iPad Mini 6 review

Hands-On With the 2021 (6th Gen) iPad Mini

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I’m one of those people that uses an iPad on a daily basis, but not for anything particularly demanding. Basically, I read Apple News, do a little web browsing, stream music to a stereo system in the living room while I’m reading the news, and occasionally play Boom Beach just to blow some stuff up. For the past four or five years, I’ve been using my wife’s hand-me-down models. She’s more of an iPad diehard, so when she bought a new iPad Pro, I took her old iPad Air. Which worked fine for six months until it accidentally got knocked off my workbench and hit the floor, shattering. I decided to replace it with a new 2021 (6th gen) iPad Mini.

iPad Mini 6 review
iPad Mini 6 (L) and iPad Mini 2. (Photo by Brad Moon)

I’ve always had a soft spot for the iPad mini. For what I use it for, a smaller iPad makes sense, and being pocketable (at least coat pocketable) is handy. I had an iPad mini years ago (the 2nd gen version released in 2013) and it was fantastic. Until one day its display went on the fritz. I used a Microsoft Surface for a while in between the iPad Mini and the iPad Air, but that wasn’t the world’s best experience. For casual use, I’m pretty firmly sold on the iPad.

Anyway, I could have broken down and had my shattered iPad Air repaired, but with an iPad that old, it didn’t seem worth it. In particular, its Wi-Fi could be frustratingly slow. The latest base 10.2-inch iPad would have been fine and cost considerably less, but its processor is already several generations old, and if I’m going to shell out I’d rather pay more for something that will have a longer useful life. So I went back to my preferred form factor, the iPad Mini. It’s equipped with Apple’s A15 processor and has a pretty nice Liquid Retina display with a crisp 326 PPI pixel density. And no, despite trying to spot it, I can find no sign of the “jelly scrolling” issue some buyers have reported.

iPad Mini 6 review

Compared to the 2nd gen iPad Mini, the new version is smaller overall. It’s a fraction of an inch shorter and thinner and weighs about two ounces less. I prefer the flat edges to the rounded edges on the older iPad. And the display is not just superior in terms of resolution, brightness, and color accuracy, it’s physically larger as well now that Apple has gone with an “all-screen” design. It went from 7.9-inches to 8.3-inches. Getting a larger, vastly superior display in a smaller package that is still perfect for holding in one hand was a real win.

Wi-Fi 6 is far snappier than the 802.11n that the iPad Air and 2nd gen iPad Mini relied on. I really notice it with Apple News, which would sometimes load so slowly on the older iPads I would just leave them at it while I went and refilled my coffee. Battery life has been solid. My old iPad had a very old battery that was down to a fraction of its original capacity, and where I would need to charge it 2-3 times a week, I charge the iPad mini once and have been left with anywhere from 30% to 40% of a charge at the end of the week.

I don’t usually use an iPad to take photos, but every once in a while I’ll be reading and one of the animals will do something interesting. If I don’t have my iPhone, I may resort to using the iPad to snap a photo. Typically, they turn out pretty horribly. However, one of the big feature upgrades for the iPad Mini 6 is a decent camera, a 12MP wide-angle shooter with autofocus, smart HDR 3, image stabilization, and other goodies. I tried it out, and it actually takes pretty decent pictures. I’ll never be that guy, holding up a tablet at a concert, but it’s nice to have options.

iPad Mini 6 review
Crop of a photo of Lily taken with iPad Mini 6. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Speaking of cameras, the front-facing “selfie” cam also gets a big upgrade to a FaceTime HD ultra-wide 12MP version. It supports Apple’s Center Stage feature that automatically pans the camera to keep you in the frame during video calls. That works really well.

Games look great on this thing. The A15 processor and Liquid Retina display are a pretty potent combination. In fact, I haven’t touched my Switch since getting the iPad Mini. I haven’t tried pairing an Xbox controller to the iPad yet, but that’s on my list.

Getting ahold of the new iPad Mini was looking to be a challenge. I checked the online Apple store and it was showing delivery dates that were at least a month away. My local Apple store had none in stock and an estimated 4-5 week wait. I was trying to figure out what I would use for my daily news scanning while I waited a month or more for a replacement iPad when I decided to check Amazon. For some reason, Apple’s Amazon store had the iPad Mini in stock. It was delivered the next day.

Mind you, I’m based in Canada. We often wait longer for new Apple gear, so you may not have the same challenge in tracking one down through Apple’s own retail channel that I did.

iPad Mini 6 review
iPad Mini 6 is a great, all-around tablet and super portable. (Photo by Brad Moon)

To wrap up, if you’re in the market for a compact tablet, the latest (6th gen) Apple iPad Mini has proven to be a solid pick. It’s not meant for productivity—Apple doesn’t even bother making a keyboard case for it—but this littlest of iPads packs a lot of power, and a display that’s larger than ever, in a very small package.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.

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