Skip to main content

Apple iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Awesome and ultraportable

The iPad mini 6 (2021) is an excellent iPad you can take anywhere

The iPad mini 6 (2021) with Apple Pencil 2 in Apple's folio case
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Henry T. Casey)

Our Verdict

The iPad mini 6 2021 is the small-but-powerful iPad we needed

For

  • Amazingly portable, light design
  • Speedy A15 Bionic processor
  • Sharp and bright display
  • Excellent webcam
  • USB-C charging
  • 2nd Gen Apple Pencil support

Against

  • No Magic Keyboard or headphone jack
  • Pricey

Writing this iPad mini 6 (2021) review, I kept thinking about how the iPad mini is no longer the iPad mini it once was. I don't know how Tim Cook resisted the urge to say "Honey, I shrunk the iPad Air" when Apple introduced the tablet, though that's exactly what the company did.

Apple also added a fantastic screen, excellent battery life and the super-speedy performance of Apple's A15 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 13 to its smallest tablet.

iPad mini 6 (2021) specs

OS: iPadOS 15
CPU: A15 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Display: 8.3-inch (2266 x 1488 pixels) Liquid Retina
Rear cameras: 12MP wide (f/1.8)
Video: Up to 4K at up to 60 fps
Front camera: 12MP FaceTime HD
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, optional 5G (Sub-6)
Battery life: 10:29 (tested)
Size: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 0.7 pounds
Price: $499

And by doing so, Apple's made yet another of the best tablets you can find today, building the case in favor of a pint-sized tablet of premium quality. At 8.3 inches, it's the kind of slate that would make some ask, why not just buy a big phone? But that audience isn't looking for a perfectly portable tablet that is a joy for reading books and comics, browsing the web and more, all with just one hand. 

The only real downsides for the iPad mini 6 come for multitaskers and typists with a penchant for Apple-made keyboards. So, should you buy the iPad mini 2021? Here's everything to know about why Apple's smallest iPad is one of its biggest updates.

On top of that, the new iPad mini offers one feature the iPad Air doesn't: Center Stage for keeping you in the frame when you're on video calls. But should you get the iPad mini 6 over, say, the iPad 9? Or should you spend more money on the iPad Air 2020?  These are the questions I'll break down in this iPad mini 6 review.

The only real downsides for the iPad mini 6 come for multitaskers and typists with a penchant for Apple-made keyboards. So, should you buy the iPad mini 2021? Here's everything to know about why Apple's smallest iPad is one of its biggest updates.

 iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Release date and price

The iPad mini 6 is available for purchase at local retailers and via Apple’s website. The price starts at $499 for the 64GB configuration, and you can upgrade to 256GB for $150 — which brings you to $649. LTE cellular connectivity costs $150 more, bringing the max price to $899. 

Most notably, that $499 price is $100 more than the iPad mini 5, which was previously $399. But you're getting a much more interesting iPad here.

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Design

The iPad mini 2021 open to home screen with widgets

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

If the iPad mini 6 had cheeks or a nose, I'd try and pinch them, because this thing is adorable. But looking at the slate next to the regular iPad, you might think its name is misleading. Sure, it's smaller, but it's not the 'mini' version of the regular iPad — as I mentioned above, this is instead the shrunk down version of the iPad Air (2020)

It's got the same nearly bezel-free design, Touch ID-enabled power button on the side, no home button, flat edges and USB-C port — all iPad Air staples. Maybe "iPad Air mini" is too long of a name for Apple, but that's what this is. 

The iPad mini 6 2021 in landscape orientation

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Similarly, the iPad mini 2021 is akin to the iPad Air in that it's sold in more interesting colors than the iPad. Instead of just silver and Space Gray, Apple offers the mini in purple, pink, Starlight (think champagne) and the Space Gray color of our testing unit. 

The iPad mini 6's 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches frame has a much smaller footprint than the iPad Air 4 (9.7 x 7.0 x 0.24 inches) and iPad 9 (9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29 inches). The Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (8.4 x 4.9 x 0.31) is almost imperceptibly larger (by 0.35 square inches on size and 0.06 inches in thickness).

And at 0.65 pounds, the iPad mini 6 is lighter than the Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (0.81 pounds), iPad Air 4 (1.01 pounds) and iPad 9 (1.09 pounds). That lightness makes it incredibly easy to use with just one hand, an aspect that's just not out there for most high-end tablets, unless you've got the high-powered biceps of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

The iPad mini 6 2021's Touch ID and lock button

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The iPad mini 2021's biometric Touch ID sensor is in its lock/power button (just like the iPad Air 4), since it doesn't have the Home button where the iPad 9 hides its Touch ID. The Galaxy Tab A7 Lite, though, has login via facial recognition, something that no iPad outside of the pricey Pros offer. 

