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iPad Mini 6, Review: The Most Powerful Experience in Your Pocket

by Juan Cienfuegos 14 days ago in product review

The upgrade this device deserved… and beyond.

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

The iPad mini was crying out for a complete makeover. Although in 2019 Apple surprised us with the arrival of a new version of the iPad mini (the fifth generation numbered), the company’s strategy had been characterized by maintaining the same design since its launch for four complete generations, with very small changes.

If there is a label that has certainly changed its context throughout all these years, it is that of “mini”. Not because the device that carries it is not a smaller version in size over the “original”, but because technology speaks and evolves in each generation along with users. Mini no longer means less, and you will find out why.

The iPod mini was the most conservative of all these products, possibly because the journey did not last long beyond the arrival of the iPhone and multi-touch technology alongside the iPhone OS in 2007. Much more patent was left in the Mac mini, a computer intended for those who were thinking of approaching the Apple world in 2005 but preferred to be cautious in assessing whether the platform really offered what they needed. Today, we consider the latest Mac mini M1 almost a small Mac with professional aspirations for its scalability and power.

The 2012 iPad mini was the opposite of the one we are analyzing today: it started from the purchase premise similar to that of the 2005 Mac mini, intended for those who could not or would not buy the original model. It was more of a front door, a tasting menu.

But this iPad mini nowadays, without a doubt, is the house specialty, Picasso's Mona Lisa.

We Have to Start at The Beginning: The Design

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

Three years ago, when the iPad Pro (2018) slim-line, the square-edge design was introduced, I began to fantasize about the iPad mini of the future. He shared the idea with Marques Brownlee that a new model with the Pro design would be what many users were looking for in the device.

It is the year 2021, and now that I finally have it in my hands and I have been able to test it, I can say that the design meets perfectly in the mini world. My God, you do not know the joy that this device gives me. I am a huge fan of mini devices and for the first time, this device radically exceeded my expectations.

There’s one thing impossible to contain when we first take this iPad mini out of the box, and it’s an exclamation of awe. You don’t believe me!? I dare you!! If you buy or open one, don’t say a single word, don’t smile, anything. You will not be able to contain yourself, it is impossible!

Is so pretty!!!

Seeing a mini for the first time and holding it with one hand continues to impress even in today’s world, where we are used to the usual miniaturization of technology.

Apple presents a screen with thinner edges than in the previous generation and made in the image and likeness of its older brother, the iPad Pro. They have not been reduced proportionally to the size of the mini, but in hand and in view they do not look larger or bother. In fact, they practically disappear when we focus on content.

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

The texture is what Apple has used to us: high-quality material with the smooth roughness of the rear aluminum that accompanies the size to be able to use the iPad mini by hand, practically anywhere. Beyond the power that we will see later, the size and shape of the new Apple tablet make it very easy for us to adapt it to our daily life, it is as if we were carrying a traditional paper notebook. These days using the iPad mini, I have used it in uses where a larger iPad might have been uncomfortable — or not so natural to use.

I repeat it, I am a big fan of mini devices. I think I have liked the iPad mini since the first generation by taking the iPad experience (now complete, especially at the power level) to places where iPad Pro we would not have considered using it. From the traditional reading lying on the sofa holding the device with one hand, using it as a recipe book while we are cooking, or taking advantage of that small place under the monitor as a secondary monitor.

A15 Bionic Chip: Just Like The iPhone 13

The iPad mini is an exceptional piece of equipment for day-to-day work. Perhaps its screen size is not generous enough to work on video or photos with the same comfort as in other models with the larger screen — that is, the device is compatible with Apple’s Pencil 2, which was launched with the models Pro-. But it can be used as a true off-road thanks to the extra power of the A15 Bionic chip, which we remember is the same one that mounts the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro with some variations to adapt it to the device.

This allows the team to work with a little more ease than the iPad Air in all situations and including 4K video editing, which can be poured directly from a professional camera to the iPad thanks to the fact that Apple has included USB-C in the smallest in the house.

Therefore, although we say that its screen is not so comfortable for intensive graphic work, it is the perfect equipment for mobile work. Both for its very low weight and for its incredible power and ease with which it works in all situations in which we can put it to the test. Of course, we must bear in mind that the iPad mini completely discards the Smart Connector, so its compatibility with keyboards and accessories is limited to Bluetooth.

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

At the gaming level, the iPad mini looks spectacular. If we try something really demanding, like the NBA2K21, the graphic efficiency looks spectacular on the screen: the reflections of the court, movements of the players, ambient sound with the new speaker system.

The screen also gains prominence due to the quality of the contrast and it makes playing games like these attractive anywhere. Personally, I am surprised that Apple does not further exploit this part in Arcade with its own triple-A game that turns a device like the mini into a whole Nintendo Switch (with nuances). Of course, for power and screen quality, it will not be. Geekbench results place it above the previous-generation iPhone 12, highlighting its multi-core performance above all:

Source: Geekbench 5

In what I have noticed a huge improvement is in battery performance, surpassing (I think for the first time since I analyzed the brand’s iPad) Apple’s own expectations — marked in about 10 theoretical hours of browsing and regular use. However, these are the results of my own tests — which were somewhat more ambitious:

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

As you can see, more than 13 hours and 40 minutes working with the screen on (with the brightness between 50% and 60%), with a very low battery wear curve and allowing it to be used practically throughout the day. Of course, with notifications and everything on (Bluetooth, WiFi) … I was even testing a 5G card simultaneously. This was unthinkable in other generations, especially considering the diversity of applications that distributed the load.

