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Lifewire / Sandra Stafford
Small and portable
All-day battery life
Fast A12 Bionic processor
Apple Pencil support
Only two speakers
No Smart Keyboard compatibility
No Face ID
Physical Touch ID home button
The Apple iPad Mini 5 is every bit as functional and powerful as its more expensive competition, but it comes in a smaller size that easily fits into purses and backpacks.
We purchased the Apple iPad Mini 5 so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The iPad Mini (2019) is a highly portable Apple tablet with a tiny footprint and thin body, perfect for taking absolutely anywhere. An impressively long-lasting battery and the powerful A12 Bionic chip allows it to keep up with gaming and AR, while a sharp display delivers crisp graphics in beautiful color. To help you see all the potential this the Mini has to offer, we tested one for a few weeks in real-world work and play conditions, taking it with us wherever we went.
The iPad Mini is a tiny 8.0-by-5.3-inch (HW) slate made of smooth, high-quality aluminum and beautiful smudge-resistant glass. It’s slim too, at only 0.24 inches, making it just as thin as the iPad Air. On top of that, it’s incredibly light at 0.66 pounds, leaving you no doubt that it was designed for portability. It is still too large to use with one hand the way people use a phone, but as far as tablets go, it’s one of the smallest we’ve seen.
When it comes to ports and buttons, you have the standard set. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, eliminating the need for dongles. As late converts to the AirPods, we think it’s a thoughtful inclusion. If you have the newer Apple EarPods with the Lightning connector, you can still use them since the Mini keeps the Lightning port rather than switching to USB-C. Some users may be disappointed by this since the iPad Pro uses USB-C along with the new MacBooks, and the industry trend is clearly toward phasing out older ports.
The unbeatable portability of the Mini makes it an ideal replacement for daily planners, notebooks (with GoodNotes 5), and small sketch pads.
Our one gripe with the design is the physical home button with Touch ID. The button breaks entirely too often for us to be comfortable with it, and a replacement can cost hundreds of dollars without AppleCare.
There are two ways of setting up an iPad, and we tested both. The fastest option, if you already own another Apple device, is to put them beside each other. The devices communicate and your new one is up and running within minutes, leaving only a few things like Apple Pay and Screen Time unfinished. The other setup method has you select a language, connect to Wi-Fi, and then runs through several setup features such as Touch ID, Passcodes, and creating an Apple ID if you don’t already have one. If you prefer to start using your iPad Mini right away you can skip most of these and set them up later.
The iPad Mini has several models that let it fit into anyone’s life. For us, the Wi-Fi model was great. If you’re carrying the Mini between the home and the office you’ll usually have Wi-Fi. And if you have a cellular plan with unlimited data, you can use an iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your iPad on those rare occasions when you’re somewhere without Wi-Fi. For frequent travelers, there’s a cellular-enabled option for $529.
Another big leap forward for the iPad Mini is Bluetooth 5.0, upgraded from 4.2. With AirPlay 2 you can play music through multiple AirPlay 2-enabled speakers, and the longer range of Bluetooth 5.0 ensures that your audio can reach speakers all through the house. The range was sufficient that we could move to the opposite end of the house and our Bluetooth headphones never dropped connection.
The iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch Retina display with a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution. Retina is Apple’s term for a display with sufficient pixels per inch (326 ppi in this case) that you can’t see any of them individually at a typical viewing distance. This makes everything on the screen look crisp and smooth, while IPS (in-plane switching, a type of panel technology) ensures great viewing angles. The color accuracy is excellent, though its small size still relegates the Mini more to streaming videos and playing games than creating art.
Features like True Tone help adjust the screen’s color temperature to accommodate your surroundings, making it a handy replacement for an e-reader. With True Tone white balance correction and adjustable brightness, we were able to comfortably use the Mini in a dark room without disturbing anyone trying to sleep nearby. On sunny days, the 500 nits brightness was sufficient that the screen was still visible, and the anti-reflective coating made the screen easier on the eyes by reducing harsh glare. The coating is something you won’t find on the iPad, giving the Mini a nice leg up for outdoor use.
The Mini runs on iOS 12, which improved many features and added some valuable new ones like Screen Time, which gives insight into how you’re spending time on your iPad.
One of the first things we opened after setting up the iPad Mini was GarageBand, a music creation app. The first touch of a key revealed an obvious problem—there are only two speakers on the iPad Mini, and they’re both on the bottom. GarageBand is a landscape mode app, so instead of hearing the piano in stereo, you only hear from the right side. Landscape mode is also the way most people typically watch videos. Compared to the quad-speaker setup on the iPad Pro, the sound on the Mini is certainly lacking.
The iPad Mini, just like every other iPad on the market, has a 7-megapixel front-facing camera which will do fine for selfies and FaceTime. The rear camera is 8 megapixels, letting you use it in a pinch if your phone isn’t on hand. Both of these are fine and take decent pictures, but neither will replace your phone’s camera.
The iPad Mini (2019) is the first Mini to have Apple Pencil support. Although it is only the 1st generation Pencil, we were glad to have it for drawing and taking notes. The device isn’t much larger than the paper planner we were using before and a lot lighter. The unbeatable portability of the Mini makes it an ideal replacement for daily planners, notebooks (with GoodNotes 5), and small sketch pads. That said, the relatively small screen is constraining when it comes to jotting down lots of notes for class, and the lack of an official Smart Keyboard accessory limits productivity.
