This latest update for Apple's smallest iPad is a big one. Though it doesn't officially get the 'Pro' naming, the latest iPad Mini (6th generation) has the look and feel of Apple's 'Pro' tablet family, along with the fastest A-series processor yet: the A15 Bionic. The screen has expanded to 8.3-inches (up from 7.9-inches) due to thinner borders and the home button's move to the side edge of the device. This model can use the optional ($199) second-generation Apple Pencil, which pairs and charges automatically and wirelessly when attached magnetically to the side edge. At just under 300 grams, the iPad Mini is still super-light and sized to be easy to carry and use in one hand. If you've previously enjoyed an iPad Mini, you'll find this a worthy upgrade.
Price: From $749 (64GB, Wi-Fi)
The Smart Folio covers protect the front and back and come in five colours, but no keyboard.
Compact with no performance penalty
The iPad Mini series has always been popular with those who value ultra-portability. The bonus with the iPad Mini 6 is that you don't pay a performance penalty for being super-compact. Its A15 Bionic chipset is the same used in Apple's flagship iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max and it offers a big performance boost over the A12 of the previous iPad Mini (5th gen) introduced in March 2019.
Apple claims this Mini is 40% faster for CPU and 80% faster for graphics over the previous model, which was in itself quite lively. Plus, the new 16-core Apple Neural Engine also doubles the amount of processing cores, and the machine learning performance. Machine learning is behind much of the 'magic' in many of the new wiz-bang features in iPadOS 15 and apps, such as the Live Text feature, which recognises words in pictures and converts them to editable text.
The home button with Touch ID fingerprint reader has shifted to the side edge, providing more screen area.
Larger screen, smaller body
The new look of the iPad Mini 6 is more in line with the Pro family and the iPad Air, with the home button (including fingerprint ID) now located on the side edge. This allows for a longer screen of 8.3-inches (diagonally) though the actual iPad Mini 6 body is slightly shorter than the previous model.
This screen is superb – the Liquid Retina display (2266 x 1488 pixels) retains the iPad Mini's distinction of having the highest pixel density (326 pixels per inch) of the iPad line-up. There's also P3 wide colour, True Tone colour adjustment, full-screen lamination, and high screen brightness of 500 nits (claimed).
The Apple Pencil is particularly handy on this model as you're less likely to use it with a keyboard
The optional ($199) second-generation Apple Pencil adds to the cost, but on this model in particular it's worth the investment because you're far less likely to use this iPad with a keyboard. Instead, you'll likely hold it in one hand and grab for the Apple Pencil for note taking, navigation, handwriting, and editing pictures. It pairs and charges when attached magnetically to the side, where you're more likely to grab it for drawing and taking notes.
There are also speakers at both ends for the first time, providing stereo sound in landscape view. Due to the iPad Mini 6's one-handed size, there's no Apple Smart Connector for direct keyboard attachment, though you can use any separate Bluetooth keyboard you like, if necessary.
The Smart Folio cover can prop up the iPad a couple of ways and the second-generation Apple Pencil attaches magnetically and charges wirelessly.
USB-C replaces Lightning
The Lightning port has been replaced by a USB-C port (5Gbps, not Thunderbolt like the iPad Pro), which is coupled with a 20W charger and 1m cable. The switch from Lightning to USB-C allows a bit more flexibility in connecting devices such as external storage drives. In a pinch you could even turn the iPad Mini 6 into a desktop-style unit by adding an external USB-C display and Bluetooth keyboard.
Storage is 64GB from $749 or 256GB from $979. Wireless connectivity is Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax, with simultaneous dual-band), plus Bluetooth 5, and optional 5G cellular networking for an extra $230.
The 12MP rear camera uses a Quad-LED True Tone flash and does 4K video recording, while the front has an ultra-wide 12MP camera with 122° field of view and 1080p HD video recording.
The front camera can also use iPadOS 15's new Centre Stage automatic tracking feature for FaceTime calling, which keeps the subject centred in the picture.
The iPad Mini 6 is powerful enough to run even the most demanding apps
Many people prefer the iPad Mini due to its compact size, but it's a bonus that you don't have to sacrifice speed to get a smaller tablet.
Though small, the iPad Mini 6 has the power to run demanding apps such as Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop.
Though short on screen space, the iPad Mini 6 isn't short on performance. This is a Pro-level tablet in pocketable form. It will run even the most demanding apps with ease, including LumaFusion video editor, Photoshop, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and 3D rendering apps such as SketchUp.
Only the desktop-class M1 chip in the iPad Pro might out-perform the iPad Mini 6's A15-Bionic chipset in certain areas.
There are four colours to choose from, with pink, purple and starlight options added to the standard space grey, with optional Smart Folio covers ($95, in five colours), for front-back protection.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.