Here’s how the new iPad Mini compares to the last-gen model

The iPad Mini (2021) is the latest in Apple’s line of smaller tablets.
Image: Apple
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With the announcement and impending release of the new iPad Mini and its revamped design, it might be all too easy to stan the new model and completely write off its predecessor. While the new model has a lot to offer — namely a larger screen, faster processor, refined design akin to the 2020 iPad Air, and a USB-C port — it also has a quality that is not so desirable: a higher introductory price.

The iPad Mini line has been notoriously discount-immune over the years, possibly because of its specialized position in the market and lack of competition. The outgoing iPad Mini only recently started receiving significant discounts, falling to $300 soon before the new model was announced, but it started at $399 from the get-go. The new iPad Mini starts at $499 before you add anything further, like extra storage or 5G connectivity.

So let’s go over what makes the new iPad Mini different, and if it merits the $200 price premium over its two-year-old predecessor.

The new iPad Mini for 2021 packs more screen and modern design in a diminutive size.
Image: Apple

What’s improved on the 2021 iPad Mini?

The showstopper for the new iPad Mini is its screen, now an 8.3-inch display. It may not sound like a massive difference compared to the 7.9-inch display on the 2019 model, but the new tablet is actually a touch shorter while squeezing in a larger screen. More screen real estate and smaller bezels in nearly the same footprint is generally a good thing that makes everyone happy.

As for processing power, the new iPad Mini features the same brand-new A15 Bionic chip you’ll find in the iPhone 13 lineup, with five GPU cores like the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. (That’s one more than the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini.) Apple claims the new chip gives the Mini a maxi performance boost, with 40 percent CPU gains and 80 percent GPU gains over the older A12 Bionic in the outgoing model. There’s talk of it not being clocked quite as fast as the A15 processor of the iPhone 13, but that remains to be confirmed and the improvements over the previous iPad Mini are likely noticeable.

A 12MP ultrawide front camera replaces the 7MP selfie cam from 2019. More resolution on the front camera may not sound like the most important thing in the world, but the big appeal should be that the new iPad Mini supports Center Stage for keeping you centered during video calls. The quality has also been improved — while still 1080p, it has improved dynamic range with more frame rate options for video and Smart HDR 3 for photos.

As for the rear camera, there are similar resolution and recording gains with a 12MP sensor and brighter f/1.8 aperture, replacing the prior 8MP @ f/2.4. The faster aperture should be helpful in low light, and for when it’s way too dark there’s now a quad-LED True Tone flash where the 2019 model had no flash at all. On the video side, the new model is the first in the iPad Mini line to offer 4K video recording at up to 60fps.

The new iPad Mini comes in four colorways: space gray, purple, pink, and starlight.
Image: Apple

The latest iPad Mini now aligns with the iPad Pros and 2020 iPad Air by replacing the Lightning connector with USB-C. Apple spoke extensively of the flexibility that USB-C brings to the iPad Mini, even though for some reason the new iPhone doesn’t receive the same treatment. This offers more versatility for charging and connecting devices, such as full-size cameras or game controllers. You also get the faster 20-watt USB-C charger in the box, while even a $1,600 iPhone 13 Pro Max does not come with a charging brick at all.

This charging design is still bad, and it should feel bad.

The iPad Mini line became compatible with the first-gen Apple Pencil in 2019, awkward charging method and all. With the new iPad Mini, you don’t need to leave it sticking out the side: it supports the newer second-gen Pencil, which can wirelessly charge while it magnetically docks to the tablet’s side rail. It’s a much more slick and seamless way of getting more functionality out of this little tablet. If you also want to add a keyboard to the mix, there are wireless Bluetooth options.

Lastly, the cellular-equipped configurations of the new iPad Mini are 5G-compatible where the predecessor only has LTE. As for if 5G truly gets you faster speeds, well, you know the drill. But whether you achieve those faster speeds or not, having a mobile connection on such a portable device is convenient. A 5G iPad Mini (2021) will run you an additional $150, pushing the price to $649 (before carrier fees). Ouch. At least all 2021 iPad Mini configurations have Wi-Fi 6, allowing for faster speeds at home.

iPad Mini (2021, Wi-Fi)

  • $500

Apple’s revamped iPad Mini ditches the home button and opts for a larger, edge-to-edge display that’s reminiscent of last year’s iPad Air. It also comes outfitted with a faster processor, support for USB-C, and a top-mounted power button that moonlights as a Touch ID sensor.

iPad Mini (2021, Wi-Fi + cellular, 64GB)

  • $649

The new iPad Mini with 5G compatibility adds a new level of mobility to an already attractive tablet that’s quite portable thanks to its small size.

