IPad mini 2021 Review: Extremely small with a few caveats

Apple’s redesigned iPad mini packs the powerful A15 Bionic into a pleasantly small and super lightweight package, with a few trade-offs.

From time to time, an Apple product evokes a spark of enthusiasm when first used. The first Retina display on the iPhone 4, Face ID on the iPhone X, AirPods, and now the iPad mini evoke the same feeling.

While the style of flat and rounded corners was created with the iPad Pro 2018, something in this design comes to a smaller device that feels futuristic and desirable. Modern iPads are universally thin and light, except for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but the iPad mini takes shape to portable extremes.

The iPad mini may not be a manufacturing power, and its limited-screen real estate can make multitasking awkward, but it shines in a unique way compared to other iPads. Especially Starlight color.

New iPad mini hardware design

The iPad mini now has the same design language as the iPad Air and iPad Pro. Although this iteration of the flat-edged iPad has been around since 2018, it’s fun to see it with an 8.3-inch screen.

Despite its size, the iPad mini feels solid and could probably withstand a fall. Although users are less likely to drop this device, as it can be caught with one hand. This iPad mini is also the lightest iPad in the line, weighing only 293 grams.

The back of the iPad mini 2021 is on the table

We reviewed Starlight color which looks great in a variety of light sources and environments. The iPad mini comes in four color options, Space Gray, Pink, Purple and Starlight, two smaller options than the iPad Air.

There is no Face ID on the iPad mini, but it shares a Touch ID / sleep button combination like on the iPad Air. Coming from an iPad Pro with a Face ID, I sometimes stared at the screen waiting for it to unlock, just to remember that the Touch ID was waiting for my fingerprint.

Due to the small size and the need to dedicate the whole side to wirelessly charging the Apple pen, the volume keys are also located on the top of the device along with the Touch ID. These buttons are unique in that they change function depending on the orientation of the device.

Touch ID sensor on Apple iPad mini

Touch ID on iPad mini

In portrait orientation with the FaceTime camera on top, the right button increases the volume and the left decreases it. Turn the iPad mini upside down, and the keys rotate the function to match the screen orientation.

While the 8.3-inch screen may not sound that much smaller than the 10.9-inch iPad Air screen, the differences in size and weight are significant. A lightweight device like the iPad mini means longer use from the hand, which is a significant advantage for reading, FaceTime calls and various types of field work.

2021 iPad mini – performance

The iPad mini runs the new A15 Bionic with the Neural Engine, the same chip in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. Through Geekbench testing, the iPad mini achieves 1589/4619 in single-core and multi-core. This is slightly lower than the iPhone 13 Pro which has a rating of 1719/4469.

iPad mini next to iPhone with Geekbench ratings

As expected, the iPad mini scores between the iPad Air, which still runs the A14 Bionic, and the M1 iPad Pro. There is no significant difference in performance between the iPad mini and iPad Air during actual use.

In our testing, exporting photos from Lightroom, exporting audio from Ferrito, and video renderings are noticeably slower on the iPad mini compared to the M1 iPad Pro. Depending on your project, this can mean a difference between a few seconds or more of waiting for an app to complete an export.

As with several aspects of the iPad mini, these differences will be most noticeable when compared in parallel. If the iPad mini was your only tablet device, its performance would be more than adequate for all but the most difficult computing tasks.

More tasks on the new iPad mini

Multitasking on the iPad mini also works great. Comparative applications, window scrolling, and access to the Application Switch are fluid and fast. A bigger challenge when multitasking is the limited screen real estate on this pocket device.

The cameras have also been upgraded to the iPad mini, which has a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera on the back, and another 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera. Users can now enable Center Stage on the iPad mini that will automatically scroll and zoom to focus on subjects in the frame.

Apple also brought the central stage to the initial ninth-generation iPad, making the iPad Air the only iPad in the line that doesn’t have an ultra-wide, front-facing camera with this feature.

iPad mini with purple background on the stand

Battery life is good. With moderate use, the new iPad mini will last a day without a hitch. Since a smaller device requires a smaller battery, the iPad mini won’t experience the same longevity as the iPad Air, but is more than suitable for most uses.

The iPad mini also includes two speakers that provide stereo sound when set in landscape orientation. It can’t be compared to the premium sound of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 4-speaker range, but it sounds great for occasional use.

The lightning port on previous iPad mini models has been replaced by a USB-C port compatible with hubs and docks. Like the iPad iPad Pro and iPad Air, users can connect external drives, HDMI displays, and other peripherals using the port.

Home screen on iPad mini with widgets

Liquid Retina display on iPad mini

The iPad mini 8.3-inch Liquid Retina screen has a resolution of 2266 x 1488. Although these measurements are smaller than the iPad Air and iPad Pro, the smaller screen size gives the iPad mini the highest pixel ratio per inch at 326 ppi.

This gives the iPad mini an extremely sharp screen and displays application icons and text in a smaller original size. For the first time since starting to own an iPad, I had to increase the text size by one degree.

