6th Generation iPad mini: A Review

iPad mini 6th Generation

Everyone has their own approaches to working, communicating, and ways of relaxing in their off time. Some people prefer to watch TV shows or movies, while others prefer video games, and yet others prefer to read. Of course this all depends on the mood that one is in and what other obligations they may have. 

One of the things that happens when someone watches a TV show or a movie is they tend to have a device with them, I know I am one of those people. As I write this I am watching an episode of a mini-series. What device I use depends on what I am doing at the time. If I am re-playing a video game, I typically have a podcast or audiobook going while I am playing. If I am re-watching a TV show, or watching a TV show that does not require all of my attention, say a show like House Hunters International, I might be using my MacBook Pro or iPhone. If I am using my MacBook Pro I am likely writing a blog post, writing a review, or just browsing social media. If I am not using my MacBook Pro, it is entirely possible that I am using my iPad Pro to perform some of the same tasks, or even possibly playing a game like Sudoku.

At their “California Streaming” event Apple announced an update to the iPad mini. When it was announced I had not initially planned on buying one. The reasons why are two fold. First, I bought a new iPad Pro back in May when they were announced. Secondly, I was not sure where an iPad mini would fit into the things that I do. 

I have owned a few iPads since the introduction of the original 9.7-inch iPad in 2010, I have owned four 9.7-inch iPads and four 12.9-inch iPad Pros, but I have never actually owned an iPad mini. I went back and forth on whether or not to buy one. In the end I did decide to purchase one. Specifically, I decided to get a 64GB Space Gray Wi-Fi only iPad mini.

6th Generation iPad mini box
6th Generation iPad mini box

My decision for getting an iPad mini is two-fold. Firstly, having a device that is mostly dedicated to development of my app, wwriteLIte, could be quite handy. With this, the iPad mini has its own challenges when it comes to developing for the device. Secondly, when I am writing my books, it would be nice to have a device that can be on the previous version of iPadOS. Normally when Apple announces a new version of iOS, I install it on my iPad Pro, iPhone, and MacBook Pro on day one. I do this so I can get used to the operating system and its features and then I can write about all of the new features with actual experience. 

When I have written my books in the past, including my latest book, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, tvOS 15, and watchOS 8 for Users, Administrators, and Developers, I have had access to multiple iPhones which has allowed me to easily compare between previous versions of iOS and the latest version. However, I have not had the same access for iPadOS. Having this iPad mini can help me with this.

There are a number of specific items to cover in this iPad mini review, including the Size, Touch ID, Connectivity, and the Smart Folio case, but first, let us look at some specs.

Specs

When I do a review, I normally do not write about the specs that a device has. The reason for this is because in many respects it does not have a significant effect on the overall experience. The only exception to this is the amount of storage on a device, because the more storage space, the more you can have on a device. I will not go into depth about all of the specs, but I think it is a good idea to list do a comparison between the 5th Generation iPad mini and the new 64th generation iPad mini. The items listed are only the items that have changed.

  5th Gen 6th Gen
Processor A12 Bionic A15 Bionic
Screen 7.9-inches 8.3-inches
Resolution 2048×1536 2266×1448
Camera 8 MP ƒ/2.4 aperture 12 MP ƒ/1.8 aperture
Digital Zoom 5x
Flash Quad-LED True Tone
Panorama 43 Megapixels 63 Megapixels
Video (Maximum) 1080p @ 30fps 4K @ 24, 25, 30, 60fps
FaceTime 7MP ƒ/2.2 12MP, ƒ/2.4
Apple Pencil 1st generation 2nd generation

The iPad mini is not updated nearly as often as the other iPad models, so when it does receive an update, it is usually a pretty big one. That is the case with the upgrade from the 5th generation iPad mini to the 6th generation iPad mini.

Size

The iPad mini, as the name indicates, is a smaller iPad than the standard iPad. It is actually the smallest iPad. The physical dimensions of the 6th generation iPad mini are 7.69 inches, or 195.4mm, tall, by 5.3 inches, or 134.8mm, wide, and 0.25 inches, or 6.3mm, thin. The 6th generation iPad mini is slightly shorter than the previous versions, which were 8 inches tall.

The bezels around the iPad mini, just the like iPad Pro, are equal on each of the four sides. This has allowed for a different screen size. The first five iterations of the iPad mini had a screen size of 7.9-inches. Due to the change in bezels, this has resulted in a change to the size of the screen. The new screen size, with the change in dimensions of the device, and the new equal width bezels results in a new screen size of 8.3-inches. More screen real estate in a similar form factor is always welcome.

5th Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 6th Generation iPad mini, and iPhone 13 Pro Max stacked on one another.
5th Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 6th Generation iPad mini, and iPhone 13 Pro Max stacked on one another.