Touch ID was a breeze to set up, on the iPad mini and both unlocked the tablet and confirmed my identity for Apple Pay in a speedy manner.

The new iPad mini does something we wish Apple would do to the normal iPad: ditching the Lightning port for USB-C. The Lightning port's relevance continues to shrink down to just the iPhone, AirPods Max and AirPods case.

The iPad mini 6 2021's USB-C port

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Frustratingly, the iPad mini 6 doesn't have a headphone jack, another design change it "inherited" from the iPad Air. This is OK for everyone who is in on Bluetooth and loves AirPods, but my wired headphones still work and I wish the iPad mini 6 would support them without a USB-C to headphone jack adapter. 

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Display

The iPad mini 2021 with the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The iPad mini 6 has one of the best screens for a tablet of its size, which I noticed as I re-watched the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer. Not only did the reds of Peter Parker's suit pop in an accurate hue, but the amber glow of Doctor Strange's powerful spell (which he told Wong he wouldn't do) looked great as did the green glowing out of the goblin grenade on the freeway. Details such as the intricacies of Strange's spell, the crumbling highway underneath Parker and the snowy textures of Doctor Strange's winter wonderland of a living room looked nice.

The iPad mini 2021's 326-ppi (8.3 inches, 2266x1488 pixels) screen is sharper than smaller than the 264-ppi iPad 9 (10.2 inches, 2160x1620 pixels) and 264-ppi iPad Air 4 (10.9 inches, 2360 x 1640 pixels) and the 179-ppi Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (8.7 inches, 1340 x 800 pixels). 

The iPad mini 2021 with a Spider-Man comic open

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

But while it is sharper, I noticed one issue with a screen this small — splitting your screen between apps can make for tiny text in Safari (try a 66% vs 33% split over a 50/50 split to improve that) or for incredibly small touch targets. This makes the iPad mini 2021 less of a multitasking device and more of a one-thing-at-a-time device.

When it comes to color output, though, an iPad screen is an iPad screen, as the iPad mini 6's 103.1% sRGB output (according to our colorimeter) is very close to those of the iPad 9 (105.3%) and iPad Air 4 (102.9%). The Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (81.8%) is less colorful.

That said, the iPad mini 6 is much brighter than all of those tablets, with a maximum of 520 nits. The iPad 9 (472.7 nits), iPad Air 4 (440 nits) and Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (315 nits) aren't as bright.

The iPad mini 6 does exhibit one display issue that some owners are finding annoying. There's a "jelly scrolling" problem apparently for some units, especially in portrait mode, where both sides of the display are scrolling at different speeds. We expect Apple to address this issue. 

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: A15 Bionic performance

The iPad mini 6 boasts the powers of the A15 Bionic system-on-chip, with a six-core CPU, five-core graphics and 16-core Neural Engine. And, since the iPad Air 4's A14 Bionic impressed with its speed, I'm not surprised to say that the iPad mini 2021 is a pretty fast tablet. After I split my screen between 12 Safari tabs and a 1080p YouTube video, I saw no lag.

The iPad mini 2021 in multitasking mode

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

On the Geekbench 5 multi-core general performance test, the iPad mini 6 notched a solid 4,540 score, which even beats the iPad Air 4 (4,262, A14 Bionic), iPad 9 (3387, A13 Bionic) and Galaxy Tab A7 Lite (907, MediaTek MT8768T).

Playing a quarter or two of basketball in NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition, I saw the Knicks take on the Heat, and everything ran smoothly. The exasperation on coach Tom Thibodeau's face looked natural and like what I remember from when Trey Young took down New York during round 1 of the playoffs.

The iPad mini 6 2021 playing NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition with a PS5 controller in the frame

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

That speed also comes in handy for Apple's machine learning tricks like Live Text. This iPadOS 15 feature (one of my favorites) lets you select text in images just by holding your finger down on the image. This worked just as smoothly on the iPad mini 2021 as it has on my iPhone 12 Pro Max and the 2020 iPad Pro models.

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Audio

The iPad mini 2021 playing Paramore's Hard Times

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The iPad mini 6's stereo speakers can pump out a surprising amount of sound for a tablet so small. I learned this when listening to it accurately produce Hayley Williams' vocals on Paramore's "Hard Times," where guitars and percussion emitted clearly. 

When I turned on Grandtheft and Keys N Krates' EDM track "Keep It 100" to check out the bass, I noticed some (but not too much) of the low ent of the sound spectrum. The bass also rumbled on Pusha T's "Come Back Baby," but (again), I thought it could use some more.

