I can with confidence say that the most recent (2019) iPad mini, when combined with an external keyboard and cover/stand is the best “computer” set up I have ever owned.
The Consumption versus Creation Dialectic
I have long felt that the distinction between an iPad versus desktop/laptop could be broken down into two categories: 1. consumption; 2. creation:
- The iPad has historically been better at consumption. Watching videos, looking at photos, and reading are objectively better on an iPad.
- A laptop/desktop has historically been better at creation. Writing, making spreadsheets/powerpoints, creating/editing video, music and/or code are objectively better on a lap/desk top.
The iPad Pro
With the emergence of the iPad Pro, and its accompanying processing power and USB-C connectivity, clearly Apple was making a push to win over early adopters, such as myself, who wanted to try to use a single device for both creation and consumption.
Their marketing worked. I bought a souped up 12.9” iPad Pro the moment it was released.
I don’t like it.
It’s too big
In terms of consumption, you really don’t want to nod off while holding (with both hands…it’s too big to be held by one) the 12.9” iPad in bed watching a re-run of Northern Exposure and have it hit your nose. Trust me.
Once you slap a case/keyboard on it, it’s as heavy as a MacBook or Air, and takes up no less space in a bag.
I guess. More on this below, but, nothing about the iPad Pro makes me feel like it’s even slightly more powerful than other much cheaper options
The 2019 iPad Mini
It rules. Really. It’s fantastic.
The size is perfect
I bought the first version of the mini back whenever it came out, and remember thinking, “This is the form factor they should have started with.”
It fits in your hand, it fits in your pocket, it doesn’t hurt when it falls on your nose when you doze off watching Northern Exposure.
Apple, obviously, understands that the Mini’s form factor is the right size for an iPad. They’ve changed the sizes of all the other iPads…not this one.
It’s perfect for consumption. Until recently, it wasn’t great for creation.
It’s plenty powerful
Credit the iPad Pro for pushing the creation prowess that has now trickled down to the Mini.
The mini is now pretty darn close to perfect for creation.
Writing, making spreadsheets, ppts, etc…great.
The addition of being able to use the Apple Pencil with the Mini makes it the ideal size for taking handwritten notes.
I have loaded up my Mini with all of the apps I have on my “much more powerful” iPad Pro (Slack, Word, Excel, PPT, Devon Think, Things, iA writer, Ulysses, Fantastical, Airmail, Trello, etc.), and the iPad Mini handles them all as well…better (?)…than the iPad Pro.
Admittedly, I’m not editing video or mapping genomes or something…are you?
Also, charge the booger and it will last you all day. You don’t have to schlep around a USB-C cable/plug, as you do with the iPad Pro.
I got the cheapest version they make; something like $350. I bought the Apple Magic keyboard (~$100). I think the iPad Pro 12.9 inch with the case/keyboard was ~$2k. Not worth it. Even a little.
The Mini Set Up
This is where for many people it’s likely better to just buy the new Airs. Those are fantastic machines, and require none of the nonsense below. But….if you have the appetite for this, and a desire to dominantly use one device for consumption and creation…here’s what you gotta do:
To make this work, you need a good external keyboard and cover/stand. I haven’t found the perfect combo, but the Apple Magic Keyboard and the $35 Apple Smart Cover isn’t the worst.
Someone will make a nice sleeve/stand that accommodates the keyboard and iPad mini in a single product. My searching has not unearthed this unicorn. Maybe I’ll make it.
I can not stress this enough to both customers and app makers: learn/make keyboard shortcuts.
My guess is that in the not-distant-future (iOS 13?), we’ll see some kind of mouse functionality for iPad Pros. Until then, you must learn to avoid the constant type/swipe back and forth.
To do this, you have to: 1. Choose apps that have keyboard shortcuts; 2. Learn them.
For instance, I use Airmail as my email client dominantly because it has keyboard shortcuts, whereas others (I’m looking at you Polymail) do not.
This relates to price. I paid for the LTE iPad Pro (and for a wireless account to access it). Don’t bother. Just tether your Mini to your phone’s hotspot.
Prior to the new iPad mini, the creation/consumption ratio was something along the lines of: The pre Mini iPad was an eight in terms of consumption but a five in terms of creation, and the current Apple Lap/Desktop is the inverse: creation is an eight, while consumption is a five (again, the Air is the best of the batch).
I’d say that the 2019 Mini is now a solid eigh in terms of creation, and a nine in terms of consumption. It’s not a 10 because I still schlepp a Kindle with me to read books…the iPad isn’t as good as the Kindle for reading…yet.
That’s a ratio I can live with.
I now find myself rarely ever needing to take out my PowerBook to get something done, and never wanting to pull out my iPad Pro to consume anything.[from http://bit.ly/2lDIK6s]