I used to be one of those with a desktop and a laptop. That was back in the days before iPads and iPhones. The powerful machine (Mac mini or Mac Pro, aka Desktop) was there to house all the things, with a large monitor and limitless power and storage expansion. The small machine was there to allow me to be portable and to do simple tasks, and it always had limited power and limited connectivity.
Anyone who ran a setup like that remembers how difficult it was to keep things in sync. There was iSync. There was iDisk. There were countless online storage solutions we all used. And, of course, there were thumb drives and floppy disks before them. It was a royal pain in the ass, so if you ever wonder why Dropbox took off so quickly, that’s why.
When the iPad came around, online storage was a little better, and slowly, the laptop became the big machine; the iPad was the portable one. It was for me and many as laptops became powerful enough.
But in December 2015, I leaped to the 12.9” iPad Pro full-time — no more desktop or laptop. And at that point, it no longer made sense to have a smaller device that wasn’t my iPhone. Because, as in the decades before, it was hard to have things magically synced between two iPads. It was mostly there, but not quite. A Mac and an iPad — yeah, you could sync those up enough, as that was mostly syncing files and not settings. But two iPads? Not so much.
So I’ve mostly stuck with a 12.9” iPad Pro since then and used my iPhone when I needed to be more portable. But there’s an issue with that setup: the iPhone isn’t comfortable holding and reading on for long periods. And it’s even worse to connect a keyboard to and write with. It’s not as good as a portable workstation—unlike the iPad or the laptop before.
The 12.9” iPad Pro is incredibly powerful and spacious. But it’s a large footprint and a good amount of weight (especially with a keyboard cover) to take around. If all you do is go from home to the office, it’s not so bad. But when I travel, I notice the weight, the bulk, and it’s frustrating.
So for a big trip, I took with my family to Italy, I knew I wanted to sort something out so I could slim down. I bought a secondhand, base model iPad Mini 6 (64GB, WI-FI only) and took that with me. I knew I wanted the Mini screen size for videos on the plane and writing when I had the time — so I wanted something more than my iPhone.
What I didn’t expect is that all those woes of decades past are truly a thing of the past. And I forgot how freeing a device the size of the iPad Mini is.
I love this little thing.
Size, Form, Specs, and Such
This is an iPad Mini 6 with WIFI only and 64GB of storage. There’s not a lot more to talk about which cannot be said with these images:
I’ve been putting this through the test. I used it for days instead of my iPad Pro. I only took it on a 12-day trip and used it for 13+ hours of travel (each way) to backup/edit photos and everything else. I’ve written countless articles on it too. It’s been tested.
And it’s good.
It’s not great, the iPad Pro is great, but it is good. The screen isn’t as good, and the speed can lag when you push it. But, the weird thing I found about the Mini — the part I wasn’t really prepared for — was how much I prefer using it over my iPad Pro.
iPad Mini 6
iPad Pro 12.9
You get that impossible feeling when you pick the Mini up in your hand. The how can this thing do that — feeling. I got that with my first iPhone. I got that with the first iPad too. Sometimes I feel that with random other devices — they seem impossible that they can be so good, powerful, and small. The iPad Mini is all that and then some.
It fits perfectly in my hand. If I need to hold an iPad for anything, I want it to be the Mini. Same with carrying it around — even with the bulkier external keyboard I have for it — it’s my preferred device to carry. When I carry the iPad Pro, I know I am carrying the iPad Pro. So my carry of it is intentional: only when I know, I will use it.
The iPad Mini is a device you can toss in ‘just in case.’ It takes up very little room and is very competent as well. It’s good.
Where it’s not good is when it comes to onscreen typing. The landscape keyboard is cramped, and the portrait is too large. So you need an external keyboard if you want to type, and it’s all good. There are countless videos on YouTube of people expressing love for this device, and I get it now.
The iPad Mini quickly became the device I prefer to use for anything but writing. Except mine doesn’t have cellular, so that preference is limited to my house, where the wifi is plentiful and fast. Tethering, sadly, is still as shitty as you assume it is.
Mini v. Pro
I started at the top, talking about desktops and laptops. I brought that up for a reason. The main drawback for a long time was no background sync. So you couldn’t seamlessly move from one device to another and keep going. But with the current iPadOS and if you fully buy into iCloud — you can easily do this. I do it all the time.
I kill my iPad Pro/Mini battery at least once a day. I used to grab a charger to keep going. Now I switch iPads and keep going. It’s seamless. While Settings are not syncing, almost everything else is — you’ve likely experienced this with your iPhone already; it carries over when using two iPads.
But the Mini feels like the older Apple laptops, where they had limited power compared to their desktop counterparts. The iPad Pro has more power than you can harness with the OS/Software. The Mini, you can top out if you try. Toss a dozen 48MP raw files on it, and start processing, and things will jitter occasionally. Not so with the iPad Pro.
Is that an issue? Probably not, because you are editing a 48MP Raw file in Lightroom on an absurdly small device and using an Apple Pencil. What a world we live in.
What the Mini can’t do is replace your Mac. You’ll struggle. The iPad Pro absolutely can, but the Mini can’t. It lacks stage manager and a better screen, and the screen is tiny. Theoretically, it could, as it’s certainly more capable than that 2015 iPad Pro I moved to full-time, but in some ways, the landscape has changed, and we demand more from these tiny computers. I think you’ll struggle to have this be your only computer — I know I have. But as a supplement? Yes, please.
My iPadOS Complaint
This is a section made so I can say: Apple, if you insist on 64GB being the base iPad storage, then at least respect users enough to make iPadOS much better at seamlessly handling offloading to make room locally. Right now, iPadOS sucks at this. Right now, it purges things in apps using iCloud for storage instead of being more aggressive with Music or Photos. There’s very little user control and yet very little action on the OS part. It’s slow to react and slow to recover.
I had 14GB free on the device for over five days, and for all five days, the iPad Mini said it couldn’t sync UP my photos in Photos because the device storage was full. But the device had plenty of space. Try harder, Apple.
The iPad Mini 6 is the perfect device for someone who still insists they need a Mac for everything. Or for someone who likes to spend money and has a larger iPad Pro — and wants something extraordinary for reading and consuming content.
When/if Apple tosses an M1/M2 into the iPad Mini, I’ll buy another. This time with Cellular and more storage, though. I don’t need a new iPad Pro, but I am keenly watching/waiting for a new iPad Mini.