Apple iPad mini 6 (2021) in the test

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Apple is the only manufacturer to serve the segment of compact premium tablets. The completely newly developed iPad mini 6 lives from its attractive form factor and proves in the test that small tablets still have a right to exist. In terms of performance, the iPad mini only has to admit defeat to the iPad Pro with M1.

The last iPad mini is over two years old

Hard to believe, but there was a break of two and a half years between the current 6th generation iPad mini and its predecessor. Well, strictly speaking, Apple has accelerated development with it, because the 5th generation was only launched three and a half years after the iPad mini 4, but there are only a few products in the Apple range that are as rarely revised as the smallest tablet the company. So it was time for Apple to develop the iPad mini from scratch and equip it with all sorts of modern technology that the company is currently also using in other products.

iPad mini 4 from 2015 (left) next to iPad mini 6 from 2021 (right) iPad mini 4 from 2015 (left) next to iPad mini 6 from 2021 (right)

Practically an iPad Air mini

The result is practically an iPad Air mini, only faster because it is equipped with the new A15 Bionic from the iPhone 13. Accordingly, the iPad mini is not a cheaper, because it is smaller, alternative to the normal iPad, of which there is also a new edition, but the new small premium tablet in the portfolio.

Prices and colors

This has a corresponding effect on the prices, which at 549 euros for 64 GB and 719 euros for 256 GB are significantly higher than a normal iPad, which starts at 379 euros. Apple has recently started offering the iPad mini with 5G, while the iPad has a maximum of LTE. The cellular module costs an additional 170 euros for both memory configurations. There are also new colors: Space Gray, Rosé, Violet (test device) and Polarstern. The new iPad mini has been available since September 24th, among other things directly from Apple available.

Technical data of the iPad mini in comparison

Visually a twin of the iPad Air

The fact that entry into the world of the small iPad mini now entails a higher starting price, 100 euros above the previous generation, shows where Apple wants to position the tablet. It is the little brother of the current iPad Air, which costs at least 649 euros. From a purely visual point of view, the iPad mini is a twin that was born a year later. What is not possible in nature comes off the assembly line at Apple.

  • iPad mini 6 with USB-C and buttons all on the short side

    iPad mini 6 with USB-C and buttons all on the short side

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    Apart from the normal iPad, all tablets now come with flattened sides, a flat back and generally greatly reduced geometry. The workmanship of the iPad mini is consistently very high-quality, in the smaller format the tablet even looks a bit stiffer, although a lot of subjective feeling flows into this point.

    Apple Pencil 2 takes up the entire page

    The layout for the four good speakers, for the new USB-C socket, which makes peripherals easier, and for the magnetic connector to which the 2nd generation Apple Pencil can be attached and charged is known from the iPad Air. This in turn means that Apple can no longer place the volume buttons on the long side of the tablet. The iPad mini measures only 195.4 × 134.8 × 6.3 mm, the Apple Pencil with 166 mm but hardly less, so that the remaining 3 cm can no longer be used for the buttons.

    The volume buttons now rotate with it

    The two buttons and the power button with integrated Touch ID, which previously sat in the now defunct home button, are located on the top of the tablet, i.e. on the short side opposite the side with the USB-C port. This in turn has prompted Apple to automatically adjust the functions of the volume keys, i.e. louder and quieter, with the orientation of the tablet. Where, for example, on the iPad Pro or iPad Air, the button closer to the radius to the short side of the tablet is always responsible for louder, this only applies to the iPad mini in landscape mode with the buttons on the right or upside down with the buttons below. However, if the buttons are on the left or on the top, the same button is responsible for quieter instead of louder. In a certain way, this behavior is more intuitive than before, because the left button on the iPad Pro in landscape mode with buttons at the top stands for quieter.

  • Apple Pencil 2 takes up the entire long side

    Apple Pencil 2 takes up the entire long side

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    Smaller than an iPad mini 5

    Apart from such details, the tablet’s fantastic handling stands out in everyday life. Small tablet ergo easier operation is of course correct, but Apple has put a 0.4 inch larger screen in a tablet that is smaller than the last model and has reduced the weight by around 10 g at the same time. While smartphones in the upper 6-inch segment can hardly be dismissed by hand and often have to be operated with two hands, an 8-inch tablet can be classified as extremely compact and excellent in terms of handling under the premise of its product class.

    The accessories are reduced

    The iPad mini is more like a paperback book, just much thinner and lighter, and can be easily operated with both thumbs, especially when aligned vertically. The on-screen keyboard is exactly the right size for Messenger from Apple itself or from another provider. External keyboards are not intended for the tablet, at least by Apple, there are no corresponding accessories and the Smart Connector is missing from the case anyway. Of course, this does not rule out that keyboards from third-party providers can still be connected via Bluetooth. Apple itself only offers that Smart Folio for 65 euros that protects the front and back and, when opened, serves as a support for reading, typing, videos or FaceTime calls.

