iPad mini review roundup: Superior speed but missing a critical feature

Posted:
in iPad edited September 22
The first reviews for the iPad mini 6 are out, and they all follow the same line that it is a remarkable device, yet not meant to be used for serious work.

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CNBC: Exciting, but expensive

CNBC's review of the iPad mini 6 is mostly a rave, but comes with huge caveats. It calls this device "the more exciting" of the two latest iPad releases, but "if you're not dead-set" on the smaller device, "you can save a lot of money" with the regular iPad.

The reviewer also said that the new design of the volume buttons "take some getting used to," as they've been repositioned to the "top if you're holding the tablet in portrait."

"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," says CNBC. "The screen is too small for that. And Apple doesn't even make a keyboard for it."

Apple iPad mini 6 in Purple

iPad mini 6


Equipped with the A15 Bionic chip and an edge-to-edge 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, the 2021 iPad mini (6th Gen) also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil.

Engadget: The best iPad, but with niche appeal

"It finally looks fresh, but the niche appeal remains the same," says the Engadget review of the iPad mini 6.

The small size means it can be used nearly anywhere
The small size means it can be used nearly anywhere


"The iPad mini's spec sheet has changed quite a bit, but the appeal of the tablet remains the same," continues Engadget. "It looks and feels different thanks to the redesign and the handful of new features Apple brought to it."

"What it will come down to, as always, is size," concludes the review. "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."

Gizmodo: Freeing, but not for work

Gizmodo also raves about the iPad mini 6, but it also repeats the same issue that it is a niche device, specifically that it isn't intended for work.

"I love this thing," says the review. "It's an iPad that isn't trying to be anything other than what it is-- and best of all, I feel absolutely no pressure to get work done on it."

Gizmodo argues that the iPad mini can't replace a computer, "nor is it trying to." Instead, it's a reading, games, and video device.

"Prior to the 6th-gen model, the Mini lineup's only real selling point was its portability," concludes the publication. "It's still the marquee feature, but the Mini is no longer the runt of the iPad lineup-- at least when it comes to performance."

The Wall Street Journal: Bigger screen, blazing speed

WSJ's review of the iPad mini praises the new A15 Bionic, calling its performance "smooth and zippy." The edge-to-edge screen also encourages users to side-by-side their favorite apps. The reviewer even stated that she felt like the iPad mini "practically begged me to turn it into a little laptop."

Additionally, the review praised the iPad mini's new USB-C capabilities, allowing users to connect external drives and accessories to the ultra-portable tablet.

USB-C


Battery life was average, with the reviewer noting, "The battery life is rated for 10 hours on Wi-Fi and nine hours on cellular, the same as previous iPad Minis... With more casual use-- including a short FaceTime call, podcast listening, article reading, some YouTube-ing-- on a mix of both cellular and Wi-Fi, the tablet lasted two full days on a charge, with about seven hours of active screen time."

As far as criticism goes, WSJ had concerns over storage sizes. The base model, priced at $499 for the Wi-Fi model or $649 for the 5G cellular model, only features 64GB of storage. The reviewer quickly pointed out that roughly 14GB of storage is dedicated to system files, leaving users with a scant 50GB left.

"And the pricing increases don't include a storage bump... The new iPad Mini still starts with just 64 GB. And you have to pay $150 to get to the next level, an unnecessarily large 256 GB."

The review also pointed out that the iPad mini is still the only entry into the iPad lineup lacking the Smart Connector, which would allow the iPad mini to connect to accessories like the Magic Keyboard.

The Guardian: Power, but at a price

The Guardian's review of the new iPad mini also focuses on the speed and power of Apple's latest iteration of their smallest tablet, drawing obvious comparisons with the recently released iPad Air.

"The new mini is essentially the 2020 iPad Air hit with a shrink ray," the reviewer writes. "It has the same home button-less look, Touch ID fingerprint reader in the power button, USB-C for power and a great set of stereo speakers, just with a screen that is only 8.9in on the diagonal compared with 10.9in on the Air."

The reviewer praises the A15 Bionic processor, calling the iPad mini "one of the most powerful tablets you can buy," and stating that it "performs excellently all around."

spec sheet


Again, there are concerns over the pricing. They point out that the new 10.2-inch iPad is significantly cheaper, and the 2020 iPad Air may function better as a computer replacement. They state that the best use case for the iPad mini may be a user who needs a secondary, smaller tablet or someone who wants a premium tablet experience in a small footprint.

