Hands-On, iOS, Tablet

iPad mini (2019) Hands-On: The Best Small Tablet to Date

After four years, the iPad mini is finally refreshed. Even though its design still remains the same, the internal upgrades make it quite an attractive tablet. This is especially the case for folks who want a powerful, compact tablet – it’s basically a non-existent segment right now.

Plus, retailing from RM1,699, the iPad mini 2019 isn’t outrageously expensive either. Yes, it’s not exactly an “affordable” tablet, but for what you’re getting, the iPad mini is a very good buy.

Looks wise, the iPad mini has the exact same design as its predecessors. Thick bezels surround the display, there’s still a physical home button with Touch ID, and on the bottom, you’ll find a Lightning port. Yeap, unlike the iPad Pro tablets, the new mini still doesn’t have a USB-C connection.

But under the hood, the iPad mini gets some much needed upgrades. Powering the compact tablet is Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip, which is the very same processor found in the latest crop of iPhones. Needless to say, this makes it a very capable iOS device.

In my short time with the iPad mini, the A12 Bionic certainly showed its high level of performance. The tablet felt speedy, responsive, and as far as I can tell, there were no noticeable stuttering or lag as I was using the tablet. While I didn’t manage to run any mobile game on the mini, I reckon it will be a very enjoyable experience.

Although the iPad mini’s display size still remains the same at 7.9-inch, the screen has been updated. Not only is it brighter and more vibrant now, it also supports Apple’s True Tone technology. On top of that, it is laminated too, so the display doesn’t have any noticeable air gap.

Speaking of which, the small display – and overall size – of the iPad mini is one of its most attractive features. A powerful tablet in a small form factor like the mini is simply not available at this point in time; it’s in a class of its own. That’s a great position to be in, and personally, I hope the release of the iPad mini will prompt more brands to take small devices more seriously.

It feels incredibly surreal to be able to hold a powerful tablet like the iPad mini with only one hand; you can’t do that anymore with the majority of tablets. Plus, the small size of the mini also makes it a lightweight device. Tipping the scales at 300.5g (308.2g for the cellular model), holding the tablet for long periods of time won’t be too tiring.

In the camera department, the iPad mini has a 7MP f/2.2 front-facing shooter, and an 8MP f/2.4 rear camera. The selfie camera should be good enough for FaceTime calls, and the 8MP rear shooter…is serviceable, to an extent.

Although the camera interface is very responsive, the autofocus speed and image output of the 8MP camera leaves much to be desired. Then again, it’s not exactly realistic to expect amazing camera performance out of a tablet, let alone from a device in this price range. In a pinch, the 8MP shooter should be good enough.

For the Malaysian market, the new iPad mini is available in several variants. The WiFi only model retail at RM1,699 (64GB) and RM2,349 (256GB), while the cellular variant go for RM2,249 (64GB) and RM2,899 (256GB). If you don’t need cellular connectivity, going with the 64GB WiFi model will give you the most value for your money.

When you take into account that you’re basically getting the same level of performance as the latest iPhones with the iPad mini 2019, RM1,699 doesn’t sound all that bad. Granted, comparing a tablet to a smartphone isn’t exactly an apple to apple comparison, but if you just want a capable iOS device, the new iPad mini fits the bill perfectly.

And if you want a powerful, compact tablet, the iPad mini is basically your only choice, for better or worse.