The cute but well-specced iPad mini 6 probably wasn't meant to be the headline act at Apple's California Dreaming event on Tuesday. However with so much of Apple's smallest tablet having being upgraded or swapped out, it's arguably the most interesting of all the products the company announced.
I often overlooked the iPad mini in the past. The iPad mini (2019) didn't feature on my shortlist at all when looking for a new personal tablet, and it's the only iPad not to appear on Tom's Guide's best tablets list. But the arrival of the new iPad mini seems set to change everything.
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First off, the iPad mini's new design brings it right up to date. It now looks like Apple's iPad Air and iPad Pro, ditching the ugly bezels that really should have disappeared from the new base iPad too. As a result the display's become larger too, increasing to 8.3 inches from 7.9 inches on the 2019 iPad mini. That's a huge quality of life change straight off, giving users more space in about the same size frame.
You can enjoy that modern-looking display with a modern stylus too, as the mini now also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, a big improvement over the original. It's more compact and can be stored and charged by a magnetic connector on the edge of the tablet. It's far more practical than the first-gen Pencil that doesn't have a convenient storage feature and needs charging via the regular iPad's own Lightning connector.
There will be a big leap in computing power as well, thanks to the new A15 Bionic chipset within the iPad mini. The last model used an A12 Bionic chip, which was already a year old when it appeared in that version. This iPad is getting the A15 chip at the same time it debuts in the iPhone 13, so it's as powerful an iPad as you can get without buying the M1-powered iPad Pro.
Another iPad Pro feature stolen by the iPad mini 6 (and iPad 9) is Center Stage for the front camera. It lets the iPad control the zoom level of your video feed when on a call or recording yourself, letting it follow you around the space and adjusting when people enter or exit the frame. From what I saw of this feature on the iPad Pro, it's very effective, so it's good to see it roll out onto more models.
While it's not the most exciting change, the swapping-in of a USB-C port will prove very useful. It'll make it much easier to charge the iPad mini with any cable you happen to have lying around, plus as Apple showed in its presentation, it lets the mini work with lots of new accessories that it previously didn't have the option to.
About the only thing that's missing is a keyboard folio case, like the other iPads have, although this might be due to the mini being too small to have functional and ergonomic keys. It would also be kind of Apple if it had offered a 128GB storage model, rather than letting users struggle to pick between a pathetic 64GB base version or the 256GB version that adds another $150 to the price-tag. It's frustrating, but we'll just have to swallow it as room for improvement for future generations.
I am excited about the changes to the iPhone 13 line-up, particularly what Apple's been up to with the iPhone 13 cameras and the new 120Hz ProMotion display on the Pro models. The Apple Watch 7, although only seeing moderate changes from last year, looks attractive too. The less said about the new basic iPad the better, even if it's been given some worthwhile upgrades. Even with all of this in mind, I'm still convinced the iPad mini was the star of the show.