Compact in size but not in price, speed and iPadOS 15 puts mini in class of its own

Apple’s iPad mini gets its first total overhaul with an all-new modern design, bigger screen, brilliant video call camera and lots of power for 2021. But being Apple’s smallest doesn’t make it the cheapest. The iPad mini starts at £479 ($499/$A749), sitting above the standard £319 iPad and below the £579 iPad Air. This is the first time since the mini’s launch in 2012 that it has seen a big physical change, inheriting the flat sides, thinner bezels and “all-screen” design first introduced with the iPad Pro in 2018 and which have been trickling down the order ever since.

The new mini is essentially the 2020 iPad Air hit with a shrink ray. It has the same home button-less look, Touch ID fingerprint reader in the power button, USB-C for power and a great set of stereo speakers, just with a screen that is only 8.9in on the diagonal compared with 10.9in on the Air. The display is super-crisp and bright, with excellent viewing angles and low reflectivity, which makes using it in direct light easier. It is a delightful size, about the same as a Moleskine notebook, and only weighs 293g, meaning you can easily hold it with one hand for reading, note-taking or watching video.

The iPad mini is one of the first devices to ship with Apple’s A15 Bionic processor, alongside the iPhone 13. Benchmarking shows similar processor performance to last year’s A14 in the iPad Air, but with faster graphics. As such, the iPad mini is one of the most powerful tablets you can buy and performs excellently all round. The battery lasts just over 10 hours when watching streaming video over wifi or a mix of browsing, emailing and light app use. Playing graphically intensive games or streaming over 5G will reduce the battery life, however. That’s still more than enough to get through a commute or most flights.