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It’s been ages since I last spoke or wrote about the iPad mini. In the last few months, I’ve barely acknowledged its existence, publicly. Yet, I can happily confirm that it still plays a vital role in my business every single day.

However, I’ve been expanding my horizons, and while my son is currently far too young to warrant Apple’s best version of the iPad to date, now that I’m a parent, I can see why this would be an incredibly sensible purchase for those who will soon be heading back to school.

The budget required is questionable, I know. But hear me out.

The most popular iPad I’ve reviewed

Of all the iPads I’ve covered during my time as a tech reviewer, the iPad mini has been the most popular – by a country mile.

It has generated hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube for my channel, and whenever I publish a video containing my updated thoughts on this little marvel, people come flocking to offer their opinion.

To be clear – this very rarely happens with most tech products. They all have a shelf life, and it’s often alarmingly short. No one cares about the new iPhone, Samsung flagship, or huge iOS feature update six months later.

The iPad mini? It appears to be timeless.

That must count for something and it’s why, when parents ask me which iPad they should buy their kid, it’s the first that comes to mind. There are some downsides, which I’ll get to later, but let’s focus on the good stuff, first.

The size

The iPad mini lives up to its name. Measuring just 7.69 inches tall and 5.3 inches wide, and weighing in at 293 grams, it’s an effortless tablet to carry around.

It still manages to house an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, though, which makes it far more capable than you might think.

During a trip to Brussels earlier this year, the iPad mini was the only computing device I packed in my bag. The only thing I didn’t do on it while travelling was video editing, but it absolutely smashed everything else from daily admin to long-form writing and even acting as the camera for the YouTube video I shot during my time there.

Kids don’t want to be lugging heavy kit around; they’re far more attuned to using smartphones for everything. The addition of an iPad mini to their daily carry is burden-free and it would reside perfectly next to their textbooks.

They still have textbooks, right?

It’s more durable than you think

iPads don’t receive the credit they deserve for durability.

Sure, we all know that their processing power far outweighs most use cases, which is why so few people upgrade their iPads regularly. But today, I want to highlight just how tough these things are.

My iPad mini spends most of its life in a case and with a screen protector attached (both of which are vitally important – I’ll explain why in a moment). Despite this, I’ve transported it ‘naked’ a fair bit, too, and I rarely think twice about chucking it haphazardly into my bag or tossing it onto a table.

There are no dents, dings, scratches, or nicks on my iPad mini. It looks as good as the day I bought it, which is coming on for two years ago. And remember – this thing has seen daily use within a busy content business where gear is looked after but treated as a toolset.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that kids aren’t careful with their tech, but I suspect the iPad mini will put up with a lot more abuse than cheaper alternatives.

The accessories

I rely on three brilliant accessories for my iPad mini, which I think offer some compelling benefits for those using it to study.

The first is the Paperlike screen protector. As you might expect, it both protects the iPad mini display and turns it into a beautiful, addictive writing surface. I dearly hope that modern schools continue to promote handwriting, and if they do, there’s no better way to get your notes down digitally.

You need a writing implement to go with that Paperlike, obviously, but the second-generation Apple Pencil is pushing it, budget-wise for most parents. The iPad mini is already an expensive device, so why add needlessly to that cost when you can pick up the Benks Pen for just $50/£40?

There’s no pressure sensitivity, but if note-taking is the main requirement, it’s hard to look past the Benks option. It features the same magnetic wireless charging as the Apple Pencil and has the added benefit of a charging light and a function button. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, to be honest.

Lastly, the aforementioned case I’m using at the moment is the brilliant MOFT Snap Float Folio. It’s the world’s first ‘origami’ iPad case which can fold into a number of shapes to aid content consumption and productivity. It’s also beautifully made and protects both sides of the iPad mini.

The downsides

The iPad mini might be a cult classic and my favourite iPad to date, but it isn’t faultless – particularly if you’re considering it as a back-to-school purchase.

Let’s start with the price. The iPad mini isn’t cheap; it starts at $499/£569 for 64GB and rises to $649/£749 for the 256GB model. The 9th-generation iPad remains the cheapest option at $329/£369 and is, therefore, the most cost-effective route into iPadOS for school.

As noted earlier, the iPad mini is also knocking on a bit (in tech terms). Put simply, we’re due an update. The current version is powered by the A15 Bionic and lacks a ProMotion display. It’s no slouch, and there’s nothing wrong with the display, but if you want the latest and greatest, the iPad mini is starting to fall behind.

Will we see one this year? Who knows. But if we do, my guess is it’ll arrive in October.

Lastly, there’s no Apple-branded keyboard case for the iPad mini, which is something I’ve long said is a big miss by Tim and co. Thinking back to my time in Brussels, I used the NuPhy Air60 keyboard and its companion Folio case which did the job brilliantly, but it was a bit bulky. The addition of a Magic Keyboard Folio for the iPad mini would literally make all of my dreams come true.

Conclusion

Once again, I’m under no illusion that the iPad mini is going to be a stretch for some back-to-school budgets, and we are due an update to Apple’s tiny marvel.

But if the iPad mini fits in your budget and you’re willing to forgo the fools game that is waiting for Apple to launch new products, it remains the best iPad they make.

How I wish I’d had one when I was at school!

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