iPad mini 2021: a big step for a small tablet


The new iPad mini, introduced in the fall, has become one of the main innovations of Apple in recent years. Indeed, of all the lines of the company, it was the iPad mini, as well as the MacBook Pro, that were updated most radically. We have already met the flagship laptop, now it’s time to look at the iPad mini. How much better is this device than its predecessor, and how does it compare to other iPads, in particular, updated at the same time as the mini regular iPad? The answers are in our article.

iPad mini 2021

Before moving on to the study of new items, let’s see what Apple’s line of tablets is today. So, the flagships are iPad Pro 12.9″ and 11″. Their prices start at 78 thousand rubles (for the 128-gigabyte version of the 11-inch model). Next comes the iPad Air, which comes in 64GB and 256GB storage options and starts at $56,000. Further, the lineup is represented by the new iPad mini with similar storage capacities and a minimum price of 48 thousand. And finally, a regular iPad – from 31 thousand rubles (also for the 64 GB version).

As you can see, the iPad mini is only 8 thousand cheaper than the iPad Air, but at the same time it is significantly more expensive than the regular iPad. What to choose? And is it worth it to upgrade the iPad mini of past generations if you need this particular form factor? Let’s study the technical characteristics of the device under test.

Specifications for Apple iPad mini (2021)

  • SoC Apple A15 Bionic (2 cores @2.93 GHz + 4 power efficient cores)
  • Neural Engine chip
  • RAM 4 GB (3.78 GB based on Geekbench 5)
  • Flash memory 64/256 GB
  • No memory card support
  • Operating system iPadOS 15
  • Touch display IPS, 8.3″, 2266 × 1488 (326 ppi), capacitive, multi-touch
  • Cameras: front (12MP, 1080p FaceTime video) and rear (12MP, 4K 60fps video)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4 and 5 GHz, MIMO support)
  • Cellular Internet (optional): UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900 MHz), LTE (bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 38 , 39, 40, 41), 5G, e-SIM support
  • A2DP LE, GPS / A-GPS (in version with cellular module), Glonass
  • Touch ID fingerprint reader
  • Support for 2nd generation Apple Pencil
  • Connectors: USB-C
  • Lithium polymer battery 19.3 Wh
  • Dimensions 195×135×6.3 mm
  • Weight 297 g (version with honeycomb module)

Let’s take a quick look at the key specifications to make it clearer what the differences are from the 2019 model.

iPad mini (2021) iPad mini (2019)
Screen IPS, 8.3″, 2266×1488 (326 ppi) IPS, 7.9″, 2048×1536 (326 ppi)
SoC (processor) Apple A15 Bionic (6 cores, 2+4) Apple A12 Bionic (6 cores, 2+4)
Flash memory 64/256 GB 64/256/512 GB
Memory card support via USB-C adapter via proprietary Lightning adapter
Connectors USB-C Lightning, 3.5mm headphone jack
cameras front (12 MP, 1080p FaceTime video) and rear (12 MP, 4K video shooting) front (7 MP, 1080p FaceTime video) and rear (8 MP, 1080p video)
Internet Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Wi-Fi 6), optional 3G/4G/5G Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (Wi-Fi 5), optional 3G/4G
Security Touch ID fingerprint reader Touch ID fingerprint reader
Skin-keyboard support No No
Stylus support yes (2nd generation) yes (1st generation)

So, the screen has increased – and not due to the overall dimensions of the device, but due to the reduction of the frames around the display. Communication modules now comply with current standards (Wi-Fi 6, 5G), and USB-C has appeared instead of the Lightning connector. The rear camera has learned to shoot in 4K – by the way, for a more compact iPad mini, this is more relevant than for the iPad. Well, and every other little thing.

Finally, we note the Apple A13 SoC instead of the A12 that was before, but still it is not the A14, as in the Air, and even more so not the M1, as in the Pro models. And now the iPad is the only tablet with a Lightning connector, all the rest have been transferred to USB-C.

Packaging and equipment

The packaging of the iPad mini is traditional for Apple tablets and practically does not differ from the packaging of tablets of previous generations. The device itself is depicted on the white box, the design of the box is very minimalistic.

iPad mini 2021

There are no surprises in the package: flyers, charger, USB-C cable, stickers and a key to remove the SIM card cradle. The charger has an increased power: 15W, although lower than full-sized iPads (they have 20W). But a few years ago, iPads were equipped with 10-watt chargers.

iPad mini 2021

In general, Apple is true to itself: the complete set of devices and their packaging is the most stable element.


