iPad Mini 2021 review: Flawed for some, loved by others

I’ve been using the new iPad Mini since launch day and I have enough of a feel to share my thoughts on the new device. For me the iPad Mini is my main and only iPad. I don’t have the luxury of owning multiple iPads and I pick the one that fits me best. For years this has been the Mini; it can go everywhere with me, is great for reading, acts as a digital notebook and is good for editing photos.

Electric Orange and Space Grey is a great combo

The Mini has always been my most used and reliable iPad, we still use a 2nd generation at home almost daily.

I picked up the 256GB Wi-Fi model in Space Grey along with the Electric Orange smart folio. The iPad was £619 and the folio was £59. Pretty pricey for a small device but worth it for me, especially at a time that I could do with some tech distractions to take my mind off other things.

Unboxing and initial impressions

Out of the box I loved the form factor immediately. Smaller and lighter than my previous Mini but with a larger 8.3” screen (2266×1488, 326 PPI). I also loved how the smart folio looked and made it even more like a digital notebook.

Setup was easy and setting up TouchID reminded me how much quicker FaceID is to set up. The fingerprint setup took a little longer than expected but worked fine in use. Took a little adjustment as I previously used FaceID on the iPad Pro but all in all I like using TouchID built into the top button.

Good ole TouchID

The screen

Seeing a slightly larger screen with smaller bezels was something I looked forward to. It’s pretty much a perfect size for reading and note taking. It’s not OLED but is a high quality LCD and whilst a little dimmer than the previous iPad I’d used was good quality.

Bezels are a little bigger than I expected but still great

My issues with the display weren’t around the display itself but the user interface. On the Home Screen there is a lot of white space to the left and right of the icons in portrait and the icons on the dock are tiny. Neither were massive issues for me but you might want to test it out especially if you need to bump up your system font. I do on my iPhone but on the iPad I’m still at the default normally but on the Mini I bumped it up a step.

Whats with the extra space?

Now, this is where for me at least it’s flawed. Don’t read this bit if you haven’t heard about “jelly scrolling”.

Here’s a good post with the latest update, for me it’s a deal breaker unfortunately. I’m pretty sensitive to screen technology and the way that the new iPad Mini renders bothers me. I can see it in pretty much everything I do, from looking at my photos to reading the web. For 80% of what I do on this iPad I’ll be subject to it. This means for me that I’ll be returning it within my return window but it doesn’t mean it’s flawed for everyone. If you’re not sensitive to it or even notice it then move on and enjoy it, don’t go looking for it. For others it’ll be a return, if you see it like me then return it and go back to your other iPad or what I’ll be doing for now, my iPhone.

This isn’t something to jump and scream about, it’s what a lot screens do but Apple has chosen an implementation that is at the detriment of the Mini’s main orientation (portrait). I don’t want to tarnish my review with this issue as most won’t notice it but if you do, don’t buy this device. I certainly didn’t see it on any of my other iPads so I’m at a bit at a loss at how Apple implemented this but it is what it is.

Performance

Performance for me on an iPad has never been an issue. The iPad Mini has the same A15 that is in the latest iPhone 13 and I’ve noticed nothing of concern, it flies. I’ve tried video editing and my usual day to day and no issues. It’ll last you for years too, at least 6 or 7 for iOS updates.

Centre stage

This is a feature I hadn’t experienced before and one that I’ll miss. It works amazingly well and makes a big difference to FaceTime calls, it really is a game changer if you do a lot of video calls. There’s a video showing this feature here.

Photography

Now the camera on the Mini isn’t going to blow you away but for quick shots around the house it’s a nice step up from the last generation. Now with a 12 megapixel camera (as seen in the iPhone 11) it really is a leap in terms of those indoor shots. Where it shines for photography for me though is in importing and processing. Having something of this size that can be used to import your images from a DSLR when you are out and about is such a time saver and when you get some time on the go just working through edits. It runs all of your favourite apps well and with the pencil for editing it’s a great little mobile photography device.

It’s got a bump!

USB-C!

Having USB-C on this device is amazing, between my MacBook Air and my Nintendo Switch I have more USB-C chargers in the house now so it’s great to be able to charge the iPad Mini on these too.

Accessories

I’ve been using two accessories that in my view are a must have. First is the smart folio cover that really makes your iPad Mini feel like a little digital book. The colours are great and it folds up really well to allow you to use it as a stand or to raise it at an angle when colouring.

With the pencil, the iPad Mini becomes the best digital field notebook

The second accessory I spent a lot of time with was the Apple Pencil. The second generation version attaches magnetically to the side of the Mini and it works really well. I used it for colouring, sketching and as a day to day notebook.

I’ll miss the Mini

So, I’ll be packing mine up and sending it back to Apple and I will really miss having this device around. I’ve tried to use it several times and that scrolling issue is just too big for me to deal with on a daily basis, remember this is what I’ll use as my main iPad. At this point I’m not going to be buying another iPad to replace it and I’ll go between my MacBook Air and iPhone, it’s a shame I can’t take advantage of this new form factor but it’s just how things have worked out.

If you are ok with this screen technology and want a smaller capable iPad, the Mini is the choice for you. I see it being used for anyone wanting a lean back iPad to consume content, do some productivity, use as a digital notepad and enjoy their photography. It’s better than using an iPhone at home, it’ll be better for you ergonomically and give you more real estate to deal with.

So I’m disappointed that I can’t continue with the Mini (like really disappointed) but even with that I can’t recommend this device highly enough if you know you are in the market for a smaller tablet or want to use your phone less at home.