Gadget review: The new iPad mini 5

iPad Mini 5 review.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Just as many thought the iPad mini would be quietly retired, it's had a revamp. It's still small and now slightly dated looking - but it's oh so much mightier.

In the past, I've been a bit ambivalent about Apple's smallest tablet. So to put the iPad mini 5 to the test properly, I put my phone in my pocket, biffed my notepad and stopped lugging around my laptop for a week.

Once I got used to the idea, it wasn't all that hard to use the tablet for most everyday tasks.

The A12 Bionic chip with Apple's neural engine is the same as that of its latest iPhones, so the iPad mini is pleasantly powerful. Multiple apps can be operated with ease and as it runs on iOS 12 I was able to multitask with ease.

The screen was crowded but it worked perfectly well.

App switcher on iOS 12.
App switcher on iOS 12. Photo credit: Newshub.

The iPad mini is lightweight (less than 500g) and comfortable to hold, and the 7.9 inch display is easy on the eye. Its more premium look this time around is thanks to the display being laminated to the glass, which gets rid of that extra layer of air.

The device has also been updated with wide colour support and TrueTone colour tuning, so it works well in all lighting conditions. I read a lot but don't enjoy squinting at my phone, so it was interesting to try out the iPad mini as an e-reader.

The iPad mini's size is really useful for augmented reality tasks and games where virtual objects are placed in real world settings. It's easier to hold than the bigger tablets and much easier to see what you're actually trying to look at on the screen than if you were just using your phone.

I tried out a few AR apps that are both great fun and educational for famiilies. Want to know the inner workings of a toaster or learn more about the earth's core? Try JigSpace. Or for stories the kids will love - Wonderscape.

The iPad mini is a good size for augmented reality  tasks and games.
The iPad mini is a good size for augmented reality tasks and games. Photo credit: Newshub.

Posh display aside, the device looks a bit retro compared to the rest of Apple's iPad and iPhone range. I find the big bezels quite ugly now and it still has the home button with Touch ID.

Also, still there are the headphone jack (which is great) and the Lightning connector. The latter seems rather strange given the iPad Pros use USB-C, but I've heard that keeping it for the iPad mini means that it can work with existing iPad mini accessories.

The iPad mini 5 has a new, 7-megapixel, front-facing camera with a f/2.2 lens, but the same 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera on the back. This is unlikely to bother most people as few would buy the tablet for its camera abilities alone.

I'm very pleased the iPad mini comes with Apple Pencil support, because it makes it much more useful as an everyday tool. I used it instead of a notepad. I tried out GoodNotes 5, but there are plenty of note taking apps to choose from.

Split screen on the new iPad mini.
Split screen on the new iPad mini. Photo credit: Newshub.

I am confused as to why Apple stuck with the first generation Apple Pencil instead of the newest model, which was developed for the iPad Pro. The newer pencil is so much better. My biggest gripe of the first gen one is that its missing the flat edge that makes the newer edition so much easier to hold.

Keep in mind that the Apple Pencil is not included as part of the package, either. It costs extra, but in my opinion is worth having. It's a shame that the iPad mini is missing a smart keyboard connector. Bluetooth keyboards are more fiddly.

Last but not least, the battery life of the iPad mini is good. Apple says 10 hours of battery life, I easily got a full day's use each time.

The iPad mini has always had a solid fan club. It's widely used for education and enterprise and is particularly popular with the health and hospitality trades and emergency services. Queensland Police actually added a special pocket to their uniforms to house the tablet.

I'm still not sure I’d be carrying it around daily in addition to my phone and often my laptop and I'll stick to my larger tablet at home, but for the duration of the test I was quietly impressed with how well it performed.

I liked the fact that I could whip it out and not need to squint or hold it at arm's length, something I've been doing more recently with my ageing eyes trying to read words on my phone.

The iPad mini specs include two speakers for stereo sound, dual microphones,  3GB of RAM and eSIM technology. It still has a Lightning port.
The iPad mini specs include two speakers for stereo sound, dual microphones, 3GB of RAM and eSIM technology. It still has a Lightning port. Photo credit: Newshub.

Is it worth buying?

It you want an iPad but nothing too large and you don't want a bigger iPhone, then yes. There isn't a small tablet that's as powerful as the new iPad mini or that has the same dimensions - it's closest rival would be the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.

The iPad mini is also priced well, currently at NZ$679, although don't forget the pencil is about another $160.

However, if you're wedded to your larger tablet at home and use a laptop regularly for work, you probably don't need this too.

The iPad mini 5 was launched at the same time as the new iPad Air, with the only notable differences being the smaller screen and lack of Smart Keyboard compatibility.

With these two both now in the mix, Apple’s current line-up is huge. If you're a fan of its products, there should be one that suits whatever the size of your bank balance.