Apple 2021 iPad Mini review: The ‘perfect’ iPad

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  • 2021 iPad Mini is a powerful and compact tablet that is less cumbersome than the larger iPads.
  • It’s easy to carry around due to its small size, and its screen is still larger than any phone I know of.
  • It’s a smaller version of the 2022 iPad Air rather than a smaller version of the standard 2021 iPad.

If the standard iPad 2021 is the “best” iPad for most people, the iPad Mini 2021 is the “perfect” iPad.

That mapping to “perfect” is subjective, to be sure — the iPad Mini and its 8.3-inch screen might be too small for some. On the other hand, the standard iPad and its 10.2-inch screen might be too big for others.

But the point is that the iPad Mini still offers a bigger screen than any phone I know, and thus fulfills its purpose as a tablet. It’s also incredibly lightweight and portable, making it the easiest tablet to take anywhere—much easier than the bulky and relatively cumbersome 10.2-inch iPad.

These are just some of the factors that contribute to mastering the iPad Mini. Read on for the full picture.

Apple iPad Mini 2021 specifications

Design

The 2021 iPad Mini held in the author's hand shows the screen on the home screen.


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The 2021 iPad Mini adopts Apple’s modern iPad design that you’ll find in the iPad Air and iPad Pro series. This means that the tablet is smooth and thin and has flat edges and a flat back. It also has uniform edges around the screen instead of the thick top and bottom edges of the classic iPad design.

Again, the iPad Mini is also lightweight and, in addition to its smaller overall size, is significantly more portable than larger tablets. I would argue that this extra portability is more useful than a larger screen. I found myself using the iPad Mini more than the larger iPads simply because it was easier to bring from the couch in the living room to the kitchen or any other room in the house.

And thanks to its smaller size, it takes up less space than the larger iPads. The iPad Mini is closer to a big phone than the standard iPad, which has the footprint of a small laptop.

The iPad Mini 2021 comes out of the author's pocket.


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The iPad Mini is often known as a rugged, pocket-sized device that fits perfectly in my jeans pockets. But it doesn’t fit all pockets in some pants and shorts. Your pockets really need to be extra large to fit the iPad Mini, but that’s possible — more than any larger iPad.

All this means that the iPad Mini is perfect in its portability compared to its internal hardware.

an offer

Close-up of 2021 iPad Mini with screen showing app icons.


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The iPad Mini has an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, the same type of Retina display panel you’d find on the iPad Air, and even the 11-inch iPad Pro. It’s not the biggest deal – the colors are a little bolder compared to the regular Retina display on the standard iPad. However, it is a high quality screen.

In terms of sharpness, the iPad Mini 2021 has a resolution of 1448 pixels which is technically sharper than the iPad and even the iPad Air screen. You get 326 pixels per inch (PPI), which beats the 264 ppi with the aforementioned iPads. To be honest, this is not noticeable, as the screen is smaller.

There’s no getting around the fact that apps, videos, and photos are actually smaller on the iPad Mini’s 8.3-inch screen compared to the 10.2-inch screen on the iPad and the 10.9-inch screen on the iPad Air. However, I’m still using the large iPhone 13 Pro Max with its 6.7-inch screen, and the iPad Mini still offers the larger viewing experience I seek from a tablet.

However, the iPad Mini’s smaller screen starts to really feel smallest for productivity. This is fine for simpler productivity, such as typing an email or a simple document, but larger screens are certainly more useful for more complex tasks, such as searching, especially with a more convenient keyboard cover.

Note that with the iPad Mini, you don’t get the super-smooth Apple ProMotion display you get with the iPad Pro series or the iPhone 13 Pro series. ProMotion powers the screen at a refresh rate of 120Hz, which means it refreshes the screen 120 times per second compared to 60Hz on the iPad Mini, iPad, iPad Air and the standard iPhone 13 line. This higher refresh rate makes animations look smoother, giving the impression that the device is faster and more powerful.

