Why I Must Have the New iPad mini

It’s so much more than just cute

Key Takeaways

  • The iPad mini is now Apple’s only A15-powered iPad.
  • It’s like a smaller iPad Air, only better.
  • The top-specced iPad mini costs the same as the cheapest iPad Pro.
The iPad mini.

Apple

The new iPad mini is Apple’s hottest product this fall (so far). 

Apple’s iPad mini is kind of like the Mac mini. It’s neglected, often going years between updates, yet it remains a popular, almost cult item. The latest mini is the best yet, by far.

If any Apple device was screaming out for the home-button free, "all-screen" design, it was the mini. The display got bigger, the body got smaller, and now it works with the second-gen Apple Pencil. I use (and love) a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but I might end up replacing it with this. 

"It’s as practical as a paper notebook, and although it’s not as durable, it can always be in a pocket."

Maximal Mini

The new iPad mini is pretty much a shrunken iPad Air, only better. It has the same flat-sided body, narrow screen border, and fingerprint-reading power button.

But the FaceTime camera is better (12MP vs 7MP, and ultra-wide), and the rear camera gets a quad-LED True Tone flash. Video is also better, probably thanks to the new A15 processor, which means that the mini and the new iPhones 13 are using Apple’s latest and best chip. You also get 5G (great, for such a portable iPad) and cooler colors. 

Size Is Everything

I used a first-generation Wi-Fi-only iPad mini as my main iPad for over a year, and I still have it around somewhere. That was pre-Retina, but I used it for work, writing articles, reading, everything. The reason? It was just so portable.

Small enough to slide into the back jeans pocket and to hold in one hand. And like all iOS devices, you can use it with a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. If you like, you can even connect it to a USB-C display, add a keyboard and trackpad, and use it that way.

The pocket size also pairs perfectly with the Apple Pencil, the new Smart Folio case, and iOS 15’s new Quick Note feature. It’s as practical as a paper notebook, and although it’s not as durable, it can always be in a pocket.

But is portability enough to get this over the mini’s disadvantages?

Downsides

That first iPad mini had the advantage of being cheap. At the time, it was the most affordable iPad. Now, the mini starts at $499, and once you add more storage (required, as 64GB is not enough) and cellular (also needed because this thing is so portable it will always be with you), you’re over $849. That’s not an impulse buy and is the same price as the entry-level 11-inch iPad Pro. 

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, miniaturization was everything. Radios, early cellphones, Walkmans, we wanted them small, and we paid for it. Of course, smaller was always more expensive, unlike today, where the iPhone mini costs less than the rest. So paying extra isn’t really a problem. 

But there are drawbacks. Compared to my iPad Pro, the mini lacks FaceID and 120Hz ProMotion, which makes for way smoother scrolling. The screen is also too small for two people to watch a movie together or practical two-app multitasking. And forget about a Magic Keyboard case. It would be unusable. 

Multitasking on the iPad mini.

Apple

But the iPad Pro, itself, is riddled with problems. Even in the latest iPadOS 15 release candidate, external keyboards stop inputting text when you switch apps, something the iPad has done on and off for years. Text selection is also still tricky, and multitasking in iPadOS 15 is improved but still finicky. 

This all benefits the mini. Why bother with a giant 12.9-inch iPad if it doesn’t work right? Why not switch to the tiny iPad, and use a Mac for what it does best?

I plan to switch from an iPad Pro and a Mac mini to a MacBook Air (connected to the big monitor at the desk) and an iPad mini. The MacBook Air doesn’t suffer the broken keyboard input of the iPad, and the mini can serve as an emergency laptop in a pinch. And I can do it all while actually saving money.

If only I’d ordered one when they went on sale—now all the good models are back-ordered until October or even November.

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