What’s the same on both models?

As I mentioned earlier, the screen is the standout of the new model, but you should keep in mind that the pixel density is the same on both. The 2021 iPad Mini has a resolution of 2266 x 1488 and the 2019 iPad Mini has a 2048 x 1536 panel, which both translate to 326 ppi. So both screens should look equally sharp, though the 2021 model is giving you more screen real estate. Also, both screens are laminated, unlike the base-model iPad, so the pixels should look like they come right up to the cover glass.

Another similarity is storage capacity. The new and old models both start with 64GB of storage and can be outfitted with 256GB for an additional $150. This might be a disappointment for some, especially given the iPhone 13 models doubled their base storage to 128GB this year, though. You may want to do some personal bookkeeping and see how much storage you currently use before paying extra.

The new iPad Mini’s Touch ID sensor is now in the power button, opposite the volume buttons on the top rail.
Image: Apple

What about software, though? Well, there’s not a whole lot to say. The new iPad Mini will ship with iPadOS 15, and the 2019 model will be eligible to upgrade on September 20th. The only main difference between the two tablets is the new model’s reliance on more gesture-based controls, due to its removal of the home button that is still present on the 2019 model. Since the new model ditched the home button, its Touch ID fingerprint sensor is built into the sleep/power button on the top — which is also where the volume buttons are located.

The outgoing iPad Mini (2019) still has some merits in 2021, especially if you’re on a budget.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Why might you stick with the 2019 iPad Mini?

iPad Mini (2019, 64GB, Wi-Fi)

  • $360
  • $400
  • 11% off

The 2019 iPad Mini features the same 7.9-inch display as its predecessors, but it includes an A12 Bionic processor, the same one used in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR generation.

The outgoing iPad Mini still has more than a few great things going for it. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is frankly depressing to lose on the new model. All tablets — even mini ones — should have enough room for a headphone jack, but that’s a rant for another time. The 2019 iPad Mini also has the classic physical home button on its front, complete with Touch ID. The gesture controls of newer Apple products may not be for everyone, and there are still many who love the clicky home button. There’s no shame in picking up a 2019 iPad Mini in the year 2021 because you value these things.

After all that, there’s the consideration of pricing. Slightly aged tech always has the added benefit of discounted prices before they’re no longer available. With the jump in price of the new iPad Mini, a $200 price delta is nothing to balk at. The 2021 iPad Mini has priced itself nearly into 2020 iPad Air territory, and there are good arguments to be made for why you should maybe consider the Air instead.

But if you’re in the market for a small tablet, the choice is primarily between these old and new iPad Minis. Like I mentioned, there’s not much competition in this space, which is why discounts have not always been common. The outgoing model should still have years of updates in store for it, and there’s a wide ecosystem of compatible accessories — most likely also with cheaper prices attached to them. We’ll have a full review of the iPad Mini in the weeks to come, and we’ll see if its new features justify the higher price.

Comments

I want one even though I have absolutely no need for it, it’s just a great looking form factor. That said what the hell is apple doing with their colour line up? This come comes in starlight but not midnight, but retains space grey? A crumb of consistency please

Apple is all over the place with its colors of late. I like the new green on the Apple Watch, but I wish I could get it for the phone too. No purple either which was the best option available for the 12!

Honestly between the iMac, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch and AirPod Max (ie. their newest products) it’s virtually
Impossible to get them all in the same colour. There’s some crossover but more than 2 products you’re out of luck.

Miss the days of just being able to get being able to get everything in space grey (not that it stayed the same).

Everything in one color reminds me of couples that go on a hike in a twins outfit. Both are wearing the same Northface rain jacket in the same color, same boots …

I understand the urge to have a neat lineup, to keep things simple in life. But instead of being worried about it, I decided to embrace this diversity. There’s a Japanese philosophy about too much perfection, and how it ruins the beauty in life. It’s okay (and maybe even better) if all gray things from Apple don’t match perfectly.

I think, that’s kind of the point. I don’t agree with it, but it seems obvious that Apple wants you to have multiple products in different colors, rather than the same. Having a blue watch, red phone, space grey iPad, green Mac. It seems as though they are more interested in making your life full of different colors, than allowing you to choose a hue that suits your style. There is also an (weak) argument to be made for "special editions" whereby certain colors in certain years can stand out from the crowd as the newest and latest that wasn’t available last year. This does stand out more in an ever-incremental product that has nearly no distinct visible differences each year. Shipping these items in limited edition colors each year also cuts down on the number that sit on the shelf because people only want it in their color.

