I take the iPad Mini 5 and iPad Pro 11” out for a test drive – guess which gets returned.
As a regional trade journalist and editor, I get to travel a lot. Due to all the traveling that I do, I needed a better work station for on-the-go. I’ve been travelling with my MacBook Air – that I love and adore and does everything that I need it to do beautifully – but even the my light laptop can become cumbersome at times.
I decided to finally shop around for an iPad after seeing other industry peers toting them around. I wasn’t looking at any other platforms other than Apple. Not out of snobbery, but as a long time Apple and iPhone user, I knew there wasn’t going to be much of a learning curve with the iPad. I also needed the seamless syncing on iCloud and AirDrop to make my work life that much easier. In general, and with a little snobbery, because I’ve never gone wrong with Apple. *taps wooden table fervently to un-jinx*.
Initially I had my eyes set on the iPad Mini 5. Then while at the Apple Store, I saw how small and portable the iPad Pro was. After some peddling by Apple staff, I was sold on the appeal of the Smart Keyboard Folio. So I decided to get both the Mini and Pro to test drive.
Let’s get this out of the way first. The iPad Pro comes at a hefty price tag. HEFTY. I think it costs more than my MacBook Air.
The iPad Pro 11” 256GB suited up with the Smart Connector Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil 2, brings it to the total price of SGD$1,877.
The iPad Mini, suited up with the Apple Pencil 2 costs about half of that, at SGD$957.
That’s still not a pretty penny though. Before we pass any sort of judgment, we’re going to leave the pricing at that and move along.
I… don’t care much about technical specs. I’m all about user experience, which is why this post will focus more on that. You won’t hear me talk much about processors and hard drive and bleepbloops.
I needed both iPads to be able to serve these purposes for me:
- Be able to write on the go.
- Be able to edit on the go.
- I get to level up my productivity with the device.
- I get to do hobby-stuff with it, like blogging (here). So I need to be able to not just draft, but edit photos.
The iPad Mini 5 is a CUTE LITTLE TINY THING – but comfortable. I was immediately taken in by the size. The screen size is just slightly bigger and a more comfortable screen than a Kindle PaperWhite, and I didn’t think it was too small at all. I revelled in the portability and lightness of this device compared to having to lug my Macbook everywhere.
The iPad Pro is of course bigger than the iPad Mini, BUT I was pleasantly surprised that it’s still compact and portable. I could easily fit this into my smaller handbags. Working on the bigger screen was also all-around a better experience than on the smaller Mini screen.
They’re both portable enough to me.
Apple Pencil Support
Overall, using the Apple Pencil was serious game-changer in the way I work. It’s a glorious tool that I use all the time. I do a lot of note-taking every single day and being able to do so on my iPads, and reference it whenever without needing to flip through (sometimes several) paper notebooks was the change I never knew I needed.
The iPad Mini is only compatible with Apple Pencil 1. Charging it is stupid. It’s not the look that I’m bothered with – ok I lie, maybe a little bit because it looks stupid, but after a while I got used to it. I’m more bothered by this cap that you have to take off each time you charge, and I needed to charge the pencil everyday.
iPad Pro uses the Apple Pencil 2. It sticks to the iPad Pro and also charges that way. Immediate KO win. No more of that stupid cap from the Apple Pencil 1.
Apple Pencil 2 has a double tap feature, where you tap the side to switch between modes, like between pen and eraser. It doesn’t feel natural to me to be double tapping pencils so this was a useless feature to me. I ended up switching mine off because sometimes I’d accidentally activate it.
The Writing Experience
This portion might not be a fair comparison, because while I got the Smart Keyboard Folio with my iPad Pro, I did not purchase a Bluetooth keyboard for the Mini.
To write on the Mini, I did the bulk of my drafting on Nebo, a handwriting recognition app. I don’t find typing on the keyboard within the Mini a comfortable experience, although in a pinch I can type on the Mini vertically like on a phone, that was kind of fun.
When I had both iPads, I definitely gravitated to the iPad Pro simply because it has the keyboard folio. The keyboard folio is a cool idea, and I definitely bought into the whole never-need-to-plug-and-charge keyboard case protection schtick. The folio case may not be the most protective out there, but it does keep the iPad Pro slim and light.
