I Wasn’t Sure Anyone Needed The New iPad Or iPad Mini, Until I Tried Them

I Wasn’t Sure Anyone Needed The New iPad Or iPad Mini, Until I Tried Them
iPad and iPad mini (Image: Apple)
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that Apple released two new iPad models at its California Streaming event last week. I’ve now spent nearly a week reviewing both the entry-level iPad and iPad mini, and my initial thoughts are ‘wow’.

“Why do we need both?” you ask. Because one is affordable and suited to every day use, and the other will give you a great gaming or creative experience. Here’s what I’ve learned after seven days of play.

The Camera Does Its Job, And Well

Both the iPad 9th-gen and iPad mini pack a 12 megapixel ultra-wide front-facing camera, with Center Stage – a feature already present on the existing iPad Pro.

If you’re not familiar, Center Stage means the camera automatically uses machine learning to identify the user and follow them if they move, without moving the iPad itself.

With Sydney in lockdown, I’ve used both the iPad and iPad mini on video calls a bunch already, and of course I had no success in trying to trick the camera. I actually found the feature makes video calls more engaging, even if it means it picks up when I’m reaching for snacks out of view. My review? The resolution is primo.

The 8MP Wide camera on the back of the iPad captures sharp, vivid images and video.

The Wide camera on the back of the iPad mini, meanwhile, features a 12MP sensor with Focus Pixels and a large aperture. The new ISP in the A15 bionic chip (more on this later) enables Smart HDR 3, for capturing even higher-quality images. The rear camera also has a True Tone flash.

The iPad mini can also now record in 4K.

While I’m not out here hoping to take photos with an iPad (and so far we’re dying on the iPhone 13 Pro Max hill for that), I absolutely could (here’s a photo of my mum’s succulents on both devices).

iPad 9th-gen photo
iPad 9th-gen (Image: Asha Barbaschow)
succulent photo
iPad mini (Image: Asha Barbaschow)

Both devices have decent storage, starting at 64GB with a 256GB option available.

They also have access to the same apps and handle iOS 15 really, really well.

Quick Review Of The Entry-Level iPad (9th-generation)

This is both a big, and a small, upgrade to its predecessor. Let me explain. The tablet gets an A13 bionic chip and an updated display with true-tone technology, and these improvements shouldn’t be slept on. The chip is powerful enough. It has no problem handling everyday usage, as you’d expect, but it can also handle some of the more creative or performance-heavy tasks.

But the new iPad is the same shape and size as the last one and has the same 10.2-inch screen with the same home button and frame.

iPad 9th-gen
iPad 9th-gen (Image: Apple)

Let’s Talk Productivity

The iPad actually has a ton of tools I didn’t know I wanted – a lot of these are thanks to iOS 15.

One cool feature is the ability to select text from a photo in your camera roll and tap ‘Look Up’ to search that text online. Just say it was text from a tour poster, Safari would find the details and I could quickly save a note using ‘Capture a Quick Note’ – by swiping up from the bottom right corner – to add the link, and more info, for a reminder.

Select text from a photo in your Camera Roll
Select text from a photo in your Camera Roll (Image: Asha Barbaschow)

The neural engine also converts handwritten detail to text. (This is where I tell you a first-generation Apple Pencil is worth investing in, too.)

What Else?

As this is meant to just be some ‘quick thoughts’ and not an in-depth iPad review, I’ll quickly run through a bunch of other tools this device boasts. On the multitasking front, features like Split View and Slide Over are now easier to use. My biggest frustration with a tablet vs laptop has always been not being able to ‘alt+tab’ to switch windows and I actually feel this feature fixes that.

A few more things: the iPad boasts new widget layouts (and they’re organised better than they were at its first attempt); the Translate app is now on iPad with new features such as Auto Translate and face-to-face view; focus allows you to automatically filter notifications based on your current activity (for example working, reading, exercising, playing games or sleeping); and you can now make a FaceTime call on Portrait mode.