The colors help differentiate the latest model from previous models, and also reflect that these devices (not just iPad but various Apple devices) are also aspirational and fashionable and all that.

As for this iPad, I want one but I don’t need it. And that $200 is justified in the many, many upgrades over the previous model.

Speaking of storage in particular, I’ve heard others say, and I’ve experienced, that you don’t need as much storage on iPad as you do iPhone because you’re usually not using it for the things that take up a lot of space, namely photos/videos. It’s possible you could need the space if you want to download a bunch of content to watch on a plane or something, but it’s still manageable. For larger iPads that are more about content creation than consumption, more space makes sense, especially because you may need better storage I/O speed and not just capacity. But for this thing, I wouldn’t feel any need to go more than 64GB since I’m not going to do anything on it that’ll need more than that.

I think your take on storage is highly defined by the intended purpose of the iPad. I for one, highly utilize cloud storage and always go for the smallest storage option available to me. However, these devices are increasing used by professionals who could be using these as anything from photo editing devices to video monitors during production. As these step up their cameras and start shooting in RAW ProRes, that’s really going to chew up storage fast. One of the key differentiators Apple made on these new models, is that the lowest storage option can only shoot 1080p ProRes, reserving the 4K ProRes for higher capacity models. This is likely because the higher capacity NVMe’s feature faster storage.

I dunno, my music library alone is about 100GB. And if you’re taking a tablet on a plane, you still want stuff like that stored locally.

Personally, I would never recommend anyone buy a 64GB tablet unless it’s for a very specialized purpose where you’re only going to be using a couple of apps and they aren’t media-related at all.

Hey Verge,

13:34 in the Apple Event video shows "anti-reflective coating" as a feature of the new iPad Mini, but you don’t mention it in this article. The coating is presumably a separate feature from the laminated screen, which you do mention.

Could you let us know whether an anti-reflective coating is new for the iPad Mini screen? It’s a huge plus not to have one’s iPad perennially functioning as 80% movie screen, and 20% mirror.

Apple’s site lists both models as having anti-reflective coatings, with no indication of anything different about it between the two models.

On the screen size, the new one is slightly more narrow, correct? Specs are:

iPad Mini 6 – 2266 × 1488

iPad Mini 5 – 2048 × 1536

Will be very curious to see if that makes any difference. Seems like an improvement for landscape videos, but how are text and websites affected in portrait orientation?

As stated in the article, the pixel density is unchanged.

He’s not talking about pixel density, he’s talking about aspect ratio.

I own a 2019 iPad Mini. My iCloud label for it is "e-Reader" because that’s its primary function: books and web browsing (and an unhealthy amount of bedside YouTube). The only thing about this new iPad that is attractive is the USB-C port, since I wouldn’t need a multi port cable to charge it, my iPad Pro, and my Sony MDX3000s. That’s not worth $500 to me. Which, I gotta say, feels like a grift after the previous versions already starting at a steep $399, which is more expensive and gives you a smaller screen than the base model $329 iPad.

Apple actually introduced this model using ForeFlight and then mentioned aviation several times during the presentation. I believe Apple’s finally recognized that this is a large target market for the iPad mini and many of its design decisions are down to that. As a flight instructor, I ordered one to replace my current Mini 5 almost exclusively for Pencil 2 support – I’ve said before here and elsewhere that that alone would be enough for me to upgrade. I’m a little disappointed in the removal of the headphone jack but it’s not as big a deal as not having one on a phone. (Though I do use my current iPad mini to watch videos when I’m stuck at my flight school’s duty desk just waiting for solo students to sign off.)

This new iPad mini is basically like a smaller iPad Pro in all the important ways that matter to the aviation community, and that’s pretty much all that I was hoping for from the redesign.

Now I just hope there will be an official keyboard case for it at some point. Or if not, then at least good third party ones. Doesn’t look like any have been announced so far.

Losing the headphone jack is just cruel. Let’s face it, the only reason they removed that jack is to sell more AirPods. I have one of the older iPad mini models. It’s my go-to Zoom/Teams device, and the main reason was that headphone jack. I have AirPods, but I hate them. They don’t fit right, they’re never charged and I can never find them. Conversely, my house is full of wired headphones.

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