Wed. Dec 8th, 2021

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The new iPad mini matches the current-gen iPad Air and iPad Pros
  • It features the same A15 Bionic SoC as the iPhone 13 lineup
  • Apple offers it with Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + cellular connectivity

The sixth-generation iPad mini launched a few weeks ago, with Apple’s new A15 Bionic processor and a design that makes it look like a more compact and portable version of the current iPad Air and iPad Pro. These updates make it look and feel quite different from the previous tablet in the series, the 2019 iPad mini, and from the new iPad (9th generation) which was launched alongside. As a long-time iPad user (I’ve bought five and used eight different models since the first generation launched in 2012) I’ve always found the iPad mini to be an interesting device, but not really for me. With the latest iteration though, Apple has bumped up the display size and performance, making the choice between models harder than before. Having now used the new iPad mini for a couple of weeks, there’s no arguing that this tablet is a delight to use, but you also can’t ignore the fact that it’s still significantly smaller than the entry-level iPad, and costs 50 percent more.

For many of us, a tablet is still a luxury; a third device that you use aside from your smartphone and PC, which are both essentials. This is changing though, and many people do now find that their workflow can be fully accommodated on a tablet. Still, for most of us, an iPad will find the greatest use in reading a book or magazine, browsing the Web, playing games on the go, or making sketches or taking notes. It’s this portability and flexibility that makes tablets so appealing, and the huge app ecosystem that exists for iPads makes them some of the most appealing choices in the category.

Apple sent me the new iPad mini with 256GB of storage and Wi-Fi plus cellular connectivity options, along with a Smart Folio cover and Apple Pencil (2nd generation). This tablet has a USB Type-C port instead of the proprietary Lightning port, which means that your older chargers aren’t going to be useful. At least there’s a charger in the box — a 20W one, in fact. At 8.3 inches, the display is slightly bigger than the 7.9-inch one on older models, but the iPad mini remains small enough that you could almost slip it into your trouser pocket (but you probably shouldn’t).

Although Covid means that I didn’t get to use it out and about too much, the little on-road testing that I did manage to do went just fine. For the most part though, I used the iPad mini at home alongside my own sixth-generation iPad and put it through much the same usage situations to see how it handled my three main activities: reading, streaming videos, and playing games. I expected that (mostly) staying indoors would put the iPad mini at a disadvantage because of its smaller display, but read on to see how the actual experience measured up.

Apple iPad mini 2021 India pricing and variants

The iPad mini (2021) starts at Rs. 46,900 in India for the 64GB Wi-Fi only model. It comes in four colour options: Space Grey, Pink (which is more salmon), Purple (which looks more like lilac), and Starlight (a creamy champagne colour). The 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model is priced at Rs. 60,900, which is the same price as the 256GB Wi-Fi only model. The 256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model that Apple sent to me is priced at Rs. 74,900. Add to that the Smart Folio cover at Rs. 5,500, and the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) at Rs. 10,900, and the overall package can go up to Rs. 91,300.

These prices are nearly 50 percent higher than those of the entry-level ninth-gen iPad: while the 64GB Wi-Fi iPad is priced at Rs. 30,900 in India, the Wi-Fi + Cellular model starts at Rs. 42,900, and the 256GB versions cost Rs. 44,900 and Rs. 56,900 for Wi-Fi and the Wi-Fi + Cellular, respectively. This means that the choice between the two iPad models isn’t necessarily easy and doesn’t just come down to use case, as you’ll have to decide what aspects you assign the most value to, but more on that later.

Apple iPad mini (2021) design

If the previous generation of the iPad mini looked like a scaled down iPad, the 2021 model looks pretty much like a smaller iPad Air (2020). The home button is gone now, and instead the display fills up nearly the whole front face. There’s a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera on the front, and the iPad mini now supports Centre Stage, which uses machine learning to crop and adjust the front-facing camera’s view to keep you and anyone else with you in the frame.

One thing that’s missing here is a 3.5mm port for headphones — while this isn’t as much of a loss on a phone, on an iPad it is certainly annoying. One of my uses was to watch movies or shows at night, and not having to keep Bluetooth headphones charged for overnight use was definitely a plus.