It was nice that the 2021 iPad Mini came with ProMotion, but that’s okay because of the relatively small screen size, especially if the omission helps keep the cost down.

performance

Top edge of 2021 iPad Mini, showing Touch ID power button and speaker grilles.


Antonio Villas Boa / Insider


The 2021 iPad Mini runs the same A15 Bionic processor as the iPhone 13 series, which means apps and games of all intensity levels run smoothly and flawlessly.

Running on Apple’s latest mobile processor certainly counts for $170 for the iPad Mini over the standard iPad, which runs on the two-year-old iPhone 11 A13 Bionic processor. While I wouldn’t say there’s a noticeable performance difference between these iPads today, I would expect the iPad Mini to stay responsive and responsive for at least two years longer than the iPad, thanks to its two-generation latest processor.

As expected, benchmark results using the Geekbench 5 app show that the iPad Mini has similar performance to the iPhone 13 series. In fact, both devices run on the same A15 Bionic processor.

Battery life

The back of the 2021 iPad Mini is depicted at an angle resting on sandstone tiles.


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In our regular battery test as I constantly stream a YouTube video at full brightness the iPad Mini


flow

At 1440p, the 2021 iPad Mini lasted six hours and two minutes. This is the best battery test result when compared to five hours and 25 minutes for the standard iPad, and four hours and 53 minutes for the iPad Air.

2021 iPad Mini uses a file


USB-C . port

A charging port, it’s good to see, considering that Apple laptops also use USB-C for charging, and consumer electronics have generally adopted USB-C as the latest standard.

What accessories can you use with the iPad Mini?

The iPad Mini 2021 held in the author's hand shows the metal back of the tablet against the background of a tropical forest.


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The 2021 iPad Mini is compatible with Apple’s second generation Pencil, and is more responsive than the first generation Pencil that the standard iPad supports. This means that the iPad Mini is a better note-taking and drawing device than the iPad.

Apple doesn’t make a keyboard case for the iPad Mini, and the options for third parties are minimal, probably because the tiny keyboard that fits inside the iPad Mini is uncomfortable to type on. Alternatively, you can connect plain or compressed


Bluetooth

iPad Mini keyboard for typing.

The iPad Mini also supports mouse input, so you can connect a Bluetooth mouse for better control, which is especially useful for productivity. However, it is not quite as convenient as the keyboard case or cover.

What are your alternatives?

The iPad Air 2022 is propped up on a stand in portrait mode to show its screen on the Home screen with app icons.


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For an extra $100, you can get a 2022 iPad Air, which is basically a larger version of the 2021 iPad Mini. Aside from its larger 10.9-inch screen, the iPad Air’s main draw is its powerful PC-level M1 processor. It’s the same processor you’d find in the iPad Pro series, as well as the MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac Mini. It’s definitely tempting for the extra $100, especially if you don’t think the iPad Mini’s 8.3-inch screen is big enough.

If spending more than $500 is out of the question, but you still want a bigger screen, the standard $330 iPad offers a larger 10.2-inch screen and fully capable performance. Just note that a standard iPad running on an older processor will show its age sooner than the iPad Mini or iPad Air.

bottom line

The iPad Mini 2021 held in the author's hand displays the home screen and icons on a tropical jungle background.


Antonio Villas Boa / Insider


Once again, the 2021 iPad Mini is the “perfect” iPad due to its balance between portability and performance.

Because of its small size, it’s more useful as a tablet for video watching, gaming and fast messaging than a true mobile productivity machine. For example, I wouldn’t recommend the 2021 iPad Mini as a laptop replacement – larger iPads, like the standard iPad or iPad Air, are better suited as a laptop replacement.

The iPad Mini’s high $500 price tag may seem steep compared to the standard $330 iPad, which also has a larger screen. But the design, performance and features of the 2021 tablet make it a smaller version of the iPad Air that’s $600 more than a smaller version of the standard iPad. Plus, for $170, you get a tablet with longer legs of the future, too.

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