Report Card: Apple iPad Mini: The Best “Small” Tablet. Period!

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Apple’s decision to bring the iPad mini back from the seeming dead (we last saw an iPad mini being launched in 2015) was a surprise for many. And the new iPad mini comes with some seriously good hardware as well as support for Apple Pencil. Does that make it worth purchasing? Well, we have been using the iPad mini and here is our report card.

Looks and design: B+
What has changed in the iPad mini? Well, it might have been away for almost four years, but you would be hard pressed to spot any changes in it at first glance. Yes, it remains very compact and smart. But it is essentially the same 7.9-inch display in front with a fingerprint scanner-cum-home button beneath it and metallic back with slightly rounded edges. You can still hold it easily in one hand, and it feels sleek and yet solid – it is a mere 6.1 mm thin and weighs about 300 grammes. But this is the way the iPad mini has always looked. Hence the grade.

Hardware: A+
It might look right out of 2015, but the new iPad mini comes with some very modern hardware muscle. The display is a 7.9 inch True Tone retina one and has a resolution of 2048 x 1536, giving it the highest pixel density (326 ppi) in Apple’s tablet range. It also comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 7-megapixel front-facing camera, as well as second generation Touch ID. But what really works in its favour is the A12 Bionic Chip with neural engine, which is the same as was seen in the excellent iPhone XS and XS Max. There is also support for the Apple Pencil and yes, the same 10-hour battery life that we have grown used to. This is simply the best “small” tablet out there, hardware wise – it is actually the new iPad Air with a smaller display.

Software: A+
The iPad mini like its larger counterparts comes with iOS 12 out of the box, and well, while the jury might be out on whether the iPad can replace a notebook, we can safely say that the software and apps that the iPad mini supports make it the perfect digital notepad. It can pretty much run everything the iPad can, has support for AR and that processor ensures that it will run apps with a degree of comfort for a while. What’s more, given Apple’s track record, we can expect regular software updates for another two-three years at least.

Performance: A
With that sort of hardware, the iPad mini should sail through tech life with ease. And it does. It was able to play all the games and tasks we threw on it without breaking into a sweat, although the display seemed a little too small for. The display is a very good one for reading text and browsing the Web, although those used to the larger iPads might find it a little on the smaller side for gaming and watching films, and might also miss the superior speakers on the Pro range. But all said and done, this is a superb device. Even the cameras are kind of handy for some basic snapping, and the size of the tablet makes it actually possible to use it to take pictures with some comfort. Battery life is excellent: about ten hours, although it does take about three hours to get charged, which is a bit on the slow side.

The Apple Pencil factor: A+
Of course, the big question is how the Apple Pencil (1st generation) performs on the device. It seems just a little slower (barely noticeably so) as compared to its response on the iPad Pros, but we think it is a brilliant addition, especially for those who like to travel on the move. In the larger iPads, you would need to sit down and use the Pencil on the iPad, but with something as compact as the mini, you can actually write on the move, holding the mini in one hand and the Pencil in another. All the Apple Pencil supporting apps for other iPads work on the mini as well. It might be a little too small for those who like sketching, but for those who are interesting in taking notes and making annotations, the iPad mini becomes the perfect scribble book. We still wish there was a better way to charge it rather than sticking it in the lighting port of the iPad mini, and that we could attach it easily to the iPad mini, or that there even was a “mini edition” to the Apple Pencil that was easier to carry, but all things considered, the Apple Pencil works brilliantly on the iPad mini.

Price: A
The iPad mini starts at Rs 34,900 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi model, which makes it perhaps the most affordable high-end tablet out there. Yes, the base model of the iPad is less expensive at Rs 28,00, for the Wi-Fi only model, but that is not only a 32 GB model but also comes with the older A10 processor and does not have a True Tone display, although it is larger in size and it too supports the Apple Pencil. At its current price, the iPad mini offers a lot of tablet magic. Incidentally, the prices of the other models are:

256 GB (Wi-Fi): Rs 48,900
64 GB (Wi-Fi + Cellular): Rs 45,900
256 GB (Wi-Fi + Cellular): Rs 59,900

Final grade: A
If you want a great tablet experience without getting into the iPad Pro zone (Android tablets unfortunately are still rare) and find the normal iPad too big for your requirements, or alternatively just want a compact tablet, the iPad mini is perhaps your best option.  There is very little to complain about – conventional iPad users might find the display a little small, and of course, the decision to stick with the old iPad mini design is a little odd by Apple standards, but we think its ability to fit into a bag easily more than compensates. The best small tablet out there? Easily! Not just because it is very good, but because it has zero competition.

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