Apple iPad mini (2021) vs Apple iPad 10.2in (2021) full review

Apple introduced two new iPads at an event on 14 September 2021. If you are on the market for a new iPad and are wondering which one will be best for you read on to find out how they compare.

There are various factors likely to impact on your decision, including value for money, cameras, and how well the iPad in question will do the tasks you need it to do. There are also some pretty obvious differences: size, weight, and design - specifically the lack of a Home button on the new iPad mini.

We'll start off by examining what you get for your money.

Price

The 10.2in iPad is the cheapest iPad you can buy. In fact in the UK it is even cheaper than it was previously at the entry level. Not only is it £10 cheaper, it comes with twice as much storage (64GB rather than 32GB). In the US customers have to contend with the same price, but we don't hear them complaining. Of course there is always give and take and the higher capacity iPad (now with 256GB SSD rather than 128GB) has increased in price very slightly, but you do get a lot much storage.

Here are the iPad prices: (You can buy from Apple here.)

  WiFi Cellular
iPad (6th-gen, 2021, 64GB) £319/$329 £459/$479
iPad (6th-gen, 2021, 256GB) £439/$459 £570/$609

As for the iPad mini there's some bad news: the price has increased for the new generation. Now starting at £479/$499, the 2019 5th-gen model cost £399/$399. However there are a few reasons that may go some way to excuse the price increase for the iPad mini, especially when looked at in comparison to the iPad Air, but we aren't comparing it to the iPad Air here (we do that elsewhere - read iPad Air vs iPad mini).

Here are the iPad mini prices: (You can buy from Apple here.)

  WiFi Cellular
iPad mini (6th-gen, 2021, 64GB) £479/$499 £619/$649
iPad mini (6th-gen, 2021, 256GB) £519/$649 £669/$799

The price increase of the iPad mini does mean that it is now at least £160/$170 more expensive than the iPad. The obvious question is what does your extra £160/$170 get you?

To investigate this we'll look at the various specs offered by the two iPads.

Specs comparison

iPad mini 2021 iPad 2021
8.3in 'all-screen’ display 10.2in display
Touch ID on top button (no Home button) Touch ID on Home button
A15 A13
64GB & 256GB 64GB & 256GB
12MP rear-facing camera, ƒ/1.8 aperture, Quad-LED True Tone flash, Smart HDR 3 8MP rear-facing camera, ƒ/2.4 aperture, HDR
12MP front-facing camera, ƒ/2.4 aperture, Center Stage, Smart HDR 3 12MP front-facing camera, ƒ/2.4 aperture, Center Stage, HDR
4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps; 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps; Extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps or 30 fps
Liquid Retina display (2266‑by‑1488 resolution, at 326 ppi) Retina display (2160-by-1620 resolution at 264 ppi)
500 nits max brightness 500 nits max brightness
Fully laminated display, Antireflective coating  
Wide color display (P3) sRGB
True Tone True Tone
USB C connector Lightning connector
Apple Pencil 2 Apple Pencil 1
Up to 10 hours battery life Up to 10 hours battery life
Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 6 (802.11a/b/g/n/ ac/ax) Bluetooth 4.2, Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
5G 4G

From the table above you can see there are a number of features that the iPad mini has that the iPad lacks, including:

  • The iPad mini has a better quality display, albeit smaller.
  • The rear-facing camera on the iPad mini is better.
  • The iPad mini uses a USB C connector, rather than Lightning.
  • And the iPad mini has better connectivity: Bluetooth 5, WiFi 6, and 5G.

We'll examine each of these differences in more detail below.

There is one notable feature that only the iPad has: the Home button.

Home button or not?

The removal of the Home button from the iPad mini means that Touch ID has been relocated to the on/off switch at the top of the device, just as on the iPad Air 2020. (We wonder why Apple hasn't done this with the iPhone as a secondary way to unlock the device).

Whether the removal of the Home button is seen as a benefit or a disadvantage depends a lot on your view point. It obviously means that the screen can be larger, which is a definite benefit. However, for some the Home button remains the most natural way to navigate the iPad. Typical adults might quickly learn how to navigate using the various gestures, but there are plenty of young and old iPad users we know who rely on that Home button. If you aren't ready to give it up then the iPad is the only iPad with a Home button now.

iPad mini Touch ID

Display

The removal of the Home button does mean that the iPad mini now has a bigger display than it did: now 8.3in up from 7.9in. Apple has managed to keep the dimensions of the device pretty much the same as the older model, so there is no trade off. You get a larger screen, but the device itself is still the same compact size loved by so many. We'll discuss the dimensions in more detail below.

