In an unprecedented move, Apple out of nowhere launched a variety of products in three consecutive days. A new iPad mini, another iPad Air, some iMacs and the upgraded Apple AirPods 2019 were announced. While the rumour mills had been buzzing about the latter product, a very welcome addition was the introduction of Apple’s legendary iPad mini.
The last time we saw an iPad mini being launched was way back in 2015; which in the tech world is almost a lifetime ago. The iPad mini 4, like every iPad, sat in an unusual position as it not only competed against the larger iPads such as the iPad Air and the newer iPad Pro; but also against the iPhones which have been steadily getting a lot larger. This made marketing it a difficult proposition for a brand who has done well to segment their products by having a nascent category for every product released.
The iPad mini 2019 otherwise known as the fifth-generation iPad mini recently been launched with a price tag starting at Rs 34,900 and looks-wise its identical to its predecessor which was introduced four years ago. But, like almost every new product, Apple time and again proves that an upgrade isn’t skin-deep. The Cupertino-based tech behemoth has brewed the latest tech in every nook and cranny of this diminutive tablet making it an alluring option even though its externals remain widely unchanged. Though the design is the same, it definitely still works in it's favour.
We have been testing this tablet for a while and note down our impressions of the prodigal son that has finally returned.
While Apple has been constantly revamping its designs with the iPhones and iPad Pro line-up, the iPad mini did not get the slim bezel-less goodness as its higher-priced siblings. In fact, the design feels a bit outdated and drab. But Apple has maintained the philosophy that’s what’s not broken needs no fixing and this is the design trend running with the 2019 iPad mini ahead. If there were points to be docked from this year’s model, it has to be just with the design as it still retains the huge unsightly thick bezels all-around. This may not be a problem for most, but as Samsung has shown with their recent Galaxy tab, the bezels can be shrunken to give it a more streamlined look and feel, and something a lot more fitting for a 2019 release. And so did Apple with it's larger iPad series.
The iPad mini having the same design also comes in the three familiar colour options, Space Grey, Silver and Gold and with the exact same measurements as the previous generation 134.8mm x 203.2mm with a display that measures 7.9-inches across. Also, the iPad mini measures a mere 6.1mm thick, roughly similar to the recently released iPad Air. Being a smaller tablet, Apple also ensured that the weight was kept down to a minimum — just 300g for the Wi-Fi only version and 8g more for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. In for review, we are playing around with the top-end 256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular variant, all dressed in Silver.
The 2018 iPad Pro models created a buzz because of its super slim bezels and support for Face ID. The iPad mini 2019, unfortunately, lacks that feature and still shows off its sizable bezels with a similarly larger chin playing home to a physical Home button. Apple had used a capacitive Home button on the iPhone 7 onwards, but still stuck with a physical button similar to the older generation iPads, and iPhones like the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6S. This works just as well as ever and its pretty zippy. Also, the more you use it, the faster it gets. And yes, it does have the TouchID within the Home button.
Physically everything looks identical. Take a closer look and you will find the position of the microphone changed as it is now transferred to the rear, and the volume rockers are a slightly larger than before. This point matters because even though it looks identical, it will not fit in older iPad mini cases. The iPad mini still boasts a lightning connector as opposed to a USB Type-C charging port found on the Pro, and yes, it also features a 3.5mm audio jack.
Solely based on the older design, we feel that it wouldn’t have many takers. However, it will score a lot of brownie points for its nostalgic value as it offers a familiarity that’s the perfect go-between size between the ever-increasing form factor of smartphones and tablets.
The iPad mini is very light and can be used as a great tool for students, professionals on the go as well as those wanting a tablet that can just get the job done.
The iPad mini comes with a Retina Display which is vivid and has a much wider colour gamut (P3) support in comparison to the original mini. IT also sports Apple’s True Tone display technology which is not only easy on your eyes but also switches according to the ambient lighting around you. The tablet comes with a laminated 7.9-inch screen that boasts a resolution of 1536 x 2048 pixels with a pixel density of 326ppi. This allows for an absolutely stunning display with the same great viewing angles as the previous generation device.
Viewing photos/ videos on the iPad is an absolute pleasure due to the wider colour gamut support as it manages to display a lot more colours than before. This allows for content to appear a lot more bright, vivid and vibrant. Apple claims that the fifth-generation iPad is up to 25 per cent brighter than the previous model; which is pretty evidently.
For those of you who hate fingerprint smudges, Apple has added a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating which helps in keeping the display as new as it can even though your digits may be grimy. This is an always welcome addition with any smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Lastly, there is an anti-reflective coating added to the screen as well as making viewing content in direct sunlight completely manageable.
