Apple iPhone 12 mini: The Best iPhone
PC Magazine|December 2020
The iPhone 12 mini is the smallest and most affordable phone in Apple’s late-2020 iPhone quartet. It’s sure to appeal most to owners of older iPhones (particularly the iPhone 5 through 8) as well as anyone fed up with a handset that doesn’t fit into their pocket.
SASCHA SEGAN

The 12 mini is also the best value in the iPhone 12 family, packing premium power and the latest features (including 5G and a very capable Night photo mode) into a smaller build for less money than its siblings. It’s our top-pick iPhone this year and easily earns our Editors’ Choice award.

WHERE THE 12 MINI FITS IN THE IPHONE 12 LINEUP

Apple has on offer a rich crop of phones this year. In addition to the iPhone 12 mini are the iPhone SE ($399), the iPhone 12 ($799), the iPhone 12 Pro ($999), and the iPhone 12 Pro Max ($1,099). Last year’s iPhone 11 is also still available, for $599.

The 12 mini looks and feels like an iPhone 12—just smaller. Like the iPhone 12, it comes in glossy black, blue, green, red, or white, with a new “ceramic shield” glass front that Apple claims is less prone to smashing than previous iPhone fronts. The backs of our iPhone 12 review units haven’t yet shown scratches after being knocked around, which is a good sign. You’re probably less likely to drop a small phone, but in case you do, it’s IP68-rated and should survive a voyage to the bottom of the bathtub.

At 5.18 by 2.53 by 0.29 inches (HWD) and 4.76 ounces, the 12 mini is the smallest, lightest premium phone I’ve seen in a while. That 2.53-inch width measurement is the key, since width affects how easily you can reach across a phone. In my experience, when you get over 2.7 inches, you have to stretch, and many people’s comfort limit is at just about 2.8 inches. The main iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are 2.83 inches wide; the Pro Max is over 3 inches wide.

The 12 mini’s luxury experience starts with the screen. The highly saturated OLED display makes the iPhone SE’s LCD look washed out. At 5.4 inches and 2,340 by 1,080 pixels, it’s even denser than the iPhone 12’s display, with 476 pixels per inch. Yet it’s the same brightness, averaging 625 nits, brighter than previous-generation iPhone screens. Removing the big top and bottom bezels gives the phone significantly more screen real estate than the iPhone SE, 6, 7, and 8. With a Microsoft Word document open in portrait mode, with very small type, I saw nine more lines of text on the 12 mini than on the iPhone SE. On NYTimes.com, which has a more readable text size and freer line spacing, I got three more lines of text. Of course, bigger phones with larger screens will give you more, but it’s impressive that the 12 mini delivers more information than the SE despite being smaller.

Apple iPhone 12 mini

PROS

Perfect hand-friendly form factor. Excellent performance. Better battery life than other small iPhones.

CONS

Shorter battery life than larger iPhones.

BOTTOM LINE

The Apple iPhone 12 mini delivers the best price-to-power ratio of any 2020 iPhone, bringing top-of-the-line features to a phone that easily fits into smaller hands.

LITTLE BUT FIERCE

All the new iPhone 12s are powered by an Apple A14 processor running at 3GHz with 4GB of RAM. Like the iPhone 12, the 12 mini comes in 64GB ($699), 128GB ($749), and 256GB ($849) storage sizes. Those prices are for carrier models; the unlocked model costs $30 more.

Our benchmark results were the same as those of the iPhone 12, as you’d expect. Its Geekbench scores of 1,602 single-core, 4,029 multi-core, Basemark Web score of 593, and GFXBench graphics benchmark scores were all very similar to both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro. They’re also all better than the iPhone SE, to the tune of 20% higher on Geekbench Multicore and 10% on the Web browsing benchmark. It’s pleasantly surprising to me that the 12 mini even benchmarks the same as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which costs $400 more and feels twice as large.

Like the other 2020 iPhones, the 12 mini runs Apple’s iOS 14.

TOP-NOTCH NIGHT VISION

No expense was spared for the cameras on the iPhone 12 mini; they’re the same as on the iPhone 12. On the back are 12-megapixel regular and ultrawide cameras. On the front is a 12-megapixel selfie camera. Both the front and back cameras feature Apple’s excellent Night mode, and they can record 4K video at up to 60fps.

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