I’ve been typing the bulk of this article on the keyboard and loving it. It’s so… typable, for lack of better word. It feels like leathery skin with the most satisfying clicky sounds that’s not loud. I can be an aggressive typist, but right now it sounds like I’m making a meditative white noise soundtrack of a gentle drizzle on a rooftop.
In short, I am really loving typing on this keyboard folio.
For quick edits, I can use the keyboard function on the iPad itself much easily than on the Mini. Using handwriting apps on the iPad Pro was as seamless as it was with the Mini. I appreciated having a larger screen to write on, but it wasn’t that big of an issue to me.
The folio is far from perfect though. Sometimes opening the case can be a clumsy process. If I’m even a bit too enthusiastic, the case comes off the back of the iPad. It feels clunky unveiling the iPad Pro with the keyboard folio, making it not the most elegant experience.
The folio also provided no added security for the Apple Pencil when I’m on the go. Though it magnetises to the side of the iPad Pro, it’s not the strongest magnet. I found that when slipping this in and out of my bag, the pen detaches easily. It’s such a small thing, but it bothers me so much. I don’t know how I feel about getting a third party keyboard folio which comes with a pencil holder instead, because why am I paying all these huge amounts of dollars for Pro when I can’t even make use of the Smart Connector function? Kinda stupid.
Utilising the multi-app function on both iPads has been life changing. Being able to type on Notes, and have a website open beside it is a useful feature that I never knew I needed.
As I’ve mentioned, I cannot fairly judge the full typing experience on both iPads… because the Pro wins by many folds. I did not have the full typing experience with the Mini because I didn’t have a Bluetooth keyboard.
What I can comment on though, is that solely based on the larger screen size of the Pro, writing on it is a tad more enjoyable.
Media Editing (Photos and Videos)
With Apple Pencil, I thoroughly enjoyed editing photos on either iPads in Lightroom. It’s a slightly better experience on the Pro because of the size.
For the fun of it I also edited videos on iMovie and Adobe Rush. They both worked fine, the Pro providing, again, a slightly better experience purely due to screen size.
Specifically, gaming and media consumption.
I’m not a gamer. I only have one game app on my iPhone that I occasionally pull out when I have awkward idle waiting time, like waiting in line to get on a plane. But I’ve been thoroughly enjoying playing Plants vs Zombies 2 on the Mini. It’s so portable and it fits snugly when held in landscape mode.I can do that on the Pro too, but I only play the games as a breather in between work things. It’s a bigger screen that can be a bit awkward to handle while gaming. Like I said though, this is coming from someone who doesn’t play games. More serious gamers might enjoy the bigger iPad Pro screen and the stereo speakers.
Speaking of: the iPad Pro’s stereo speakers are LEAPS better than the one-sided speakers on the Mini. Watching Netflix and listening to music on the Pro is a far more enjoyable experience than on the Mini.
Mini or Pro?
Overall there’s no denying that the iPad Pro provided a much better experience than the iPad Mini. I find myself gravitating to the iPad Pro more frequently than the Mini.
That’s not to say the Mini is a terrible device. As beautiful as the iPad Pro was to use, everything that I was doing on it, I could replicate on the Mini. I had to work around the smaller screen, but I only had to get use to it and then I’m fine.
The only thing I wasn’t able to comfortably accomplish with either iPads were editing articles. It’s just a lot easier and faster for me to be editing with a mouse and keyboard. This meant I can’t replace my laptop with the iPad just yet.
Although earlier I alluded to size not being a matter for either iPads in my decision-making, the Mini is ultimately smaller and lighter than the iPad Pro. Especially when I’m travelling, the less weight I carry on, the better.
I wasn’t looking for a laptop replacement either; I was looking for an on-the-go productivity tool.
The smaller size of the Mini allowed me to just whip this out anywhere, and scribble away on it. The more discreet size meant that people are not peeking into my work page either. I could comfortably use this even on my crowded commute to and from work, something I couldn’t do with the bigger iPad Pro.
Furthermore, the iPad Pro is expensive. Do I really want to be spending almost double the cost of an iPad Mini for a Smart Connector keyboard and an Apple Pencil that sticks to my device?
How about I get the Mini, and spend an extra $100 (or perhaps less) on a quality Bluetooth keyboard and a case that has a pencil holder attached to it?
And with that, as much as I love working on the iPad Pro, I’m returning it for the iPad Mini.