With the announcement and imminent release of the new iPad Mini and its revamped design, it might be all too easy to leave the new model and write off its predecessor entirely. While the new model has a lot to offer – namely a larger screen, faster processor, refined design similar to the iPad Air 2020 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 immune to discounts over the years, possibly due to its specialized position in the market and lack of competition. The outgoing iPad Mini only recently received significant discounts, dropping to $300 shortly before the new model was announced, but it started at $399 from the beginning. The new iPad Mini starts at $499 before you add anything like extra storage or 5G connectivity.
So let’s see what makes the new iPad Mini different, and whether it earns the $200 price tag over its two-year-old predecessor.
What’s improved about the iPad Mini 2021?
- The new iPad Mini has a bigger screen in a slightly smaller physical footprint
- Apple’s A15 Bionic processor replaces the outdated 2018 A12 Bionic
- The front camera has more resolution and supports Center Stage to zoom in and keep you centered during video calls
- The rear camera has a higher resolution and can now record 4K video
- USB-C all things! (except iPhones, unfortunately)
- No more Apple Pencil sticking out of the port for charging: Second-generation Apple Pencil attaches neatly to the side for magnetic charging
- Wi-Fi 6 Compatibility
- 5G connectivity on mobile models for potentially faster speeds than LTE, although mmWave 5G radio bands are missing
The showstopper for the new iPad Mini is the screen, now an 8.3-inch display. It might not sound like a huge difference from the 2019 model’s 7.9-inch screen, but the new tablet is actually a tad shorter while being squeezed into a larger screen. More screen real estate and smaller bezels in almost the same footprint is generally a good thing that makes everyone happy.
In terms of processing power, the new iPad Mini has the same brand new A15 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 13 series, 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 maximum performance boost, with 40 percent CPU gain and 80 percent GPU gain over the older A12 Bionic in the outgoing market. fashion model. It’s said to not clock as fast as the iPhone 13’s A15 processor, but that’s yet to be confirmed and the improvements over the previous iPad Mini are likely to be noticeable.
A 12MP ultrawide front camera replaces the 2019 7MP selfie cam. More resolution on the front camera may not sound like the most important thing in the world, but the big draw should be that the new iPad Mini supports Center Stage to keep you centered during video calls. Quality has also improved – while it’s still 1080p, it has an improved dynamic range with more framerate options for video and Smart HDR 3 for photos.
As for the rear camera, there are similar resolution and shooting gains with a 12MP sensor and a brighter f/1.8 aperture, replacing the earlier 8MP @ f/2.4. The faster aperture should come in handy 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 60 fps.
The latest iPad Mini is now aligned with the iPad Pros and 2020 iPad Air by replacing the Lightning connector with USB-C. Apple spoke at length about the flexibility USB-C brings to the iPad Mini, even if the new iPhone isn’t getting the same treatment for some reason. This provides 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 doesn’t include a charging brick at all.
The iPad Mini line became compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil in 2019, a tricky charging method and all. With the new iPad Mini, you don’t have to let it stick out on the side: it supports the newer second-generation Pencil, which can be charged wirelessly while magnetically attached to the tablet’s side rail. It’s a much smoother and seamless way to get more functionality out of this small tablet. If you also want to add a keyboard to the mix, there are wireless Bluetooth options.
Finally, the mobile configurations of the new iPad Mini are 5G compatible where the predecessor only has LTE. As for whether 5G really gives you faster speeds, well, you know the drill. But whether you get those faster speeds or not, it’s useful to have a cellular connection on such a portable device. A 5G iPad Mini (2021) will run you an additional $150, bringing the price to $649 (before shipping). ouch. In any case, all 2021 iPad Mini configurations will have Wi-Fi 6, allowing for faster speeds at home.
What is the same on both models?
- Although the new screen is larger, it has the same number of pixels per inch
- Both screens are laminated to minimize the gap between cover glass and screen
- Maximum brightness of 500 nits for both panels
- Touch ID fingerprint sensors are present on both, just in different locations
- Apple quotes the same battery life for both
- Storage capacity still starts at 64 GB
- Weight is practically identical (within 8 grams)
- Both run on iPadOS 15
As I mentioned earlier, the display is the highlight of the new model, but you have to 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 iPad Mini 2019 has a panel of 2048 x 1536, which both translates to 326 ppi. Both screens should therefore look equally sharp, although the 2021 model gives you more screen space. Also, both screens are laminated, unlike the base-model iPad, so the pixels should look like they’re up to the cover glass.
Another similarity is the storage capacity. The new and old models both start with 64GB of storage and can be upgraded with 256GB for an additional $150. This may be a disappointment to some, especially considering that the iPhone 13 models doubled their base storage to 128GB this year. . You may want to do some personal accounting and see how much storage space you are currently using before paying extra.
However, what about software? Well, there’s not much to say. The new iPad Mini ships with iPadOS 15 and the 2019 model will be eligible for upgrade on September 20. The only major difference between the two tablets is the new model’s reliance on more gesture-based controls, due to the removal of the home button still present on the 2019 model. Since the new model ditched the home button, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor has been built into the sleep/power button on the top — where the volume buttons are also located.
Why stick with the 2019 iPad Mini?
- Price: The older iPad Mini is currently on sale for $200 less than the new model
- It’s still a great tablet even today, with many years of updates to come
- It has a headphone jack!
- Classic home button controls for those who prefer it
The outgoing iPad Mini still has more than a few great things. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is frankly depressing to lose on the new model. All tablets — even mini-tablets — 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 the front, complete with Touch ID. The gesture controls of newer Apple products may not be for everyone, and there are still many people who love the clickable home button. There’s no shame in picking up a 2019 iPad Mini in 2021 because you appreciate these things.
After all that, there is the consideration of price. Slightly outdated technology always has the added benefit of discounted prices before they are no longer available. With the price hike of the new iPad Mini, a $200 price delta is nothing to be shy about. The 2021 iPad Mini has almost priced itself into the 2020 iPad Air territory, and there are good arguments for why you might want to consider the Air instead.
But if you are in the market for a small tablet, the choice is mainly between these old and new iPad Minis. As I mentioned, there isn’t much competition in this space, which is why discounts haven’t always been common. The outgoing model should have years’ worth of updates in store, and there’s a wide ecosystem of compatible accessories out there – most likely with cheaper prices too. We’ll have a full review of the iPad Mini in the coming weeks and see if the new features justify the higher price.