The design is the biggest difference between iPad mini and its predecessor and cheaper regular iPad. The device is now more similar to the iPad Pro and iPhone: the edges have become straight, rounding has disappeared, the frames around the screen have become minimal. From all sides they are the same, and this symmetry looks very nice.

iPad mini 2021

On a perfectly flat back surface, only the peephole of a single camera stands out (it’s strange that they didn’t put at least two) and a flash under it. And the white lines along the short sides, conspicuous in the photo below, are plastic inserts so that LTE and Wi-Fi signals are not jammed. However, in our opinion, they stand out too much.

iPad mini 2021

The location of buttons and connectors is expected. On the top edge above the camera is a flat oblong power button. It also has a built-in Touch ID fingerprint scanner. A speaker grille is visible nearby (similar ones are also located below).

iPad mini 2021

Along the long edge on the left are separate volume buttons, the same shape as the power button, only shorter.

iPad mini 2021

Below is a USB-C connector, like on the more expensive iPad Pro. This, of course, is a big plus. Well, on the right and left are the speaker holes.

iPad mini 2021

On the right side of the view, an oblong plastic notch is the area that the second-generation Apple Pencil stylus attaches to.

iPad mini 2021

Actually, in terms of functionality and style, the design of the iPad mini is identical to the iPad Air in everything, and it differs from the iPad Pro only by the presence of a fingerprint scanner in the power button instead of the FaceID camera. Which is more convenient is debatable.


The new iPad mini has an 8.3-inch screen with a resolution of 2266×1488, both of which are higher than the 2019 iPad mini, while maintaining the same DPI (326 ppi).

The front surface of the screen is made in the form of a glass plate with a mirror-smooth surface, resistant to scratches. Judging by the reflection of objects, the anti-glare properties of the screen are much better than the screen of the Google Nexus 7 (2013) (hereinafter simply Nexus 7). For clarity, here is a photo in which a white surface is reflected in the off screens (on the left – Nexus 7, on the right – iPad mini, then they can be distinguished by size):

iPad mini 2021

The screen of the iPad mini is much darker (brightness in photos is 62 versus 110 for the Nexus 7). Note that the manufacturer claims a reflectance of 1.8%. The doubling of reflected objects in the iPad mini screen is very weak, which indicates that there is no air gap between the screen layers (more specifically, between the outer glass and the surface of the LCD matrix) (OGS type screen – One Glass Solution). Due to the smaller number of borders (glass-air type) with very different refractive indices, such screens look better in conditions of intense external illumination, but their repair in case of cracked external glass is much more expensive, since the entire screen has to be changed. On the outer surface of the screen there is a special oleophobic (grease-repellent) coating (effective, better than the Nexus 7), so fingerprints are removed more easily,

With manual brightness control and with a white field displayed in full screen, the maximum brightness value was 520 cd / m² (which is consistent with the manufacturer’s data – 500 cd / m²), the minimum was 2.1 cd / m². The maximum brightness is very high, and given the excellent anti-reflective properties, readability even on a sunny day outdoors will be at a good level. In complete darkness, the brightness can be reduced to a comfortable value. In the presence of automatic brightness control by light sensors (they are located on the margins of the front panel, one is on the top closer to the right edge, the second is on the right closer to the bottom edge in portrait orientation; the readings of the one that gives a larger value are used). In automatic mode, when external lighting conditions change, the brightness of the screen increases as and decreases (with a small hysteresis of steady-state values ​​for intermediate illumination conditions). The operation of this function depends on the position of the brightness adjustment slider: the user sets the desired brightness level for the current conditions with it. In the case of default settings in complete darkness, the brightness is reduced to 2.1 cd / m² (very dark), in an artificially lit office (about 550 lux), the screen brightness is set to 125-155 cd / m² (acceptable), and conditionally to direct sunlight rises to 520 cd / m² (to the maximum, as it should be). The result did not quite suit us, so we slightly increased the brightness in the dark, and for the three conditions indicated above we got 12.135–160 and 520 cd / m² (task completed, it became lighter in the dark). It turns out that the auto-brightness function works adequately, and it is possible to adjust the nature of the change in brightness to the user’s requirements. At any brightness level, there is no significant backlight modulation, so there is no screen flicker.

This tablet uses an IPS type matrix. Micrographs show a typical IPS subpixel structure:

iPad mini 2021

For comparison, you can see the gallery of microphotographs of screens used in mobile technology.

