When the iPad mini stayed unchanged for more than three years, fans must have thought Apple had given up on its smallest tablet.

But surprise – a new iPad mini was at last launched last month.

The iPad mini 2019 looks exactly like the last iteration, the iPad mini 4. It has the same large bezels around the display, the Touch ID home button, bottom speakers, headphone jack and Lightning connector.

Both also share the same physical dimensions, though the new model weighs a gram more. Thus, you can use the accessories for the mini 4, like Apple’s Smart Cover for iPad mini, for the new tablet.

The biggest difference between both is the mini 2019’s display. It is still a 7.9-inch display, but now a True Tone one that adjusts its colours to be consistent with the ambient lighting. It also has a wider colour gamut and a higher brightness level of 500 nits (up from 450 nits in the mini 4).

In addition, the display supports the first-generation Apple Pencil ($138) – a first for the iPad mini series.

  • FOR

    • Much improved performance

    • Apple Pencil (first generation) support

    • Better display

  • AGAINST

    • Dated design

    • Only up to 256GB storage

  • SPECS

    PRICE: From $599 (64GB Wi-Fi) to $1,019 (256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular, version tested)

    PROCESSOR: A12 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, M12 co-processor

    DISPLAY: 7.9 inches, 2,048 x 1,536 pixels

    CAMERA: 8-megapixel rear camera, 7-megapixel front-facing camera

    OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS 12.2

    WEIGHT: 300.5g (Wi-Fi), 308.2g (Wi-Fi + Cellular)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Whether sketching or writing, using the Apple Pencil on the mini 2019’s display feels like using a real pencil.

The 8-megapixel rear camera remains unchanged from the mini 4’s. But the front-facing camera gets an upgrade to a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera (up from the mini 4’s 1.2-megapixel camera).

This allows FaceTime video chats in 1080p and thus much clearer visuals when you are talking to your loved ones.

The mini 2019 comes with a new processor – Apple’s A12 Bionic chip, which is the same one powering the iPhone XS and XS Max.

As you might expect, the mini 2019 easily outperforms its predecessor in the Geekbench 4 benchmark test, scoring 4,818 (single-core) and 11,565 (multi-core), compared with the mini 4’s scores of 1,699 (single-core) and 2,995 (multi-core).

It even slightly betters the new iPad Air 2019, which scored 4,759 (single-core) and 10,725 (multi-core).

In real-life use, the graphics-intensive mobile role-playing game (RPG) The Elder Scrolls: Blades looks absolutely gorgeous on the mini 2019, with smooth textures rendered at no lag. It feels like playing on a PC.

In terms of battery life, the mini 2019 does not show much improvement compared with its predecessor. In an intensive battery test, it managed seven hours 30 minutes before the battery went flat. The mini 4 managed seven hours 26 minutes in the same test.

In daily use, I find it has to be charged every other day when I use it to check e-mails, catch up with news on Google News, read Facebook updates and browse the Internet with Safari.

But when I play Blades, the battery gets depleted by 25 per cent in only 30 minutes.

With smartphones’ display getting bigger, I thought I would not be craving for a mini tablet like the iPad mini 2019.

To my surprise, I find myself liking this tablet more than the other iPads I have reviewed. It is easy to carry around and fits in almost any bag I have.

Its 7.9-inch display hits the sweet spot – large enough to play games without straining my eyes, unlike the case with a smartphone’s display, yet small enough to let me quickly swipe across the display, which is something of a problem with larger tablets.

It also offers great performance to run the latest games.

Perhaps the most important thing is that you can hold the mini 2019 with one hand to read an e-book and still be able to sip your coffee with the other hand.

Apart from its dated design and storage that goes only to 256GB, the iPad mini 2019 is very much the ideal mini tablet.

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