The new iPad Mini with the Apple Pencil

I love the iPad Mini, I've had version 2 and I still have version 4. They're great combination of capability and size that allows for them to accompany you quite easily as you go about your day. The only thing missing, in my view, was the Apple Pencil. Until now.

There are lots of articles that talk to the specifications of the new iPad Mini, so I won't really get into them here. However, from a capability perspective, it's basically the same as it's larger sibling, the iPad Air, but in a smaller form factor. Neither are in the league of the powerful iPad Pro that I reviewed along with Procreate, but that doesn't mean that they can't do what you need.

So, what is that need? For me that would portable sketching and note taking and that's where the Apple Pencil comes in. Impressions?

Pros:

  • Small and very portable
  • Lots of horsepower for what it's needed for, there is nothing in it's class on the Android side with this form factor
  • High gamut colour display, now P3, for those of us into Photography, though also applicable to artists since you get more colours.
  • Bright, with better reflection control, you can see some of that in the image above, not a lot of glare and I have three bright lights over my art desk
  • Apple Pencil. I've used a lot of stylus options out there, including the Wacom (I have a 13" Cintiq) and Surface Pen, and I still think the Apple Pencil is head and shoulders above them and in the iOS-only space, there is no contest, it's not even close.
Cons:
  • Bit spendy. All in, with the Apple Pencil and taxes, it was $1161.64 before buying any accessories (such as the cap retainer you see on the pencil). I did get the 256 GB model with LTE, so you can get it cheaper (64 GB with Wifi only) if you don't need the space or LTE.
  • 1st generation Apple Pencil. This is obviously a function of a couple of things: retaining the form factor  and not having Qi enabled the 2nd generation pencil. Having used both pencils, the 2nd generation is definitely better, especially to grip, but this obviously wasn't a deal-breaker for me.
For note taking, I decided to go with Notability. I do use Evernote, quite a bit, but when it comes to using the pencil, it's really quite clunky. Notability just does it nice and clean, well integrated into the document, and so I just found it easier to work with.

With Notability, you can categorize and group your notes in a fairly straightforward manner. It's a simple hierarchy, but works generally well from I can see. As for notes, you can write, sketch, type, etc. Up to you. You can even select text and convert it from handwriting to typed. The only downside I could say for the app is that it only syncs through iCloud, other services, such as Dropbox or OneDrive, are backup only options.

For drawing, for me, it's Procreate. Of the options out there, and there are a few, the biggest upside to Procreate is that it's not greedy for real estate and that makes a huge difference with the small form factor of this device. This is where the bezels on the Mini are actually okay, despite some complaints around that, because the device is so small, there's little resting space for your hands and this creates some, especially in landscape mode.

Of course, the other big reason is that Procreate is just an incredibly good app for drawing on the iPad. Since I already use it, and I'm comfortable with the interface and workflow, it was probably a forgone conclusion, but actual use just bears it out. I also did not detect any performance difference betweem the Pro and Mini with the pencil in any normal drawing mode. If you go really fast, there is some lag as the refresh rates on the devices are different, but I simply do not draw and write that quickly.

In any case, I plan to give this device a real work out in my day to day. While the iPad Pro is an amazing tool, it's big, so for walking about, and at work, I look to the new Mini to really make a difference for me.

Some final thoughts...

If you're buying an iPad Mini, a couple of gadgets worth getting for the Apple Pencil is some tethers for the cap and lightning cable adapter. The linked product also has a pencil tip cover that I doubt I'll use since I picked up a Belkin case. Upside to the tether, especially for the cap, is it keeps the pencil from rolling. The 2nd generation has a flat side, so less likely to fall off a table, but the original is very round.

The iPad Mini is also a great reader. I do read on other devices, but I love this form factor for regular books given the comfortable ability to hold it my hand. I flip between Kindle and Apple Books depending on who has the best price, but both work great for me. So even though I will travel with my iPad Pro, I'll also travel with the iPad Mini.


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