to the cost. If the 6th generation iPad mini had the same starting price of $ 399 as the previous model, it would be a good upgrade. Sure, with the extra $ 100 you can benefit a lot, but if your 2019 iPad mini still goes strong, the higher price of the 2021 model may be too high. But for those who have a hole in their lives where a small tablet can fit, you (still) can not get better than the iPad mini.

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