iPad Mini (6th gen) review: Good things come in small packages
Quick verdict: The iPad Mini 6 is a fantastic modern tablet upgrade. But if you want a workhorse, you'll want to look elsewhere
- Smaller bezels
- Second gen Apple Pencil support
- No Face ID
- 64GB baseline model
- The battery is fine but the same as the last gen
When the iPad Mini was resurrected in 2019, I was excited. As someone with small hands and deeply casual reasons for using a tablet, it was great for me.
But it did have some quirks that I was hoping would be rectified this time around.
When the iPad Mini first disappeared in 2015, it was unclear whether it would see the light of day again.
Fortunately it did, but the 2019 iPad Mini 5 felt like a throwback from a design perspective. It felt like a nostalgia play; an experiment to see whether the product was still worth pursuing.
It was largely made up of design relics that felt outdated even in 2019. It had a lightning cable, headphone jack and an enormous bezel that housed the home button. And it only supported the first generation of the Apple Pencil, despite the newer version already being on the market.
It was basically a Frankenstein's monster of outdated tech that still had an Apple price tag. But to be fair, the new iPad Mini 6 has an even higher RRP than its predecessor, and we're about to see why.
The design choices of yore have thankfully been corrected, making it a far more compelling prospect. The 2021 iPad Mini 6 has USB-C, a top-mounted fingerprint scanner and it's compatible with the second generation Apple Pencil. The latter now charges on the side of the device rather than being inserted into the charger like the iPad Mini 5 made you do. This makes for a much cleaner and more functional experience.
The 8.3-inch device is a touch larger than its 7.9-inch predecessor and the bezel is far smaller which makes for a more generous 2226 x 1488 inches of screen real estate.
These inclusions make the device a more logical choice for someone who may not need all the power and features of an iPad or iPad Pro. It's also a reminder that tablets don't need to be enormous to be modern, which this small-handed gal certainly appreciates.
While I do question why Face ID hasn't been included, I am thoroughly impressed by the upgrade in the iPad Mini's design, particularly as this was the key letdown of the previous generation.
iPad Mini Performance
The iPad Mini has been injected with Apple's new A15 Bionic chip, meaning there's quite a bit going on under the hood. But it doesn't really have the form factor to back it up. At its core, the iPad Mini 6 is a casual user machine, but a damn pretty one.
While you don't get Apple's ProMotion, which offers variable refresh rates, the liquid retina display still makes for a lovely user experience, from reading eBooks to watching your favourite shows.
While some might argue that the iPad Mini is too small for streaming, I disagree. But, of course, this is a personal perspective.
Sure, I love a large display as much as the next tech head, but there's just something about streaming and gaming on the iPad Mini 6 that I adore. It's the perfect size for commuting and travel (at least in the Before Times) and it's my form factor of choice for bath viewing.
And despite the small size, the screen and the A15 Bionic chipset work to deliver a crisp picture that is a joy to watch.
Casual gaming also benefits from this combination. I personally save more labour intensive gaming for PC and console, but the sharp graphics, performance and quick response made this a dream for more casual titles like Overboard!, Cook, Serve, Delicious! and Don't Starve.
The second generation Apple Pencil compatibility is a godsend for users who like to use it. But as a casual iPad user and about as far from being an artist as you can get, I don't really have a need for it.
But I do appreciate its value and can attest to how well it pairs with modern iPads. It's sleek, quick and a fun way to convert handwriting into legible notes. The way it snaps into place on the side of the device for charging is also eternally satisfying.
I found this to be true of the new iPad Mini as well. While it does still feel somewhat comically large for this form factor, it's still a decent option to use alongside apps like the Adobe Suite if that's your thing.
However, if you are serious about using an iPad for artistic endeavours or as a work and productivity tool, you might want to consider upgrading.
While I personally love the small screen, it's not ideal for artwork, editing and anything particularly labour intensive.
It's also not the ideal size to make it a great workflow proposition.