The A12 Bionic chipset in the iPad Mini is only marginally less powerful than A12X processor in the Pro. It’s the same chipset you’ll find on the new iPad Air, putting both slates neck-in-neck when it comes to performance. This was especially clear during benchmark testing. In Geekbench 4’s CPU test, the iPad Mini received a multi-core Score of 11,364, barely lower than the iPad Air’s Multi-Core Score of 11,480. That’s plenty of power for such a small device.
Performance also held up during gaming. We played half-hour bouts of Alto’s Odyssey daily during testing. The game is a visually demanding endless runner, which the iPad Mini had no trouble handling. It also never suffered from lag or overheating.
One understated feature of the Mini is augmented reality (AR) apps. Larger iPads are too cumbersome to carry around during long play sessions, while the screens on phones are too small to truly enjoy. The Mini strikes a perfect balance, it’s light and portable enough that your arms won’t get tired, while the 7.9-inch screen gives you a bigger portal into the augmented world.
The A12 Bionic chipset in the iPad Mini is only marginally less powerful than A12X processor in the Pro.
AR apps did stress the processor more than other games though. After thirty minutes of playing The Machines, the iPad Mini was uncomfortably warm. That’s usually the upper limit for how long you can comfortably play an AR game, so this isn’t too big a deal.
When it comes to productivity and multimedia, things are a mixed bag. If you want to use the Mini for creating art or editing photos, you do have options. Apps like Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, along with other image editing and graphic design software for professionals can run on the Mini thanks to the more powerful A12 Bionic processor. These were incompatible with the previous-generation iPad Mini, so that puts the 2019 model head and shoulders above its predecessor. But the small display size does limit you a bit compared with the more expansive iPad Pro. Our doodles on Adobe Illustrator Draw with the Apple Pencil (1st generation) didn’t turn out so well.
Apple rates the iPad Mini for 10 hours of typical usage, including browsing, watching videos, and listening to music. Ours wasn’t able to last quite that long. With average day-to-day use, we managed to get around 8 hours, which is still a full workday. We put it through Geekbench 4’s battery test, which continuously runs processor-intensive tasks to see how long it takes to drain a device from 100% battery life to 0%.
The iPad Mini only lasted 7 hours, 28 minutes in this test, earning it a score of 4,480. By comparison, the new iPad Air was able to last 10 hours, 31 minutes, for a battery score of 6,310. The smaller battery capacity of the Mini just won’t match larger devices, even though they have more power-hungry screens.
Everything worked perfectly right out of the box. Apple’s ecosystem and seamless compatibility has always been a selling point on its devices, and the iPad Mini is no exception to that.The Mini runs on iOS 12, which improved many features and added some valuable new ones like Screen Time, which gives insight into how you’re spending time on your iPad. We tested ours for an embarrassing number of hours some days, and the Screen Time reports were a good reminder to get off the couch. In testing, we passed pictures and notes back and forth between devices with AirDrop and used Handoff to finish reading a site on the iPad Mini when it proved too long to comfortably read on the phone.
When you’re spending hundreds of dollars on a tablet, you want to know that your purchase isn’t going to be so outdated in a year. At $399 with 64GB memory, the iPad Mini more affordable than both the iPad Air ($499) and Pro ($799), and only slightly more costly than the $329 iPad. The value proposition aside, the A12 Bionic chipset is fairly recent, guaranteeing you several years of top-tier performance.
The iPad Mini (2019) occupies an important place in the Apple lineup. With the same powerful processor as its larger counterpart the iPad Air, and a small size that makes it easy to take anywhere, it is the perfect choice for AR games and apps.
But the 7.9-inch screen might be a little too small for productivity uses, which is why the 9.7-inch $329 iPad is a better option for students and younger children. For budget-conscious college students needing the most basic functions like web browsing, watching videos, and Pencil use for taking notes, the base iPad with its A10 chip is an affordable choice for basic productivity features.
The iPad Air (2019) also can’t be ignored while we’re talking about affordable iPads, costing $100 more than the Mini. You get the same processor, along with a bigger display. What really makes the Air stand out is the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support, that gives it iPad Pro-level features, for a lower price. Because of its accessory support, you can easily use apps like Procreate, Photoshop Express, and Affinity Designer. With a fully laminated display, the gap that makes Pencil use a little uncomfortable on the base iPad is practically nonexistent on the Air.
And finally, we can’t talk about iPads without discussing the premium end of the lineup—the 11-inch Pro for $799 and the 12.9-inch Pro for $999. They are both the ideal tablets for serious professional creatives and artists. The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) is compatible with both, charging magnetically on the side instead of sticking absurdly out of the bottom. The bigger, sharper screens, quad-speaker array, and more powerful A12X processor means it can handle more demanding apps, multitask better, and generally do better in both multimedia and productivity.
A perfect slate for portable multimedia and AR gaming
The iPad Mini is a great tablet for people who want the incredible power and excellent graphics of the newest generation of iPads in a highly portable size. The long-lasting battery and A12 Bionic chip also make it a natural choice for AR gaming, while the Apple Pencil support allows for some basic drawing and note-taking.
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