The iPad mini also finally plays nice with the first-generation Apple Pencil, making it the smallest device in the company's lineup to do so. (I still fully expect the Pencil to work with iPhones at some point.) Apple's active stylus works just as well here as it always does, and if you're in any way serious about artistry or handwriting, the Pencil might be a must-have. I'm certainly not serious about either of those things, but I did find myself jotting down notes on the mini more than I thought I would, because it felt surprisingly natural. Writing on something like the 12-inch iPad Pro always felt a little silly, like I was taking down notes on a canvas. The mini, meanwhile, feels a lot more like the small notebooks I normally write in, so the transition from paper to pixels wasn't nearly as jarring.
So far, so good. I'd argue there's enough power here to please all but the pickiest iPad fans, and the added Pencil support is a nice touch. With all that said, though, I don't find the iPad mini's appeal quite as strong as I used to. I can chalk that up to a few things: For one, the massive iPhone XS Max I use regularly has largely filled the niche the iPad mini used to. The mini still has a bigger display, and its 4:3 aspect ratio means it's better suited to sifting through documents and the like. Since it seemed like Apple had more or less given up on improving its smaller tablet, I found myself starting to embrace bigger phones, and I don't think I'm alone there. And honestly, I find the iPad-specific version of iOS 12 a little cramped on this display.