The screen has good viewing angles without significant color shift even at large deviations of the gaze from the perpendicular to the screen and without inverting shades. True, the white field at large angles acquires a slightly reddish tint. For comparison, here are photographs in which the iPad mini and Nexus 7 screens display the same images, while the brightness of the screens was initially set to about 200 cd / m² (on a white field in full screen), and the color balance on the camera was forcibly switched to 6500 K. White field perpendicular to the screens:

iPad mini 2021

We note a good uniformity of brightness and color tone of the white field (the imperfection of the camera must be taken into account). And a test picture:

iPad mini 2021

The color balance is slightly different, the color saturation is normal. Recall that a photograph cannot serve as a reliable source of information about the quality of color reproduction and is provided only for a conditional visual illustration. The reason is that the spectral sensitivity of the camera matrix does not exactly match this characteristic of human vision. Now at an angle of about 45 degrees to the plane and to the side of the screen:

iPad mini 2021

It can be seen that the colors did not change much on both screens and the contrast remained at a high level. And the white box:

iPad mini 2021

The brightness at an angle at the screens has decreased (at least 4 times, based on the difference in shutter speed), but in the case of the iPad mini, the brightness drop is slightly less. The black field, when deviated diagonally, is lightened weakly and acquires a purple hue. The photos below demonstrate this (the brightness of the white areas in the direction perpendicular to the plane of the screens is approximately the same!):

iPad mini 2021

And from another angle:

iPad mini 2021

When viewed perpendicularly, black uniformity is excellent:

iPad mini 2021

Contrast (approximately in the center of the screen) is high – about 1200:1. The response time for the black-white-black transition is 21 ms (12 ms on + 9 ms off). The transition between 25% and 75% grayscale (according to the numerical value of the color) and back takes a total of 32 ms. The gamma curve constructed from 32 points with an equal interval according to the numerical value of the shade of gray did not reveal a blockage either in the highlights or in the shadows. The exponent of the approximating power function is 2.16, which is close to the standard value of 2.2. In this case, the real gamma curve practically does not deviate from the power dependence:

iPad mini 2021

The color gamut is sRGB:

iPad mini 2021

Let’s look at the spectra:

iPad mini 2021

Apparently, this screen uses LEDs with a blue emitter and a green and red phosphor (usually a blue emitter and a yellow phosphor), which, in combination with special matrix filters, allows you to get a wide color gamut. Yes, and in the red phosphor, apparently, the so-called quantum dots are used. For a consumer device, a wide color gamut is not a virtue, but a significant drawback, because as a result, the colors of images – drawings, photographs and films – oriented to the sRGB space (and the vast majority of them) have unnatural saturation. This is especially noticeable on recognizable shades, such as skin tones. Unlike many famous and not so famous companies, Apple knows what the color gamut should be, and therefore carefully adjust it to the sRGB borders.

This applies to images that have an sRGB profile or no profile at all. However, native to the top modern devices from Apple is the Display P3 color space with more saturated greens and reds. The Display P3 space is based on SMPTE DCI-P3 but has a D65 white point and a gamma curve of approximately 2.2. In addition, the manufacturer claims that starting with iOS 9.3, color management is supported at the system level, which makes it easier for iOS applications to correctly display images with a prescribed color profile. Indeed, by supplementing the test images (JPG and PNG files) with a Display P3 profile, we got a color gamut wider than sRGB (output in Safari):

iPad mini 2021

Note that the coordinates of the primary colors almost exactly matched those prescribed for the DCI-P3 standard. We look at the spectra in the case of test images with the Display P3 profile :

iPad mini 2021

It can be seen that in this case there is only minimal cross-mixing of components, that is, the original color space for the iPad mini screen matrix is ​​almost equal to Display P3.

The balance of shades on the gray scale is good, since the color temperature is close to the standard 6500 K, and the deviation from the blackbody spectrum (ΔE) is less than 10, which is considered acceptable for a consumer device. At the same time, the color temperature and ΔE change little from shade to shade – this has a positive effect on the visual assessment of color balance. (The darkest areas of the gray scale can be ignored, since the color balance does not matter much there, and the measurement error of color characteristics at low brightness is large.)

iPad mini 2021
iPad mini 2021

Of course, this Apple device has the already familiar Night Shift function , which makes the picture warmer at night (how much warmer the user indicates). For a description of why this correction might be useful, see the iPad Pro 9.7″ article. In any case, when entertaining with a tablet at night, it is better to reduce the screen brightness to a minimum, but still comfortable level, it makes no sense to turn the screen yellow with the Night Shift setting.

iPad mini 2021

There is a True Tone function , which, if enabled, adjusts the color balance to the environmental conditions. We enabled this feature and tested how it works:

Conditions Color temperature on a white field, K ΔE on a white field
True Tone Off 6900 4,9
True Tone on, cool white LED fixtures (6800K) 7100 4,7
True Tone On, Halogen Incandescent (Warm Light – 2850K) 5600 4,7

With a strong change in lighting conditions, the adjustment of the color balance is weak, so from our point of view, this function does not work as it should. Note that the current standard is to calibrate display devices to a white point of 6500 K, but in principle, correction for the color temperature of external light can be useful if you want to achieve a better match between the image on the screen and what is seen on paper (or on any media on which colors are formed by reflecting incident light) under current conditions.

