By What Hi-Fi? Review Source
Apple has gone back to the drawing board for this, the sixth generation of the iPad Mini, and the result is a real triumph of design. The home button has been scrapped and the screen extended to more closely follow the edges of the diminutive slate, with a steady 9mm bezel running all the way around. The Touch ID fingerprint reader has moved to the power button on the side.
That takes the screen up from 7.9 inches to 8.3 inches while actually reducing the length of the device by the best part of 8mm. That might not sound like much – particularly when the new model is a tiny bit thicker too – but trimming the fat around the edge of the screen makes the whole thing feel a lot more compact and modern. That’s also aided no end by the squarer-cut, utility-chic styling, which compares very favourably to the love letter to chamfering that was the yester-generation.
This once again has that look and feel of a unique device rather than one that, if you rubbed off the Apple logo, could get lost in the line-up of small tablets from other manufacturers.
Naturally, there are plenty of other more functional improvements to the build. The fast-charging and universal USB-C port has replaced Apple’s previous penchant for the proprietary Lightning, and that makes for one less charger and cable to remember to put in your bag. There are also stereo speakers on both short edges of the device, which should offer an improved sans-headphone audio experience.
IPAD MINI (2021) TECH SPECS Screen 8.3in LED screen with IPS, 2266 x 1488px at 326ppi, Storage 64GB/256GB RAM 4GB Connectivity Wi-fi, 5G, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C Peripherals Support for Apple Pencil (2nd generation) Processor Apple A15 Bionic chip Dimensions (hwd) 20 x 14 x 0.6cm Weight 293g / 297g (wi-fi / cellular) Cameras Front-facing 12MP, rear-facing 12MP Battery life Up to 10 hours Finishes 4
The cameras are also now a much more significant part of the device, with the pin-prick of an 8MP rear camera from the previous model now replaced by a 12MP shooter with True Tone flash. The front-facer has also seen a resolution boost, going from 7MP to 12MP.
The build of the insides is just as significant, with the A12 Bionic chip having been replaced by the considerably more powerful and up-to-date A15. That’s third in resources only to the two iPad Pro models. According to Apple, the A15 brings a six-core CPU that’s 40 per cent faster than that of the older iPad Mini and a five-core GPU that brings an impressive-sounding 80 per cent faster graphics operation.
The other major internal upgrade is for those who want the cellular model. The sixth generation iPad Mini is now 5G-enabled. Maximum storage size is still 256GB but there are more colour choices with Space Grey, Pink, Purple and Starlight all options for your brushed aluminium finish. Delightful one and all.
Sadly, there is one almost inevitable piece of bad news, and that’s that the 3.5mm headphones socket has vanished. You’ll need a USB-C adapter for wired cans. Thankfully, they’re surprisingly inexpensive at the moment.
The iPad Mini 6th generation comes with iPadOS 15. Combined with the Apple A15 Bionic chip, it’s a typically slick experience. The GUI has a liquid-like flow and almost seems to respond to our will microseconds before we’ve even touched it.
You can add all sorts of interesting widgets to the home pages, such as those pertaining to battery life, Chrome searches, contacts, the Game Center, podcasts, Apple TV and more, depending on the other apps you choose to download. Those apps are displayed in a typical tray but also auto-sorted into a series of relevant folders in the App Library section.
The newly added multitasking feature is certainly handy too. You can choose to put two apps together in either a splitscreen (half and half) or slide-over (a small one laid over a larger one) views. We’re not convinced that we've uncovered its very best uses but having a music player slide over a web browser is good and we can imagine one or two people might sneakily want to stream something on Netflix while splitscreened with a Zoom call.
One of the big sells of the iPad Mini experience is its support for the Apple Pencil (second generation). In fact, it’s more of a nice extra and not something that everybody is going to want or need.
The iPad Mini will recognise your Pencil handwriting and turn it into text. That includes editing documents or entering forms. You can select words pretty quickly with a swipe of the nib, make gaps in the copy and add in your own notes. It all works pretty well but we’re not convinced that it’s any quicker or more convenient than doing it with a finger and the soft keyboard instead, particularly if you’ve lost most of your handwriting skills in the digital age.
Where it’s really nice is for creative work – sketching, embellishing photographs, designing and doodling – where the choice of colours, pens and responsiveness of the Pencil on the screen are really pleasurable. If you’re no artist, don’t expect the Apple Pencil to turn you into one, but there is at least the opportunity to practice if you’re willing to speculate the £119 / $129 / AU$199 cost.
The Pencil charges magnetically from the iPad battery when you attach it to the side of the tablet. Do be warned that this will nibble away at the 10-hour power reserves of your device. It’s also quite easy to knock the Pencil off, so be careful when taking it out and about.
On the viewing front, the iPad Mini 6 supports Dolby Vision, even if the maximum resolution on apps such as Disney+ and Netflix is only HD. You can also get Dolby Atmos and enjoy Apple’s Spatial Audio system, but only if you’re listening through Spatial Audio-supporting headphones such as the AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or AirPods 3.
Tablets aren’t the best for photography compared to their mobile phone cousins but the 12MP front and rear shooters on the iPad Mini are very decent. They can record smooth-looking and colour-accurate video at up to 4K resolution with 60fps or even slo-mo in HD at up to 240fps. Our stills of quite heavily backlit scenes come off pretty well, without any over- or under-exposure. Heavy sunbeams coming through the windows cause a slight lens flaring but we are pleased to see that there is no discernible noise in the darker areas. That only kicks in for night-time photography, but then that’s what the flash is for.
More useful than any of this, though, is the addition of the Center Stage feature to video calls. When using FaceTime or other video conferencing apps, the software will track your face and then zoom and pan the camera to automatically keep you in the middle of the picture. It’s even smart enough to manage when there’s more than one person in the frame. We can imagine that being very handy if you’re trying to do some kind of moving presentation or if you’d like to keep the grandkids in the picture while they’re haring around the room during family chats.
Lastly, the gaming experience is well worth a nod. The GPU in the A15 is more than a match for even the triple-A type games you’ll find in the App Store. Playing Call Of Duty 2 online, there’s not so much as the thought of a hiccup or glitch as we stalk the battlefields.