Review: Apple's new iPad mini still nails its niche market

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The iPad mini is back with fresh internals and an updated display. But in 2019, who is the iPad mini for? AppleInsider walks you through what's changed and how the market is still ripe for the 7.9-inch tablet.

iPad mini 5
iPad mini 5


With the iPad mini 4 several years out of date, it was inevitable that Apple would either update or kill off the diminutive tablet.

The former turned out to be true as Apple beefed up the specs of the popular iPad. AppleInsider has spent some serious time with the new mini, and while the target audience is smaller than it used to be, there is still a case for new iPad mini.




A familiar face

We wouldn't hold it against you if just by looking at the new iPad you were unable to distinguish it from its predecessor. Both the fourth-generation iPad mini and the fifth-generation have starkly similar appearances. Both feature a Home button with Touch ID used for authentication. Both have rather large bezels surrounding the frame that look more substantial in 2019 than they did when the fourth-gen debuted.

iPad mini 4 (left) and iPad mini 5 (right)
iPad mini 4 (left) and iPad mini 5 (right)


Along the right side are a pair of volume controls and the sleep/wake button still resides along the top right corner. The mini also retains the Lightning port instead of going with USB-C as the Pro line did.

Turning the device over you will find the sole exterior difference between the two models -- the pinhole-sized microphone ports. The dual mics were relocated from the left and right of the camera to the top-center of the back and the center of the top edge. it is a minor difference but it does cause issues with cases designed for the fourth generation iPad mini. The physical sizes of the tablets are the same, but older cases will block those two mics which is important to consider.

iPad mini (2019) updated display
iPad mini (2019) updated display


The display retains the same high resolution as before, 2,048 x 1,536 resolution at 326 pixels per inch, but it now supports the P3 wide color gamut and integrates True Tone technology. True Tone helps they display appear more natural in a variety of lighting situations and the wide color gamut helps colors pop more than ever. Side-by-side with an OLED iPhone display, the blacks on the mini aren't quite as deep, but few would scoff at such a minor discrepancy and this is expected with the iPad line. For what it's worth, this would fall under the category of nitpicking.

There is also support for the original Apple Pencil, and impressive brightness of 500 nits, which helps for outside reading.

Performance

The biggest changes Apple has put forth for the new mini, are inside. There is now the extremely capable Apple-designed A12 Bionic processor powering this tablet. This is the same chip used on the latest iPhones. It isn't quite as powerful as the A12X Bionic processor found on the iPad Pros, but it is more than enough for this tablet.

You are likely to be limited first by the screen size rather than the processor. In our mandate to push the processor, we wanted to see how smooth it was to edit a film in LumaFusion but found ourselves more hung up on the limited display real estate than any speed deficits. The processor wasn't our bottleneck, the small size was.

If you truly wanted to edit more often or longer films, you would probably be more comfortable with the iPad Pro line.

That said, if you ware looking to edit a few videos, casually, you will be able to do so without a hiccup.

iPad mini 4 results (left) and iPad mini 5 results (right)
iPad mini 4 results (left) and iPad mini 5 results (right)


For standardized testing, we ran both the Antutu and Geekbench 4 benchmark tests. On Geekbench, the new iPad mini earned 4806 and 1140 on the single and multi-core tests. That is a huge boost over the 1606 and 3008 the iPad mini 4 pulled in.

On the Antutu test, the fifth-gen again blew away the previous. The 2019 iPad mini garnered a 369959 while the previous earned 90377. This is no surprise and we saw the fourth gen stuttering and dropped frame frequently during the GPU test.

The new iPad mini is almost too powerful. It packs so much performance into the small body that few people will likely take advantage of. Running apps side-by-side is possible though almost silly at the size they are. The real potential of the mini is with games.

A match made for the arcade

Apple will soon be launching Apple Arcade, and we can see this as an excellent path for the iPad mini. We played Fortnite, Alto's Adventure, and much more on our mini and loved the mix of screen size and power.

Our normal alternatives for mobile gaming would be our iPhone -- which packs a smaller display, our Nintendo Switch -- which has poor controllers and a subpar display, or our larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro -- a far less portable option.

Fortnite at 60 fps on iPad mini 5
Fortnite at 60 fps on iPad mini 5


This puts the mini right in the mix. It is easy enough to take with you and even slip into pockets or small bags. But it is also powerful, easily crushing Fornite at 60 fps.