Let’s summarize. The screen has a very high maximum brightness (up to 520 cd / m²) and has excellent anti-glare properties, so the device can be used outdoors without any problems even on a sunny summer day. In complete darkness, the brightness can be reduced to a comfortable level (up to 2.1 cd/m²). It is permissible to use the mode with automatic brightness adjustment, which works adequately. The advantages of the screen include an effective oleophobic coating, the absence of an air gap in the layers of the screen and flicker, good black stability to deviation of the gaze from the perpendicular to the screen plane, high contrast ratio (1200: 1), excellent black field uniformity, as well as support for the sRGB color gamut and Display P3 (with the participation of the OS) and good color balance. There are no significant flaws, the quality is very high.

Video playback

To test the display of video files on the screen of the device itself, we used a set of test files with an arrow and a rectangle moving one division per frame (see “Method of testing video signal playback and display devices. Version 1 (for mobile devices)”). Screenshots with a shutter speed of 1 s helped to determine the nature of the output frames of video files with different parameters: resolution (1920 by 1080 (1080p) and 3840 by 2160 (4K) pixels) and frame rate (24, 25, 30, 50 and 60 fps) varied. With). In tests, we used the Safari browser, from which we launched video files for playback via direct links and switched to display in full screen.

The screen refresh rate is fixed at 60 Hz, so in the case of files with 24, 25 and 50 fps, the duration of the output of part of the frames is doubled, but the duration is interleaved in groups with an equal number of frames. The brightness range displayed on the screen corresponds to the actual range of the video file. We note the support for hardware decoding of H.265 files with a color depth of 10 bits per color, while the output of gradients to the screen is carried out with much better quality than in the case of 8-bit files. However, this is not proof of a true 10-bit output. Display of HDR files (HDR10, H.265) is also supported.


iPad mini runs on the Apple A15 Bionic SoC, known to us from the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini smartphones. The single-chip system includes a 6-core 64-bit processor, with 4 cores energy efficient. The maximum frequency of the other two cores is 2.93 GHz. The amount of RAM is not officially reported, but benchmarks define it as 3.78 GB. This is less than the iPhone 13 Pro / Pro Max (which, in addition, has one more graphics cores), but the same as the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.

So, in terms of hardware stuffing, we have a complete analogue of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. What can we compare it to? We have not tested Android models of a similar form factor lately, and there are not so many of them released. Therefore, we will remain in the Apple environment and compare the new product with its predecessor in 2019, as well as with the iPad Pro based on the Apple M1 – just to show the current “ceiling” for tablets (it is clear that both in size and in price the Pro line cannot be compared at all with mini ).

Let’s start with browser tests: JetStream 2, Octane Benchmark 2.0 and Kraken Benchmark 1.1. All tests were performed in Safari, in the operating systems that were up-to-date at the time the devices were released. The results were rounded to whole numbers.

Apple iPad mini 2021
(Apple A15 Bionic)
Apple iPad mini 2019
(Apple A12 Bionic)
Apple iPad Pro 12,9″ 2021
(Apple M1)
JetStream 2
(more is better)
137 points 183 points
Octane 2.0
(more is better)
56215 points 40435 points 62796 points
Kraken Benchmark 1.1
(less is more)
455 ms 645 ms 422 ms

Despite the fact that the Apple A15 is three generations behind the Apple A12, the difference in browser benchmarks is not so great, although, of course, it is undeniable. But it’s bigger than between the Apple A15 and the Apple M1, and that’s encouraging.

Now let’s see how the iPad performs in Geekbench, a multi-platform benchmark that measures CPU and RAM performance, as well as GPU computing capabilities. Plus, we have not forgotten about the comprehensive AnTuTu Benchmark.