The equally sized bezels has resulted in another change, the home button has been removed. With the 5th generation iPad mini and earlier models, the home button also included the Touch ID sensor. Let us look at Touch ID.

Touch ID

Apple devices have always been able to be secured with a passcode or passphrase. This security is needed to be able to protect the data on your device. If you use a simple passcode, unlocking your device does not take too much effort. However, if you use a long passphrase it can become cumbersome to have to continually enter in your passphrase. One thing that would be much easier would be to use some sort of biometric authentication on your device. This is exactly what Touch ID is intended to do.

Touch ID was first introduced with the iPhone 5s in 2013. iPads have had Touch ID since 2014 when it was introduced with they iPad Air 2. This means that the first iPad mini to get Touch ID was the iPad mini 3rd generation which was released in 2015. The 6th generation iPad mini no longer has a home button, but it does not have Face ID either, yet it still supports Touch ID authentication. But now instead of being a dedicated button it is now integrated directly the Sleep/Wake button, just like the iPad Air.

Having Touch ID in the sleep/wake button is convenient enough. But, I would be lying if I said that I sometimes forget that I have to actually have to place my finger on the Touch ID sensor. The reason for this is because I have become very accustomed to having Face ID on my devices. Face ID was introduced with the iPhone X in 2017 and made its way to the iPad Pros in 2018 with the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad Pro. 

If you are used to using Face ID to unlock your iPhone or iPad Pro, you may end up having to retrain your brain to actually use the Touch ID button on the top of the iPad mini to unlock it, authorize payments, or other tasks. You can, of course, still enter in your passcode if you forget about Touch ID, but this may not be nearly as convenient if you have a longer passphrase.

Now, let us look at how you can make connections with the iPad mini.

Connectivity

As mentioned earlier, the iPad mini is a similar form factor as the iPad Air, and in many ways can be thought of as such. One of the changes with the 6th generation iPad mini is that it no longer has a lightning connection. Instead, it now uses a USB-C connection. 

Th USB-C connection can be used for charging, or connecting to devices. The USB-C to USB-C included in the box is a USB-C to USB-C cable, as well as a 20-watt USB-C power brick. As is the case with the iPad Air and iPad Pro, you can use the USB-C port on the iPad mini to plug in external drives, like the thumb drives, external hard drives, or any other mass storage device. You can also use any other device, like a Mac or iPad Pro to charge an iPad mii.

No modern device is without the ability to connect via Wi-Fi. The iPad mini is able to connect to via 802.11AX, or more commonly known as Wi-Fi 6. This is the latest Wi-Fi standard available. I did not get a cellular model, but if you do opt for a cellular model you will get 5G connectivity, so you can use your 5G connection on the go if you need to.

Being able to connect using Wi-Fi, which is a necessity, while using the USB-C connection for connecting to a Mac or iPad, or using it to connect to external devices, could be useful for those who need to do so. Next, let us take a look at the Camera.

Camera

One area where the iPad mini has significantly improved is the camera. As outlined above in the specs table, the camera has gone from an 8 Megapixel ƒ/2.4 aperture to a 12 Megapixel  12 Megapixel ƒ/1.8 aperture camera. In terms of cameras, the lower the aperture the more light that can enter into the lens. The more light that can enter the lenses the better the quality due to less noise being within the pictures.

Is the iPad mini camera as good as an iPhone, actually yes, albeit it is not as good as the latest iPhone Pro Max, but the iPad mini camera has the same specs as the Wide-Angle camera on the iPhone X, so it can take decent pictures.

Low light photo taken with a 6th generation iPad mini
Low light photo taken with a 6th Generation iPad mini
Low light photo taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max
Low light photo taken with an iPhone 13 Pro Max
Low light photo taken with an iPhone 7 Plus
Low light photo taken with an iPhone 7 Plus

The rear camera can take 4K video, at 24, 25, 30, or 60 frames per second. This means that you can use the iPad mini to take some decent video. The fact that it can handle 24 frames per second means that you can shoot movie quality video on the device. 

There is no optical zoom on the iPad mini, but none of the iPad mini models have had optical zoom. Instead, there is a 5X digital zoom on the 6th Generation iPad mini, which is good in a pinch, but given that it is a digital zoom it will introduce significant noise and distortion when you attempt to take a picture.

Let us now turn to one option for a case for the iPad mini, the Smart Folio.

Smart Folio

The iPad mini does not need a case, but I like to protect the devices I purchase. So I picked up a Smart Folio for the iPad mini. Much like how I typically go for black, space gray, or graphite for an iPhone. I would normally go with a similar color for a case or cover as Its the iPad mini. However, the Smart Folio from Apple was backordered by two weeks. Instead I had to order one from Amazon. They only had two colors in stock, White and Electric Orange. Knowing that the White one would likely get dirty fairly quickly, as well as wanting to make sure I had a cover for it, I opted to get the Electric Orange.