Apple Arcade will bring even more games to iOS and the iPad mini will be a great home to them. Connect and external MFi controller and you have an even better gaming setup.

Many mini homes

There are many other use cases for the mini as well in 2019.

Kids who aren't yet old enough for an iPhone can still have their own, cheaper, dedicated iOS device. Hospitals and medical institutions have a great portable tablet to take room to room. Anyone who loves to read on their tablet will enjoy the mini, which is so lightweight you experience little-to-no fatigue after long reading sessions.

Retail is also a home to the iPad mini, though more often for smaller businesses. During the JAMF National User Conference last year, AppleInsider spoke to high-end outlets like Rituals that was turning to iPhone over iPad mini for handheld POS systems. Using an iPhone meant they could rely on cellular service rather than shoddy Wi-Fi coverage.

That still leaves smaller retail organizations who don't want the expenditure of iPhones turning to the smaller tablet instead. Apple's own retail is often seen using the small iPad.

Apple also takes the target audience into consideration here. Any business organization or even a child who ends up with the iPad, is likely not going to worry about things like wireless headphones when necessary and prefer the physical headphone jack that lived on another year in the mini.

With larger iPhones such as the XS Max, the market for a smaller tablet has shrunk since we saw the fourth generation, but it is clear there is still a market for the small tablet. It's apparently large enough to refresh the iPad mini, but not big enough to have done so for the last few years.

Mini comprimises

Coming in as Apple's cheapest tablet -- other than last year's iPad -- it is clear there will be compromises made in terms of features compared to Apple's other tablets.

iPad mini (2019)
iPad mini (2019)


For example, iPad mini 5 supports Apple Pencil, but like the new iPad Air, it only supports the first generation model and must be charged using the Lightning port. Speaking of Lightning we also see the Lightning port stick around on the mini rather than USB-C. Even in the box, Apple includes a slower charger brick and no Fast Charger.

Other compromises include the fact the bezels are still large, there is no Face ID, and there are no huge improvements to the camera.

Most people are going to be perfectly fine passing on all these features. Apple focused on the mini where it mattered -- performance -- and that's exactly what we got.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Where to buy

Apple authorized resellers, such as Amazon and B&H Photo, are currently knocking up to $10 off new iPad mini 5 models. For a full list of deals and product availability, be sure to check out our iPad mini Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    Where the larger iPads can do work, the mini is truly an expensive toy...
  • Reply 2 of 24
    dpkrohdpkroh Posts: 14member
    I own the 3rd generation iPad Pro 12.9 and the new iPad mini 5 and also the iPhone XS Max.  Having all 3 is the only “no-compromise” iOS choice for me.

    Hardly a toy - the new mini 5 which I recently bought, it is the ultimate consumption device.  Unlike all the larger iPads, the mini is just the right size for holding.  For the same reason practically all e-readers are similar in size to an iPad mini and not larger.  When I am at home, the mini is my primary go-to device.

    With Apple pencil support, and a folding keyboard, it is by far the most capable productivity solution that fits into a coat pocket or purse.  For most productivity tasks my iPhone XS Max, even with the same folding keyboard and a decent stylus, is a PITA.  The iPhone XS Max is great for a camera and some basics tasks, but it’s far behind the iPad mini 5 in terms of both a decent consumption and productivity device. Just today using my iPad mini and Apple pencil on the go, I received a document that I marked up with my Apple pencil, and then sent back.  Not as ideal as doing it on the 12.9 iPad Pro, but still a near hassle free experience.  Apple pencil support on the iPad mini is a productivity game changer.

    For getting real work done - I tend to do that in coffee shops, I bring along my 12.9 iPad Prom with Apple Pencil V2, and an Apple magic Keyboard.  Even the 11 inch iPad Pro doesn’t come close for productivity.  It’s still too small.  I have used the 9.7, and 10.5 sizes for years, and the 11 inch iPad Pro is not large enough it make a difference.  The experience doing work on anyone these iPads always felt constrained.

    The 12.9 iPad is for me the ONLY iPad that makes for a truly effective productivity device.  Large enough for practical split screen, triple columns in the mail app, and extra on screen tools that just don’t fit on an iPad 11.  The latest 12.9 inch iPad Pro is also almost exactly the size of an 8.5x11 inch letter size paper, and very similar to European A4 paper sizes.  Working on documents with a smaller iPad is always a compromise because they cant match “real life” size like the 12.9 iPad can.

