iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5: a big mini upgrade!

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iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5: a big mini upgrade!
Apple's iPad mini is not the most bang-for-buck choice out there — the base iPad 10.2 is. However, there is a small niche of users that want that Kindle-like shape, but with a powerful iOS punch to back it up. So, we were happy to see that Apple finally decided to update the old 2019 iPad mini in late 2021. Now, we have the iPad mini 6th gen — a facelift made it look, feel, and operate like a miniature iPad Air, sans the M1 chip. And we are all for it!

Now that iPadOS 16 has been announced, we know that both the iPad mini 5th gen and iPad mini 6th gen will be getting it. So, they are both "in the game", still! Should you even consider the older iPad, if you find a refurbished deal or second hand at a bargain? Mostly, no — the newest iPad mini (2021) brought about a much-needed upgrade and support for Apple Pencil gen 2. The older one is probably still good as a kid's tablet or a secondary screen for whatever need you have. But let's dive deeper!

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iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 price

The iPad mini 6 comes out with a price tag of $499 for its base, 64 GB model. New condition iPad mini 5 units seem to be gone... they used to be a few around in stores for $399. Now, you can still find some refurbished iPad mini (2019) offers for around $300, which is still a questionable choice to make. The base iPad 10.2 has more current hardware and starts at $329 brand-new, with a 64 GB base storage tier. Still, a small subset of users may be after a small iPad, specifically. So, we continue!

Apple iPad mini 6

Buy at Apple

Apple iPad mini (2019)

- Refurbished
Buy at Amazon

iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 design and display

The iPad mini (2021) comes with a complete redesign — it now looks like a contemporary iPad Air… but it’s small. Flat sides, rectangular look, and what Apple calls an “all screen design”.

Comparatively speaking, the iPad mini’s bezels are still kind of, sort of thick, but at this point, we’d say that’s a plus. Why? Because any thinner than this and it would be hard to hold the tablet without constantly tapping over the edges of the screen.

The display on the iPad mini (2021) is slightly bigger than the one on the iPad mini (2019) — 8.3 inches vs 7.9 inches. But that’s mostly achieved by the shrinking of the bezels — the actual size of the new mini is pretty much the same. In fact, the iPad mini 6 is slightly shorter and slightly lighter than the mini 5.

The home button on the new mini is gone, of course, so it gets Touch ID fingerprint unlock on the power button situated on its top frame. Also, interesting choice by Apple, the volume controls of the iPad mini (2021) are also located on the top frame. Interesting choice, probably dictated by how the internals needed to be positioned.

When it comes to screens, we have a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution on the iPad mini 5’s 7.9-inch screen. The iPad mini 6 has 2266 x 1488 pixels across its 8.3 inches. What’s with the weird resolutions? Well, Apple just loves to stick to that 324 pixels-per-inch density on its LCD screens and I guess the legacy goes on.

It’s worth noting that the iPad mini 6 has a screen aspect ratio of 4.6:3 while the iPad mini 5 has the classic 4:3.

For what it's worth, the iPad mini 6 has a bit of a disappointing jello effect when scrolling pages quickly. The Internet was quick to notice this issue and it even got to the point where Apple responded. But no, don't hope for a fix or an admission, Apple basically said "Yeah, that's how LCD screens work".

The iPad mini 6 also comes with a nice pick of fresh colors, kind of how the iPad Air (2020) did. The iPad mini 5 is mostly available in black and silver nowadays.

The iPad mini 6 speakers are a clear win

For long, excruciating years, Apple refused to put true stereo speakers on the iPads. Yeah, it had two speakers, dual channel too, but both were placed on one side of the device. First, the iPad Pro line introduced true stereo with quad speaker setup. Now, the iPad Air 4th gen (2020) has “landscape stereo” meaning there is a speaker on the top and bottom of the tablet — when you are viewing a video in landscape, it’s left-right stereo.

Well, the iPad mini 6 adopts that “landscape stereo” from the iPad Air 4 and yes, it was high time it did!

iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 processor and hardware

The iPad mini 5 came with an Apple A12 processor — the same SoC that powered the iPhone XS. Not bad and it can be argued that this silicon can still hold its own in 2021 — despite it being a bit long in the tooth already, it was super-powered on release and is still quite potent today.

The iPad mini 6 comes with the new Apple A15 — the 5 nm wonder inside the newly-announced iPhone 13. It is, of course, much more power-efficient and productive than the A12 of yore, but that’s to be expected.

So, A15 will be able to run iPadOS 15 with all its multitasking perks much more fluidly, which is appreciated. It’s also — obviously — much more future-proof, since it’s just now coming out. Rest assured that if you buy an iPad mini 6 now, you’re most probably set for at least 5 years with it.

Also, worth noting, the iPad mini 6 comes with a USB Type-C port on the bottom, instead of Lightning. That's a big deal, because it makes it much easier to attach 3rd party devices. We've been throwing external hard drives, USB sticks, SD card readers, and audio interfaces at the iPad Pro with USB Type-C and all of them worked flawlessly. The iPad mini 5 still has a Lightning port, which requires you to find an MFi accessory or at least an adapter, which may or may not work for your purposes.

In terms of RAM, Apple didn't go above and beyond what's needed — the iPad mini (2021) rocks 4 GB of RAM. Admittedly, that's enough for iPadOS to run just fine, only it feels a tad stingy in 2022.

In any case, the iPad mini 6 has another advantage over the iPad mini 5 — that new processor supports 5G.

iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 cellular and 5G

There’s no way around that — the iPad mini 5 just can’t connect to 5G. It was not built for that… there was not 5G to connect to back in 2019. The iPad mini 6 crosses that boundary now. Whether you need cellular on your iPad… eh, that’s a discussion for another article. But, if you decide that you need it — the mini 6 wins here.

iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 Apple Pencil support

What's cool about the new iPad mini 6 is that it also supports the Apple Pencil Gen 2 — the magnetic Pencil that just sticks to the iPad and charges wirelessly. The iPad mini 5 works with the Apple Pencil 1, which needs to be connected to the Lightning port of the tablet to get its charge and has no magnets — you will need a case with a Pencil holder here.

Also, there's no official keyboard accessory for any iPad mini.

iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 camera

The iPad mini 6 saw a huge upgrade in the camera department. The main camera on the back is now a 12 MP shooter, as opposed to the 8 MP one on the mini 5. But that’s neither here nor there.

The big deal is on the front — the iPad mini (2021) has the brand-new 12 MP, 122-degree ultra-wide selfie camera. These work in tandem with a software feature called Center Stage — the camera “follows” your face and you can hold video calls and conferences while walking around and doing your thing uninterrupted. You know, Apple was inspired by the fact that we spend a lot of time communicating… not in person nowadays. So, all the new iPads from 2021 have Center Stage, even the cheapest iPad 9th gen.

So, yeah, nobody really uses an iPad as their main camera. But quality-of-life upgrades for video conferences or document scanning? Now, that’s a good upgrade to have.

iPad mini 6 vs iPad mini 5 battery life

You know the spiel — “All day battery life”. Apple usually aims for a consistent 10 hours of screen-on time with its tablets. The iPad mini 6 has a 5078 mAh battery, which is as big as a big phone's battery. But hey, good news, the iPad mini also uses a phone's processor.

So, yeah, you can expect something to the tune of 8-9 hours of mixed use, much like how the iPad mini (2019) performed.

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