Electric Orange 6th Generation iPad mini Smart Folio
Electric Orange 6th Generation iPad mini Smart Folio

Purchasing a brightly colored accessory, whether it be a cover, case, or watch band is definitely out character for me. The color combination of the Electric Orange with the Space Gray is a decent combination. It is definitely not possible for me to mistake the iPad mini with its bright Electric Orange color with any other device I have.

The Smart Folio attaches to the iPad mini via magnets along the back of the iPad mini. The Smart Folio cover is divided into three sections. The division of the Smart Folio allows you to position the iPad in two different positions. You can fold the Smart Folio on itself to  create a stand. You can either have the iPad standing at a slight angle or you can have it laying down. Which direction you want to have it depends on what you are doing at the moment. 

There is one additional feature option with the Smart Folio. If you fold the Smart Folio into a stand, you can use the Smart Folio as a way to hold the iPad mini. And given that the iPad mini is very light so you can comfortably hold it with the Smart Folio for a while.

Lastly, you can also fold the Smart Folio back on itself so it can be held or placed on a surface and used while playing a game, reading, or watching a tv show or movie.

Other Thoughts

A lot of features of the iPad mini have been covered, but there are a couple of other quick thoughts on some other aspects of the iPad mini.

Typing on the iPad mini

One thing that can be difficult on the iPad mini is typing. At least this is the case if you are used to typing on a normal size keyboard. When you are using the iPad mini in landscape mode, the keyboard takes up half the screen. While this does make the keyboard larger, I do not know if it makes it easier to type on. 

However, if you hold the iPad mini in portrait view, you can more easily type with your thumbs. Even with this though, it is definitely not like typing on an iPhone, at least not when it comes to typing at the same speed. With an iPhone, including the iPhone Pro Max, I can type very easily. With the iPad mini I have to stretch my thumbs in order to hit the keys in the middle of the keyboard, like T, Y, G, H, B, and N.

Apple Pencil

The 5th Generation iPad mini line introduced support for the 1st generation Apple Pencil. The 6th Generation iPad mini still supports the Apple Pencil, but now it is the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. This brings some great functionality, like not needing to have a separate charger or remembering to keep your Apple Pencil charged. This is because the Apple Pencil will charge magnetically while connected to the iPad mini. This ultimately means that the Apple Pencil will always be ready to go.

The Apple Pencil takes up the entire height of the iPad mini, which necessitated the volume up and down buttons being moved, and subsequently being placed on the same side as the Power/Touch ID button.

Benchmarks

Even though specifications do not necessarily means a whole lot due to such a variety of usages. Even so, it is good to have a comparison to other similar products and the best way to do that is provide benchmarks.

These benchmarks were done using the latest version of Geekbench 5.

Device Single Core Multi Core Geekbench ML
M1 Mac Mini (Late 2020) 1753 7758 N/A
iPhone 13 Pro Max 1739 4691 2744
12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 1703 7316 2700
iPad mini (6th Gen) 1603 4543 2543
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1593 3726 2469
iPhone X 930 2445 446
iPhone 7 Plus 768 1397 419
iPod Touch (7th Gen) 565 1077 308
iPod Touch (6th Gen) 278 533 N/A
iPhone 5s 259 498 N/A

Now that we have covered the major things that I wanted to cover, there are a few other small things that I want to mention.

Overall Thoughts

The iPad mini is an interesting device. It is a small and compact device, but it is not small on performance. The A15 Bionic is the latest in Apple’s processor line up, so it can handle almost anything you throw at it. Even though the cameras do not match the quality of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it is not a problem because it is still quite capable for a variety of needs.

The fact that can pair it with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, you can use it with QuickNote or just to draw on the iPad mini. And since it supports the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, you can simply attach it to the iPad and it will both pair and charge.

The physical size of the iPad mini is a great one for both size and weight. You can easily hold it in one hand, with or without a Smart Folio cover, for extended periods of time. The physical size of the iPad mini is really nice and the 5% larger screen in the approximate same size as the previous iPad minis.

The integration of Touch ID in the power button has been an adjustment for me coming from devices that have Face ID. I have become so accustomed to turning on a device and having Face ID authorize, that I sometimes think the iPad mini is broken until I remember that I have to unlock it myself.

Even though the iPad mini is small, it is still a great device that might be a good fit for your usage, particularly if you want to use it for reading or even browsing the internet. The combination of the size and weight make it a light and easily portable device. Overall, you cannot go wrong with the iPad mini.