iPad mini (2019) review

The only small tablet you should consider

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Apple Pencil

This is the smallest Apple Pencil-compatible device to date, and while there’s not a lot of screen to work with, we found it to be effective at editing photos in Lightroom, drawing in Procreate and scribbling notes in Notability. You just have to pan and pin-to-zoom a lot more.

The iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) remains our favorite large canvas for serious illustration and flowchart making, but the saying ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ applies here: the best note-taking iPad is the one you have with you – so the extremely portable iPad mini has merit on its own.

The Apple Pencil is an invaluable tool with varying pressure and tilt sensitivity, and it’s combined with class-leading palm rejection software. But we’re sincerely disappointed that the Pro’s second-generation Apple Pencil isn’t compatible with the iPad mini 2019 or the iPad Air 2019.

We’re left with the first-generation barrel-shaped Apple Pencil that’s longer, heavier and loves to roll off every table it’s ever been placed upon. It’s also missing tool-switching gestures that come with tapping the flat side of the Apple Pencil Gen 2 or double-tapping the screen to wake the iPad Pro. We want this for the iPad mini 6 – please take note, Apple, as soon as you pick your first-gen Pencil off of the ground.

Specs and performance

The iPad mini has far more horsepower behind its Retina Display than its small size leads on, meaning it can tackle 3D games without a hitch as well as any heavy-duty productivity apps you throw at it, including Procreate, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Premier Rush.

It borrows the Apple’s A12 Bionic chipset found inside the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max and smokes all small tablet competition in every benchmark test. With a Geekbench multi-score of 11,541, it basically tied the iPad Air 2019 (11,575) and was only bested by the iPad Pro 11 and Pro 12.9 (18,104). That's nearly double the multi-core score of the entry-level iPad 9.7 (5,786).

iOS 12 and the A12 chip allowed the iPad mini (2019) to multitask with two apps open at once without slowdown, but the limited screen space meant we didn’t last long in Split View. Instead, we feel as if the horsepower overkill here will be used for individual weighty apps down the road, like the forthcoming Photoshop for iPad and Adobe Project Gemini. This small iPad seems future-proofed for on-the-go photo editing and sketching for years to come.

The iPad mini 2019 comes in two sizes: 64GB and 256GB, which is a lot better of a deal than the 32GB and 128GB iPad 9.7 configurations. A lot of people can survive on 64GB of storage while also paying for iCloud. The 32GB iPad 9.7 is a much harder sell the average consumer with lots of on-device photos.

The cameras – often the least important feature on a tablet – remain fairly unnecessary to bring up. The iPad mini has an 8MP rear camera with an f/2.4 aperture and a 7MP ‘FaceTime HD’ front camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The specs of both cameras are dated, and the photos and 1080p video are good, but not great. It’s ideal for reference shots, as your iPhone will always do a better job.

Battery life

Apple promises 10 hours of battery life from the new iPad mini, and we actually got just over 11 hours of screen-on time from our lab tests while the iPad mini 2019 was surfing the web on Wi-Fi. It’s standby time was equally impressive, hardly losing any juice overnight.

The iPad mini series has consistently had strong battery life, and now for the first time, it has excellent recharge speeds. Combined with a fast charging USB-C-to-Lightning cable, we were able to go from 0% to 100% in just two hours and 19 minutes.

iPads are notorious for taking forever to charge, but here were our much-improved fast charging speeds:

  • 15 mins: 18%
  • 30 mins: 35%
  • 45 mins: 54%
  • 60mins: 67%
  • 75 mins: 79%
  • 90 mins: 87%
  • 105 mins: 93%
  • 120 mins: 96%
  • 135 mins: 98% 
  • 2h 19m: 100%
Matt Swider