Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 heroSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

Best iPad mini 6 alternatives Android Central 2021

The iPad mini 6 (2021) was one of the most promising devices to emerge from the September Apple Event, but recent iPad mini display distortions and jelly scrolling issues have made us uncertain of its long-term durability. So if you're looking for the best iPad mini alternatives, look no further. We'll help you find your best iOS or Android substitutes, from tablets to foldables.

Best overall iPad Mini alternative: iPad Air 2020

iPad Air 2020Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

While we have plenty of great Android tablets to recommend as alternatives, the best surrogate for an iPadOS tablet is obviously another iPad. And in most areas, the iPad Air 2020 will check the boxes you looked for in the iPad mini.

The latest iPad Air is less than a year old and still holds its own as one of the best mid-range tablets today. Compared to the mini, its lightning-fast A14 Bionic chip (only one gen behind the iPad mini's) performs as fast as any tablet we've tested. Its retina display has fewer pixels per inch (264 vs. 326), but it has the same 500 nits of brightness, 60Hz refresh rate, and True Tone colors, plus an extra 2.6 inches of diagonal display space. And you still have four more years of software updates left, up to iPadOS 19.

Ironically, the iPad Air is much less airy than the iPad mini, weighing about a pound instead of 0.65lb with the mini. And the mini gives you a better selfie cam for FaceTime and 5G support if you buy cellular. If you're considering the mini as a compact tool to use on the go, then the iPad Air may be slightly too large for you. But it's still thin and light enough to be comfortable; plus, we think the extra screen space will make it handier for actual daily use.

Best of all, the iPad Air only costs $100 more than the mini and frequently gets discounted. It's much more affordable and compact than the new iPad Pro as a substitute option; and much faster and bezel-heavy than the base iPad.

Pros:

  • Same iPadOS software and Bionic speeds you're used to
  • Similar price, display, and battery life
  • More screen space for daily use
  • No known hardware defects

Cons:

  • Less portable for outdoor use
  • No 5G for cellular

Best overall iPad Mini alternative

Ipad Air 2020 Blue

iPad Air 2020

Stickin' with Apple

The iPad mini has some significant upgrades, but the iPad Air comes closest in price and specs while offering more screen space.

Best compact tablet alternative: Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 (2020)

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 PhotoSource: Samsung

Apple has very few rivals when it comes to tablets, but Samsung comes closest. It releases a wide range of Galaxy Tabs, large and small. While we're especially partial to the S series for its superior performance, you likely want something compact like the iPad mini. And on that front, you'll want to consider the Galaxy Tab A 8.4, which outsizes the mini by a mere 0.1 inches and 0.06 pounds.

Samsung released this tablet specifically as a 4G LTE upgrade to the 2019 8.0-inch Galaxy Tab. While it may not have 5G, it'll serve your purposes while out and about; just make sure to choose the right network for your area: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are all options, though some carriers may be harder to find today.

It has an Exynos 7904 chipset and 3GB of RAM, slower than the iPad mini with its 4GB of RAM. And its standard 1920x1200 display won't match the iPad mini's 2266x1488 resolution and brighter colors. But its battery life will be comparably long. Samsung's One UI tablet software is your best non-iPadOS option, and (most importantly) it'll cost you about half the price. And while it won't last as long as the mini, it does have one more OS update coming in 2022, plus security updates running into 2023.

If you don't mind waiting a bit, the new Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 is rumored to come out late October with an 8-inch display, larger battery, better speakers, and fresh support for three years, all for a similar price — though also thicker bezels.

Pros:

  • As small and easy-to-carry as the iPad mini
  • Supports cellular data for use on the go
  • Strong battery performance
  • Expandable storage
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Performance and specs are all downgrades compared to mini
  • Software support won't be as long
  • No 5G

Best compact tablet alternative

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 - Render

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4 (2020)

Use it anywhere!

Give yourself a mini-sized tablet for far cheaper, useful for streaming or checking email on a large screen during your commute.

Best cheap iPad mini alternative: Fire HD 8 (2020)

Amazon Fire Hd 8 2020 HeroSource: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

What will you use an 8-inch tablet for, really? If you want something for productivity, you'll want something bigger, so you're not straining your eyes. If you want something comfortable and feathery in your hands as you stream content, you can go with the iPad mini for its colorful display (assuming it isn't defective). Or you can buy a Fire HD 8 at one-fifth the price — potentially even lower if you spot it during one of Amazon's infinite sales.

This tablet cuts all kinds of corners. It has no water resistance; its cameras are wimpy, performance is a bit sluggish, the bezels are enormous ... everything you'd expect from a "value" device. But it's also something you can take on the go without worrying about damaging it because it doesn't cost that much, whereas dropping the iPad mini would have you sweating buckets. This tablet can tide you over until Apple releases a new iPad mini without all of this model's problems.

Overall, the Fire HD 8 is an efficient entertainment machine for streaming your favorite apps on a similar-sized screen. You won't have cellular support or the level of apps you'd get on an iPad, but we'll bet you have other devices you can use for those. It's one of the best cheap Android tablets for simple, petite quality.