Support for Apple's Pencil
The best part of the iPad mini is that it now supports Apple's 1st generation Pencil! With Apple holding back on support for its stylus, the brand has finally made the iPad compatible with the Apple Pencil and this poses as nothing but great news for those willing to not break the bank on an iPad, iPad Pro and can also have the convenience of carrying the mini in your jacket or cargo pants pocket. However, it's worthy to mention that the iPad mini supports only the 1st generation Apple Pencil and not the latest one since the iPad mini does not support magnetic charging.
The first-generation Pencil works brilliantly with the iPad and it feels like an extension of the tablet; much like what a mouse is to a desktop or a trackpad is to a laptop. The palm recognition on the mini is just as good as it is with the Pro.
While the Apple Pencil works very well with the iPad mini; there are a couple of drawbacks. The first being that the iPad mini is compatible with just the old Pencil and this negates the automatic magnetic charging experience with we get with the newer Pencil. The second issue here is the mundane and boring charging method where one has to connect it to the lighting connector to top it up. If even slightly misused, one could end up breaking the connector on the pencil. So essentially, both points correspond with each other making the second-generation Pencil an alluring option which we sadly can’t use. Lastly, the Pencil is also as tall as the iPad mini itself and sadly, there are no cases for the mini with a Pencil storage, which can make it inconvenient for portability.
The Apple iPad mini comes with iOS 12.1 and a software update will bring it up to speed with iOS 12.2 (which is the current iOS version that’s rolled out at the time of writing). For those of you who on Apple's iOS platform should find the familiarity here as Apple has traditionally kept a pretty streamlined UX across their iOS devices. However, being an iPad, you are greeted with iPad specific gestures that are easy to use and we also get the split-screen mode where you can use two apps at once; a feature not yet found on the iPhone.
The iPad mini comes with Apple’s latest A12 Bionic chipset. This means you get the same processor here that’s found on the 2019 iPhone flagships. Apple points out that it is up to three times more powerful than the iPad mini 4 and it has nine times the graphics performance in comparison too. By Apple adding the A12 Bionic processor, you naturally get the neural engine as well which is an important component of the chipset which aids in Machine Learning.
So, what does this mean in day-to-day use? It essentially means that with it you get apps that open extremely fast and load rapidly. We need to mention that we are talking mainly about light apps, and not heavy productivity apps as this tablet, though capable, isn’t really designed for it. Also, you get a great battery life too as the processor works to optimise it for the best possible performance without taking a major hit on the battery.
Apple has been steadfastly promoting the iPad mini as a new AR tool. This allows you to play Augmented Reality games and apps without any stutter. We tried using Jig Space, an app that offers an interactive 3D knowledge about a variety of topics including space, machines, science, etc. The tablet performed really well and there were no hiccups observed. Not only for gaming, the iPad mini and it's AR capabilities can be a boon to students and workmen, architects and alike, where high portability and productivity can go hand-in-hand.
The iPad mini with its AR functionality can be a great tool for any and everyone as it offers so much. Even though AR has been progressing, it is still in its nascent phases which means that the possibilities are endless. Apple has been pushing hard for AR and the fruits of their labour are finally paying off.
The rear camera remains largely unchanged from the previous iPad mini and it appears that Apple has chosen to stick with the tried-and-tested 8MP shooter with an f/2.4 aperture. The camera performs decently well with a fair amount of colour accuracy and details. However, the performance here pales in comparison to the iPhones. The front camera has been improved upon with it now featuring a 7MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture. This is quite a big bump from the 1.2MP sensor found on the iPad mini 4. We see this being used mainly for FaceTime or other video calling apps as opposed to the clicking of selfies or videos. But the good news here is now this camera is now capable of shooting at 1080p.
Being an iPad, the mini comes with some pretty impressive battery life. Apple has used a 19.1 Wh Lithium polymer rechargeable battery that offers up to 10 hours of mixed usage which includes surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching videos or listening to music. The cellular version has a one-hour less battery life with the same mixed usage. Sadly, there is no wireless charging capability here and Apple stresses that adding the feature will only increase the dimensions, weight and price and they preferred to stick to the design of the original iPad mini. Wireless charging would have definitely been appreciated.
The iPad mini (2019) 64GB is available at a starting price of Rs 34,900 for the Wi-Fi only version and Rs 45,900 for the 64GB version of the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Storage options of 256GB are also available and there are no 128GB versions available. If looks are your concern, then the 2019 iPad mini may not be your cup of tea as it comes with a design that’s almost four years old. However, where the mini doesn’t shine in looks, it makes up highly in the performance department. The iPad mini now offers you support for Apple Pencil, a tool that’s more like an extension of the device. The processing power is top notch and it doesn’t stutter in any way.
The iPad mini is fine wine that ages gracefully and it can be for anyone looking for a no-nonsense tablet with all the bells and whistles of an iPhone XS. The tablet is an ideal choice for students, professionals on the move and those who want a small iOS device with note-taking capabilities.
The iPad mini still has a place in this day and age and by just using it you quickly realise you get a device which boasts the simplicity of 2015 design marrying the processing prowess of 2019....