It had been a while. The last time Apple had refreshed the smallest iPad in its line-up, it seemed like a different era. The year 2015, to be precise. That was when the fourth generation iPad Mini was still rocking the charts. It is a perhaps a tad perplexing that Apple left the iPad Mini unattended for so long, perhaps because phones were becoming bigger by the day. Having said that, phones have become even larger now. We are talking more than 6-inch screen sizes on flagships. Which is perhaps why a smaller screen tablet may seem out of place in the larger scheme of things. But in reality, there seems to be a renewed appetite for a compact tablet—not everyone wants a large tablet, else they would have all bought the larger iPad anyway and that would have been that. This neatly brings us to the Apple iPad Mini (2019).
There are fine differences between the iPad Mini in 2015 and the iPad Mini in 2019. In 2015, the iPad Mini was the entry level iPad, the introduction to the world of iPads, at an affordable price and a screen size that focused on portability too. With everything that Apple has packed inside the latest iPad Mini, the price increase means this is no longer the entry level iPad. Secondly, it now in a way is fighting in the same price band as the very capable iPad (2018) with the 9.7-inch display, and also overlaps with the price of the 10.5-inch iPad Air to a certain extent.
Prices start at Rs 34,900 for the 64GB Wi-Fi version and Rs 48,900 for the 256GB Wi-Fi model. If you perhaps would prefer the flexibility of cellular to go with the Wi-Fi, then there is the 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular priced at Rs 45,900 while the 256GB configuration will cost you Rs 59,900. Variant for variant, the iPad Air costs Rs 10,000 more.
In a way, Apple has given us a blast from the past. The design of the newest iPad Mini is largely same as it was all those years ago. There is the home button below the display, and the overall personality is the same as before. That said, this design does have significant advantages. First, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor integrated in the home button is a trusted piece of hardware which just works. Then there is the 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a welcome addition in a day and age when this humble little connector is rapidly becoming extinct. The Lightning connector means your iPhone charger can double up as the iPad Mini charger when you travel. While this also supports the Apple Pencil now, that stays physically separate from the iPad. All the similarities have been possible because the display size remains the same. In a way, if someone quietly swaps your fourth generation iPad Mini with the iPad Mini (2019), chances are you’ll probably not even realize the change at first glance. The familiarity is priceless.
The iPad Mini (2019) gets its biggest upgrades under the hood. And with the display. This is powered by the A12 Bionic Chip with the Neural Engine—the same as the iPad Air. In fact, this is significantly more powerful than the already very capable A10 Fusion chip that powers the Apple iPad (2018). What do you really say about the powerful A12 Bionic that hasn’t already been said before—the same chip that also powers the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR and the 12.5-inch iPad Pro. This can do as many as 5 trillion machine learning operations per second, and really puts the iPad Mini in an elite company of iOS devices. It is tremendous fun to watch this mini tablet match the latest iPhones when it comes to app load times, switching between apps and even in the split view mode.
While the display size remains the same at 7.9-inches, this is now a Retina Display. That is not all. Apple has kept parity with the iPad Air, and the Mini’s display also gets the P3 colour mode support as well as True Tone feature that automatically tunes the colour temperature of the display in accordance with the ambient light around you to reduce the strain on the eyes. If you are going to actively edit photos on this display, for instance, best to keep this feature turned off—but for the rest of us, this just works brilliantly. All things considered, the screen on this iPad Mini is most certainly nicer than its predecessor. But then again, it had to be. Apple has laminated the display to the glass that covers it, which means there is no gap between the two layers. While this 7.9-inch screen has the same resolution as the larger 9.7-inch display of the iPad (2018), it has more pixels—326ppi as compared with 264ppi.
Just making everything look better isn’t the only thing that this display does well. This is the first time the iPad Mini is supporting the Apple Pencil as well. That’s great news if you want to make the display the canvas for scribbling, doodling, drawing, scribbling notes on or just making observations on PDFs sent by others and moving them along for rework. One of the drawbacks of this sort of convenience is that your colleagues might hate you for the red colored annotations you make on their submissions. But for its size, this is incredibly easy to pick up and start scribbling notes on. As things stand, the iPad Mini works with the first-generation Apple Pencil. To charge this, you will either have to connect it to the Lightning port on the iPad itself, or use the adapter bundled with the Pencil to charge it using your iPhone or iPad’s wall charger. Apple has now clearly separated the two distinct iPad line-ups—the iPad Mini, the iPad and the iPad Air use the first-generation Pencil while the latest iPad Pro devices use the second-generation Pencil.
In terms of battery life, a smaller display coupled with the power enhancements of the latest A12 Bionic chips means Apple estimates that the iPad Mini will last about 10 hours on a single charge of battery. In our usage scenarios, we regularly got close to 12 hours of battery backup before needing to charge it again—this included a mix of web browsing with Apple Music and Spotify streaming in the background, some binge watching on Netflix and Amazon Video, some bit of photo editing and a spot of gaming, with the display at 50 percent brightness and the AirPods connected with it at all times.
All things considered about the latest iPad Mini, this most certainly is a unique proposition. There are no rivals for the iPad Mini—think about it, you will struggle to name one rival that comes even remotely close in terms of the performance or the slickness of iOS. This definitely is a compact and ultraportable tablet that is great at a variety of usage scenarios and is at par in terms of performance with the bigger iPads. But that does pose a question or two. First, if you don’t mind a slightly larger screen size, why wouldn’t you probably go for the iPad Air? And secondly, how much of a difference would it really make if you already have a large screen smartphone? If you find satisfactory answers for either question for your workflow, the iPad Mini is primed and ready for adoption.