Apple iPad Mini Review: Run and gun productivity

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I cannot tell you how long I’ve waited for an iPad Mini. Well technically I’ve waited for an iPad Pro Mini but I’m still thrilled about this one. As I got my hands on the iPad Mini a few days ago, I realised that there’s a lot to be thrilled about but some concerns to. Let’s break it down shall we?

Design and build

The iPad Mini slots in as a perfect device for productivity when on the move. It weighs 293g and has a 6.3mm thickness which makes it both portable and lightweight. Even with a case, you do not feel that the device becomes bulky in the hand. With a completely new look, there are some elements that have changed. For example, the volume and power buttons sit on the top of the iPad mini when used in its portrait orientation. However, beyond a slight adjustment, this change did not bother us too much.

Speaking of the power button, it also doubles as a Touch ID sensor. While this is an adequate form of authentication, we would have liked to have seen the iPad mini with Face ID. We feel this would work better in a home environment give you do not have to wear masks. And furthermore, the front bezels on the iPad mini’s display seem more than large enough to accommodate the technology.

Like the iPad Pro lineup, the iPad mini also adopts a Type-C USB port for charging and support for the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. It connects to the iPad mini via a magnetic connector on its right edge. While its functionality is as expected, you might find it difficult to grip the iPad mini with the Pencil attached when used in portrait orientation (speaking as a right-handed user). With it taking the majority of the right edge, we feel this is something that Apple may have overlooked. Granted, the iPad mini’s design lends itself for landscape use, especially with its power and volume button placements. But perhaps down the line, Apple could look to make a mini version of its Pencil to better adapt with smaller tablets.

Display

Up front, the iPad mini sports an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina Display with a sizeable bezel around it. This sports a 2,266 x 1,488 resolution with Apple’s True Tone, lamination, an oleophobic and an anti-reflective coating. On its own, the brightness, sharpness and colour levels are great. And quite frankly, you can use the iPad mini display for a large proportion of large screen tasks like browsing the web, gaming or reading books.

But as someone coming off the iPad Pro, the difference when watching videos and in smoothness is noticeable. We felt that videos just seemed a bit lacklustre which is to be expected as this is still an LCD panel. Colours will do the job but the depth in black levels or that added pop just feels a bit off. There is also no ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate support which we think would have made the iPad mini the complete device.

One additional aspect of the display that is crucial is usage. Like we have already said, the iPad mini’s panel is great for run and gun situations given its size. But sometimes, the small form factor could be a disadvantage.

For example, when using Safari , we found that the tablet automatically switches to desktop versions of websites. But by doing so, information is too cramped on the display. And more often than not, we ended up switching to a mobile version for a better experience. So like us, you may find that the 8.3-inch size is just a fraction too small for certain websites or pieces of content, that you may be able to access just find on a larger tablet.

Also on a random side note about the display, while the new slimmer bezels are the exact same size as the bezels on an iPad Air 4th gen or the iPad Pro line, they look thicker on this smaller display.

User experience and specifications

With iPadOS 15 running the show, the iPad mini does not fail to deliver a true multitasking experience. It is backed by Apple’s latest A15 Bionic SoC equipped with a 6-core CPU, a 5-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine. Having used the M1 driven iPad Pro, the performance differences between the iPad mini and iPad Pro are marginal. And for a general consumer, the A15 Bionic is plenty. Adapting to all my work, whether it was to edit videos on Lumafusion or blazing through photo edits on Lightroom or for note taking with the Apple Pencial was easy. And given the extra GPU power, the iPad mini serves as a complete device for both creation and gaming.

We never felt RAM was a bottleneck on the device either, with 4GB being plenty. Although, the iPad mini storage configuration seems odd. With all the base iPhone 13 models moving up to 128GB of on-board storage, the iPad mini stays with 64GB or up to 256GB if you decide to spend more. We feel with a base iPad mini, you will be restricted by storage fairly quickly. And given Apple has already made changes on its smartphone lineup, a 128GB and 512GB configuration at the same prices would have made more sense for the iPad mini.

Optics

It is not surprising that the iPad mini has a fairly simple camera configuration. There is a 12MP wide camera on the back with up to 5x digital zoom and 4K 60fps video recording. This is no flagship smartphone camera setup but it does the job.

Additionally, you find a 12MP ultra-wide camera for selfies. We used this the most taking advantage of Apple’s Centre Stage functionality. Using this, the camera is able to adapt to where you move, keeping you centred throughout. And it works like a charm for video calls. I used it on a few Zoom calls over the last few days and Centerstage is just one of the most charming features to have. While it is finicky in many scenarios, in most it just works!

Battery life

I’ve been using the iPad mini for the last few days or so as our daily driver. And consistently, it has been able to deliver 9-10 hours of usage. While we are not sure of the device’s exact battery size, it is equipped well enough to last anywhere between 1-1.5 days of mixed usage. Moreover, the iPad mini comes bundled with a Type-C USB charging cable and a 20W power brick so you will not have to pick that up separately with the tablet.

Conclusion

Listen! Thanks to it’s size and weight the iPad Mini has instantly become my note-taker, my reader (the Amazon Kindle app is just beautiful on it), my video-calling device and so much more. That being said, it’s size also isn’t a strength when it comes to browsing the web or video watching. What also goes against it is it’s price.

Starting at Dh2129 and going up to Dh3329 (depending on your choice of 5G and 64GB and 256GB storage), the iPad mini could be quite a niche choice for consumers to make. I would’ve found the prices for the iPad Mini to be much more justified if the storage options were 128GB and 512GB.

Looking at the price and holding a large 6-5-6.8″ device in hand (which a lot of people do), I can understand why an 8.3″ tablet wouldn’t seem as appealing as let’s say an iPad Air with a 10.9″ screen at the same or similar price.

But if you need a little more than your smartphone with the ability to manage the amazing Apple Pencil 2, give you laptop-grade power to edit, create and render on the go and be pocketable too, the iPad Mini is your tiny little partner for the job.

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