Still, The Guardian commends Apple for its long software support for tablets, inferring that while buying an iPad mini may be more expensive than a comparable tablet, it should be seen as an investment.

Tom's Guide: Fantastic upgrades, but no support for the Magic Keyboard

Like other reviews, Tom's Guide is quick to praise the blazing-fast speeds of Apple's A15 Bionic processor, which is 80% faster than the A12 Bionic in the previous iPad mini.

However, Tom's Guide also wishes that the pint-sized tablet was compatible with Apple's Magic Keyboard.

"What's missing is support for the Magic Keyboard, and it's something that I can't ignore, especially after spending a whole month with my 4th gen iPad Air," the reviewer writes. "Ever since I got my hands on the Magic Keyboard and started using it with my iPad Air, I can't imagine going back to using a keyboard-less tablet, be it small or large."

However, they are quick to point out that the lack of support for the a non-Bluetooth keyboard does not intrinsically make the iPad mini a bad tablet. Instead, they anticipate that many will tick all the boxes for many prospective buyers.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    I am upgrading from the current mini to the new generation six. What a great tablet
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 48
    Todd Hazelton describes it as an outstanding output device for reading books, magazines, etc. as well as social media and such.

    In addition, he says it's like holding a big iPhone -- easy and convenient.

    It's no more fair to compare an iPad Mini to a full sized iPad than it is to compare that same full sized iPad to, say, a 16' MacBook.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 48
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    I don’t get how anyone could say this „isn’t for work“: typical journalists who can only imagine desktop work or leisure.

    Take tableside POS order entry and payment in a restaurant: iPhones are expensive and too small (iPod touches are essentially gone), and full sized iPad are too big and clumsy.

    similar things can be said for using the device for inventory tracking, bed-side health data entry (iPad mini fits into a lab coat pocket) etc.

    Unfortunately iPad Mini is useless as a network testing device, since Apple won’t allow access to MAC addresses, not even as something users can allow on a per-app basis in privacy settings.
    mike1GeorgeBMacJapheyradarthekatatonaldenimwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 48
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,814member
    The iPad Mini is…well…mini. By definition it gives up some things for size. If you want the capabilities of a full sized iPad, then the Air is there, for not too much more. It will give you all the extra bells and whistles you want. 
    williamlondonfred1watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 48
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,095member
    isnt iPad Mini also a phone since it supports cellular (if you go for celluar in addition to wifi)? 


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 48
    "Not for work..." said by a person who does not appreciate all of the professional uses for this device. I've commented here before, but as a pilot this is the ONLY size appropriate for a smaller airplane cockpit. In fact, Apple displayed pilot software (Foreflight) in its debut. I cannot overstate how critical this device is to pilots to get navigation info, weather, charts and much, much more. It doesn't matter how much it costs, this is the only size iPad I will buy from now on. I will add that those of us who use the iPad in harsh temperatures and direct sunlight still need some improvements. Brighter screen, and better internal cooling are needed to make this device better. The protective cases serve only to make the device even hotter and it's a problem. The specialized fan cases run $100 and up.
    DAalsethwilliamlondonStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 48
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,808member
    netrox said:
    isnt iPad Mini also a phone since it supports cellular (if you go for celluar in addition to wifi)? 



    You can use cellular for data, but won't have a phone number. You can really overcome this with an app like Skype which will generate a phone number for people to reach you.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 48
    netrox said:
    isnt iPad Mini also a phone since it supports cellular (if you go for celluar in addition to wifi)? 


    Yes, but you need an app for that. Apple doesn't include the iPhone VOIP app, nor is it available as a downloadable app. But there's plenty of VOIP apps available. I've used iPad Minis to also be my "phone" (with buds) since Mini 1. Call over wifi when in wifi zones, use cellular data when not. It all works great. 

    Favorite FREE VOIP app available for it: Google Voice. It takes and makes calls (rings iPad when called) and it sends and receives texts from non-Apple people (and also gives me notifications of new texts). With Apple people I text through Messages and video conf through FaceTime, just like anyone does with iPhone.

    Other VOIP apps I've used/like: Talkatone and Comcast Voice... the latter when I had their landline service. Anyone anti-Google-everything certainly has plenty of other options. There's also some cheap-but-paid apps with more features. 

    Like many people, my pure "phone" usage of these devices is not that heavy, so this is like we use iPhones for everything else... except with a bigger screen. 

