When Apple released the original iPad Mini back in late 2012 I thought, “This is it, the perfect form-factor for tablet gaming.” Everywhere I went I pulled out the compact device, showing off its 7.9-inch screen, how well it fit in my oversized paws. I was never going back to a full-size iPad. Then Apple spent the next eight years neglecting my tiny tablet pal, giving all the good upgrades to its upsized models. I’d completely given up on ever getting a good iPad Mini again, but then last month it happened.
No more home button. No more lightning cable. It’s got a gorgeous 8.3-inch liquid retina display and a powerful A15 Bionic chip. The iPad Mini is finally back.
Apple did away with the home button on the iPhone X back in 2017. It removed the home button and swapped the lightning plug for USB-C in the iPad Pro in 2018. Then, in 2019, the company introduced the fifth-generation iPad Mini.
I was completely crushed. For a fan of the smaller form factor, the presence of that home button and the fact that this “new” piece of hardware still used the proprietary lightning cable was proof that Apple didn’t care about the Mini nearly as much as I did. Despite the older components I nearly bought one but was put off by the IPS LCD display.
That’s why it was such a joyous surprise last month when Apple revealed the sixth-generation model, the first major redesign of the iPad Mini since its introduction back in 2012. No more thick borders on the top and bottom to house the home button and hardware. No more shitty IPS screen. Four stereo speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom, as opposed to the fifth-generation with its two speakers on the bottom only.
The sixth-generation iPad Mini is only slightly bigger than an Xbox Series One controller. Tossing both into a bag for on-the-go gaming is easy. Coupled with a subscription to Apple Arcade, I’ve got a huge library of controller-ready games at my fingertips at all times. Yes, I could do the same with a Nintendo Switch, but the Nintendo Switch doesn’t also do all of the things an iPad does, like everything I can do with a computer, all over a 5G wireless connection.
In most situations, I prefer the iPad Mini over the latest model iPad Air. The smaller form factor is more comfortable for me to hold for long periods of time. It’s slightly wider. The compact screen means I can hold it closer to my eyes and still take everything in, an important consideration for someone who spends a lot of time in bed due to a disability.
In fact, the only time I will reach for the iPad Air instead of the Mini is when I want to read comic books. I am not getting any younger, and when it comes to reading text bubbles, bigger is always going to be better for me. That said, I can get by with the Mini if I’m using a reader with a panel-by-panel zoom function just fine.
I’ve been playing games on my iPad Mini for a couple of weeks now, which is more than I’ve played on my iPhone or iPad Air in months. It’s just so easy to pick up when I want to level my Marvel Future Revolution characters or complete a few more rounds of Zookeeper World. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally get back to playing some Genshin Impact on this little baby. I’m always looking for more things to simultaneously adore and get angry about.
So the new iPad Mini, like its ancient 2012 ancestor, has quickly become my go-to device for quick-hit gaming. Heck, though it’s sitting on my over-bed computer desk inches from my mouse and keyboard, half the time I’ll reach for it instead on my PC when I need to look something up real quick. Once again it’s the sweet spot between portability and power. Here’s hoping Apple doesn’t make me nine years for another worthy model.