The iPad mini 6 is Apple‘s latest foray into the small tablet niche, but as an upgrade over the iPad mini 5, did Apple do enough to justify this latest generation? The iPad lineup is in a healthy place in 2021. The baseline iPad offers easy access into the ecosystem at a low price, the iPad Air adds a modernized design without breaking the bank, the iPad mini offers the iPad experience in a compact form factor, and the iPad Pro is the go-to machine for someone who wants the most power possible.
Apple first introduced the iPad mini in October 2012, and for a few years, it was a regular member of the family — receiving yearly updates through September 2015. Following the iPad mini 4, however, Apple took a four-year hiatus with no iPad mini in sight. The tablet eventually returned in 2019 with the iPad mini 5, offering a new chipset, display, Apple Pencil support, and $399 price tag. Fast forward to 2021, and the iPad mini 5 has been replaced with the iPad mini 6. It’s sleeker, more powerful, has a heap of new features, and ramps up the starting price to a hefty $499. For someone who’s still rocking their iPad mini 5 and intrigued by this latest model, does the iPad mini 6 do enough to justify the upgrade?
The advantages of the new iPad mini are seen immediately, starting with the design. Gone are the huge bezels and home button and present is an all-screen design with a Touch ID sensor embedded in the power button. It’s the same general form factor as the iPad Air, just smaller. Also, despite having virtually identical dimensions as its predecessor (195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3mm for iPad mini 6, 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1mm for iPad mini 5), the iPad mini 6 has a larger 8.3-inch display over the previous 7.9-inch size.
Another key advantage of the iPad mini 6 is its processor. While the A12 Bionic chip in the iPad mini 5 is decent, the A15 Bionic powering the iPad mini 6 is better in every way. It has a 40 percent faster CPU, 80 percent more capable GPU, and an enhanced Neural Engine that can handle machine learning tasks twice as fast as before. Whether someone’s doing a lot of photo editing or playing graphically intense games, the increased power of the iPad mini 6 is nothing to scoff at. The A15 also allows for optional 5G connectivity, which is a notable upgrade over the 4G LTE speeds of the iPad mini 5.
These upgrades continue in the camera department. The rear camera goes from an 8MP sensor to a 12MP one, has an improved f/1.8 aperture instead of f/2.4, and brings Smart HDR 3 for better colors than the old Auto HDR system. Where things get even more exciting is with the front-facing camera. Similar improvements are present here as well. The resolution jumps from 7MP up to 12MP, and Smart HDR 3 replaces Auto HDR. The real star of the show, however, is Center Stage. Just like the 2021 iPad Pro, the front-facing camera on the iPad mini 6 can automatically pan and follow people around during video calls to ensure they’re always in the frame. With many folks still relying on Zoom and FaceTime for certain things, having an enhanced video chat experience like this should not go unnoticed. Rounding out the iPad mini 6 are a few smaller yet equally important changes. It ditches the old Lightning port in favor of USB-C, works with the 2nd gen Apple Pencil instead of the 1st gen model, supports 4K video recording, and upgrades the old Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standard to Wi-Fi 6.
In short, there’s a lot going on with the iPad mini 6. Compared to the iPad mini 5, it has a larger and more modern display, substantially faster performance, vastly improved cameras, and more. The $499 asking price isn’t ideal, but considering all of the upgrades on the table, these are legitimate reasons why someone may want to upgrade. Unless you don’t have the cash to spend right now, the iPad mini 6 is a fantastic little tablet to pick up — even for someone who already has its predecessor.
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