    Key Negatives: it doesn't fit in a pocket as well as iPhone (suit pocket works, bag/purse, or I just tuck it under an arm when I need it with me but am not in a full suit), if you like Watch or CarPlay full functionality, BOTH of those need to be married to an iPhone, cameras are superior in iPhone, you can't use Messages for texts from non-Apple people, so you basically are texting through 2 apps instead of one (I just park both apps in the iPad dock for quick access), 911 functionality is not there (but I just put in my local emergency contacts as a single button click instead of having to click 3), a few entities like Uber and Ticketmaster, etc don't recognize Google Voice numbers as "cell" numbers (so I also have the Talkatone app which creates a dynamic cell number which will satisfy text-based authentication. Since that's often about what will then be lots of text spam, I'm not giving them my main number so I somewhat see that as a positive). 

    Key Positives: ONE device to carry instead of two. Since iPads seem to "keep up" longer, the upgrade cycle can be slower without getting behind on iOS features (so not feeling strong compulsion to buy new ones every year or two saves a lot of money), still full Apple/iOS, cellular data services for iPad can get down to as little as $5/month so the annual cell bill can get down to $60 if one does not need gobs of cellular data (I'm in wifi most of that time, so that applies to me), all the benefits of a screen bigger than iPhone.

    Is this for everyone? NO, nothing is for everyone. But I can offer it has worked very well for me since MINI 1. Nobody on the other end notices that I don't have an iPhone and the money savings is sizable over time (vs. buying new phones every year or two and ongoing cellular cost differences). 

    BONUS: if you do have or need a landline at home (alarm system, still need to fax sometimes, etc), look up the Obihai device. It will also use Google Voice for landline calls. When someone calls my "phone", my home phones also ring. When I call out from either, I'm using the same phone number. That also "just works" and has for years. Cost of local & long distance this way? $0 if all calls are in North America. 

    When I first went this way, I transferred my old landline through a few days of Tmobile to (be able to transfer it to) Google Voice. So that was keeping my main number but getting to use it in more ways. People already using a mobile number can direct transfer if they want... or setup a new (free) number with GV and have it auto-forward to their existing number. 

    Impending Mini 6 will also be my new "phone." I look forward to the big upgrade over the existing Mini... then doing it again in about 4-6 years to about MINI 9 or 10 or maybe iPhone Fold 2 or 3.
    edited September 22 cpsromuthuk_vanalingamJapheyfred1roundaboutnowbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 48
    Roca91 said:
    "Not for work..." said by a person who does not appreciate all of the professional uses for this device. I've commented here before, but as a pilot this is the ONLY size appropriate for a smaller airplane cockpit. In fact, Apple displayed pilot software (Foreflight) in its debut. I cannot overstate how critical this device is to pilots to get navigation info, weather, charts and much, much more. It doesn't matter how much it costs, this is the only size iPad I will buy from now on. I will add that those of us who use the iPad in harsh temperatures and direct sunlight still need some improvements. Brighter screen, and better internal cooling are needed to make this device better. The protective cases serve only to make the device even hotter and it's a problem. The specialized fan cases run $100 and up.
    I'm really glad Apple worked through that: 
    The original Mini was both small and cheap -- and there were LOTS of "discussions" here about which it was and should be:  Small OR Cheap -- while Apple seemed to waver on whether to even continue the Mini.

    But, now they have a small, high end Mini
    AND, a cheap full sized iPad
    .... and nobody here on ai (including me!) ever suggested such a solution.

    But, Apple found the best of both worlds!
    Good job Apple!

    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 48
    I just did a test order of the Mini. I like buying with monthly payments. For the Mini, Apple only gives the option of one year of monthly payments -- not two years. Given the price of the Mini, Apple Care, Pencil and Folio, it's not a cheap device and certainly would benefit from a 2-year payment schedule. Compared to the iPhone 13, the Mini is $20+ per month more expensive. 
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 48
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,946member
    As someone coming from the original iPad mini to this one, I know exactly where it needs to fit into my life, which is to be the perfect portable content consumption device that also is great for email, messaging, FaceTime, Zoom, Slack, and other such personal tasks. That's the only job I'm expecting this iPad mini to fulfill, so I have a pretty good feeling that I'm going to be quite happy with it.

    My 10.5" iPad Pro used to be my go-to content consumption device. But then I got all geeked up about adding a keyboard-trackpad case to it (Logitech Combo Touch). While the keyboard-trackpad combination turned the 10.5" iPad Pro into a near PC replacement - it also effectively "bricked" my iPad. The combination is a freaking brick to lug around, and since the back case with kickstand stays attached, even using it as a tablet without the keyboard attached to the smart connector is still a clunky kludge proposition that defiles one of the things that makes an iPad such a joy to use.