While we're on potential, I find the 64GB and 256GB storage options somewhat strange. I would prefer 128GB to be the baseline for a tablet, particularly when this is also the first year that Apple has eliminated the 64GB storage options from its iPhone 13 line-up. So having it remain in a larger device seems like an odd choice, even when you take more robust photography on the iPhone.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that the cellular versions of the iPad Mini are 5G capable. However, this was not something I was able to test due to lockdown. As such, I can't speak to the speed and capabilities.
iPad Mini Camera
Speaking of which, we should probably talk about the camera on the iPad Mini 6. This time around, it is offering a 12MP wide angle cam at the rear and a 12MP ultra-wide at the front.
The rear camera array also has a higher resolution than the previous gen and can record 4K video.
Apple's nifty Centre Stage functionality, which will track you if you move around in video calls, has also been added to the Mini.
Once upon a time, I would have questioned the need for a camera in an iPad entirely. In years past, I certainly didn't use iPads for photography and didn't even really use it for video calls, which I once avoided at all costs.
But COVID-19 life has further normalised these forms of communication. With remote working likely to become a permanent fixture for some businesses, the relevance of good quality cameras has become increasingly important. Though it pains me to say it, these upgrades and inclusions make sense. In fact, the camera on the iPad Mini 6 is better than it has any right to be.
While you won't get the same results as the iPhone 13 Pro line, the photos I took were still excellent, and this upset me.
Here are some samples. Please keep in mind that these have been compressed:
The one major downfall was shooting in low light, which is damn near impossible. All of my sample shots with the flash toggled off were almost pitch black and not even worth including here.
While the last couple of generations of iPhones have included a night mode, the iPad Mini 6 is devoid of this option. And honestly, that's fine. There's really no need for this on an iPad.
While I still won't be using the iPad Mini to shoot photos anytime soon (I already looked like enough of a neighbourhood creeper for the purposes of this review), the value proposition for its decent camera firmly lies in video calls, and that's just fine.
iPad Mini Battery
Like with any Apple battery, the actual size isn't confirmed by the company. And the same goes for the RAM.
However, the iPad Mini 6 has the same 10-hour battery life as the 2019 variant, which is somewhat disappointing.
But while I would have liked to have seen an upgrade here, it still did a pretty decent job.
Sadly, Geekbench 5 didn't allow me to do a battery rundown test (I will update this if and when this device is added), but I had plenty of chances to test it personally.
For the most part, this was by streaming content at full brightness and with the sound at around 50%. I found that, in general, this resulted in about 10%-12% loss in battery life per hour. That roughly equates to the 10 hours that Apple promised.
Of course, you can probably squeeze a little bit more out of it by bringing the brightness down and using the device more intermittently.
Fortunately, the upgrade to USB-C also means that topping up the iPad Mini battery is quite quick and painless.
I'd definitely like to see a larger battery next time around, but in general, I was pleased with the results here.
Should you buy the iPad Mini ?
- Buy it if you like a smaller iPad that can do all the basics extremely well.
- Don't buy it if you want a powerful workhorse.
If you're an artist or work in another profession where you want the absolute best that an iPad has to offer, this iPad Mini probably isn't for you. And that's not a sledge; I love this thing. But this is why there's an entire product line of iPads.
The iPad Mini 6 is for those of us who want something small and light to read, game and stream on. And while we may not need all the bells and whistles of the top-of-the-line iPads, the performance offered by the A15 Bionic and the aggressive modernisation of the design makes it an almost-perfect small tablet.
But you'll have to pay for the privilege.
Despite being the smallest of the bunch, it's actually more expensive than the new 9th generation iPad. The 64GB Mini starts at $749, while the regular iPad starts at just $499.
And if you want 256GB of storage (which you'll find in the model we reviewed), you're looking at $979 for the Mini versus the 9th gen's $729.
So if cost is a factor and you don't mind something bigger, you might want to consider the new 9th generation iPad instead.
iPad Mini 6 pricing and availability
The iPad Mini 6 starts at $749 for the 64GB Wi-Fi variant and $979 for the 256GB Wi-Fi.
PriceRRP: From $749
Where to buy
How we tested
The iPad Mini 6 was tested over the course of a week. It was used for streaming content, Zoom calls, reading ebooks, mobile gaming and browsing the web.