The Perfect Device For Entertainment

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

This new iPad mini features the same TouchID button as the iPad Air (2020), using the second-generation Secure Enclave to speed up fingerprint decoding. It is tremendously fast (as in the iPad Air that integrates it), and also in the configuration process we are asked to configure the fingerprint in two different positions: with the screen arranged vertically (and the button in the upper right part) and with the horizontal arrangement (where the button is in the upper left part if we turn it counterclockwise). This allows us to add two different fingers comfortably from the beginning, with the intention that regardless of how we take our iPad mini, we can always unlock it comfortably. It is especially useful in the mini since being so small, it is very common to move it.

It also brings the USB-C to the mini, leaving behind generations with the Lightning connector and for which Apple has opted since this mini is a perfect accessory concentrate. If you remember, in the keynote we even saw how a doctor had an ultrasound machine connected to comfortably consult the visualization of the examination on the iPad mini. This versatility is also useful in external cameras, storage devices, video game controllers, and in general practically any product on the market that uses the USB-C connection, including monitors.

In monitors, the connection is limited only to screen duplication or monitor enlargement in some specific apps, but since it is not a Thunderbolt 3 port we cannot anchor several consecutive devices (the difference in bandwidth is 40Gbps in USB- C with Thunderbolt 3 and 5Gbps on normal USB-C). Still, it further expands the capabilities of the product and is a good claim for work we have to do outside the home with it.

The sound, a tricky part in a device as small as this, has been improved as well. I do not hear a radical change from the previous generation of the mini, but it does sound clearer and with more presence (and decidedly more powerful than in an iPhone 13 Pro Max). The best way to test this, in addition to the familiar Apple Music playlist, is to video conference with him. In my tests, I am surprised by the quality of the call at the sound level that allows you to follow the conversation at all times, and combined with the improvement of the front camera makes this small iPad the perfect companion to even have work calls comfortably wherever we are.

Center Stage comes to the iPad mini and helps the sensation of a round product to telecommute (or talk to whoever we want) through video conferencing. The new 12 Max Ultra wide-angle lens captures a wider frame and centers using the Neural Engine by intelligently detecting the person — or people — entering the scene. It surprises the iPad Pro, and in this iPad mini, it works perfectly with good image quality and definition.

Spectacular Camera And a Great Editing Tool: All In One

Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

The screen increases from 7.9" of the previous generation to 8.3" of this new model that thins and normalizes the edges along the entire contour. It has True Tone, which balances the white balance of the screen by adjusting it to the light conditions of the room where we are, P3 cinematic color space, and an anti-reflective layer to make direct viewing more accurate.

This new screen has 500 nits of brightness and is comfortable to read in any type of situation. Outdoors, we can use the iPad mini as long as it does not receive direct light on it, as in any iPad screen to which we are already used. I did the test reading a couple of digital magazines in a sunny outside and although it is not the ideal condition for it, it can be used perfectly and the contrast and quality of the panel help a lot in reading.

An important point of improvement is that this new iPad mini incorporates the 12Mpx wide-angle rear camera that we have already seen in other models, and for the first time, also the two-tone flash to help us in low-light situations. This new camera allows you to record 4K video directly with the device, stabilized with the wide-angle camera. The iPad mini with A15 chip offers the versatility of a compact device, with a good camera and a portable editing capacity to be able to retouch our videos with iMovie or Lumafusion, in 4K, without problems.

Here I would like to highlight one thing, and it‘s ’the new video encoder that adds much more agility when exporting video for example in iMovie. This makes video editing processes more independent beyond the GPU and CPU when it comes to encoding and decoding video. From this change that Apple has added in this generation, applications such as WhatsApp, for example, could also benefit when compressing a video. This indicative anticipates that the power of the A15 chip goes far beyond the GPU and CPU since it is leveraged on these decoding accelerators.


Picture from the author: TheJuanSC

For those of you who like the concept of the iPad mini, this generation will enchant you: it has been reinforced in all the points we needed to place it at the level of the current generation of Apple devices, and it once again becomes an inseparable companion of our day-to-day. However it is not for everyone: if you need a larger canvas — to draw, view maps or plans in detail or for any other reason — my advice is to go for an iPad Air.

In concept, this iPad mini is a last-generation iPad Air updated with the extra minimum size, which makes it comfortable and practical for certain uses where traditional iPads may not be used so naturally. In addition, the models start at 64Gb and go up to 256Gb, in four colors: space gray, pink, purple (the model in this analysis), and starlight.

If you are looking for a discreet iPad, comfortable to transport but that does not compromise power, the iPad mini is the perfect answer, and even more so now that it is fully compatible with the Apple Pencil 2. As an internet viewer, videos or photo editing the iPad mini can be your perfect adventure companion, anywhere.

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(This article was previously published on Medium)

product review

Juan Cienfuegos

Not your typical Engineer. Founder of Apple Newsweek.

Host of The Outer Spacer Show at Twitter Space.

Read my columns every Friday at: https://juansc.substack.com/welcome

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