Apple's upgraded iPad and iPad Mini have arrived — here's everything you need to know

by 24USATVSept. 15, 2021, 4 p.m. 22
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Apple just took the wraps off of the latest standard iPad, which is getting a really nice power boost, and the new iPad Mini, which is getting a massive overhaul complete with attractive color options and some significant upgrades under the hood.

Wondering which new Apple tablet is for you? Here’s how they both stack up.

How to preorder the new iPad and iPad mini

Both new iPads are available for preorder now and are set to ship on Sept. 24, with the iPad starting at $329 with 64GB of storage and the iPad Mini starting at $499 with 64GB of storage.

Both iPads can be upgraded to 256GB of storage for those who need more space ($479 for the iPad; $649 for the iPad Mini) and can both be configured with optional cellular connectivity (starting at $459 for the iPad and $649 for the iPad Mini).

Same classic iPad with some pro-level upgrades

On the outside, the latest version of Apple’s classic $329 looks pretty unchanged. But it’s getting a notable speed bump that could make it even better for the office or classroom — not to mention one of the iPad Pro’s best features.

The iPad will now feature Apple’s A13 Bionic processor, which the company says should deliver 20% better performance than the previous-gen model. Apple also says you’ll get three times the speed of a top-selling Chromebook, and that it’s six times faster than the most popular Android tablet out there. We found the eighth-gen iPad to be very reliable for running multiple programs at once and hopping on FaceTimes while using apps, and we found that its benchmark scores (including a strong nine-hour battery life) beat out the seventh-gen model by a decent margin. However, we did see some slowdown when doing heavier tasks such as video editing, so we’re curious to see if the new model’s processor bump will make the base iPad a more reliable machine for serious creative work.

There are a few notable camera upgrades here, most significant of which is the arrival of Center Stage. This feature, which we loved on the latest iPad Pro, allows your tablet’s camera to keep you in frame even as you move around while on FaceTime calls or Zoom and Webex meetings. When you combine that with the tablet’s new 12-megapixel ultrawide front camera, the new iPad could be one of the best tablets out there for video conferencing and remote learning. Just note that while the front camera experience will be similar to that of the iPad Pro, you won’t be getting the latter tablet’s LiDAR sensor, which is a depth-sensing camera that allows you to do things like accurately measure real-world objects or enjoy better performance for augmented reality programs.

Other upgrades include a TrueTone display, which allows the screen to automatically match its color temperature to the room you’re in for the best viewing experience. This feature is typically found on Apple’s more expensive tablets and laptops, and it’s one we’ve found handy to have over the years. The slate will continue to come in Space Gray and silver, and because the new iPad’s design is relatively unchanged, it’ll work with all existing iPad accessories, including Apple’s Smart Keyboard.

For those who own an iPad released in the last few years, this new update is largely more of the same save for a better processor, upgraded display and new camera tricks. However, if you find that your older iPad is starting to chug during everyday use — or don’t have an iPad at all — this new model looks like a good entry point that promises fast performance and especially good video conferencing capabilities.

The iPad Mini just got its biggest refresh yet, with a sleek new look that takes more than a few cues from the latest iPad Air models while packing some seriously promising tech upgrades into its tiny frame.

Apple’s smallest iPad now comes in a range of attractive and vibrant colors, including purple, pink, a gold-like Starlight and Space Gray. Like the iPad Air, it has a Touch ID sensor built right into the power button up top, which allows the screen to be almost completely borderless.

Speaking of the display, the new Mini’s 8.3-inch screen now features Liquid Retina, which is Apple’s proprietary take on a traditional LCD display that packs pixels together very tightly to create images that are dense in detail and light on jagged edges or blurriness. We found this type of display to deliver especially crisp text and images on the more premium iPad Air, and we’re eager to see how it stacks up on this smaller slate.

In terms of power, Apple says that the latest iPad Mini can deliver up to 40% faster CPU performance and up to 80% graphics performance than the previous generation, which sounds promising for things like split-screen multitasking or playing demanding console-like games on Apple Arcade.

One of the iPad Mini’s most significant upgrades is the inclusion of USB-C, the now ubiquitous charging port that allows for things like super-fast charging and quick data transfers with compatible accessories. It’s another feature that’s trickled down from the more expensive Air and Pro. The Mini also supports 5G, which means that if you live in an area with the right wireless coverage, you may be able to enjoy faster-than-usual speeds when using a cellular model on the go.

The Mini’s cameras both get a bump up to 12 megapixels, with the front camera getting the Center Stage feature that allows the camera to automatically follow you as you move around on FaceTime calls and Zoom meetings. The new tablet also has improved speakers that allow for stereo sound in landscape mode, which should provide a nice boost to binge-watching sessions.

The new iPad and iPad Mini are both looking like compelling upgrades to Apple’s most affordable tablets that may even serve as worthy iPad Pro alternatives for some folks. Both tablets will likely be some of the fastest around, and both of them have some really neat camera tricks (including Center Stage) that will make them especially great for FaceTimes and work calls.

If you’ve yet to dive into the iPad family, the new $329 iPad seems like the best entry point yet. And if you want to pay up for a more attractive and compact design, the $499 iPad Mini may be for you. We’ll be testing out both of Apple’s new tablets in the near future, but in the meantime, both models are up for preorder now and are set to arrive starting Sept. 24.

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