The iPad mini 6 2021 playing Olivia Rodrigo's "Brutal"

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Much like the iPad Air 4, the iPad mini 6 offers stereo sound when you're using it in landscape orientation (but not in portrait).

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Apple Pencil 2, but no Apple Keyboard

While the iPad mini 6's flat edges allow it to support the fantastic Apple Pencil 2 ($129 extra), it lacks the other iPad Air 4 and iPad Pro accessory we love: the iPad Magic Keyboard. This is likely because the 8.3-inch iPad mini 6 is too small to allow for a keyboard with decently-sized keys.  

We love the iPad mini's support for the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen, though, because it's simply easier to use. The first generation Apple Pencil has to be charged by plugging its Lightning port into the bottom of an iPad, which always feels awkward. The Apple Pencil 2nd Gen instead charges by snapping magnetically onto the flat edge sides of the iPad mini 6.

The iPad mini 6 2021 with a hand-written note

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Just as ever, the Apple Pencil 2 provides speedy input with low latency. That performance is also helpful when using the iPadOS Scribble feature that turns handwriting into type. It's the ability to write into text fields with the Apple Pencil and have that handwriting turn into legit text. And it even works with my chicken-scratch writing.

And as much as I wish there was a first-party/Apple-made Magic Keyboard for the iPad mini 2021, it does support Bluetooth keyboards, as all tablets do. Testing it out with the Logitech MX Keys and MX Master 3, I found everything to work well, as I thought about how the iPad mini 2021 is the perfect size for a second screen on my desk (especially since the Clock app's World Clock mode will save my lazy brain from doing the simple math to figure out what time it is for my colleagues around the world).

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Cameras

The iPad mini 6 2021's rear camera

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The smaller a tablet gets, the more I understand people wanting to use it as a camera, and the iPad mini 2021 makes a good case for this purpose. Its 12-megapixel front and rear cameras provide pretty good image quality, with the latter capturing the greens and myriad of spikes of the cacti around my living room and the dark purples of the protea flower that's nearing the end of its life. 

The equally, if not more, important news is that the iPad mini 5's 7MP camera is junked for the 12MP FaceTime HD camera. Not only did my colleagues say I looked really crisp on our morning Google Meet call, but the camera features Apple's Center Stage technology, which keeps you in the center of the frame should you move around in front of the camera. It's neat, and (in my experience) works better than the auto-framing tool in the $169 Logitech StreamCam.

I noticed that the selfie cam also provides accurate photography, reproducing my skin tones correctly, as well as the blue of my t-shirt. It's not the sharpest sensor I've ever seen, but it did pick up the small amount of stubble with some detail.

The iPad 9 (12MP front-facing, 8MP rear) has a less-sharp rear camera, the iPad Air 4 (7MP front-facing, 12MP rear) doesn't have Center Stage and the Tab A7 Lite (2 MP front-facing camera, 8MP rear) doesn't compete on either sensor.

The iPad mini 6 2021's Center Stage camera in action in our morning meeting

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Battery life

Apple claims "all-day battery life" with up to 10 hours on a single charge, and our test shows they're being modest (again). The iPad mini 6 lasted 10 hours and 56 minutes on our Wi-Fi-based battery test (constant web browsing at 150 nits until the tablet dies), which is impressive when you think of how many pixels there are to illuminate. 

The iPad mini's time beats those of the Air 4 (10:29) and Tab A7 Lite (10:07), while the larger iPad 9 (11:59) lasts about an hour longer. We're guessing it has more room for a larger battery. 

The iPad mini 6 2021 in hand

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

iPad mini 6 (2021) review: Verdict

I expect the questions about the new iPad mini to come hard and fast this fall, as iPad owners wonder if they should treat themselves to the new-new or keep what they have. Those who want a tablet with an excellent screen can just stop right here with the iPad mini 2021. And with the mini's speedy A15 Bionic performance, you should be confident that you can run even-more demanding apps on it.

The iPad mini 6 2021 from behind

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

For even more battery life, you can save $170 with the $329 iPad 9. Think you're going to type a lot? The iPad Air 2020 is calling your name, but it's $100 more at $599 and its Magic Keyboard is $299 on top of that. Want a 8-inch tablet for less than half the price of the iPad mini 6? Well, just know that the $159 Galaxy Tab A7 Lite's screen isn't as sharp, its performance can't touch the iPad mini 6 and it doesn't last as long either.

At the end of the day, those who want an excellent one-handed tablet experience for reading books and watching shows and movies — with no compromises — should check out the iPad mini 2021.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.