Nine years ago, I reviewed the original iPad mini and wrote:
The iPad mini doesn’t add anything to the iOS experience feature-wise, but it does make using iPad apps out in the real world far more likely. I never felt comfortable using my iPad outside the office or house, but I think I’ll be taking this smaller, lighter iPad with me more often.
In the years since, the iPad line has expanded into multiple models, all slowly filling in a continuum of sizes and prices. Somewhere along the way, the iPad mini got left behind by most of us as iPadOS grew more capable.
That was certainly the case for me. In the year since that old review, I’ve moved through a series of full-sized iPads from the first iPad Air all the way through the 11-inch iPad Pro, outfitted with the Magic Keyboard and its built-in trackpad.
There’s no argument here that iPadOS has come a long way in recent years. Features like multitasking, file management and cursor support have unlocked more and more use cases. As a result, for many people, working from an iPad has gone from a series of hoops to jump through to something that’s basically effortless.
Therein lies the conflict for me. My iPad Pro is a fantastic machine that can serve me well across large swaths of my work life, but I still prefer to do those tasks on a Mac. The iPad Pro is full of unrealized potential for me and how I like to get things done. More than once, I’ve felt silly upgrading to a new iPad just to realize that nothing changed in how I use it.
This is where the new iPad mini comes in.
Its small size — and lack of a first-party keyboard case — means that I don’t feel any tension about not using it for work. Its form factor has freed me up to use the iPad how I want, without feeling like I’ve relegated an amazing tablet to something below its station in life.
Beyond that, it’s actually better at being the iPad I want than a full-sized model. It’s great for catching up on a show while washing dishes, and portable enough that it’s fantastic as a PDF viewer while working on something in my studio or under my truck. In the week I’ve had it, I have been surprised how often I’ve reached for it over my iPhone, especially in situations where the iPad Pro would have never been a consideration.1
I’m not saying that one couldn’t work on this iPad, but I think it shines in ways that align much better with how I use an iPad. For that, the new iPad mini is a winner in my book.
- It shouldn’t be surprising that this is all about the form factor. Dating back to the original, the iPad mini has always been about size first, and this new industrial design suits it very well. Getting rid of the large bezels and moving to the new Touch ID makes this iPad portable in a new way. Coupled with a good set of speakers and USB-C, it’s a modern iPad in a small form factor. ↩︎