iPad mini (2019)

Update: Apple has unveiled iPadOS 14, the newest version of its operating system designed for iPads, and explicitly confirmed the iPad mini (2019) models will get it. So if you choose to buy this tablet, know that you'll get to download this software when it's released later in 2020. To know everything that's coming, visit our iPadOS 14 page here.

The iPad mini 2019 is the iPad mini 5 that you've been waiting for Apple to deliver, and it's everything you've wanted – as long as you didn't want a dramatic upgrade.

It's Apple’s most satisfyingly totable iPad and proof that things won’t change very much when serious small tablet competition is nowhere to be found in 2019.

iPad Mini on Black Friday

If you're interested in buying an iPad Mini, it's worth knowing that Black Friday on November 13 could bring some discounts to the tablets and their peripherals. It's not certain, but Apple's tablets often get price cuts during deals events like these, so we could see a hearty three-figure sum taken off the cost of the company's older top tablet.

The familiar 7.9-inch display feels perfectly sized to grip in one hand and operate with two, just as it did when the iPad mini 4 released nearly four years ago. Almost nothing has improved on the outside.

Beneath the bright display, however, Apple tweaked the iPad mini 2019 to work with the first-generation Apple Pencil. It’s so easy to quickly pick up this tablet, flick open the Smart Cover and instantly scribble some notes. It’s portable and carefree to use and then simply toss in a bag.

This pint-sized iPad is deceptively fast, too, thanks to its iPhone XS-class chipset. The small screen lends it to more read-and-watch functionality than write productivity, but it can handle Adobe Lightroom editing just as well as the iPad Air 2019 from a performance standpoint.

We’ve also been impressed with its battery, netting us slightly better results than Apple’s promised 10 hours of battery life in our tests. It’s coupled with fast-charging capabilities so you don’t have to wait forever to juice up this version of the iPad mini once it’s fully drained.

But it’s also deceptively expensive. It actually costs more than the larger iPad 9.7 due to its superior fully-laminated screen, markedly faster chipset and convenient quick charging tech. Apple’s “small” is still a medium when it comes to iPad pricing. 

Its bezel-heavy design and lack of second-gen Apple Pencil support mean it’s not the scaled-down version of the iPad Pro we were hoping for in 2019. Instead, it’s a minor, but overdue upgrade that brings the charming iPad mini into modern times.

iPads have traditionally run on the same iOS as iPhones, but in September 2019 Apple released an offshoot of iOS 13 for its tablets, called iPadOS.

This new operating system helps turn iPads from large iPhones into impressive mac-esque work stations, with functions like gesture controls and improved markups. Check out our iPadOS hub for everything you need to know about the new operating system.

Update: iPadOS 15 is coming to the iPad Mini (2019), Apple has confirmed. This update to the operating system brings changes to multitasking, widgets, the Notes app and more, and adds an app library.

Price and release date

The iPad mini may be smaller than the competition, but it's not the cheapest iPad you can buy – that honor goes to the newer iPad 10.2 (2019) which starts at $329 / £349 / AU$529 and is often on sale for even cheaper.

The new iPad mini starts at $399 / £399 / AU$599 / AED 1,599 for a 64GB Wi-Fi-only version. The top-end model is quite a lot more at $679 / £669 / AU$1019 / AED 2,729. That version comes with 256GB of storage and a cellular connection.

Remember, accessories like the Smart Cover and fast charging USB-C-to-Lightning cable will pad your bill, but everything is less expensive than the iPad Air (2019) and significantly cheaper than the iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9.

Design and display

Apple doesn’t have a foldable phone yet, but if it did, we’d hope it folded out into the iPad mini 2019. We found its 7.9-inch screen to be the perfect size to carry the iPad one-handed and reach our thumbs across the entire on-screen keyboard with two hands.

There's very little new here, though, and that leads to two schools of thought on the design. The first is the contrarian view: that Apple hasn’t bothered to change its 'blown-up older iPhone' design. It’s undeniable dated. The second way is that Apple didn’t need to change it.

People love the iPad mini series, and for good reason. It’s lightweight at 300g (0.66 pound) and perfectly portable, so it’s easy to toss in a bag without much care. You can take it almost anywhere, which is the opposite way we feel about the iPad Pro 12.9 sometimes. 

But, the 'iPad Pro mini' this is not, and that opens this tablet up to good bad and ugly attributes: the age-old 3.5mm headphone jack and reliable Touch ID home button remain (good), only the less refined first-generation Apple Pencil is compatible (bad), and bezels remain thick around the screen (ugly).

It has a bright, fully-laminated Retina display, same as the iPad mini 4. From a technical explanation, it means the protective glass is wafer-thin and the screen digitizer is pressed up against it, unlike the thicker glass and resulting gap seen in the iPad 9.7 screen. And from a practical standpoint, it means drawing with the Apple Pencil feels more natural, like you’re drawing directly on the screen.

New to the iPad mini series is a wide P3 color gamut to display more shades of color and True Tone Display technology. True Tone adjusted the white balance to match our environment, so outside in the park, the screen was bluer and, transitioning inside the in the TechRadar office, we saw a faint yellow tint that was easier on our eyes.

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%

Final verdict

The iPad mini (2019) is the best small tablet to carry one-handed, even if its design hasn't changed in any significant way from the iPad mini 4 more than three and a half years ago. Its 7.9-inch screen is a familiar, albeit unbeatable way to read and watch videos on the go, and that fits nicely into Apple's News Plus and TV Plus ecosystem.

Its dated design really contrasts with what’s on the inside: the powerful A12 Bionic chipset that runs circles around all small tablet competition and Apple Pencil compatibility. We found ourselves wielding the first-gen Pencil more than expected on this extremely portable note-taking tab, though we were always wishing it was the magnetic second-gen Pencil.

The iPad mini is the most likable iPad. Its charming size sells it, even if the iPad 12.9 remains better for productivity and illustration and the iPad 9.7 is the best in terms of value.

Competition

iPad Mini 4

iPad mini 4

Almost four years old now, the iPad mini 4 can still be found on discount at a few retailers. It’s the same size and most of the same screen technology as the iPad mini 2019. You are foregoing a faster chipset, the True Tone Display, fast charging and Apple Pencil support. For some people, that’s going to be an okay compromise.

Full review: iPad mini 4

iPad 9.7 (2018)

The larger iPad 9.7 is actually cheaper than the iPad mini (2019), which is probably going to surprise a lot of people when they’re shopping and just looking at sizes. However, there are differences to warrant the price bump. The mini has a fully-laminated display, while the 9.7 version has thicker glass in front of the screen, making the screen look a bit recessed. It also has an older chipset and only comes in 32GB and 128GB internal storage sizes. It’s still one of the best buys for people who just want an iPad without frills.

Full review: iPad 9.7

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