Apple has a reputation for forcing change on us right when we’ve gotten comfortable with its designs. Sure, we often resist (and sometimes Apple is wrong), but more often than not the Cupertino company proves that breaking out of our comfort zones leads to better user experiences and perhaps even a better future.

That’s why I’m surprised to see the new fifth-generation iPad mini. On the outside, it looks like a twin of its 2015 incarnation, to the point that I once accidentally picked up the old iPad mini to take it home for the evening. As far as I can tell, the only exterior feature that’s changed is that the regulatory information is no longer printed on the tablet’s backside. Even the display hasn’t changed much, as it still offers a resolution of 2048 x 1536 and a pixel density of 326ppi.

This isn’t lazy design. Instead, it’s a rare example of Apple choosing to give us an extra helping of products and concepts we love. If only Apple had the same attitude toward keyboards.

Getting the maximum out of the minimum

The new iPad mini looks like a relic from the past, but it’s undoubtedly a contemporary device. It’s awesome on the inside, which goes a long way toward justifying the $399 starting price tag for the 64GB model when the larger 9.7-inch iPad sells for just $329.

ipad mini iphone xs max apple pencil Daniel Masaoka

Width makes a massive difference with some apps and videos, and that’s partly why the iPad mini shines in comparison to an iPhone.

The rear camera remains the same at 8 megapixels and with a f/2.4 lens, but the front-facing camera got a boost to 7 megapixels and f/2.2. There’s an A12 Bionic processor inside now—the same one you’ll find in the iPhone XS and XR—and in benchmarks it runs almost neck-and-neck with the new iPad Air. For that matter, it clobbers the 2018 9.7-inch iPad across the board. It also now supports gigabit LTE, dual sim cards (if you get the cellular model), and wider DCI-P3 color support. A recent iFixit teardown revealed that its memory got a boost to 3GB (up from 2GB in the iPad mini 4).

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It’s certainly the most impressive tiny tablet out there, as nothing running Android or Windows at this size offers anywhere near this type of performance.

ipad 2019 geekbenchIDG

It’s small, but it’s not weak.

I just wish it looked more modern. More specifically, I wish it took cues from the latest iPad Pros, with their sleek edges and minuscule bezels and support for Face ID (which I find better suited for iPads than iPhones). Unsurprisingly, Apple opted to maintain support with Lightning cables rather than USB-C. I realize this is asking for a lot, but I also wish it supported the second-generation Apple Pencil, which wirelessly charges when attached to the magnets lining the latest iPad Pro. Instead, the new iPad mini only supports the Logitech Crayon and the first-generation Apple Pencil with its famously losable cap. The iPad mini is far from ugly, but nothing about it excites me.

ipad mini back IDG

Lightning strikes once again.

This won’t bother everyone. Sticking with the iPad mini’s old form factor allows Apple to keep popular elements that you won’t find in some of the latter-day expensive iPads. There’s Touch ID, of course, which some people prefer over Face ID (although I’m convinced those people haven’t give Face ID a fair shot), and yes, there’s still a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Most importantly, it’s still tiny at 8 inches by 5.3 inches (and 0.24 inches thick). I often find myself convinced that I forgot to put it in my bag.



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