Apple iPad mini 2021
(Apple A15 Bionic)
Apple iPad mini 2019
(Apple A12 Bionic)
Apple iPad Pro 12,9″ 2021
(Apple M1)
Geekbench 5 Single-Core Score
scores (more is better)
1598 1118 1706
Geekbench 5 Multi-Core Score
scores (more is better)
4531 2816 7250
Geekbench 5 Compute Metal Score
scores (more is better)
13831 5600 21231
AnTuTu Benchmark 6.1
points (more is better)
806444 370282 1270983

But here the gap is already much stronger. This is due to the fact that the main increase in performance, obviously, fell on the GPU, and also multi-core played its role, which is fundamental for these benchmarks, but not required at all in browser tests.

Alas, GFXBenchmark did not work correctly on the tablet, and the problem is not in the tablet, but in the GFX itself, which either starts or does not, and this has been happening for quite a long time. We hope that the developers will still take it seriously. However, even without GFXBenchmark, the picture is clear: iPad mini has made a big step forward in terms of graphics performance, while in other applications the effect will not be so great.

Autonomy and heating

Battery life tests have shown that the new iPad runs out of juice somewhat faster than its predecessor. This may be due, firstly, to the greater performance (and hence gluttony) of the SoC, and secondly, to the battery capacity (according to unofficial data, the previous iPad mini had 5124 mAh, while the new one had 5078 mAh). h), thirdly, with the increased display area and, finally, with the heating of the case: according to our tests (see below), the iPad mini 2021 heats up more than the past.

Apple iPad mini 2021
(Apple A15 Bionic)
Apple iPad mini 2019
(Apple A12 Bionic)
Apple iPad 2021
(Apple A13 Bionic)
Apple iPad Pro 12,9″ (2021)
(Apple M1)
Watching online videos from YouTube (1080p, brightness 100 cd/m²) about 13 hours 15 hours 20 minutes about 15 hours 17 hours 45 minutes
Reading mode (brightness 100 cd/m²) 12 hours 35 minutes about 16 hours 21 hours 30 minutes 17 hours 45 minutes

However, for a compact device, the battery life numbers are not so bad. Well, no one expected the results of large-format models – in the table we give them just for information.

Below is a thermal image of the back surface obtained after several consecutive runs (approximately 10 minutes of operation) of the Basemark Metal test:

iPad mini 2021

It can be seen that the heating is localized close to the right edge and vertically below the center, which corresponds to the location of the SoC chip. According to the heat chamber, the maximum heating was 45 degrees (at an ambient temperature of 24 degrees), which is four degrees higher than in the case of the iPad mini (2019).


Since the mini model is more expensive than just an iPad, the camera module is newer here. It no longer has such a wild and archaic tandem of noise reduction with sharpening, and at least the software processing does not spoil the sky. However, fine details and plain surfaces are still spoiled by sharpening. It’s as if they forgot about the periphery of the frame, so the camera noticeably lathers there, although not always. At least the focus doesn’t go wrong in simple scenes. In general, the camera is not so bad, from time to time it will be possible to take an artistic shot with it in good lighting and without an abundance of small details. But with software improvements , deteriorations are clearly overdone.

Importantly, unlike both past iPad minis and the cheaper 2021 iPads, the new iPad mini can shoot 4K video. And this is very important precisely in connection with its compact size, because it is more difficult to shoot video on larger tablets, and for a “mini” it is already quite a working option.


The iPad mini has taken a step forward in almost every way. The only thing he lost was in battery life and worsened temperature conditions – this is the price for a new case and an enlarged screen. Otherwise, we have before us an exemplary compact tablet, which is even difficult to compare with something: the tablet market, in principle, has become quite poor, and even more so with regard to devices of this form factor. So if this format is relevant for you in principle, then the choice is obvious.

What we found interesting: a relatively small increase in CPU performance in single-core mode compared to the 2019 model. But this is actually logical, because today the performance of the GPU is already more important – it is the most resource-intensive applications that use it. And with her growth, just complete order. In addition, Apple did not equip the novelty with a FaceID camera, preferring to keep the user’s fingerprint authentication. This decision is not at all meaningless, especially in our covid days: it is not very convenient to take out a tablet in transport and take off the mask all the time to unlock it.

And yet, at the beginning of the article, we wondered: is it worth updating the iPad mini if ​​you have a 2019 model? Perhaps the answer depends on the condition of the old tablet and how comfortable it is for you. If there are no problems and everything is in order, then you can wait until the next update, when the Apple M1 already appears in the iPad mini. It is possible, by the way, that this will have a positive effect not only on performance, but also on battery life. On the other hand, if you are already thinking about upgrading, then you should not postpone it on purpose. It’s impossible to predict when the next iPad mini will arrive – maybe in a year, maybe in two. Meanwhile, the current model also significantly changes the user experience. But this is what we primarily expect from new products.