The iPad Mini doesn't support mmWave 5G

Apple’s newly redesigned iPad Mini was one of the most exciting announcements at its iPhone 13 event on Tuesday, but in the aftermath a limitation has been identified: As spotted by Jason Snell from Six Colors, the new iPad Mini doesn’t support mmWave 5G. There’s also a hint that its new A15 Bionic processor might be downclocked in comparison to the version that appears in the iPhone 13 line (via MacRumors).

© Image: Apple

Support for 5G on the cellular version of the iPad Mini was one of Apple’s major highlights, but looking at Apple’s tech specs, while it supports low- and mid-band 5G, it doesn’t offer mmWave. Apple first started playing into the 5G hype machine with the launch of the iPhone 12, and continues to tout the faster download and upload speeds the tech can offer in 2021. You can see the cellular and wireless features Apple highlights for the iPad Mini below:

Apple’s breakdown of the cellular components in the new iPad Mini.

Getting fast 5G speeds is dependent on coverage, which has improved in the US, but isn’t always faster than LTE. Carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile have big plans to improve 5G performance in 2021 — including increasing the availability of fast mmWave — but where coverage is limited, it might not be worth the trouble yet. In our experience reviewing the iPhone 12 Pro, mmWave was finnicky. Here’s The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel:

In a patch of 20 glorious square feet, I pulled over 2 gigabits per second down. (And 40 megabits per second up, which matched regular 5G.) If I walked 100 feet away, the signal dropped, and that was that. I hope you are not anticipating being very mobile with your 5G mobile phone if you have giant files to download.

Maybe not a huge loss for the Mini just yet.

The same might be said for the iPad Mini’s processor. The GeekBench benchmarks MacRumors cites points to the Mini’s performance coming in at 2.9 GHz, a bit slower than the 3.2 GHz the publication sourced for the iPhone 13. However, GeekBench is not the be-all-end-all for understanding the performance of a device. Without an iPad Mini to test in hand, there’s no way to be absolutely certain those numbers are accurate. It’s also not too difficult to fake a GeekBench score, as XDA Developers has proven.

If you’re looking for an actual verifiable difference between the new Mini and iPhones, look to graphics performance. The iPad Mini offers five graphics cores, one more than the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini’s 4-core GPU. There’s no way to tell what that looks like until we review it, but the mmWave-less iPad Mini might still be plenty capable.

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