The New iPad mini Is a Bundle of Joy

Apple’s cutest creation

Key Takeaways

  • The new iPad mini is one of the cutest objects Apple has ever created. 
  • The mini boasts a Liquid Retina display, Apple's jargon for displays with rounded corners that blend into the frame of the device rather than having sharp corners.
  • The mini starts at $499 and is more expensive than the lowest-end iPad, with a bigger screen.
The new iPad mini next to an iPhone 12.

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

The new iPad mini might be the most visually pleasing object Apple’s ever made and one of the most fun to use. 

It’s like the engineers at Cupertino took the best parts of the latest iPhone models and squished them together with a super-fast iPad. I spent a few days using the new mini, and I found it a tiny tablet that’s great for consuming content on the go. 

That’s not to say that the iPad mini is perfect for everyone. The mini is not and will never be a productivity powerhouse, simply because its 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display isn’t big enough. I won’t be scrolling through spreadsheets or typing out long documents on the mini. 

"The mini is just the right size for casual web browsing and watching videos."

Tiny Giant

The mini looks like a giant iPhone 13. It feels great in hand, perfectly balanced like a slim hardcover book. 

The centerpiece of the new mini is the stunning new Liquid Retina display, Apple's jargon for displays with rounded corners that blend into the frame of the device rather than having sharp corners.

At 500 nits of brightness and a wide color gamut, the mini has a pixel density of 326 PPI. As a result, the screen looks about the same quality as the impressive display on my 12.9 inch M1 iPad Pro

The most noticeable design change from the previous generation of iPad mini is that Apple has removed the Home button and put Touch ID on the sleep/wake button, like the most recent iPad Air. I had no trouble getting used to the lack of a Home button because I've been using the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which has a similar layout, but your experience may vary. 

Using the mini makes me realize that my iPhone 12 Pro Max is too small for many computing tasks. My aging eyes are easily strained by even the iPhone's relatively large screen by smartphone standards. 

The iPhone has become so capable that it's tempting to use it for everything from shopping online to editing stories. On the other hand, my 12.9 inch M1 iPad Pro is an unwieldy beast, particularly as I use it attached to the brilliant but hefty Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad. The mini is just the right size for casual web browsing and watching videos. 

Faster Than Thou

The new mini is a speedy little beast. Apple has equipped this tablet with the latest A15 Bionic processor, similar to the one in the iPhone 13 Pro that contains an extra GPU core.

Although I didn't run any benchmark tests, I found the mini to be among the fastest iOS device I've ever used, possibly beating even the iPad Pro for everyday tasks. Apps seemed to launch nearly instantly and never got bogged down, even running dozens of tabs simultaneously in Safari. 

The cameras on the mini are a pleasant surprise. I've never been a fan of using a table to take pictures, but it's not a terrible idea with a device this small. 

The front-facing camera has been boosted from 7MP to 12MP. The mini now can shoot 4K video and has a wide 122-degree field of view. The rear camera also has been upgraded from 8MP to 12MP, and now can support 4K video recording. I found pictures and videos to be sharp and lifelike in simple tests over the last few days.

Top down view of the iPad mini 2021 compared to an iPhone 12.

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

The new mini also offers Center Stage, Apple's feature that can automatically track you and keep you in the frame during video calls like FaceTime and Zoom. I tried out a few video calls during my short time with the mini, and those on the other end reported that I stayed right in the frame just as Apple promises. 

Do you need the iPad mini? Probably not if you already own an iPhone or an iPad. Keep in mind that the mini, starting at $499, is more expensive than the lowest-end iPad, which comes with a bigger screen. But the mini can't be beaten in the cute department.

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