The iPad Mini has been among the most fascinating, though understated, devices in Apple’s history. With the iPad Mini, Apple proved that you can get the same experiences as a regular iPad in a device that is so small that you can easily slide it into pant pockets or a ladies purse. Despite the small build, no other tablet this size comes close to the power of the iPad Mini. No wonder, the iPad Mini continues to sell well, despite not being updated for over three years.
This year, Apple has finally decided to update the iPad Mini. The basic size, shape, and features have largely remained unchanged. And while the iPad Mini looks exactly the same as the previous generation model, the tablet has got Apple Pencil support, plus a faster processor and a better display.
Some call it a “boring update”, also since as phones have grown bigger, the iPad Mini seems to have lost the meaning. But for a journalist or a writer, the iPad Mini is perhaps the best device on the go. It is light and portable, always connected to the internet with a SIM card slot, does a great job in recording audio during conferences, offers long battery, never crashes or freezes like a laptop and with support for the Apple Pencil, it is easier now to take notes.
Well, I have been using the iPad Mini fifth-generation for a while now and here are my thoughts.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) specifications: 7.9-inch Retina Display with True Tone|Apple A12 Bionic chipset|Apple Pencil (1st generation) support|Touch ID home button|Headphone jack |All-day battery life|Two speakers for stereo sound|64GB/256GB storage|8MP back camera, 7MP front camera|iOS 12|Cellular or Wi-Fi only options|Silver, space grey and gold colour options
Apple iPad Mini (2019) price in India: Rs 34,900 onward
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Design and build
When the iPad Mini originally launched, the design was considered unique. The 7.9-inch tablet drew the user’s interest, thanks to the excellent build quality and the compact size. Fast forward to 2019, the iPad Mini 5 hasn’t changed a bit from the design perspective.
The first thing you will notice about the iPad Mini 5 is that it looks identical to the iPad Mini 4. Unlike the iPhone X or iPad Pro that now feature bezel-less screens, the iPad Mini’s 7.9-inch display has thick-ish bezels. Forget about the edge-to-edge screen, the iPad Mini even retains a Touch ID button for unlocking the device. Sorry, no Face ID, that seems reserved for the high-end iPad Pro models.
There’s a power button, volume rocker, headphone jack, speaker grills, and the same old Lightning connectivity option instead of a USB-C port for charging. If you own a lot of Lightning accessories, I believe having a Lightning port is an advantage.
There are no drastic changes to the design. The new iPad Mini has a 4:3 aspect ratio screen instead of iPhone Xs Max’s 19.5:9. Logically, the tablet’s 4:3 aspect ratio makes it easier to view web pages, reading ebooks, editing documents and taking notes. That’s what makes the iPad Mini different from a large-screen phone with an edge-to-edge screen.
In general, the tablet’s aluminum body feels incredibly sturdy, retaining the same quality one would expect from Apple devices. The 8 x 5.3 iPad Mini 5 is only 0.24-inches thick, and weighs just 308 grams. I have used the iPad Mini for an extended period of time, and it never felt awkward in my palm. The tablet’s small footprint and compact size also make it easy to carry the device in a messenger bag or purse.
Speaking of colours, Apple’s iPad Mini 5 will be made available in Silver, Space Grey and Gold. Our review unit was in Space Grey and has a built-in cellular connectivity.
Overall, while the iPad Mini 5’s design does belong to the past, there’s nothing wrong about it. Apple could have made slight design changes, but it didn’t. I guess, Apple is pitching the new iPad Mini for those in need of a small tablet with powerful internals and Apple Pencil support over a modern design. In my opinion, that’s reasonable given the price difference between the iPad Mini 5 and iPad Pro.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Display and sound
It still has the same 7.9-inch, 2,048×1,536 pixel resolution at 326 ppi, IPS LCD panel that you’ll find on the iPad Mini 4. The screen is laminated, meaning the air gap between the display and the glass has been removed. While the screen size and resolution have stayed the same, Apple did add support for True Tone display, which essentially changes the color tone of the screen depending on the environment.
But in addition, the iPad Mini 5’s display has gained DCI-P3 wide gamut colour support. Simply put, the display is capable of producing brighter reds and greens. This can be important for someone who wants to edit videos or paint on the iPad Mini.