    Sure, those $300 Magic Keyboards that allow you peel the iPad Pro off its magnetic magic stand allow you to revert back to iPad aesthetic and handling purity, but I didn't have that option. And $300 is still a chunk of change, not to mention the need to pick up a touch cover for the same iPad if you're going to travel with it when it's off its magic docking portal. It would almost be cheaper to just buy a standard iPad and leave the Pro docked and desk bound, i.e., neuter its iPad-ness.

    Anyway, the iPad mini is my "Just Be Simple" iPad device. I know it can run Office 365, but I'm not going there. I don't need any more bricks.


    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 48
    dewme said:
    As someone coming from the original iPad mini to this one, I know exactly where it needs to fit into my life, which is to be the perfect portable content consumption device that also is great for email, messaging, FaceTime, Zoom, Slack, and other such personal tasks. That's the only job I'm expecting this iPad mini to fulfill, so I have a pretty good feeling that I'm going to be quite happy with it.

    My 10.5" iPad Pro used to be my go-to content consumption device. But then I got all geeked up about adding a keyboard-trackpad case to it (Logitech Combo Touch). While the keyboard-trackpad combination turned the 10.5" iPad Pro into a near PC replacement - it also effectively "bricked" my iPad. The combination is a freaking brick to lug around, and since the back case with kickstand stays attached, even using it as a tablet without the keyboard attached to the smart connector is still a clunky kludge proposition that defiles one of the things that makes an iPad such a joy to use.

    Sure, those $300 Magic Keyboards that allow you peel the iPad Pro off its magnetic magic stand allow you to revert back to iPad aesthetic and handling purity, but I didn't have that option. And $300 is still a chunk of change, not to mention the need to pick up a touch cover for the same iPad if you're going to travel with it when it's off its magic docking portal. It would almost be cheaper to just buy a standard iPad and leave the Pro docked and desk bound, i.e., neuter its iPad-ness.

    Anyway, the iPad mini is my "Just Be Simple" iPad device. I know it can run Office 365, but I'm not going there. I don't need any more bricks.



    I feel for you and understand how your iPad Pro essentially got turned into a laptop.

    For my grandson's iPad Gen 6 I first got a Logitech keyboard case which was exactly as you describe.  But, fortunately, that stopped working!

    So, I ordered a no-name Keyboard, Trackpad, case off of Amazon for $50.  That has a thin case fits inside the shell of the main case and it easily pops out and the iPad can actually be used as an iPad since it adds very little weight or bulk to the thing.  It even has a holder for the Apple Pencil Ver 1.

    Unfortunately, I think it's only available for that style of iPad.   But it's definitely a sweet piece of design -- something Jony would never, ever have thought of.  It doesn't look pretty -- it's very unAppleLike.  But it does the job.    
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 48
    dewme said:
    As someone coming from the original iPad mini to this one, I know exactly where it needs to fit into my life, which is to be the perfect portable content consumption device that also is great for email, messaging, FaceTime, Zoom, Slack, and other such personal tasks. 

    WOW! That will be an incredible leap (from MINI ONE to SIX). I thought I was taking the biggest leap from TWO- which still works very well by the way- to SIX but you'll be coming from non-retina to multi-generations beyond that first retina incarnation in mine. 

    As I'm sure you feel, my expectations are HIGH with such a big jump. Looking through countless threads where there are so many gripes about this and that, I'm (and you) are hopping over many generations of technology improvements. I'm expecting to be relatively dazzled in a few days. Goodbye 2. Hello 6. 
    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 48
    netrox said:
    isnt iPad Mini also a phone since it supports cellular (if you go for celluar in addition to wifi)? 


    No. Cellular data only. No SIM card, therefore no cell calls. It's not a phone.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 48
    I want one to be able to draw on and small enough to always bring with me. But the price is a bit too high, I don’t like they made it more expensive! Now I need to save up more money. And when I do I might want an Air instead, and need to save up even more money!:/
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 48
    I have a Zagg Bluetooth pocket folding keyboard that seems to work with any iDevice. It has a small shelf that supports my iPhone 12 Pro Max and will support my iPhone Pro Max version 13. It also works with my mini v5. So perhaps the Zagg keyboard/case attached to my v5  may not happen again for the v6. But the Zagg little folding (8.75" x 2.125" x 0.5"0) pocket keyboard Zagg made years ago still works..
    williamlondonGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 48
    rcfa said:
    I don’t get how anyone could say this „isn’t for work“: typical journalists who can only imagine desktop work or leisure.

