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The iPad Mini is back for 2021 – and it’s bigger and better than ever.
It’s been almost a decade since Apple unveiled the first iPad mini at an October launch event back in 2012. In that time, the tech giant has released five successors – the most recent of which, dubbed iPad mini (6th generation), made its debut in September 2021.
Unlike the iPhone and larger iPads that are refreshed annually, the iPad mini hasn’t seen as much love from Apple. It hasn’t had anywhere near as many upgrades, and we’ve been waiting since 2019 to see a refreshed model. The wait was so long, relatively, that we half expected to have seen the last of the iPad mini range with the iPad mini 5. Yet, in true Apple style, the brand threw us a curveball. The iPad mini 6 is notably different in a number of ways yet still stays true to the pocket format.
In our sixth-generation iPad mini review, we put Apple’s curveball to the test to see if there is still a place for a smaller iPad. Especially one that costs as much as it does, and similarly sized tablets are available for a lot less.
We make comparisons to the iPad mini 5 throughout this review, but if you’re keen to delve more into the details of the now-discontinued tablet from 2019, head to our iPad mini 5 review.
Price: Wi-Fi only: £479 (64GB), £619 (256GB); Wi-Fi and Cellular: £619 (64GB), £759 (256GB)
The sixth-generation iPad mini – often referred to as iPad mini 6 or iPad mini (2021) – is the latest small-form tablet to join the iPad lineup. Revealed at an event in September 2021 alongside a new iPad and the iPhone 13 range, the iPad mini 6 is both larger and more expensive than any of the mini models that have come before.
On the same day, Apple discontinued the previous fifth-generation iPad mini/iPad mini 5, although you can still buy this tablet from third-party retailers.
In the two years between the iPad mini 5’s release and Apple debuting the iPad mini 6, a number of features have seen significant upgrades. For the first time, the iPad mini comes with an 8.3-inch display, up from the 7.9-inch screens seen on all previous minis.
The rear camera has been upgraded from 8MP to 12MP, akin to that seen on the iPhone 13 devices, while the front camera now has a 12MP Ultra Wide lens (up from 7MP) and supports a feature called Center Stage. Center Stage allows the front-facing camera to remain fixed on you and your face as you make video calls or join conferences. This means you can walk around the room, and it will follow your every move, even widening automatically when new people enter the scene. Center Stage was introduced on the iPad Pro (2021) but is now available on the iPad mini 6 as well as the 2021 iPad.
Underneath the hood, the iPad mini 6 is powered by the A15 Bionic Chip. This is the most substantial improvement made to this most recent model and is three generations of chip processing power and speed better than the A12 found on the iPad mini 5. You can read more about this in our battery life and performance section below, but the A15 Bionic Chip brings significant benefits. It’s so cutting-edge, it’s the same chip found in Apple’s newest flagship phones. This, along with its larger size, goes some way to justifying the price increase from £399 on the iPad mini 5 up to £479 for the latest model.
You can buy the iPad mini 6 with Wi-Fi only or with Wi-Fi and cellular. The latter starts at £619, and not only does this mean you’re paying more for the tablet itself, but you’ll also need to pay extra for a mobile contract if you want to take full advantage of the cellular capabilities. For many, being able to use the iPad mini 6 on the go will be a dealbreaker but, based on our experiences, save yourself the hassle – and £140 – by buying the Wi-Fi model and hotspotting off your phone.
The iPad mini 6 is available with 64GB or 256GB storage. This follows suit from the iPad mini 5 but is limited in comparison to all the iPad mini models that came before. Each of those models offered 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. As with all Apple products, there is no option to expand this storage via microSD. You can only upgrade this storage virtually via iCloud for an extra monthly fee.
Elsewhere, the iPad mini 6 offers support for the second-generation Apple Pencil, which is sold separately.
The iPad mini comes in two storage sizes – 64GB and 256GB – and is available with Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and cellular.
The prices, when bought directly from Apple, are as follows:
You can also buy the iPad mini from the following places:
The iPad mini has historically been a relatively affordable way to enter the Apple tablet market. At its previous price of £399, it could never be described as cheap, but by coming in under the £400 mark, it at least felt attainable. With its latest refresh, Apple has pushed the price up to £479 for the entry-level model, and this feels like a substantial difference.
As with all Apple products, you do ultimately get what you pay for. The amount of tech that is now inside the iPad mini 6, not to mention its larger size, means that it wouldn’t have made economic sense for Apple to price it the same as its smaller, less powerful predecessors. Yet, this also means it will price it out of reach for many, too.
If you can afford this increase, and you don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with the larger iPads in the range, then the iPad mini is a fantastic device. You’ll get the most value for money if you’re an existing Apple customer, but even if you’re not, there is enough here to hit the sweet spot of functionality and portability. It’s also head and shoulders above its rivals, meaning you’re unlikely to be disappointed with your (albeit extravagant) purchase.
Anything the iPhone can do, the iPad mini can do better. Well, almost.