Apple typically delivers a top-notch screen, and it doesn’t disappoint with the newest iPad Mini. Make no mistake, iPad Mini 5’s 7.9-inch Retina display is really good. It’s bright, going up to 500 nits, colorful and bright. Text is crisp, images and video look sharp on the screen, and the contrast is also decent. Details were sharp enough when watching the trailer of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on YouTube.
The tablet’s speakers are surprisingly good for the price. Audio quality is excellent and there is no distortion. John Mayer’s vocals were magical, clean and inviting on “Half of my heart”.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Performance and battery
Apple has fitted the iPad Mini 5 with A12 Bionic chipset, the same processor found inside the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. This is a major plus point of owning the iPad Mini.
The A12 Bionic makes the new iPad Mini quite a multitasker. It’s fast and capable and is equipped to handle augmented reality apps like Sketch AR and Stack AR. In my week-long testing, I have never felt the iPad Mini was struggling to match up to what I was trying to accomplish. When playing games like Asphalt 9 and Real Racing 3, the iPad Mini was just about flawless. The extra raw power comes handy when editing photos or videos on the Mini.
Apple claims the iPad Mini’s battery is built to last 10 hours. On a regular day (which includes a lot of writing, browsing the web, music, and light gaming), I got roughly eight-and-a-half hours of battery life over Wi-Fi before needing to be charged. Battery life can exceed (in fact, it has) over 10 hours, when the usage is limited to web browsing.
My review unit came with 256GB of internal storage, but the device is also available with 64GB storage.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Apple Pencil
For the very first time, the iPad Mini gets support for the Apple Pencil, which has been the most requested feature. The Apple Pencil makes the iPad Mini, often perceived as a consumption device, into a digital notebook for sorts.
My experience with the Pencil has been excellent. I am not an artist, but being an average user I really liked the way it looks and feels in the hand. Those who are into sketching will love the Apple Pencil’s precision and accuracy. I would rather use the Apple Pencil to take handwritten notes.
Keep in mind that the mini tablet supports the first-generation Apple Pencil rather than the newer magnetic type that works with the iPad Pro. Instead, you have to take the end cap off and plug it into the iPad Mini’s charging port. It charges either off the iPad Mini itself or via a regular Apple Lightning cable via an included adapter.
Nevertheless, this optional Apple Pencil which set you back by Rs 8500, is fun to use.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Camera
The 8MP camera on the iPad Mini can be used for taking pictures. I know people like to take pictures using the iPad’s camera. It’s perfectly fine in good light, but it’s not great indoors or low light.
I would say the iPad Mini’s back camera comes handy when running augmented reality (AR) apps. I myself tried a few AR apps on the iPad Mini. The size of the tablet, for that matter, gives the iPad Mini an edge over other tablets when it comes to running AR apps.
Surprisingly, the front-facing camera has been improved a bit. The 7MP camera seems perfect for FaceTime or to take selfies.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Software and apps
The iPad Mini is running iOS 12 out of the box. Over the past few years, Apple has constantly added tablet-friendly multitasking features in iOS, like Slide-Over, Split-View, and the ability to drag-and-drop files between two apps open next to each other. All these features work fine on the iPad Mini, thanks to the tablet’s beefy processor.
But its size makes it a little hard to call it a laptop replacement. I suspect many people would even think of ditching their laptop in favour of the iPad Mini. The iPad Mini is good at reading books, going through web pages, playing games, editing docs once in a while, streaming movies on Netflix or listening to music.
Being an iOS device, it runs almost all apps on the app store. However, it would be a stretch for the iPad Mini to fully replace a laptop. I think those willing to adopt the iPad as their primary machine should rather invest in the new iPad Air which has a larger 10.5-inch screen and there’s Smart Connector support too.
Apple iPad Mini (2019) review: Should you buy?
I have tested the iPad Mini 5 for well over a week, and I can confidently say Apple’s mini tablet is better than any other Android tablet on the market. I guess a lot of people would be willing to buy the iPad Mini as it does basically 85 per cent of what the iPad Pro does. The Apple Pencil support is a huge bonus, so is the new A12 Bionic chipset. At Rs 34,900, the iPad Mini delivers more than it promises.