    Even the larger iPad is not ridiculous to use as a handheld device - something I would not say about the first 2 generations with their large bezels. For Apple News and magazines, pages can be “real-life” size, no need to zoom in on parts of a page.

    My MacBook Pro and my iMac at home get very little use.  To me they both feel like outdated computing forms.  There are a very small subset of tasks they can do which they iPads can’t.  Still I rarely use my Macs at all.  They are a much greater pain to maintain to - with needless complexity.  Even with Apple’s help I have yet to get my SSD on the iMac to correctly report free space.  Every since copying over a large folder from iCloud, it has been messed up.  None of the typical solutions have worked. I’m probably going to have to wipe the iMac and restore it.

    There is no one size fits all device - not for all people - not even for an individual.

    If I had to pick just one iPad - it would be the 2018 12.9 inch pro, but having the new mini 5 allows me to grab the best device for the task,
    chiadewmemacplusplusStrangeDaystskwaramuthuk_vanalingamredgeminipa
  • Reply 3 of 24
    evn616evn616 Posts: 21member
    Apple missed the opportunity here to really bring something fresh with the mini. If they had gone with iPad Pro design elements (small bezels, pencil 2, 4k recording, face id) I would have been all over that. I just have this nagging feeling that a “Pro” type device with an 8” screen would be a winner, especially under $700. I realize this would have been a complete redesign, which probably looked less than ideal vs just updating internals.
  • Reply 4 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,071member
    Where the larger iPads can do work, the mini is truly an expensive toy...
    Nonsense narrative, of course. When I did business development I had a Mini in my satchel, it was perfect for email, reviewing spreadsheets, and product photography. You have some silly ideal in your head that all work is running CAD or sometime.

    It’s funny how so much of the hater narrative surrounding Apple hardware always begins with that same, repeated bit of nonsense: “But but but it’s a toy!”

    So, not even original. 1-star. 
    fastasleepguscatEric_WVGGmacplusplusmuthuk_vanalingamchiaredgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,071member

    jimcord said:
    Dear Mr. Dpkroh,

    Your  positive endorsement of the iPad mini was excellent! Your monthly check for positive posts to help maintain both of our Apple stock share price was most excellent. Keep up the daily shill product reviews.lol

    sincerely,

    Tim
    Oh look, another one. So you’re saying, if anyone finds value in an Apple product which you don’t find value in, they’re a paid shill? Uh huh. Tell me more. Fascinating. Do you have a newsletter I may subscribe to?
    guscatchiaredgeminipa
  • Reply 6 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,071member

    evn616 said:
    Apple missed the opportunity here to really bring something fresh with the mini. If they had gone with iPad Pro design elements (small bezels, pencil 2, 4k recording, face id) I would have been all over that. I just have this nagging feeling that a “Pro” type device with an 8” screen would be a winner, especially under $700. I realize this would have been a complete redesign, which probably looked less than ideal vs just updating internals.
    And more expensive. Have you not noticed all the whining recently about Apple products that do more costing more?
    muthuk_vanalingamchia
  • Reply 7 of 24
    I am one of those dwindling few who still owns an upgraded Newton 2000 and ever since adopting that green, video tape sized device, I have prayed for apple to come up with a modern version. Well, they have now. Add Nebo for perfect hwr and the mini is my new Newton. I have been using the iPad Pro, 9.7 then 10.5, for a couple of years and recently downsized to the 2019 mini. It has been a writer’s perfect device.
    chia
  • Reply 8 of 24
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,263member
    My wife is still enjoying the heck out of an iPad mini 2! We will eventually replace it with this model (probably used by that time!), especially now that I see the extremely impressive upgrade in performance from the even the mini 4 — it’s a good reminder of just how amazing the progress on Apple’s A-chips has been over just the past few years.
    macpluspluschia
  • Reply 9 of 24
    I'm the owner of many 9.7'' iPads and a 10.5'' iPad Pro and recently bought an iPad mini and quite love it. I like bringing my laptop to Starbucks and occasionally bring my 10.5" iPad also, but I always include the mini these days because so much more lighter and smaller.
    macplusplus
  • Reply 10 of 24
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 216member
    The mini is a very useful form factor for many myself included. The mini 5 price/performance combination is a real bargain. As soon as I sell a few older iPads I will be getting one.
    macplusplus
  • Reply 11 of 24
    guscatguscat Posts: 39member
    Where the larger iPads can do work, the mini is truly an expensive toy...
    Nonsense narrative, of course. When I did business development I had a Mini in my satchel, it was perfect for email, reviewing spreadsheets, and product photography. You have some silly ideal in your head that all work is running CAD or sometime.

