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Apple iPad Mini 5 review: The best small tablet

The iPad Mini might seem like the odd man out in the iPad lineup, but it's still one of the best tablets to buy in 2021.
July 26, 2021
iPad Mini and iPhone X on desk
Nick Fernandez / Android Authority

Apple iPad Mini (5th generation)

Small tablets are hard to come by in 2021, and the iPad Mini 5 is one of the last of a dying breed. Thankfully, it delivers on the promise of packing the best of Apple's larger iPad lineup into a smaller form factor. If you can overlook the large bezels and lack of USB-C charging, it's one of the best tablets you can buy — no matter the size.

What we like

Small and light
Excellent performance
Great iPadOS 14 features
Little competition

What we don't like

Dated design
No Apple Pencil 2 support
No USB-C charging

Apple’s iPad lineup still sits atop the tablet kingdom more than a decade after the first device was released. Nevertheless, the iPad Mini seems to be in a strange spot. Most of the market gravitates toward the top-of-the-line iPad Pro or the cheapest standard iPad. At first glance, the iPad Mini feels like a worse buy with a higher price tag and a smaller screen.

But over the past year, the iPad Mini has easily become my favorite device to use on a daily basis. Find out why in Android Authority‘s iPad Mini review!

See also: The best tablet deals right now

Apple iPad Mini 5
$549.00 at Amazon

iPad Mini 5 review: What is it?

iPad Mini Lovecraft book
Nick Fernandez / Android Authority

You can’t really talk about the iPad Mini without discussing its position within Apple’s iPad lineup. As mentioned above, its 7.9-inch display is smaller than the standard iPad’s 10.2-inch panel, but it adds Apple’s True Tone technology and an antireflective coating. It’s also more resistant, with a laminated display to prevent scratches and other damage.

Read also: Your guide to the best tablets — breaking down the OS options, and more

The larger iPad Air and iPad Pro models are significantly more expensive. Due to their size, they don’t quite fill the same niche as the iPad Mini. That said, if you want a larger device and can spend a few hundred dollars more, the iPad Air or Pro won’t disappoint.

What’s good?

iPad Mini multitasking
Nick Fernandez / Android Authority

What drew me to the iPad Mini over the other options is its size. The first tablet I truly loved was the Nexus 7, and despite the OS change, this gave me the same experience. I wanted a smaller tablet to use for reading and occasional media consumption, and that’s exactly what I got.

I also like that the base model comes with 64GB of storage. This amount feels right for a tablet, which needs nowhere near as much space as a phone. The base model of the standard iPad only has 32GB, and the 128GB iPad costs more than the cheapest iPad Mini.

The iPad Mini delivers everything you could want from a small tablet.

At first glance, the iPad Mini design looks dated with large bezels and a physical fingerprint reader/home button. More expensive models like the iPad Air and iPad Pro look much sleeker. However, in this case, smaller bezels would reduce the usability of the device. It’s nice to have some space to hold a tablet without unwanted taps, and I’m more than willing to give up a little screen real estate for it.

Battery life is also excellent. When reading or browsing the web for a few hours a night, the battery easily lasted for a week. Streaming video drained the battery a bit faster, but you can expect to meet or exceed Apple’s promised 10-hour battery life.

In terms of actually using the device, iPadOS has come a long way in recent years. It now has multitasking tools, mouse-and-keyboard support, widgets, and a host of other features that make it a breeze to use.

Read also: The best accessories you can get for the iPad

What’s not so good?

Designer Graphic Design Tablet Apple iPad Mini 5

It’s hard to find many negatives with the Apple iPad Mini 5, especially considering the lack of competition in the space. The only real drawback is that it’s only compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil, which has an awkward charging method. It plugs into the bottom of the tablet and sticks straight out. This both looks ridiculous and renders the tablet virtually unusable.

Apart from that, the dated design may turn away some consumers. Sure, Apple could have slightly reduced the bezel sizes. It also could have switched to the more ubiquitous USB-C charging standard. Still, neither of these should be deal-breakers for those looking for a small tablet.

iPad Mini 5 review: Should I buy it?

If you want a small tablet, there really is no better option on the market. The iPad Mini blows the competition out of the water with a powerful processor, light and compact design, fantastic battery life, and the best tablet operating system in iPadOS.

The iPad Mini blows the competition out of the water.

For consumers that just want a good tablet and don’t mind a larger size, the standard iPad offers incredible value. The iPad Air and iPad Pro are more expensive, but they’re both among the best tablets money can buy. There’s also a small selection of good Android tablets for those who want to avoid Apple’s ecosystem, but none can truly match Apple’s offerings in terms of performance.

ipad mini render
Apple iPad Mini 5
Apple's smallest tablet packs all the power of its larger siblings into one of the best small tablets on the market.