Review: iPad mini

When Apple held its event announcing the new products earlier this month, I knew that the iPad mini was the star of the show. It is incredibly versatile, mighty and will be a hit across many customer categories.

I’ve used an iPad mini since Apple first added it to the product lineup. Of course, one of its main features is the smaller size, giving it a unique place among the iPad models. What makes this new model different is the sheer power it brings while maintaining its small form factor.

I always traveled with an iPad mini. It was perfect for taking on a plane, answering emails while on the road, getting some work done, and relaxing and watching a show or movie in the airport, plane, or hotel. It’s just a great all-around device.

In August, I purchased an iPad mini for my fiancé’s birthday—she loved her old one so much, but it was years old and needed to be updated. Luckily, we were within the buying time limit, and Apple swapped it out for a new one, which should arrive this week.

I immediately noticed that this iPad mini is more than just a travel device. iPad mini is incredibly powerful in every way and can appeal to a whole new set of customers.

My iPad mini has 256GB of storage, the A15 Bionic chip, an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, a 12MP Wide camera, a 12MP Ultra Wide front camera, 5G, USB-C, and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil.

Unlike the other iPad models, the iPad mini does not come with a keyboard cover option, which means it’s meant to be a handheld device. For me, that is a critical difference in how Apple is positioning the mini for its customers.

To be clear, you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad mini if you want, but there is no option to purchase a Smart Keyboard or Magic Keyboard like there is for other iPads.

Now, consider the people who can use a handheld device like the iPad mini with its advanced hardware.

The aviation industry uses iPad mini, so its pilots no longer have to carry around a bag with flight data information. Interior designers can take a mini to jobs and use Augmented Reality and various creative apps onsite. Creative pros can use the Apple Pencil whenever inspiration strikes, and you can capture movies and photos for projects you may be working on. These are just a few of the options open to people with the iPad mini.

All of this in a device that is a bit larger than a paperback novel (you remember those, right?)

In my review of the iPad, I mentioned that you should think about your options when considering whether or not to upgrade storage. My advice for the iPad mini is the opposite—get the 256GB storage.

If you look at the types of tasks you will be doing with the iPad mini, having as much storage as you can get is essential. You don’t want to be capturing a video clip and suddenly run out of space. Yes, you can offload your video when you get home, but you need the space when inspiration hits you.

iPad mini comes with the A15 Bionic chip, which is the most advanced chip on the market. It has a 6-core design with two cores used for high-performance tasks and four high-efficiency cores for everyday tasks. The new 5-core GPU gives an 80 percent increase in performance—this is what will make photo and video editing a breeze on this device.

Speaking of video, the iPad mini can now shoot 4K HD video with the 12MP rear camera. This only enhances what pro users can do with the iPad mini.

Like iPad, iPad mini now supports Center Stage using the 12MP Ultra Wide front camera. Center Stage automatically keeps you in the center of the camera frame. If you move to the left or right, the camera will compensate for that movement. If someone else walks into the frame, Center Stage will zoom out to put both people in the frame. It’s a great feature these days when more of us are doing work or school remotely.

USB-C allows the iPad mini to connect to devices like cameras and hard drives, again further enhancing what pro users can do with this device.

I know that many people use the Apple Pencil to draw, illustrate, and do other creative endeavors far beyond my capabilities. However, Apple Pencil can also be used for other tasks like taking notes and marking up documents, which is more my speed. Scribble also allows you to use handwriting in any text field, which is convenient if you already have the pencil in your hand.

iPad mini uses Touch ID integrated into the power button on top of the device. This is the only iPad where I used two finger IDs, one on each hand, to unlock it. I used the mini as much in landscape as I did portrait, so having two fingers made a lot of sense to open it quickly.

The only consideration to buy or not buy the iPad mini is the screen size. iPad mini has all the power in CPU, GPU, cameras, display, and connectivity that you would ever want. Ironically, the screen size will be a deal-breaker for some and the best feature of all for others.

I think the iPad mini is a star product that will appeal to the same markets as it did previously, but the power behind this new product will bring a lot more customers into the fold. At $499, you get the full iPad experience in a more portable form factor.

iPadOS 15

iPadOS 15 packs a lot of new features, but a few stood out to me. These features made using my iPad better, more efficient, and more productive. That’s what I’ll be focusing on here.

The most outstanding feature improvement in iPadOS 15 has to be multitasking. I’ve loved the ability to use multitasking on the iPad, but it always seemed like a hassle to get it working for me. Sometimes it was downright frustrating, but not anymore.

Now, when you open an app that supports multitasking, three dots appear on the top of the screen. You tap it to reveal the multitasking menu and choose Split View, Slide Over, or full screen. Then you select the app you want, and you are now using two apps.

I use this feature a lot in my daily work, and it makes things so much easier.

I’m as surprised as anyone that I would say Widgets are among my top new features. However, having the ability to place widgets on my Home Screen has changed things for me.

I have a lot of the information I’m looking for in a widget right in front of me, so I don’t have to go looking. Upcoming Calendar events, weather, and even pictures are among the widgets on my iPad. Interestingly, I’ve looked at more photos in my library since installing that widget than I ever have before. Sometimes, it is nice to reminisce.

I was glad to see App Library come to iPad. I never liked scrolling through pages of apps, so I would always use search. Now, I have the home page with my main apps and then the App Library. That’s it.

App Library is set up so my top used apps are available with a single tap, so I swipe to the App Library and tap the app I want. It’s faster than using search. When I need a lesser-used app, I swipe to App Library and then search.

Having my apps set up like this saves me time and is a much better experience.

Focus is an interesting new feature that gives you control over what happens on your iPad while in a particular mode. I mainly use Focus for sleep, so I don’t get interrupted when I’m trying to get some rest, but there are plenty of other ways to take advantage of Focus modes.

Turning on a Focus mode allows you to, well, focus on the job at hand. Focus enables you to draw boundaries around what is allowed and what isn’t. You can control notifications, the visible apps, and the people who can contact you while in a Focus mode.

Focus isn’t just for work; you can have a personal focus set up too. You can block work notifications for an hour or so, allowing you to focus on your personal tasks.

Apple is all about privacy and security, so it’s no surprise that a couple of my favorite new features are about privacy. The first is Mail Privacy Protection, which stops people or companies from knowing whether or not you’ve even opened an email from them. Some emails contain tracking pixels or use remote content to track you to build a profile of your habits and learn your location.

Mail Privacy Protection protects you from this type of behavior. Apple sends all remote content downloaded through multiple proxy servers, preventing the offending email from ever knowing your IP address or location. Apple assigns a random IP address only from your region.

The last two privacy features I like are part of iCloud+.

iCloud Private Relay allows you to browse the internet more securely. Traffic leaving your device is encrypted, so nobody can intercept and read what you are doing. Requests are sent through two separate relays, so your identity and your browsing are secure and private.

Hide My Email is another fantastic feature that allows you to set up alias email accounts to sign-up for services. All of those emails are delivered to your iCloud account, so you can get the correspondence you want, but you don’t have to give your actual email to a service if you don’t want to. When you are done, delete the alias, and the sender can no longer contact you.

There are many other great features in iPadOS 15 that may make your iPad experience great, but these are the ones that stood out to me.