iPad Mini 4 Complete Review

This is the new iPad mini and it looks exactly like the other iPad minis that came before. Seriously, they look absolutely alike. You possibly would not be able to tell the difference between them even if you held different versions of the device right in front of your eyes.

iPad mini 4
iPad mini 4

All these devices have the same shape, are made with the same materials (aluminium looking body), the camera sits in the exact same location, the headphone jack is also identical. Apple has even managed to maintain the traditional Smart Covers design.

Why Didn’t Apple Change the iPad mini Design?

Less enlightened people would say that Apple simply got lazy and started releasing the same product repeatedly for pure profit.

Well, although I’m not a heavy user of Apple products (my shallow pockets are the sole reason for this), I’m completely aware that researchers and designers at Apple are anything, but lazy.

A more plausible explanation would be that Apple has reached such a high level when it comes to product design that changing their principles for no good reason other than pleasing some people that complain about everything on the internet would not seem plausible.

What I’m trying to say is: if the original iPad mini design has been great since 2012, it does not make sense to change it.

iPad 4 sideways in different colors
iPad 4 sideways

How About the Hardware Upgrade?

Leaving superficial differences aside, the hardware upgrade that happened inside the iPad mini over all these years is astounding.

The internal components are not all that different from other iPad tablets, in fact, they closely resemble what you would find if you broke an iPad Air open (if I had one right here, I would hammer it and show you its guts).

Unfortunately, I did not have much time to use the iPad mini, I played with the latest version for a single afternoon, than had to do the rest of my research by reading about all the details that are not easily identifiable at first glance.

One thing that I kept asking myself before actually putting my hands on an iPad mini was:

Why would somebody spend their hard-earned money to buy such a small tablet?

The truth it, the iPad mini is much larger than I expected!

I thought that holding it would feel like holding an oversized cellphone, but my experience was completely different.

I was shocked by how large it is.

OK, OK, the iPad mini is no iPad Pro, but I was surprised by the fact that it is actually large enough to be used as a drawing device, which is a characteristic I value a lot.

And let me tell you something, if it’s large enough to be used as a drawing surface, it’s large enough for any other computer-related activity.

iPad 4 mini being held
iPad 4 mini being held

The thing people should realize about the iPad mini is how powerful it actually is!

Looks can be deceiving and since most of us might have played around with much slower small tablets from other brands (like the Amazon Fire 7), it’s understandable that the expectations for the iPad mini are not sky-high.

However, unlike those other tablets, the iPad mini isn’t simply a device that is great for watching movies and browsing the internet, it’s actually a fully-functioning tablet from Apple just like the iPad, the iPad Pro and the iPad Air.

What Can the iPad mini Do?

The iPad mini is capable of running any app from the Apple store just as well as all the other tablets from the company. It has complete access to the entirety of Apple’s app ecosystem and does not have any specific limitations. This tablet is not a retail version of the others, it just happens to be smaller, but all the processing power is still there.

How does it compare to other tablets?

There is absolutely not a single small tablet on the market that is even remotely better than the iPad Mini. Apple has nailed this and all it takes is a few minutes using this tablet to realize this.

By looking at it closely, it becomes clear that the iPad mini is a sort of small version of the ultra-popular iPad Air.

Are there any drawbacks to the iPad mini?

One not-so-positive thing could be said about the iPad mini, though. I wouldn’t call it an innovative product. While I understand that packing all those powerful components into such a small casing is not a negligible feat, Apple could have developed some unexpected new feature to take this particular tablet to new heights.

This is what the iPad Mini is made of:

Technical Specifications

iPad mini 4
Screen Size7.9 inches
Screen TypeMulti-touch Retina Display
Back Camera8-megapixels
Front CameraFaceTime HD
Video Recording1080p HD
Internal Memory64 GB or 256 GB
Digital Pen (Stylus)Apple Pencil (First Generation)
KeyboardSupports multiple keyboards
Battery Life10 hours
Operating SystemiOS 12

Please, note that the iPad mini does not have a USB port. Unlike the iPad Pro, which has a USB Type C port (also known as USB-C), Apple has decided to leave this feature out on the mini.

iPad mini 4 buttons and camera
iPad mini 4 buttons and camera

Why would Apple leave such a useful feature like a USB-C port out of its brand-new tablet?

Because over the years, all of the accessories made for the previous versions of the iPad mini were made to be compatible with a Lightning connector, which is a different port. Apple wanted all the accessories to still be compatible with the new iPad Mini.

Although this decision leaves some room for criticism, it makes perfect sense.

The iPad mini Screen is As Good it Gets

At first glance, every tablet screen looks the same, but all it takes is a few interactions with the device for the differences to become crustal clear.

The iPad mini has the same laminated display seen in previous Apple tablets, which greatly diminishes the horrible parallax seen in so many tablets from other companies.

What is parallax?

