Laptop Mag Verdict
The iPad mini's diminutive form factor won't be for everyone, but those in the market for an ultra-portable tablet can do no better.
Compact size enables single-handed use
Fast performance from A15 Bionic
Sharp and bright display
Decent battery life and USB-C charging
Excellent camera upgrades
Magic Keyboard isn't supported
Apple Pencil Gen 2 sold separately
Small display can feel cramped
64GB of storage...in 2021
Why you can trust Laptop Mag
Price: $499 starting ($799 as reviewed)
OS: iPadOS 15
CPU: A15 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Display: 8.3-inch, 2266 x 1488-pixels Liquid Retina at 60Hz
Rear cameras: 12MP, f/1.8 (4K, 60 fps video)
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.4 (1080p at 60 fps video)
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, optional 5G (Sub-6GHz)
Battery life: 10:59
Size: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 0.7 pounds
Back from its slumber, the iPad mini received the overhaul it desperately needed. This year, Apple's smallest tablet adopted features from the iPad Air and iPad Pro, making it a genuinely premium slate. But the draw here remains the same — a tiny, portable tablet you can operate with one hand. If that's what you're looking for, then the iPad mini is as good as it gets.
That's because Apple improved every aspect of this pint-sized slate. The 8.3-inch screen is larger than before, and yet, slim bezels have reduced its overall footprint. The iPad mini's outstanding performance via the A15 Bionic chip is more than anyone will need, and the addition of optional 5G support cements its place as the best tablet for using outside of your home.
There are some downsides to going with the iPad mini beyond its small screen (which is an advantage for some people). At $499, the iPad mini is expensive, and while compatibility with the $139 Apple Pencil Gen 2 is welcome, the accessory costs extra. Also, there is no support for a docked keyboard, and 64GB of storage is an insult at this price.
iPad mini 6 price and configuration options
Small doesn't mean cheap. The iPad mini is available for purchase at Apple and other retailers starting at $499 for 64GB of storage, or $100 more than the previous model. You can spend another $150 for an upgrade to 256GB, bringing the total cost to $649. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't believe in a 128GB middle ground. If it were up to us, we'd ditch the 64GB model altogether and start with 128GB.
The iPad mini now supports 5G cellular, a feature that costs another $150 on top of the price of your preferred config. All told, our 256GB iPad mini review unit with 5G support costs $799.
These prices don't include the optional Apple Pencil (2nd Gen), which will run you another $139.
iPad mini 6 design
I didn't think I'd ever say this about a tech product, but the iPad mini is downright adorable. It's so small! So much smaller than I was expecting. I was befuddled when I laid my eyes on the box — there's no way a tablet could fit in that! Enough of my blabbering though, let's see how small it really is.
Measuring 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches and weighing 0.66 pounds, the iPad mini is tiny enough to stash in a glovebox or carry in a purse. I can even grip the slate on both sides with one hand. For comparison, the iPad (9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29 inches, 1.1 pounds), iPad Air (9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches, 1 pound) and Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (11.21 x 7.28 x 0.25 inches, 1.34 pounds) are all considerably larger.
I've spent so much time writing about the size of the iPad mini for a reason. If it doesn't work for you, then don't let this mostly glowing review (and the many others online) persuade you. The iPad mini is for people who are looking specifically for a miniature tablet. If you can, go to your nearby Best Buy or Apple Store for some hands-on time with this tablet. You might be surprised by how much you do or don't like the form factor.
If the size is to your liking then I suspect the rest of the design will be, too. Not that there are any surprises; the iPad mini's look and feel are exactly what we've come to expect from an Apple tablet. It's a thin sheet of precision-cut aluminum with a chrome Apple logo centered on the rear along with some antenna bands and a single circular lens in the top-left corner.
On the top edge in portrait orientation is a volume rocker next to the power button, which doubles as a fingerprint sensor for the ever-reliable Touch ID (Face ID is not supported). Magnets on the right side securely hold and charge the optional Apple Pencil Gen 2. On the bottom edge is a USB-C port for charging the tablet, connecting to accessories, displays or external storage, and transferring data at up to 5GBps.