  • The new screen creates over 500 cd / m²

    The new screen creates over 500 cd / m²

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    The second accessory is the one already mentioned 2nd generation Apple Pencil for 135 eurosthat turns the iPad mini into a small notepad and drawing board. As much canvas as on an iPad Air or large iPad Pro is not available here, so that the tablet is more suitable for first skits than for the great masterpiece. Thanks to the A15 Bionic, the model does not lack computing power for professional applications in this segment. And because the screen is completely laminated, the pen tip and the painted pixel are very close to each other, which is useful for the connection between analog movement and digital conversion.

    The iPad mini has the highest pixel density

    Judging by the technical data, the 8.3 instead of 7.9 inch screen largely corresponds to that of the iPad Air. Apple has significantly reduced the screen edges and provided them with rounded corners. A new ultra-wide-angle front camera with “follow-up mode” sits in the frame, which, with the aid of AI, keeps the user in view even when moving around the room. The resolution of the screen increases to 2,266 × 1,488 pixels, which corresponds to a pixel density of 326 ppi – the highest of all iPad models, all of which otherwise come to 264 ppi. This ensures a sharp typeface, which has a positive effect, especially when used as an e-book reader. In fairness, however, you have to give priority to devices like Kindle and Co. if it’s really only about reading books. An e-book reader puts less strain on the eyes and has a much longer battery life.

    Only ProMotion and Mini-LED are missing

    Compared to the normal iPad, the iPad mini has the extended P3 color space, the fully laminated IPS panel and the anti-reflective coating on the plus side. The true-tone technology, so that the white point automatically adapts to the ambient light, has also been available on Apple’s cheapest tablet since this year. Compared to the iPad Pro ProMotion, the iPad mini lacks up to 120 Hz and the highest brightness in the portfolio, whereby the large iPad Pro with the new mini-LED backlight (test) occupies a special position.

    Bright screen with over 500 cd / m²

    With a measured peak brightness of 524 cd / m², the iPad mini doesn’t have to hide behind other tablets like the iPad Air. The 2018 11-inch iPad Pro is 13 percent brighter and the current iPad Pro with mini LED is only 18 percent ahead, at least in the SDR mode shown here. Only in HDR mode does the new iPad Pro outperform the rest of the field with over 1,000 cd / m² on the entire screen and 1,600 cd / m² for individual highlights. Apple advertises iPad mini and iPad Air with 500 cd / m² each, but the latter is 5 percent behind the iPad mini in a direct comparison. The very good factory calibration of the iPad mini should be emphasized when True Tone is deactivated. With this feature activated, the tablet tends to be a little warmer.

    Multitasking like on big iPads

    The smaller screen compared to the iPad Air doesn’t mean that there are any compromises when it comes to multitasking with iPadOS. In this regard, the iPad mini is just as full a tablet as all other Apple tablets. Functions such as “Split View”, “Slide Over”, “Picture in Picture” or even separate windows within an app, for example for a new e-mail within the e-mail app, are still available for horizontal and vertical alignment.

  • Multitasking on iPadOS 15 with Split View and Slide Over

    Multitasking on iPadOS 15 with Split View and Slide Over

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    It’s just as compact in the dock

    But you don’t even have to exhaust all iPadOS options when multitasking to find that the smaller screen is not reduced in terms of functionality, but there is noticeably less space available, which brings everything closer together and costs some clarity. Because even on the home screen, the only 8.3 inches are noticeable by means of very small symbols in the dock. Aligned vertically like a book, the icons are much smaller than on an iPhone 13 Pro Max, for example, because Apple has given the full-size dock even to the smallest tablet. When turned into landscape format, the dock icons have returned to their usual size.

    Difference in size of icons on iPad mini 6 and iPhone 13 Pro Max Difference in size of icons on iPad mini 6 and iPhone 13 Pro Max

    Apple is stingy with its own native apps

    Regarding iPadOS 15, it should also be noted that the homescreen widgets introduced on the iPhone with iOS 14 can now also be created on tablets. As a result, there is a “weather app” on the iPad for the first time – deliberately placed in quotation marks, because Apple only fakes the existence of this app. The widget is visually similar to that of iOS 15, but a tap on it does not open a native app with beautiful animations and graphics, as you know from smartphones, but an ugly website from covered with advertising. It is incomprehensible why Apple allows such a thing and generally still does not offer native apps for the weather or the calculator under iPadOS.

    On the next page: performance, continuous load and battery life

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