My thoughts on the iPad mini 2021

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Hardware & Accessories

So, I've had my mini for a couple of days now and thought, for those who might be considering on purchasing, that I could offer my views, for what they are worth. This will not be the excellent deep dives that other members do, but more of an over all feel of the device from a blind perspective.

I've had an iPad mini before, first generation in fact, and the new one feels quite different in the hand with its flat edges. I believe it is slightly smaller though nothing I could tell without a direct comparison.

The other change is the camera bump on the back which houses a the camera and flash so if you are looking to get one of these, be aware that, without a case, it will not lie flat on a surface without getting a case.

The screen, which is the main upgrade, on the face of it shouldn't make a great deal of difference as it's only 0.4 inches on the diagonal, saying that, the reference of having the screen equidistant from the edge of the device in all orientations is very helpful when doing things by touch. It doesn't mean you are having to adjust for the chin or forehead like with the classic iPad and iPad mini design.

Speaker wise, there are four speaker grills, though I'm unsure if all of them actually contain speakers. Instead I think there may be one in apposing diagonal grills allowing for stereo in both landscape and portrait mode. The speakers going to stereo in landscape is one of the reasons I decided to go for this one over the far cheaper iPad 9th generation. Sound wise, it's okay, I guess the best comparison are the speakers on the more recent iPhones. It does go quite loud but its a tinny loud and very lacking in bass, which makes sense due to the small chassis. You'll not get the same sound as you would from a MacBook Air or the iPad Pro but its serviceable and, when paired with headphones, really makes no difference.

Okay, so the main point, the size... I know there is a split for us over this, the mini is not a great deal bigger than the iPhone pro max on the diagonal so people argue you may as well get one device for the same combined price as say an iPhone 13 and the mini. The thing is, and something I didn't really think about, is compartmentalisation. I'm reaching for my phone far less now meaning that device stays topped up. Its early days but I do find myself using the iPad in different ways. It's not a laptop replacement, but I'm getting used to typing on the software keyboard using three fingers on either hand, using the brail keyboard which is actually really good as it isn't that weird backward facing iPhone thing we have to do, plus it can take a six dot input.

I had been looking at the iPad Air, thinking of waiting for its update, but to be honest, I'm glad I didn't. Any prolonged typing is going to require a hardware keyboard anyway and the portability of the mini means I can just throw it in a bag. Yes, there won't be any apple keyboards coming out for it, but considering the price of the magic keyboard and Smart Keyboard folio, I'm kinda not bothered.

I'm sure many of you have also gone for one of these little fellas, perhaps you could give your opinion on it and for those who are on the fence, ask away.

It's always hard to overcome that confirmation bias, EG, I've just dumped a bunch of cash on this thing so I need to defend it, especially when it comes to apple products, but I'd say that if you're looking for an upgrade from an old iPad or iPad mini, it is certainly worth a look. I'm still keen to see pencil support for VoiceOver as I imagine this being excellent as a literal notepad as, in its case, it looks like a thin book or maybe a digest sized magazine. I'm going to see if anything does work with it after borrowing the second gen pencil though my hopes are not high.

Hope this helps.

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Comments

Submitted by Graham Page on Monday, September 27, 2021

My main problem with the iPad mini is that as far as I know it does not have a headphone socket. Most inexpensive bluetooth headphones and indeed Apple airpodsintroduce a lag when used with voiceover so a wired option does need to be available.

Maybe we will see wired headsets with USB C connectors or I wonder if using a USB A to USB C adaptors would allow existing USB headsets to work?

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Monday, September 27, 2021

I'd assume there are a lot of USB-C headsets out there for android phones though I've rarely experienced latency with either my AirPods Pro or AirPods max, though I do accept that these probably have pretty snappy onboard processors sill, even with AirPods standard, there is little report of latency issues from the general public who would be noticing it with gaming or lip sync issues in movies. IOS 15 does seem to be snappier in the VoiceOver department compared with IOS 14.

Submitted by Redhead on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

After reading some reviews, the new ipad mini seems like a very good buy. What appeals to me most is the stereo sound. I currently have a mini 5. What are yall’s thoughts on upgrading to the new model? Should I take the plunge or wait? My main consern is no headphone jack. if it have lightning plug that would be an easy fix. However it has USB c. Will I be able to use wired headphones at all? If not, that may be a huge showstopper and I may not upgrade my ipad at all. i’m not a big fan of bluetooth.
Also, how good is the sound on the new mini compared to the 5. I could really use some insight.

Hi,

Regarding the USB-C headphones, a quick google search threw up a load of USB-C headsets as well as USB-C to 3.5 MM adaptors for pretty cheap. Obviously you need to remember that the quality of the DAC in such devices will define the quality of the sound if you are looking for the best quality output.

The sound, compared with the mini 5 is, I'd say, similar just with a relocation of the speakers. As I said in the original post, there is really not much space to get bass response in the mini. It's satisfactory for watching dialogue heavy shows and movies or even audio books, but anything beyond that you'll need headphones. The fact that VO comes out of both sides of the device in landscape does make for a more balanced and pleasant experience.

You mentioned waiting, did you have any idea of what you might be waiting for? I believe the air will be updated, probably next spring which will have better speakers than the mini, but a larger form factor, the same as the current air, which you may or may not want. Outside of that the only other updates are going to be the pro line of iPads which, I believe, for the non-sighted, are a poor value for money.

O

Hello,
Thanks for your reply. That answered all my questions. I may go check out the new mini if possible before I upgrade. The 5 sounds ok, but the mini 4 sounded better in my opinion. I am glad there are headphones and stuff made for USB c.