I'm happy to see Apple expanding its color pallet. For the iPad mini, you have the choice of Space Gray, Starlight (Champagne-ish), Pink and Purple. Shoutout to Apple for sending us the Laptop Mag purple model. I say "purple" but it looks more sky blue or silver under most lighting conditions. If you were expecting eggplant or lavender, this isn't it.
iPad mini 6 display
"Klein aber fein."
This German rhyme perfectly sums up the iPad mini's 8.3-inch, 2266 x 1488-pixel Liquid Retina display: small, but excellent.
While this isn't the first device I'd choose for watching movies or shows, the iPad mini gives you more screen real estate than any smartphone on the market (for now, at least). If you do find yourself streaming content on the mini, you'll enjoy accurate colors and sharp details. I enjoyed watching the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick. The white balance was spot-on — the frigid mountains were covered in crisp white snow. Details were also excellent, as I could read the writing on the side of a fighter jet as it darted through the air. If I have one criticism, it's that iOS 15 can feel crowded on such a small canvas.
Before I move on to the benchmarks, I want to talk about the "jelly scroll" issue that has some customers fearing something is wrong with their screen. When scrolling up or down a website, the left side of the iPad mini's screen moves a fraction faster than the right. The right side then jumps up or down to catch up, creating a distracting waviness to the text or images on the page. You only notice it when scrolling very slowly and it never bothered me during my testing. That's a very good thing, too, because Apple considers it "normal behavior for LCD screens" and has no plans to release a fix.
We put a colorimeter up to the iPad mini's display and found that it covers 73% of the DCI-P3 color range, making it less vivid than the panels on the standard iPad (76%) and Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (103%). As you'd expect, the mini matches the iPad Air (73%).
The iPad mini compensates for middling colors with excellent display brightness, reaching 520 nits. This makes it one of the brightest tablets we've tested after it outshone the iPad Air (440 nits), iPad 9 (472 nits) and the Galaxy Tab S7 FE (517 nits). The iPad mini even passed the most rigorous of tests by shining bright enough for me to comfortably use it outdoors on a sunny Texas day.
iPad mini 6 Apple Pencil (Gen 2)
The Apple Pencil (Gen 2) is among the best stylii on the market, and one of the most expensive. If you can spare another $129, this stylus is a great accessory for students, artists or designers who want to draw or write notes on the tablet.
The size and weight of the stark-white pen are nicely balanced, and the flat edge gives me flashbacks to using Lamy's famous Safari fountain pen in school. Also, the double-tap feature for changing tools or turning on the eraser works as advertised.
What earns the Pencil Gen 2 its lofty price is that it magnetically attaches to the right edge of the iPad mini and begins charging. Held firmly by a magnet, I was alerted by a satisfying snap when the stylus was positioned properly. Hooray! No more awkwardly plugging the pen directly into the port.
The iPad mini, however, does not have a connector for Apple's keyboard accessories; e.g. the Magic Keyboard. It supports Bluetooth keyboards, so you can purchase a wireless one to up your productivity game.
iPad mini 6 audio
The dual speakers on the iPad mini punch above their weight class. The sound coming from these dual drivers is balanced, clear and there is even some punch (or maybe more of a tap) on the low end. When I listened to Circa Survive's "Imposter Syndrome," Anthony Green's soaring falsetto was bright and detailed above the hard drum hits. The tablet filled my medium-sized room at maximum volume, but cranking the sound up introduced some grittiness to the vocals and caused the treble to sound strained.
With that said, audio performance is good for such a small tablet but you shouldn't expect the iPad mini to replace your Bluetooth speakers or wireless headphones.
Personal listening can only be experienced wirelessly because the iPad mini lacks a headphone jack. This is an unfortunate omission for people like myself who use wired headphones (Sennheiser HD650s in this case) as their daily drivers. Apple wants to force you to buy its AirPods earbuds and it's going to strip its tablets naked if that's what's required.
iPad mini 6 performance and graphics
Powered by an A15 Bionic chip with a six-core CPU and five-core graphics, the iPad mini packs a serious wallop. And I don't just mean for its size; the iPad mini is among the most powerful tablets on the market, falling behind only the M1-powered iPad Pro. I opened 16 Google Chrome tabs and didn't experience even a hint of lag. There wasn't so much as a stutter as I read Metroid Prime interviews, watched a YouTube review of the Lexus NX450+, and flipped between my favorite tech news sites.