By running on iPad OS, the tablet version of the regular mobile iOS, the iPad mini 6 comes with all the same apps and many of the same features seen on even the most recent iPhones. Granted, it doesn’t have Cinematic Mode or Photographic Styles seen on the iPhone 13. Nor does it come with quite the level of technical power and specs as the iPhone 13 Pro range. However, with the recent camera upgrades and the addition of the A15 Bionic Chip, it can certainly give earlier iPhones more than a run for their money. On the other hand, the larger screen and support for Apple Pencil open up a huge number of use cases that aren’t possible on any of the phones.
Of course, you’re unlikely to buy one or the other. They address different needs, but we make the comparison to show just how far the technology on the iPad mini 6 has come.
It offers the full catalogue of apps via the Apple App Store and, if you’re an existing Apple customer, you can connect your iPad mini 6 to your iCloud account. This means you’ll get full access to all your settings, downloads, shows, games, purchases and more on every device. And this access is constantly synced across these devices. For Non-Apple customers, it just means you’ll have to manually add the apps you want as you go.
As with all Apple products, the iPad mini 6 comes preloaded with a whole host of Apple apps and services, plus a selection from Apple’s partners. This includes Music, Apple TV, Podcasts, Books, GarageBand, Swift Playground, and News on the entertainment and hobby side of things. It has Clips and iMovie video creation and editing tools; Fitness and Health apps to keep track of all things exercise, health and wellbeing; plus productivity apps including Voice Memos, Reminders, Notes, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and Files.
The downside to all these free tools is that they take up a large chunk of storage. 15GB, to be precise. This does include the operating system, but if you’re looking at getting the 64GB model, that’s almost a third of the storage gone in one fell swoop.
It is possible to remove as many or as few of these apps as you like, so if you’ve got a lot of your own apps, files, photos and more to sync, you might want to be particular about what you keep.
Surprisingly, Apple has stuck with Touch ID for the iPad mini 6, rather than introducing the Face ID features seen on almost every other device. On the iPad mini 6, the Touch ID sensor has been embedded into the Power button (as it is on the iPad Air), and it’s done away with the physical Home button entirely. For us, as iPhone users, the removal of this button for on-screen controls is familiar. However, our toddler struggles to use the iPad mini 6 as easily as he did the iPad mini 5. He often swipes apps away or moves between them accidentally, and it’s been a steeper learning curve for him.
The iPad mini 5 was the first to support the Apple Pencil, and we’re thrilled to see that the iPad mini 6 has not only carried over this support but that it now supports the Apple Pencil 2. While the original Apple Pencil is a great accessory, it lacks some of the smarter gesture controls as seen on the latest, second-gen model, and this meant we were missing certain productivity gains when using it with the iPad mini 5. Thankfully, all of these gains are back with the iPad mini 6 and Apple Pencil 2.
We knocked a point off the score of the iPad mini’s features because, while it offers a whole lot, it’s missing some of the fantastic photography additions recently made to the iPhone range. Plus, not all app developers have rendered their apps to suit the larger screen yet. This isn’t Apple’s fault, of course, but it does lessen the quality and experience at times.
Aside from the larger display on the iPad mini 6 – 8.3-inch up from the iPad mini 5’s 7.9-inch – the screen quality has also had an upgrade. For the first time on an iPad mini, the screen panel uses Liquid Retina Display technology. This, alongside True Tone and support for the P3 wide colour gamut, as well as a new anti-reflective screen, makes the iPad mini 6 display super bright and vibrant. Text is sharp and clear, and the contrast is great, which means that whether you’re playing games, watching Squid Game or reading via the Kindle app, you’ll get the content as it was intended. All without having to find the perfect angle to watch from.
Apple claims the anti-reflective screen coating gives this tablet the “lowest reflectivity in the industry” – at 1.8%. It is noticeably less reflective than our iPhone, our iPad mini 5 and other Apple devices we own, and this means it’s great for use in brightly lit rooms or when outside.
This all combines to put the iPad mini leagues above the displays found on rival 8-inch tablets, particularly those from Amazon.
Despite being packed full of new technology, from a faster processor to a more efficient battery and improved camera sensors, the iPad mini 6 is still remarkably thin and light. In fact, it’s only 0.2mm thicker than the iPad mini 5, at 6.3mm. All while being lighter than the iPad mini 5. Although the difference is marginal and barely noticeable in hand, this is a technological achievement, and we’re impressed.
Apple always makes well-balanced, aesthetically pleasing products, and the iPad mini 6 is no exception. It’s comfortable to hold, even for long periods, and it’s lightweight enough to be portable.
The outer enclosure is made from aluminium which gives it a premium, luxury feel but, due to the combination of its size and lightweight design, it does make it feel like the iPad mini 6 could break easily should it be dropped. As a result, and as is the case with all Apple products, we do recommend you buy a case or stand to absorb any damage.
