iPad 9 vs iPad mini 6: Which 2021 iPad is right for you?

Apple's new iPad 9 and iPad mini 6 differ in key ways. Here's how to tell them apart.

iPad 9 vs iPad mini 6: Which 2021 iPad is right for you?

iPad 9 vs iPad mini 6: Which 2021 iPad is right for you?

By Henry T. Casey

Apple's new iPad 9 and iPad mini 6 differ in key ways

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple just revealed the new iPad 9 (2021) and its new iPad mini 6 (2021) , and while they may both be iPads running the upcoming iPadOS 15 , they're pretty unique in what they're offering. So, we thought this was a great time to break down how these iPads (which are also Apple's two most affordable models) differ.

When comparing the iPad 9 vs iPad mini 6, you'll quickly notice that the latter has that newer iPad aesthetic, which first arrived in the iPad Pro and then came to the iPad Air 4 and even the iPhone 12 . But their differences are wider than just looks, with these iPads featuring differing displays, processors, rear cameras and much more.

iPad 9 (2021) iPad mini 6 (2021)
Starting price $329 ($299 for schools) $499
Screen 10.2 inches (2160 x 1620) 8.3 inches (2266 x 1488)
Battery life (claimed) Up to 10 hours (rated) Up to 10 hours (rated)
Processor A13 Bionic A15 Bionic
Storage 64GB or 256GB 64GB or 256GB
Cameras 8MP (rear) 12MP (front) 12MP (rear) 12MP (front)
Video recording Up to 1080p HD at 30 fps Up to 1080p HD at 30 fps
Security Touch ID Touch ID
Apple Keyboard support Smart Keyboard None
Pencil support Apple Pencil (1st generation) Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
Dimensions 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29 inches 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches
Weight 1.07 pounds 0.65 pounds
Ports Lightning, headphones USB-C
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, LTE optional Wi-Fi 6 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 5G optional

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad mini 6 is a lot cooler than the iPad 9 (more on that below), but it certainly costs more. In fact, the $499 iPad mini 6 is $170 more than the iPad 9. That's over half the price of the $329 iPad 9.

Cellular connectivity costs a little more on the iPad mini 6, though, with 5G being a $150 upgrade. Apple charges $130 for an LTE modem in the iPad 9.

Both are available for pre-order now, and will be shipping on the week of Sept. 20.

This is a tale of the two remaining iPad formats. The iPad 9 is the spitting image of its predecessor, the iPad 8, and it's certainly what you think of when you think "iPad." With its machined aluminum chassis and silver and Space Gray color options (and the same 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29-inch measurements) it's the same as it ever was.

(Image credit: Apple)

Then, you've got the iPad mini 6, which looks nothing like the old iPad mini. Instead, it's a small version of the iPad Air 4 (itself a more affordable and slightly smaller iPad Pro). You could call it the iPad Air mini, if you wanted to, with its flat-edge design, edge-to-edge display, and all the other little touches. The iPad mini 6 also comes in (arguably) cooler colors: Space Gray, pink, purple and Starlight (which looks like a champagne).

The iPad mini 6 is a hair thinner, at 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.25 inches, but you're more likely to notice that it's lighter, since its 0.65-pound weight is well-under the 1.07-pound iPad 9.  The iPad 9 also has the chunkier bezels of the iPad 8, which aren't aging well, visually.

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad mini 6 continues to look more like the iPad of the future, as it has the USB-C port that the iPad 9 still doesn't have. We don't know why that's the case, comparable Android tablets went USB-C a while ago (even the cheaper Amazon Fire HD 10 ).

The iPad 9, possibly to make it so that people can still use their existing accessories, still charges and connects via its Lightning port. That said, the iPad 9 does have one perk over the iPad mini 6: a headphone jack. The iPad mini 6 and the iPad Air and Pro models it resembles ditched wired headphones years ago.

(Image credit: Apple)

Bigger isn't always better, as the iPad 9 and iPad mini 6 screens show. The smaller 8.3-inch iPad mini 6 panel has a much sharper resolution of 2266x1488 pixels at 326 pixels-per-inch, while the iPad 9's 10.2-inch panel measures 2160x1620 for a pixel density of 264 ppi.

The improvements continue on the iPad mini 6's Liquid Retina display, which looks to outshine the iPad 9's Retina panel. The iPad mini 4's screen is fully laminated and features an anti-reflective coating, and the P3 wide color gamut output, which should make for better colors than the sRGB-gamut focused iPad 9.

(Image credit: Apple)

But otherwise, both screens are similar. They're both rated to top out at approximately 500 nits, and feature Apple's True Tone display tech for automatic white-balance adjustment due to ambient lighting.

This is all to say we bet the iPad 9 will have a nice screen (especially since the extremely similar iPad it replaces already did), but the iPad mini 6's panel looks to offer sharper and more colorful picture quality and feature a bit more protective coating.

Two generations set the iPad 9 and iPad mini 6 apart. While the iPad 9 has the A13 Bionic chip first introduced in the iPhone 11, the iPad mini 6 features the brand-new for 2021 A15 Bionic processor.

But since we can't test these chips (and their implementation in these iPads) right now, we don't know how great a gap there will be in performance. That said, we do expect the iPad mini 6 to be the faster slate.

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad mini 6 appears to win again when it comes to cameras. First, the good news: both the mini 6 and the 2021 iPad 9 feature 12MP front-facing cameras with Apple's Center Stage technology for keeping you in the center of your calls on videos.

They differ, though, on the rear cameras. The iPad 9 has an 8MP camera in the rear (just like the iPad 8 did), while the iPad mini 6 has a 12MP rear-camera. The iPad mini 6 also wins because it has a flash (Apple's quad-LED True Tone flash that adjusts to the subject), while the iPad 9 ... well, there is no flash (may the lighting gods protect you).

The iPad mini 6 also will take better photos because it has a lower f-stop number (1.8 to the iPad 9's 2.4), which means it lets more light into the sensor. Also, expect stronger contrast on the iPad mini 6's photos, since it has Smart HDR 3 for photos (the iPad 9 only has regular HDR for photos).

Finally, a space where they may be equals. The iPad mini 6 and iPad 9 are both rated for up to 10 hours of web surfing on Wi-Fi, and up to 9 hours if you're on cellular.

We look forward to testing both out on the Tom's Guide Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits of brightness) to see how long they last.

The iPad mini 6 may have a problem for all you typists out there. While the iPad Air and Pro have had Apple Magic Keyboard accessories, Apple has no first party keyboard for the iPad mini 6. Instead, it simply supports external Bluetooth keyboards (like all iPads).

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad 9, however, still supports Apple's easy-to-use Smart Keyboard.

The iPad mini 6 still gets points here, though, as it supports the second-gen Apple Pencil — the superior Apple stylus that snaps onto the side of the iPad (where it also charges). The iPad 9 still uses the clumsy first-gen Apple Pencil, which charges via the Lightning port and still looks and feels awkward.

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad mini 6 jumps out to an early lead when you look at everything it offers. The obvious advantages are seen in its faster processor, modern design, more colorful screen, thinner bezels, the superior stylus and nicer colors.

The iPad 9 has two notable advantages: a lower price and first-party keyboard support. That may be enough to keep some people from investing more for the iPad mini 6, but we wonder if the iPad mini 6's advantages could send people to the iPad Air 4 with its keyboard and larger screen.

But this is all on paper. And we can't wait to test them both out to see which is the best. Stay tuned, readers.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

Topics Apple Tablets