    Take tableside POS order entry and payment in a restaurant: iPhones are expensive and too small (iPod touches are essentially gone), and full sized iPad are too big and clumsy.

    similar things can be said for using the device for inventory tracking, bed-side health data entry (iPad mini fits into a lab coat pocket) etc.

    Unfortunately iPad Mini is useless as a network testing device, since Apple won’t allow access to MAC addresses, not even as something users can allow on a per-app basis in privacy settings.
    With faster & more flexible USB-C connection and wider color gamut screen, I’m excited about the new iPad Mini as an ultraportable tool for photographers and cinematographers being able to preview and offload camera media onto external drives in the field. Looking forward to trying this out in a few days when mine arrives!
    edited September 22 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 48
    Roca91 said:
    "Not for work..." said by a person who does not appreciate all of the professional uses for this device. I've commented here before, but as a pilot this is the ONLY size appropriate for a smaller airplane cockpit. In fact, Apple displayed pilot software (Foreflight) in its debut. I cannot overstate how critical this device is to pilots to get navigation info, weather, charts and much, much more. It doesn't matter how much it costs, this is the only size iPad I will buy from now on. I will add that those of us who use the iPad in harsh temperatures and direct sunlight still need some improvements. Brighter screen, and better internal cooling are needed to make this device better. The protective cases serve only to make the device even hotter and it's a problem. The specialized fan cases run $100 and up.
    I'm really glad Apple worked through that: 
    The original Mini was both small and cheap -- and there were LOTS of "discussions" here about which it was and should be:  Small OR Cheap -- while Apple seemed to waver on whether to even continue the Mini.

    But, now they have a small, high end Mini
    AND, a cheap full sized iPad
    .... and nobody here on ai (including me!) ever suggested such a solution.

    But, Apple found the best of both worlds!
    Good job Apple!

    Respectfully, this is incorrect. There have more than a few people on these very forums, including me, that have been calling, even begging, for a high-end, pro-style mini going back several years. But yes, Apple did deliver (almost) exactly what we’ve been hoping for, so everything else you’re saying is correct. 
    edited September 22 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 48
    Have I mentioned that the Lamborghini Huracán is a terrible work truck? I know, shocking, but trust me: if you need to do serious daily hauling, the Lambo Huracán is NOT the vehicle you want!

    This, essentially, is the wisdom of the Apple tech press bestowed on us about the iPad Mini 6. Warning us, in a "Danger Will Robinson!" style, that a tablet with an 8.3 inch screen isn't a serious work computer. Really? Well, thank you, Captain Obvious. The truth, of course, it that it can be a perfect light work computer for quick travels when you'd like to leave a full-size laptop behind. A couple of folio cases with keyboards are already available, and in the numbers I expect the IPad mini 6 will sell, others are sure to follow quickly. 
    williamlondonGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 48
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,946member
    dewme said:
    As someone coming from the original iPad mini to this one, I know exactly where it needs to fit into my life, which is to be the perfect portable content consumption device that also is great for email, messaging, FaceTime, Zoom, Slack, and other such personal tasks. 

    WOW! That will be an incredible leap (from MINI ONE to SIX). I thought I was taking the biggest leap from TWO- which still works very well by the way- to SIX but you'll be coming from non-retina to multi-generations beyond that first retina incarnation in mine. 

    As I'm sure you feel, my expectations are HIGH with such a big jump. Looking through countless threads where there are so many gripes about this and that, I'm (and you) are hopping over many generations of technology improvements. I'm expecting to be relatively dazzled in a few days. Goodbye 2. Hello 6. 

    Yeah, it'll be a big jump. The original iPad mini was essentially a shrunken iPad 2. The mini display seemed crisper because the pixels were smaller, but both of these were low res screens. Both of these devices were rugged and reliable, but both suffered from the "One OS Update Too Many" syndrome which left them agonizingly slow at the point where they no longer received OS updates. I still have the iPad 2 and it serves as a fancy remote control for my Pioneer AV receiver. The mini however came down with a case of battery bloat and was recycled just a few weeks ago along with my iPad 1. I loved the mini form factor and it was a great travel companion and my go-to e-book reading device and offline music library.

    I came very close to picking up a 5th gen mini about a year ago, but I succumbed to the rumors and held out until this year because I've been traveling much less and getting by with my superchunked iPad Pro 10.5".

    New mini being picked up this Friday @ 10:00. Was hoping that Apple would bring the lovely blue from the Air 4 to the mini, but no such luck.
    HobeSoundDarrylwatto_cobra
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