What About A Review Of The iPad Mini?

This mini can do everything I described above, just faster, and the screen is smaller.

The mini is completely redesigned since the last mini was released in 2019. It boasts an A15 bionic chip, updated camera (as I talked about above), support for 5G, an 8.3-inch display (a bump from 7.9-inches), and – ‘finally’, you might say – a USB-C charging port.

For me, this adds another cable to the mix, and is a little bit annoying.

In only a week, I can confirm This. Chip. Is. A. Beast.

Apple seems to be pushing this one as a gaming device – think graphically-rich games – something I will be trying out at length for a proper review of the iPad mini (purely for research purposes, of course).

The 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display features True Tone, P3 wide colour and ultra-low reflectivity. Apple weren’t kidding when they said this would make text sharp and colours vivid.

The iPad mini certainly delivers a faster performance over its predecessors. The numbers Apple touts are up to 40 per cent faster CPU performance and, with the Apple Neural Engine, up to 2x faster machine learning.

iPad mini Luma Fusion
Image: Apple

The mini is thin and light and supports the second-gen Apple Pencil (and it even has a magnetic pencil connector). It also has Touch ID on the top button (but not Face ID like the iPad Air has).

Visually, we have speaker grills both top and bottom, which means it now supports landscape stereo speakers. The sound coming out of this thing isn’t bad at all. I mean it’s not great when we’re talking speakers, but come on, this is a tablet not a sound bar.

You’ve Reached The Verdict Part Of The Review

I’ll be spending the next few months with both the iPad and iPad mini for a proper review, but so far I’m sold on the entry-level device for everyday use – the price for the 64GB version is super reasonable and it does everything fine. It’s a step up from the previous iPad, yes, but what’s worth mentioning is the majority of what I like about it comes from iOS 15. Is it worth upgrading if you’ve got the previous model? That’s the part I’m yet to be sold on.

But the iPad mini so far has my heart. It’s good, real good. Especially if you play graphically rich games, use it for video, maximise the 4K recording capabilities, use it as a creative studio or anything else where you will actually notice the power of the better chip.

The caveat with this verdict is that size, not necessarily weight, does play a big role here for me. It’s small enough for my small hands, it’s easy to carry and it does everything I want it to. If size is an issue for you, the iPad Pro is probably the tablet you want.

Will either the iPad or iPad mini replace a laptop? No. But were you really expecting it to? Also no.

The battery life on both is great, speakers are more than sufficient and the cameras are better than decent. Both devices are better than their immediate predecessors.

As someone who uses an iPhone Max, joked about by many as an iPad already, I wanted to be sold on a reason to add an iPad to my day. I have, and I’m sorry to say, you will be, too.

How To Get Your Hands On The iPad Or iPad Mini

The new iPad is available to order at Apple or via retailers like Amazon, and in stores beginning Friday, 24 September. It’s available in Space Grey and silver, with either 64GB or 256GB storage options.

The new iPad mini is also available to order at Apple or via retailers like Amazon, and in stores beginning Friday, 24 September. It’s available in purple, pink, starlight and Space Grey, with either 64GB or 256GB storage options.

Pricing:

  • iPad 64GB Wi-Fi model RRP $499
  • iPad 256GB Wi-Fi model RRP $729
  • iPad 64GB Wi-Fi + cellular model RRP $699
  • iPad 256GB Wi-Fi + cellular model RRP $929
  • iPad mini 64GB Wi-Fi model RRP $749
  • iPad mini 256GB Wi-Fi model RRP $979
  • iPad mini 64GB Wi-Fi + cellular model RRP $979
  • iPad mini 256GB Wi-Fi + cellular model RRP $1,209
  • Apple Pencil (1st generation) RRP $145
  • The Apple Pencil (2nd generation) RRP $199.
  • Smart Keyboard for iPad RRP $235
  • Smart Cover for iPad RRP of $79.