Pros:

  • Ridiculously affordable
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Expandable storage
  • 12 hours of battery life
  • Alexa > Siri

Cons:

  • Slow speed and limited apps
  • Giant bezels and an unremarkable display
  • Must run on wi-fi

Best cheap iPad mini alternative

Amazon Fire HD 8

Fire HD 8 (2020)

Replacement-level quality

Why spend hundreds on a multifaceted tablet when you mainly use one for Netflix? Go cheap and efficient with the Fire HD 8.

Best Android tablet alternative: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

One thing that made the iPad mini so universally appealing is that it offers fast performance on a small screen. Most smaller tablets from other companies are strictly "budget" devices because they tie premium quality to larger displays. So, unfortunately, most of the best iPad mini alternatives on the Android side are also on the larger side. If you can accept that and are willing to step away from Apple's walled garden, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is an amazing choice.

With an 11-inch display, the Galaxy Tab S7 certainly isn't easy to use on the go. But at 6.3mm thick — same as the mini — with super-thin bezels and a lightweight aluminum frame, it's more pleasant to hold than any tablet of this size. The display itself has a lovely 2560x1600 resolution with a 274ppi, short of the mini but not by much; more importantly, it has a twice-as-fast refresh rate of 120Hz. That and the hyper-fast Snapdragon 865+ chipset make this display hyper-smooth to use for any app. Plus, its estimated 15 hours of battery life held up in our tests.

With its flagship Snapdragon and 6 or 8GB of RAM to choose from, the Galaxy Tab S7 is one of the few tablets with the chops to compete with Apple's Bionic chipset, which tends to destroy most Android devices in benchmarks. Its list price is decently higher than the mini, but it frequently goes on sale nowadays, so you won't have to pay that much more. For both casual streaming and heavier productivity apps, the Galaxy Tab S7 won't let you down.

Pros:

  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • Longer battery life
  • More memory for demanding apps and games
  • DeX mode for app multitasking
  • Comes with S Pen

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Not as portable

Best Android tablet alternative

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Don't settle for pint-sized

It's not "miniature" in any way, but the Galaxy Tab S7 is still worth suggesting as your best iPad alternative.

Best premium iPad mini alternative: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen Taking NotesSource: Nick Sutrich / Android Central

Okay, we can hear your skepticism through cyberspace, but hear us out on this one! The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a hardcore device with blazingly fast performance, an S Pen for tapping away at apps on the move, and excellent software built for its specific size and form factor. Most importantly, an unfolded Z Fold 3 is 7.6 inches diagonally, only slightly smaller than the iPad mini 6.

Many of you likely considered buying the mini because its compact form makes it easy to use during a commute or outside, as opposed to a massive slab like the iPad Pro (or Galaxy Tab S7). But with a foldable phone, you can take this anywhere in your pocket, use it as a phone in some contexts, then switch to tablet form when you're more comfortable. It doesn't get more travel-sized than that.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a 2208x1768 (374 ppi) resolution AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate, top-end Snapdragon 888 chipset, 12GB of RAM (triple the mini's memory), and weighs about 0.05 pounds less than the iPad mini. Plus, as an Android option, the Z Fold 3's software is generally far better than that found on most Android tablets.

Truly, its only downside is the epically high price compared to most tablets. Of course, we won't blame you if you go with something else, but if you can afford it and want to combine your phone and tablet into one high-performing device, the Z Fold 3 is the way to go.

Pros:

  • Beautiful, fast-refreshing display
  • Extra cover display for quick notification checks
  • More portable, faster performance than the mini
  • 12GB of RAM
  • Includes S Pen
  • Cool foldable software

Cons:

  • Costs three or four times more than the iPad mini
  • Under-display selfie cam isn't the best for video calls
  • Average battery life

Best premium iPad mini alternative

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Phantom Silver

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Fold the mini in half

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 fulfills the promise of a mini-tablet that's beautiful to behold. Even better, it's a phone too.

Bottom line

When it comes to choosing the best iPad mini alternatives, you have to decide why you wanted the iPad mini 6 in the first place and where and when you plan to use it. Depending on whether you want it for streaming, gaming, commuting, or some other purpose, it'll determine whether you really need a portable tablet or can settle for something larger. Because outside of the mini, most small tablets are cheap but have sluggish performance and less beautiful displays.

Apple is generally top of the industry for tablets, which is why our top pick sticks with that ecosystem. The iPad Air 4 (2020) is our favorite non-Android tablet and is one we generally recommend as an excellent tablet for students to bring to class or stream in their dorms. It hasn't lost a step since it launched last year, with excellent performance, a display that's pleasing to the eyes, and the same iPadOS you know and love.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author: Michael Hicks Headshot

Michael Hicks got his tech start in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars before expanding to all things tech. When he's not gaming or reading SFF novels, he writes for Android Central on everything from laptops to soundbars, home security to fitness watches.

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