iPad mini review roundup: Superior speed but missing a critical feature

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The first reviews for the iPad mini 6 are out, and they all follow the same line that it is a remarkable device, yet not meant to be used for serious work.

CNBC: Exciting, but expensive

CNBC's review of the iPad mini 6 is mostly a rave, but comes with huge caveats. It calls this device "the more exciting" of the two latest iPad releases, but "if you're not dead-set" on the smaller device, "you can save a lot of money" with the regular iPad.

The reviewer also said that the new design of the volume buttons "take some getting used to," as they've been repositioned to the "top if you're holding the tablet in portrait."

"It's more of a portable gaming/video/reading machine than, say, something you'd want to pull out and attach a keyboard to for work or school," says CNBC. "The screen is too small for that. And Apple doesn't even make a keyboard for it."

Apple iPad mini 6 in Purple

iPad mini 6


Equipped with the A15 Bionic chip and an edge-to-edge 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, the 2021 iPad mini (6th Gen) also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil.

Engadget: The best iPad, but with niche appeal

"It finally looks fresh, but the niche appeal remains the same," says the Engadget review of the iPad mini 6.

The small size means it can be used nearly anywhere

"The iPad mini's spec sheet has changed quite a bit, but the appeal of the tablet remains the same," continues Engadget. "It looks and feels different thanks to the redesign and the handful of new features Apple brought to it."

"What it will come down to, as always, is size," concludes the review. "The iPad mini remains the best small tablet out there and you probably already know if an 8-inch tablet has a place in your life."

Gizmodo: Freeing, but not for work

Gizmodo also raves about the iPad mini 6, but it also repeats the same issue that it is a niche device, specifically that it isn't intended for work.

"I love this thing," says the review. "It's an iPad that isn't trying to be anything other than what it is— and best of all, I feel absolutely no pressure to get work done on it."

Gizmodo argues that the iPad mini can't replace a computer, "nor is it trying to." Instead, it's a reading, games, and video device.

"Prior to the 6th-gen model, the Mini lineup's only real selling point was its portability," concludes the publication. "It's still the marquee feature, but the Mini is no longer the runt of the iPad lineup— at least when it comes to performance."

The Wall Street Journal: Bigger screen, blazing speed

WSJ's review of the iPad mini praises the new A15 Bionic, calling its performance "smooth and zippy." The edge-to-edge screen also encourages users to side-by-side their favorite apps. The reviewer even stated that she felt like the iPad mini "practically begged me to turn it into a little laptop."

Additionally, the review praised the iPad mini's new USB-C capabilities, allowing users to connect external drives and accessories to the ultra-portable tablet.

USB-C

Battery life was average, with the reviewer noting, "The battery life is rated for 10 hours on Wi-Fi and nine hours on cellular, the same as previous iPad Minis... With more casual use— including a short FaceTime call, podcast listening, article reading, some YouTube-ing— on a mix of both cellular and Wi-Fi, the tablet lasted two full days on a charge, with about seven hours of active screen time."

As far as criticism goes, WSJ had concerns over storage sizes. The base model, priced at $499 for the Wi-Fi model or $649 for the 5G cellular model, only features 64GB of storage. The reviewer quickly pointed out that roughly 14GB of storage is dedicated to system files, leaving users with a scant 50GB left.

"And the pricing increases don't include a storage bump... The new iPad Mini still starts with just 64 GB. And you have to pay $150 to get to the next level, an unnecessarily large 256 GB."

The review also pointed out that the iPad mini is still the only entry into the iPad lineup lacking the Smart Connector, which would allow the iPad mini to connect to accessories like the Magic Keyboard.

The Guardian: Power, but at a price

The Guardian's review of the new iPad mini also focuses on the speed and power of Apple's latest iteration of their smallest tablet, drawing obvious comparisons with the recently released iPad Air.

"The new mini is essentially the 2020 iPad Air hit with a shrink ray," the reviewer writes. "It has the same home button-less look, Touch ID fingerprint reader in the power button, USB-C for power and a great set of stereo speakers, just with a screen that is only 8.9in on the diagonal compared with 10.9in on the Air."

The reviewer praises the A15 Bionic processor, calling the iPad mini "one of the most powerful tablets you can buy," and stating that it "performs excellently all around."

spec sheet

Again, there are concerns over the pricing. They point out that the new 10.2-inch iPad is significantly cheaper, and the 2020 iPad Air may function better as a computer replacement. They state that the best use case for the iPad mini may be a user who needs a secondary, smaller tablet or someone who wants a premium tablet experience in a small footprint.

Still, The Guardian commends Apple for its long software support for tablets, inferring that while buying an iPad mini may be more expensive than a comparable tablet, it should be seen as an investment.

Tom's Guide: Fantastic upgrades, but no support for the Magic Keyboard

Like other reviews, Tom's Guide is quick to praise the blazing-fast speeds of Apple's A15 Bionic processor, which is 80% faster than the A12 Bionic in the previous iPad mini.

However, Tom's Guide also wishes that the pint-sized tablet was compatible with Apple's Magic Keyboard.

"What's missing is support for the Magic Keyboard, and it's something that I can't ignore, especially after spending a whole month with my 4th gen iPad Air," the reviewer writes. "Ever since I got my hands on the Magic Keyboard and started using it with my iPad Air, I can't imagine going back to using a keyboard-less tablet, be it small or large."

However, they are quick to point out that the lack of support for the a non-Bluetooth keyboard does not intrinsically make the iPad mini a bad tablet. Instead, they anticipate that many will tick all the boxes for many prospective buyers.