To test the graphics, I fired up Mario Kart Tour and raced around the world as Toadette, my go-to karting character. The app loaded almost instantly, animations were fluid, and my red turtle shells slid smoothly across the screen until they hit my foes.
On the Geekbench 5 overall performance benchmark, the iPad mini scored a 4,450, edging out the iPad Air 4 (4,262, A14 Bionic) and proving the A15 to be only a minor upgrade over its predecessor. Either way, the iPad mini is much more powerful than the iPad 9 (3,387, A13 Bionic) and on a different planet than the Galaxy Tab S7 FE (1,965, Qualcomm 750G).
For our graphics benchmarks, we ran the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test. The iPad mini scored 10,193 and reached 61 frames per second. This was an improvement over the iPad (48 fps) and the iPad Air (52 fps).
iPad mini 6 battery life
Our biggest complaint with the iPhone mini over the past generations is its less-than-stellar battery life. Fortunately, the tablet version doesn't suffer the same fate. The iPad mini lasted for 10 hours and 56 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits.
That great result means the mini lasts longer on a charge than the iPad Air 4 (10:29). However, it powered down before the Galaxy Tab S7 FE (13:07) and the cheaper and larger iPad 9 (11:59).
The iPad mini charges via a USB-C cable which you'll find in the box with a 20W adapter.
iPad mini 6 camera
On the rear of the iPad mini is a lonely 12-megapixel, f/1.8 camera. It takes decent photos so long as you aren't expecting smartphone quality. More importantly, I didn't feel silly snapping them because I could do so with one hand.
As for picture quality, a photo I took in my dimly lit office looked good at first glance. The lens did a nice job of capturing the ink colors and the details are sharp (look at the stitching in the orange fish). However, zooming in reveals some visual noise and the white balance is too warm.
Photos taken in better lighting conditions, like this shot taken at Barton Creek in Austin, don't suffer from those problems, but again, this won't compete with your iPhone.
Magic lies in the front-facing camera. It has the same Center Stage feature as the iPad Pro, which uses face tracking to ensure you stay centered within the frame during video calls. You can see me having fun with it on the iPad Pro in the below GIF and it works just as well on the iPad mini, smoothly shifting the frame from side to side as my head moved away from the center. It really feels like a videographer is behind your tablet operating the camera on a gimbal.
It works in tandem with the 12MP, f/2.4 FaceTime HD front-facing camera, which shoots sharp 1080p video at 60 fps and takes decent selfies. A mugshot I snapped outside looked fine.
There was enough sharpness to see individual strands of hair in my beard and the colors in both the foreground and background were punchy without being oversaturated. However, some of the sun-hit areas were blown out and zooming in revealed smudging.
The iPad mini 6 is a return to form. Apple could have abandoned its miniature iPad, but instead, it gave the mini the update it desperately needed. This Gen 6 model is better than the 2019 model in every measurable way. A larger display with thinner bezels, significantly faster performance, USB-C charging, Touch ID, Apple Pencil Gen 2 support, and optional 5G connectivity highlight a complete redesign of the petite slate.
Now let's talk about who should buy the iPad mini because, as good as this tablet is, the answer isn't everyone. Most people eyeing the iPad mini are probably deciding between it and the iPad or iPad Air. My recommendation is simple: Your decision should largely come down to pricing and display size.
If you want an ultra-compact slate that you can legitimately use with one hand, then the iPad mini is the way to go. If the size doesn't matter so much, and you're buying a tablet for streaming movies or TV shows, then save some cash and get the $329 iPad. If you're going to do a mix of both content consumption and multitasking, then spend a bit extra for the iPad Air. That's not to say the iPad mini can't satisfy your streaming, gaming or remote work needs — it's just that this tablet should only be considered if you need the most portable solution.
In the end, Apple did exactly what it needed to do to breathe new life into the iPad mini, an excellent all-around tablet whose pint-sized chassis makes it a joy to have at home or on the go.
Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.