Although the display is advertised as 8.3-inch because of the curved corners of the device, the actual viewing display is a tad smaller than this. The bezels are also noticeably large and a little intrusive, but the benefit to this is that it’s comfortable to hold without worrying you’ll knock the screen. On the plus side, however, and despite the larger display, the iPad mini 6 is noticeably smaller than the iPad mini 5. This is because the latter had to make room around the edges for the physical Home button.
Port-wise, the iPad mini 6 has a USB-C port. Then there is a power button, which can also be used to enable Siri, on the top of the device, with the volume buttons sitting on the top edge, to the right. The speakers sit on either side of the charging port at the bottom and between these buttons on the top. This makes the sound feel much more immersive and less tinny than previous models.
Colour-wise, the iPad mini 6 is available in four new finishes – Purple, Pink, Starlight, and Space Gray.
Few of us will likely buy an iPad, or any tablet for that matter, purely for its camera technology. However, with the upgrades seen on the iPad mini 6, we wanted to give Apple a nod for the photography improvements seen on this new tablet.
The rear-facing 12MP camera does, for the first time on an iPad mini, let you shoot in 4K. It also takes beautiful, detail-rich photos thanks to an improved lens and sensor, as well as Apple’s hardware and software integration. The portability and lightweight nature of iPad mini 6 makes this tablet much more suited to taking videos and photos on the go, and it comes with modes Apple fans will be familiar with, including Panorama, Slo-mo video, Burst mode, and time-lapse. Sadly, it doesn’t come with some of the photography improvements seen on the iPhone 13 range, such as Cinematic Mode or Photography Styles.
However, it’s the front-facing, 12MP Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage that has really caught our attention. It allows us to make video calls more easily while cooking dinner, for example, or while chasing our toddler around the room. We don’t have to be constantly moving the angle for our family members to see us. The quality of the camera is great for video conferences, too, and we no longer take our laptop with us when we’re working on the go. We can do everything we need to do on the iPad mini 6.
If you’re an Apple fan and already have Apple products in your home, you’ll know the drill when it comes to setting up the iPad mini 6. Even if you’re not, though, a step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of connecting the tablet to your Wi-Fi, adding TouchID fingerprints, setting up Siri voice controls and enabling various Privacy settings.
You can choose to set the iPad up manually, or use a backup. If you’re an existing Apple customer, the latter simply means signing in to your account. However, if you’re setting this tablet up for a child or as a new device, you can also skip this sign in step and add all the appropriate apps and settings manually.
If you’re not an existing Apple customer, you’ll be asked to create an Apple ID. Technically you don’t need an Apple ID to use the device, but if you want to add any apps or take advantage of many of the Apple features, you’ll eventually need one.
On one hand, Apple claims the iPad mini 6 has ‘all-day’ battery life. However, when you delve a little deeper, this is listed more specifically as 10 hours. Not really what we’d describe as ‘all-day’, and a claim that falls a little short of the 24 hours we expected.
In reality, though, the battery lasts somewhere in between. In our looping video test, in which we play an HD video on repeat at 70% brightness and with aeroplane mode enabled, the iPad mini 6 took a little under 11 hours to go from full charge to flat. Yet, when we used the tablet as we would normally do – which includes a couple of hours of browsing, half an hour playing SimCity, around five hours of Spotify and some TikTok – the iPad mini 6 did actually last all day. We didn’t have to plug it in to charge until the following morning.
While this is impressive, the biggest draw of the iPad mini 6 for us is just how fast and powerful it is. It’s noticeably slicker than the iPad mini 5 and on par with our iPhone 13 Pro Max.
This is because it’s running on the same A15 Bionic chip found in the latest handsets. This not only increases power efficiency – which explains the great battery life – but it also powers a host of intense tasks, such as editing 4K videos and playing immersive games. The iPad mini 6 has a new 6-core CPU alongside a 5-core GPU, plus a 16-core Neural Engine and machine learning accelerators.
Apple claims that the A15 Bionic chip delivers a 40 per cent increase in performance over the previous iPad mini and why we can’t quantify this, we can confirm that it’s a powerhouse.
As always seems to be the case with each iteration of the iPad mini, the iPad mini 6 was worth the wait. In the wider iPad and iPhone range, the iPad mini 6 always felt like an entry-level device that was lacking in a number of places but which had a relatively low price to match.
Yes, Apple has increased the price of the iPad mini 6, but it’s also significantly ramped up the specs to warrant this increase. Whereas previous models have been best suited for entertainment, the power improvements on the iPad mini 6 make it much more suitable for productivity, creative and work tasks – suitability that is bolstered by support for the second-generation Apple Pencil and its larger screen. This will increase its appeal to a broader audience.
By increasing the screen size, Apple has also helped distance the iPad mini from its range of iPhones. Previous models were marginally larger and often came with far lower specs, so it was tricky to justify buying both.
Performance-wise, this tablet can do almost anything you want it to do. Hardware-wise, it’s easy-to-hold, easy-to-use and versatile. The price is the only real sticking point, but if you can afford it, you – and/or your kids – will be getting a lot of bang for your buck.
The new iPad mini is available at a range of UK retailers.