Fortunately, iPadOS 15 allows users to adjust the size of text per app, and there’s also a switch to enable larger app icons on the home screen.

iPad mini on a wooden table with plants

Now that the iPhone 13 line includes OLED screens, and the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro has an amazing Liquid Retina XDR screen, the iPad mini screen can look blurry if you look at them side by side. The black levels on the iPad mini cannot be measured with the OLED screens on the iPhone or the mini LED on the iPad Pro.

While not the best display among Apple’s mobile devices, the iPad mini looks great in most scenarios, even outside in bright sunlight. All in all, users will be more than happy with the iPad mini screen as sharp as a razor.

After the iPad mini started hitting users, there were reports of a screen showing “wobbly”. Although the mileage can vary depending on the variations between the eyes of any two people, if you look carefully as you scroll up and down the album list in Apple Music or as you look at the lyrics, the swing is most visible.

Browse Apple Music on iPad mini

In our video review, we were able to capture the fluctuation on the iPad mini, but we noticed a similar effect on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro ProMotion screen. The rocking is less pronounced on the iPad Pro, and most users may never see it, but it certainly exists.

Apple says this happens on all liquid crystal displays, which is somewhat true, given how the LCD works. However, it is more represented on the iPad mini than on other models.

The sensitivity to it, and in that respect, the ability to differentiate between 60Hz and 120Hz in the iPhone 13 Pro models, varies greatly from person to person. Unless users intentionally stare at the iPad mini screen while trying to glide quickly to find a swing, it is likely to go unnoticed in everyday use.

We suggest you try it in person before buying to see if it bothers you.

A device like the iPad mini is perfect for reading. Whether it’s reading Apple news, articles on a website, or an e-book, users should be able to comfortably hold the iPad mini for extended periods of time.

A book by Steve Jobs on the iPad mini

When reading indoors and in a shaded area, the iPad mini screen is superb. Things are getting a little more complicated for those who prefer reading outdoors. The iPad mini is bright enough for most days, even in Florida where we tested it, but the glass front still causes a lot of glare.

For heavy e-book readers, the decision between the new Kindle Paperwhite and the iPad mini is difficult. If users plan to use their reading devices most of the time, for example on the beach or by the pool, the Kindle e-Ink screen cannot be beat. In addition, the new Kindle is hundreds of dollars cheaper.

iPad mini next to Kindle Paperwhite

iPad mini vs. Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle, on the other hand, is a multi-purpose device. If you plan to anything otherwise with your tablet the iPad mini wins. For all but persistent outdoor e-book users, the iPad mini would be a great reading device.

Wireless connection

The iPad mini can be purchased with 5G mobile data support for an additional $ 150. Unlike the iPhone 12 and later models, or the M1 iPad Pro, the iPad mini does not support mmWave 5G speeds.

Each iPad mini supports Wi-Fi 6 with simultaneous dual-band and speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, just like the iPad Air and iPad Pro.


Due to the size of the iPad mini, Apple does not offer a Magic Keyboard. Instead, users can pair any Bluetooth keyboard, trackpad, or mouse with the device.

If there’s one accessory you need to get with the iPad mini, it’s Apple’s second-generation pen (available on Amazon). Using Scribble, Apple’s handwriting feature in text, users can easily take notes, fill out forms, and even search Safari.

Apple Pencil also turns the iPad mini into a sketchbook, graphic design tool or podcast editing machine. While a smaller screen can make some of these tasks a bit tedious, the iPad mini can solve them all.

Close-up of an iPad mini camera on a bookshelf

Smart case made of dark cherry

There’s also a front-facing Smart Folio case that comes in five colors, English lavender, dark cherry, electric orange, white and black. The Smart Folio, which costs $ 59, not only protects the iPad mini, but can also be folded down and make the stand perfect for watching from the table.

Who should buy an iPad mini?

Comparing this to the $ 139 Kindle Paperwhite is hard to swallow for e-book readers. If reading books is your primary use for a new tablet, consider new Kindle devices that include USB-C charging and an adjustable warm light display.

Starlight iPad mini on the outdoor table by the lake

If you don’t already own an iPad of any kind, the issue of buying an iPad mini is more complex. Given properties with small screens, their use as a device for productivity is limited.

Users who want to buy theirs first The iPad might need to consider the iPad Air. While it may lack some features like Center Stage, 5G mobile data and has a one-year A14 Bionic processor, the larger screen and compatibility with the Magic Keyboard make it a better combination for work and play.

The iPad mini is a great option for those who already own a larger iPad, especially if it’s a few years old and want a smaller, portable device. It will be difficult to surpass the iPad mini feature set when used to complement other devices or specialized use cases, such as heavy passengers or those working in the field.

Plus, it’s just fun to use and a pleasure to keep.

  • Very light and portable
  • Capable A15 Bionic chip
  • Sharp, liquid mesh screen
  • USB-C port
  • Beautiful design
  • Boring multitasking
  • “Jelly scroll” can, but doesn’t have to make a difference to you
  • High price compared to the initial iPad
  • No face identification
  • Not ideal for outdoor reading

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

AppleInsider readers can save on any new model in the iPad mini 2021 Pricing Guide, with instant savings and exclusive discounts at your fingertips.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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