It’s been a while (eight years to be exact) since Apple launched its first iPad Mini to cater to those who wanted a device bigger than their phone, but smaller than their laptop. We must admit, we didn’t think it was a good idea back then, but we've since been convinced that having a tablet is one of the best gadgets to own.
Why stream new episodes of The Witcher Season 2 on Netflix on your tiny little smartphone screen? Why sit bored on a train when you can play games on the go? In fact, a decent iPad can replace your handset in almost every way, especially if you consider Apple's latest Mini which is lightweight, portable, stylish, and impressively powerful to keep up with modern life.
Our E-commerce Tech Editor has been testing out the new model for a week or two now, binge-watching as much DopeSick and Succession as possible, flicking through social media and tidying up the Christmas shopping list, and they reckon this latest iPad could be one of the best devices you pick up in 2022, here's why:
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Price
One of the best things about Apple's new iPad Mini is that it's affordably priced, starting at £479 for the basic 64GB version. However, we don't think you'll want to get that one specifically, as 64GB isn't really that much to house all your apps, snaps, and videos. The 256GB model jumps up to £619, which is a welcome addition if you're a photo-hoarder who refuses to delete anything.
You can also get this new iPad with an LTE data connection to use away from the wifi just like your phone. You add it as an additional payment alongside your phone contract and then you’ll be able to use the data to stream or game on the go.
Deals for this version of the Mini range from around £10 to more than £30 a month and you might have to pay upfront depending on the network you're with. EE customers can get a 10% discount on all Apple iPads, or get double data and a free three-month subscription to Disney+ for £20 upfront and £25 a month with O2.
Most trains, planes and cafes have wifi these days, but the signal isn't great most of the time, and the connection might not be safe from cybercriminals, so having your own data allowance is great if you want to stay connected without relying on public internet.
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Processor
Apple has upgraded its chip processing system almost every year, with the most recent A15 Bionic being put inside the latest iPhone 13 series and these new iPads. In its own words, Apple reckons this Mini will be around 40% faster than the 2019 edition, but we didn't notice any abnormally fast speeds when flicking between apps.
However, we didn't see any app crashes and we could merrily bounce between applications without really noticing any chugging. In honesty, it's hard to say how much of a difference a new processor really makes in real terms, but it's a good marketing spin.
It does impact how you use specific apps, like helping you to film crisp 4K videos with the camera, or allowing you to react faster on mobile games. Alongside that, the A15 Bionic unlocks 5G data connections so you can bung in the 5G SIM card we mentioned above and get faster downloads.
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Design
It should be obvious, but the Mini is a smaller and lighter tablet compared to some of Apple's other iPads, measuring three inches smaller than this year's Pro model, though it is 0.4 inches bigger than the Mini iPad from 2019.
However, this new one loses the curvaceous body of its predecessor in favour of the flatter shape that we see in the latest iPhone 13 series. We think this new design looks markedly better than the older version – we never realised how much we would appreciate our iPad laying flat on the table rather than rocking slightly like a high-tech turtle. OK, it wasn't quite that bad on the old model, but the brushed metal finish on the rear and the minimalist lens setup just looks a bit cleaner to us.
This new one loses the 'home' button that was at the bottom-middle of the older devices and instead puts the Touch ID scanner in the power-on button on the top. It doesn't have any Face ID software which is a bit of a bummer, but we never really struggled to unlock the iPad with this new system.
Apple refuses to let go of the space grey option on any of its devices so that colour returns, but there are three new choices for the latest model: purple, pink, and starlight, which replaces the white you might have seen on the other phones and tablets. We had the purple model for testing and really appreciated the flash of subtle colour.
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Display
We were impressed with the Mini's new 8.3-inch display that stretches almost edge-to-edge and fills up more of the front-side of the tablet compared to older models, giving you plenty of space to see more tweets in one go. It's Liquid Retina (which is Apple's way of saying it's slightly better than Full HD) so watching TV shows or movies on the go looks great.
It's also a smidge brighter than previous models so you don't have to have it turned up so high to see anything in low light. Because of this, colours also seem to be more vibrant and playing games is a dream.
We were disappointed to not see the ultra-smooth 120Hz refresh rate that is found on the latest iPhone 13 and 13 Pro smartphones, but you won't miss it on these tablets. Games still look great, and scrolling through your Instagram is just as responsive.
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Camera
We will harshly judge anyone who chooses to bring an iPad to a party or the bar to snap pictures, but if you absolutely *have* to this latest Mini is a decent option. The rear of the tablet has a single 12MP wide lens that can take some reasonable photos so long as you're not far away from your subject.
Since it's a wide lens it can't do much if you try to zoom in, as images will begin to blur, but up-close shots are remarkably clear and detailed. We'd love to see an ultra-wide or a telephoto on the tablet to improve the photography, but to be honest, for simplicity, we'd recommend sticking to your smartphone if you want to take a photo anyway.
The selfie camera is a 12MP wide lens that lends itself wonderfully to video calling. You get the brilliant Centre Stage feature for work calls or family Zooms, with the lens following your face around the room as you move, so you're always the focus.
The processor does a great job improving the quality of your shots and will assist in taking the 4K 60 fps video capture that you’ll inevitably post on your socials. The single lens is a shame and it looks a little solitary on the back of the device, but again, if your tablet isn't your main device for photos, it's not much to grumble at.
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Battery Life
You'll get the same 10-hour battery that was present in the Apple iPad from 2019, meaning you should (according to Apple at least) get around 10 hours of battery. In our testing, we got between eight and nine hours per charge and we used it fairly heavily. We'd test gaming, watch an episode of DopeSick on Disney+, and keep up with social media throughout the day, and found it would last around two days worth of use.
It's not great, but this is roughly about as long as most tablets last these days. However, it does come with a USB-C cable so you can charge it back up to 100% in just under two hours. There's no wireless charging though, which we do feel is a misstep.
iPad Mini 2021 Review - Verdict
So is it really worth your time? We reckon if you've got an older iPad you're thinking of replacing, or if you’ve never even bothered buying a tablet before, this could be the perfect gadget to bring you into the new year.
It's lightweight, powerful, and comes with plenty of upgrades over its predecessors without blowing your bank balance. At around £600 or less, you won't find many tablets better at keeping you connected online, making you look good on your video calls, or helping you catch up with the latest shows and movies when away from your TV.
What we love about it is the effortless portability of this device. By that, we mean you can take it with you almost anywhere, and still use it one-handed. We found ourselves squeezing in a 20-minute episode of the US Office while on a cramped train into London. We could call friends to wish them Merry Christmas without putting down our eggnog.
At no point did we feel the need to log onto our computer or laptop, or pull out our smartphone while at home, as the Mini felt great at doing all our tasks quickly.
For those of you with a more modern tablet, or who like to use their smartphone around the house, it might not be worth the upgrade, as it's still a spenny bit of kit, that ultimately becomes a slightly bigger phone, but if you're in the market for a new tablet, it's affordable enough to not put you too far out of pocket.
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