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Apple iPad Mini (2021) review: A powerful & fantastic little tablet

By Kenny Yeo - 2 Oct 2021
Launch SRP:

Performance, battery life, and conclusion

Powered by A15 Bionic

To go along with its new looks, the iPad Mini is also getting new internals. Inside it is Apple’s latest A15 Bionic chip – the same found in Apple’s newest iPhones. It’s built on a 5nm processor and consists of nearly 15 billion transistors. 

Like the Pro iPhones, the A15 Bionic chip in the iPad Mini has five GPU cores instead of the usual four. But for reasons unknown, the chip has been found to be running slightly lower clock speeds in the iPad Mini than in the Pro iPhones. It can’t be heat issues because the iPad Mini is significantly larger so the only reasonable explanation is that Apple is using binned parts to maximise yields. In other words, the best performing A15 Bionic chips are going to the Pro iPhones while chips that are slightly off the mark are going to the iPad Mini.

Still, as you can see from the benchmarks below. The iPad Mini is no slouch. Because of its lower clock speeds, it's not quite as quick as the Pro iPhones but it handily beats last year’s iPad Air and any flagship-class Android device. In the real world, just know that this new iPad Mini will run anything you throw at it and run it well.

 

Battery life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email

The iPad Mini lasted a little over 5 hours in our intensive battery test which is quite impressive when you consider that’s longer than both the iPad Air and 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro and yet has a smaller battery. There’s no doubt that it will get close to Apple’s claims of 10 hours of battery life if you use it at more reasonable brightness levels. 
 

 

 

A fitting and fabulous update

Fans of the iPad Mini can and should be happy with this update. It retains the compact form factor of its predecessor and adds to that a larger screen, blistering performance, USB-C connectivity, 5G support, and compatibility with Apple’s excellent (if expensive) second-generation Apple Pencil. iPadOS 15 also adds a new multitasking menu and note-taking features to make it a more capable device for productivity-related tasks.

This is the update that fans of the iPad Mini have been waiting for. This is an exceptional little tablet.

There are some minor annoyances. For example, the lack of a headphone jack can be bothersome if you don’t have wireless headphones or earbuds. And I lost count of the number of times I flipped open the Smart Folio only to find that there’s no keyboard to type on. I know the physical constraints would probably result in a heavily compromised keyboard but I really wish Apple developed a keyboard for it.

And then there’s the price. The old iPad Mini used to start from S$599, this shiny new one starts at S$749. What’s more, the entry-level model only comes with 64GB of storage so I suspect many people will pony up for the 256GB version. But that version costs nearly one grand. The second-generation Apple Pencil is S$189 and Apple’s own Smart Folio cover is another S$89. Pretty soon you’d realise that for about the same money, you could have gotten an M1 MacBook Air or any number of entry-level ultraportable Windows notebooks. That said, readers who intend to stream most of their content or have much of their data in the cloud might be able to make do with 64GB.

6th generation iPad Mini prices
Capacity Wi-Fi only Wi-Fi + Cellular
64GB S$749 S$979
256GB S$979 S$1,209


But is there even another compact tablet that can compete? So as popular as the iPad Mini may seem, perhaps the fact is that small-sized tablets really are niche items. Which explains why Apple doesn’t update the iPad Mini as much as its fans think it should. Happily, the wait has been worth it. This is a marvellous update to the iPad Mini and easily the best compact tablet you can buy.

 

You can order the iPad Mini from the Apple Online Store, the Apple Flagship Store on Lazada, or the Apple Flagship Store on Shopee.

But if your budget doesn’t stretch quite so far and you don’t mind a larger iPad, stay tuned for my review of the ninth-generation iPad.

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8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 9.5
  • Value 8
The Good
Compact, modern design
Great display
Excellent performance
Fast Touch ID
USB-C port
Works with 2nd-gen Apple Pencil
5G support
The Bad
No ProMotion display
Bezels quite conspicuous
No headphone jack
Pricey
Accessories sold separately and pricey
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