    It’s funny how so much of the hater narrative surrounding Apple hardware always begins with that same, repeated bit of nonsense: “But but but it’s a toy!”

    So, not even original. 1-star. 
    It seemed like I read somewhere that people in the medical community really like the size of the iPad Mini because it's a lot easier for them to carry than it a full size iPad is.
  • Reply 12 of 24
    guscatguscat Posts: 39member
    jimcord said:
    Dear Mr. Dpkroh,

    Your  positive endorsement of the iPad mini was excellent! Your monthly check for positive posts to help maintain both of our Apple stock share price was most excellent. Keep up the daily shill product reviews.lol

    sincerely,

    Tim
    Yawn. Android sheep aren't particularly clever or knowledgeable. 
  • Reply 13 of 24
    Dpkroh-

    I have the same exact mobile setup as you, and agree on all fronts that it is a great combination.  My setup goes a bit further, as I have an iMac Pro, and latest Mac Mini and MacBook Air.  As a pro iOS developer, I use all devices most days and am quite pleased.  Having the right tool for the job was an investment, but pays dividends daily in productivity and low friction in all my use cases.

    -Tom
    edited April 15
  • Reply 14 of 24
    fred1fred1 Posts: 311member
    For what it’s worth, my wife and I each have iPad Minis and we use them constantly. We got them mainly for one purpose each (she for writing, I for reading magazines) but soon founds lots and lots of other uses. Neither of us has any interest in a larger size iPad. We love being able to carry them around in a bag/purse and we don’t need anything larger.
    We’re very glad that Apple decided to renew the Mini and not kill it off. 
    macplusplus
  • Reply 15 of 24
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 541member
    I wanna hear more from those geniuses who thought a new iPad Mini would ship with a 2.5-year-old A10 processor
    edited April 16
  • Reply 16 of 24
    jimcord said:
    Dear Mr. Dpkroh,

    Your  positive endorsement of the iPad mini was excellent! Your monthly check for positive posts to help maintain both of our Apple stock share price was most excellent. Keep up the daily shill product reviews.lol

    sincerely,

    Tim

    WTF Tim!! Where are my cheques??
  • Reply 17 of 24
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,831member

    evn616 said:
    Apple missed the opportunity here to really bring something fresh with the mini. If they had gone with iPad Pro design elements (small bezels, pencil 2, 4k recording, face id) I would have been all over that. I just have this nagging feeling that a “Pro” type device with an 8” screen would be a winner, especially under $700. I realize this would have been a complete redesign, which probably looked less than ideal vs just updating internals.
    And more expensive. Have you not noticed all the whining recently about Apple products that do more costing more?
    yes, it would but so what? Imagine of Apple took the 9.7" iPad screen size and gave it the iPad Pro design treatment or came out with a screen size in between, like 8.5"? That would be small and light enough for a great consumption-focused iPad based on the new design.  I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that Apple is thinking of such a product.
    edited April 16 evn616
  • Reply 18 of 24
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    Where the larger iPads can do work, the mini is truly an expensive toy...
    Not really.    I’m seriously thinking about getting one for my truck.  It would be a better GPS solution than a tiny iPhone but not so big that it would be in the way like the larger iPads.  I need to put more thought into this but the iPad Min just might be the ideal travel tablet.  
  • Reply 19 of 24
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,719member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    I wanna hear more from those geniuses who thought a new iPad Mini would ship with a 2.5-year-old A10 processor
    I suspect that A12 will become Apples baseline processor moving forward.   Or to put it another way the ML processor will be a big part of Apple future software development.  This will age pre A12 hardware real fast as the capabilities of Neural Engine gets adopted by more and more software and even the OS.  

  • Reply 20 of 24
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 400member
    mindwaves said:
    For standardized testing, we ran both the Antutu and Geekbench 4 benchmark tests. On Geekbench, the new iPad mini earned 4806 and 1140 on the single and multi-core tests. That is a huge boost over the 1606 and 3008 the iPad mini 4 pulled in.
    There is typo, Should be 11410 score. Just FYI.
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