iPads are real unicorns as tech products. The global tablet market has been shrinking for years but iPad sales haven’t really slowed down. This shows how committed the demand is, the size of the market, and moreover, Apple’s monopoly in the space between smartphones and laptops. The iPad Mini (2019), more commonly known as the iPad Mini 5 is the newest member of the iPad family, launched silently last month. But at a size of 7.9-inches diagonally, does it deserve a space on your desk?
Launched alongside the iPad Air (2019), this little one retails starting at INR 34,900 with our review unit being the top-of-the-line LTE variant with 256GB of storage, which goes for a hefty INR 55,900. Based on what you can make of the awkward space between the portability of a smartphone and the productivity of a laptop, the iPad Mini could either be your only option, or an entirely unnecessary addition to your arsenal. For those falling into the former sample space, here’s what you need to know about the latest Apple iPad Mini.
The design is the most unimpressive part of this tablet. Reminiscent of the design introduced almost 6 years ago, it retains the thick bezels on all sides, a pretty bland back and a wide 3:4 display. If you’ve seen any past iPad, you’ve seen them all. The cellular variant also has antenna lines along the top edge, which the WiFi-only variant skips. The entire metal body feels plenty premium and is pretty slim. The power button and the volume rockers are all on the top-right corner. The bottom has two speakers, unlike the four on the Pro series. They are very loud even in noisy environments
Amidst those fat bezels, we get a 7.9-inch 2,048 x 1,536 Retina LCD panel. True Tone technology makes the cut too, which adjusts the display temperature, according to the environment. I’d prefer an OLED panel, but that’s going to take a while to come from Apple. The resolution was more than sufficient for everything, but the aspect ratio might not be everyone’s preference. For text content like webpages or news, this is perfect. But for videos or non-adapted games, you will be left with letterboxing on either side of the content, which kills the immersion. The 500 nits of max brightness was always more than adequate too. Most smartphones don’t match that output, and this is a tablet that you probably won’t be using when you are out and about, or under direct sunlight.
Under the hood, the iPad Mini is powered by the A12 Bionic chipset, which is the same as the latest iPhones. Needless to say, the performance was top-notch! Not a single lag or stutter in sight. The UI always flows consistently and smoothly. Even for the heaviest of game titles, the graphics processing could take care of anything thrown at it. This is one department where Apple is leaps ahead of Android.
The credit is also due to iOS, keeping everything glued together. iOS 12 brings great system-wide optimizations to remain slick throughout. As for usability, there is a slight learning curve for anyone who’s been a part of the Apple ecosystem. Everyone else will feel right at home. Honestly, I feel that iOS needs to be tweaked to be more usable on a tablet and make better use of the screen real estate. The most you get is the ability to have more than one app open at the same time. Apple has their reasons to not let iOS get in striking range of MacOS, and we will have to live with that.
The cameras are decent and will get the job done for instances when you absolutely need to use the camera on your tablet. Yes, you will still look silly trying to use it in public, but could save you in case of emergency document scanning needs. The 7-megapixel front camera was above average and groups video calls with that big screen are pretty enjoyable.
This thin slate has really stellar battery life and knowing that most people will use it as a secondary device, it could very well last multiple days. Apple quotes 10 hours of screen-on-time with light to moderate use, and I feel that is achievable. What I hate are the charging times. The included 12W charger takes a good 3-4 hours to reach the full tank, which is just dumb for a device this expensive in 2019.
My experience with the iPad Mini was exactly how I expected it to be. Good in terms of performance and battery life, underwhelming in terms of software and the pricing will be off-putting for most people. But for those who are neck-deep in the Apple ecosystem, and have the need for a device where a phone is too tiny, the iPad is practically a no-brainer. It faces literally no competition, in this price segment, or size. In lines with my opening thoughts, Apple has a crazy monopoly in the tablet space and the iPad Mini could be the best option for those who need it.
But as easy as it is for me to dismiss the utility of tablets, thanks to amazing big-screen smartphones, I’d be lying if I said that this viewing experience was not enjoyable. Yes, it is not perfect, but the form factor is promising. Maybe that is why so many manufacturers are now shifting their focus to foldable smartphones, which can act as part-time tablets.