Obviously the screen is still smaller than that of the 10.2in iPad, but there are a lot of benefits and features that make the iPad mini screen superior to that of the 10.2in iPad. For starters there are more pixels on the iPad mini screen: it has a Liquid Retina display that offers 2,266 x 1,488 resolution at 326 ppi. In comparison the iPad has a standard Retina display that offers 2,160 x 1,620 resolution at 264 ppi.

That's not all. The iPad mini benefits from a fully laminated display and anti-reflective coating - something shared with the iPad Air and iPad Pro. The standard iPad is the only iPad that lacks these features and we have always thought it is at a disadvantage because of it. The non-laminated display just doesn't give the same impression of quality.

One final benefit of the iPad mini is that it boasts Wide colour (P3) while the iPad is just sRGB.

iPad mini screen


There is one bit of good news though: this generation of iPad finally gains True Tone. True Tone is a feature that first appears on the iPad Pro in 2016 and now features on every Apple device with a display. The iPad was the last remaining Apple device to adopt the technology that adjusts the colour and brightness of the screen to match the ambient light for a more natural image that is easier on the eye.

Cameras

The iPad has one major improvement this time round. The camera on the front that is used for FaceTime calls or selfies increases from 1.2MP to 12MP. This is a huge leap and a much needed one in this era of increased video calls. It really makes you wonder why it took Apple so long to improve it.

iPad facetime camera

The iPad mini shares this new 12MB front-facing camera, but in its case this is a jump up from 7MP. The new camera also offers a ƒ/2.4 aperture and support for Center Stage, which is a feature that debuted in the iPad Pro earlier in 2021 and means that the iPad uses AI to keep you in the frame even if you move around. It will also adjust to frame other people if they join you.

There is one tiny difference - the iPad mini offers Smart HDR 3 for this camera while the iPad just offers HDR. Smart HDR adjust the dynamic range using AI, thereby improving the image in poor quality light.

This isn't the only camera on the iPad though. Turn the device over and there is a rear camera. In this case there is a more pronounced difference: the iPad mini has a 12MP camera with ƒ/1.8 aperture while the iPad has a 8MP rear-facing camera, ƒ/2.4 aperture. There is the same difference in terms of HDR.

The final difference is in terms of video recording. The iPad mini offers 4K video recording at up to 60 fps; 1080p HD video recording at up to 60 fps; and extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps. The iPad only offers 1080p HD video recording at up to 30 fps.

Dimensions

Despite every bit of technology in the iPad mini, if the screen is too small for you then you may prefer the iPad.

However, for some the compact dimensions of the iPad mini are the main benefit. The good news is that the iPad mini is more compact than ever, despite its larger screen. Here's how is shapes up compared to the previous generation:

  • Now 195.4mm x 134.8mm x 6.3mm, 293g (297g cellular)
  • Was 203.2mm x 134.8mm x 6.1mm 300.5g (308.2g cellular)

As for the 10.2in iPad, the dimensions are exactly the same as the previous generation, although it is a fraction lighter than before.

  • 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 7.5mm 487g (or 498g for cellular)

As a point of comparison, the iPad Air, with its 10.8in display has these measurements:

  • 247.6mm x 178.5mm x 6.1mm x 458g (or 460g cellular)

If it's a light iPad you want then the mini is clearly the way to go.

Ports & Connectivity

One final difference to mention. The iPad mini for the first time gains a USB C port, bringing it in to line with the iPad Pro and Air models. The iPad still uses the Lightning port. If you are anything like us you probably have a house full of Ligntning connectors and very few USB C plugs, but there are benefits such as being able to plug in to an external display.

It's also worth noting that the iPad mini offers better connectivity options including Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 6, and 5G. The iPad only offers Bluetooth 4.2, the older Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac) and 4G. The last thing to mention is that the iPad mini works with the Apple Pencil 2, while the iPad is only compatible with the Apple Pencil 1.

iPad mini

Verdict

Our advice is to buy the iPad mini, but if you don't need the additional features tat model brings, and you don't want to spend the extra £160/$170 the standard iPad is still a great option (and if there are any deals on that model you'll see them below).

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