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Apple iPad Mini 5 (2019) Day One Review – Same, Same, But Different

I’ve been a convert to Apple’s iPad line of tablets with the launch of the astounding iPad Pro 2018 last year. Utilising the iPad Pro daily as a MacBook replacement (but alongside my Mac Pro desktop computer), I’ve grown accustomed to the quirks and limitations of the iPad family – but also the impressive power under its sleek, portable shell.

Setting up the iPad Mini (2019) is a breeze if you’ve got existing iOS devices. Outside, it is almost undistinguishable from the iPad Mini 3 and 4. Image: Ian Ling

The last iPad Mini I owned was the first generation tablet, launched in 2012. Now, in its fifth generation, and almost seven years since its inception, the Mini has barely changed. It sports nearly the same form factor, nearly the same feature sets; yet its use cases have changed drastically.

Same, Same

I groaned, audibly, when I found out that the 2019 iPad Mini would sport largely the same form factor as literally every iPad Mini before it. Everything, from dimensions, to the button placement, to the materials used, felt the same. 

The iPad Mini (2019) is still the best tablet for on-the-go reading. Image: Ian Ling

The list of complaints was mounting: no Face ID, no USB-C, no thin, uniform bezels we had on the 2018 iPad Pro models. 

A wave of mirth drew over as I realised the Touch ID sensor / home button on the iPad Mini 5 was more iPhone 6S than iPhone7. That is to say, you actually have to physically depress the button to access the device. It felt like a giant step backwards – but hey – better than physically typing in the passcode. The iPad Mini 3 and 4, which also featured Touch ID, had stuck with the physical button – most likely due to the lack of Taptic Engine on iPad to create the illusion of a button press.

Pushing a button also wasn’t too big an ordeal – accessing the iPad laid flat on a table was a breeze, and did not longer involve hovering my head horizontally to comically attempt a Face ID unlock. 

One thing is undeniable, though. By retaining to the same general form factor, the iPad Mini sticks to its guns. I found myself immediately launching the Books app, and easily ploughing through dense pages on my daily commute with a free hand to stabilise myself through the incessant jerks.

But Different

That, however, is where most similarities end. With internal and functional upgrades, the 2019 iPad Mini is an entirely different animal. 

With its support for the Apple Pencil (first generation), I get to indulge my love for annotating the daylights out of the text i peruse. I’ve long loved Notability – importing academic articles, slideshows and word documents is a breeze – perfect for students.

The cheapest iOS device with the powerful A12 chip and Pencil support, the iPad Mini (2019) really is ideal for students of all backgrounds. Image: Ian Ling

It is quite a pity that Apple had elected forgo second generation Pencil compatibility with the 2019 Mini – perhaps that, along with USB-C, are “Pro” features. However, the Mini form-factor is small enough to make toggling on-screen controls like accessing the eraser rather unobtrusive.  

The only other significant change is the implementation of the A12 chip – the same one used on the company’s flagship iPhone XS, XS Max and XR smartphones launched late last year. It is paired with 3GB of RAM (like on the iPhone XR, compared to 4GB on the XS and XS Max), but is more than adequate for most gaming applications.

This inclusion of the latest iOS silicon on the Mini is significant. Not only do users get the latest on-device smarts at a more accessible price-point, it also means the 2019 Mini can do many things previous iPads Mini could not – AR applications, graphics-intensive games and platforms, extensive multitasking and connectivity is a breeze on the new Mini.

The Moleskine-developed Timepage app is a captivating, easy-to-use calendar app that gives immediate productivity gains. Image: Ian Ling

I indulged in a few games of Fortnite, Vainglory, and Brawl Stars immediately after setting up. No stuttering or dropped frames – only splendid detail afforded by the new Retina True Tone display, along with colour accurate, wide colour gamut visuals.


How the iPad Mini (2019) holds up to long-term heavy usage awaits our more in-depth review slated in the coming weeks. With an intensive day of usage, the iPad Mini ticks all the boxes: power, functionality, and portability all check out well.

With mere first impressions in hand, it is obvious that the iPad Mini (2019) is ideal for students, and for on-the-go productivity applications.

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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