It’s the gap between the surface of the tablet, to the digital display beneath it. The more parallax a tablet has, the worse it is because large gaps between screen and display means less accuracy and, consequently, more distortion. Although parallax can be an issue for any user, it’s especially bad for those who use a digital pen.

We all need tablets with as little parallax as possible and, once again, Apple has nailed this because all of its tablets, including the iPad mini, have minimum parallax.

Mini Tablet, Huge Processing Power

The iPad mini has the same A12 processor used in another popular Apple product, the iPhone XS. The processor was lighting fast on that phone and it is just as fast on the tablet.

It can handle heavy image-based apps without any noticeable loss of performance. Running those increasingly common 3D games that are obnoxiously resource-intensive was also a breeze. No complaints here.  

Apple Pencil and the iPad mini

Apple Pencil
Apple Pencil (First Generation)

The iPad mini is only compatible with the first generation of the Apple Pencil.

Why does this matter?

Because if you have the Apple Pencil (Second Generation) at home and you plan on using it on your recently bought iPad mini, it’s simply not going to work.

Anyone who has ever tested both iPad Pencils will immediately tell you that the Second Generation one is obvious superior to its predecessor, it has a smarter design, it feels better when being held and it’s so much easier to charge (all it takes is letting it touch the tablet).

I’m not saying the first Apple Pencil is a bad digital pen, because it’s not. In fact, it’s the second-best stylus in the world, it was only surpassed by its second generation.

Either way, Apple could have worked a little harder to make the iPad mini compatible with that stylus or, perhaps, with both of them (that would have been awesome).

How does the Apple Pencil behave when interacting with the iPad mini?

Apple Pencil
Apple Pencil (Second Generation)

Exactly the way it does with the iPad. Flawlessly.

This is one of the things I love the most about Apple products, once they’re out of the box, they always work like they should. Therefore, the Apple Pencil is still as fast and responsive as always.

As someone who has been using digital pens for drawing tablets for almost 20 years, I can assure you that the Apple Pencil sits at the very top of the hierarchy, it’s by far the best stylus I’ve ever used. Perhaps not only because of the pencil itself, but because it works so accurately on Apple devices. Once the tip of the stylus touches the surface of the tablet and slides through the glass, the line appears almost in real-time.

Why the Apple Pencil Takes Apple Tablets to a New Level?

The largest part of tablets being sold today are passive devices, meaning they’re used for consuming content, like using Google, watching videos on YouTube, binge on Netflix series and listening to Spotify songs.

But once an Apple tablet is coupled with an Apple Pencil, it automatically becomes a production device. It allows users to actively interact with the tablet and create content. Not only are there numerous drawing and design apps, but there are also games that become more fun when played with a stylus.

Apple Pencil features

However, there is one thing I don’t like about the Apple Pencil, it has to be purchased separately.

I’ve always been critical of the fact that Apple sells its accessories for unbelievably high prices, and while it’s understandable that a company that manages to develop superior technologies is entitled to charge its customers accordingly, sometimes Apple’s prices seem excessive.

This is especially true then it comes to all their tablets: iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad mini.

Since the Apple Pencil is a vital piece of hardware for full utilization of these tablets, it should absolutely come in the same box as them.

Is Selling the Apple Pencil Separately Such a Big Problem?

Let’s not pretend that Apple products are cheap. iPads are usually the most expensive tablets when compared to their counterparts sold by other companies, such as Samsung, which, by the way, sells their tablets and digital pens in the same package.

Apple Pencils are not cheap and if you add their cost to what the consumer is already paying to get the tablet, prices can become pretty hefty.

Apple Pencil drawing

Operating System

No changes here, the iPad mini uses the good old iOS 12 which is the standard operating system of all iPads. For those who already own a tablet, things will look and feel the same.  

Battery Life

Apple advertises the iPad mini as a tablet that lasts around 10 hours on a single charge, but this estimation is based on constant use without ever giving the device some rest.

Since very few people will use a tablet uninterruptedly for that many hours, it’s safe to say that the iPad mini could last for a whole day of regular use.

Is the iPad mini Worth It?

Absolutely yes. As long as you need a tablet within these very peculiar dimensions, there is nothing better out there. The iPad mini is virtually an iPad Air in a smaller package.

If I already had a regular-sized tablet and were looking for a secondary computer that doesn’t draw too much attention, it would make perfect sense to get this one.

That said, since the price difference between the iPad mini and the iPad Air is not that great, for those who still don’t own an Apple tablet, it would make more sense to get the larger Air.

Either way, both products are robust, powerful, and sturdy. Above all, they help the user get the job done.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave me a message!

Keep on creating,

Bruno Santos

Bruno Santos

Hi! My name is Bruno. I'm a web developer/designer based in Toronto, Canada. I've been working with drawing tablets for over 20 years and I'm among the Top 10 Most Viewed Writers on Quora in the Graphics Tablets category. Do you have any questions? Just leave a comment =)

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