Apple's new iPad Mini could be the best tablet for Xbox Cloud Gaming

Ipad Mini
Ipad Mini (Image credit: Apple)

Anyone who knows my work probably knows I'm not a fan of Apple. The company's anti-competitive attitude to competing services, their insatiable greed, gouging developers on its app store, their tendency to steal years-old features from Android (and Windows Phone ironically) and claim they invented it, etc., etc. The list goes on. However, Apple did unveil something that even the biggest anti-Apple Xbox fans might find interesting at its recent event.

The 2021 Apple Event showed off the iPhone 13 which borrows 120Hz for the first time from years-old Android devices; don't let Apple know that the iPhone 14 leaked already, though (lol). It also showcased some new iPads, which include a refreshed iPad Mini 6, which is what we're interested in here today.

I've always thought that the smaller tablets made better devices for Xbox Cloud Gaming. Phones are too small, squashing UI elements that are designed for larger TVs — not to mention the fact that touch controls block the view of your game too. The larger tablets, like the Galaxy Tab S series or the iPad Pro, I find to be too big.

Source: Windows Central The iPad Mini 6 will be able to take advantage of the USB-C connector on the GameSir X2. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The smaller, Nintendo Switch-like, 8-inch-range tablets seem to hit that sweet spot, but there are so few decent options out there. I've switched to the Galaxy Fold 3 for my cloud gaming, but at $1,800 new it's hardly something I'd recommend unless you planned to get it on contract and planned to use it as your main device for everything. Generally, I've listed the Samsung Galaxy Tab A as the best tablet for Xbox Cloud Gaming, but the Apple iPad Mini 6th Gen is probably going to take its place. After all, the Galaxy Tab A only supports Micro-USB, and Samsung hasn't bothered refreshing it in years.

Typically, the larger iPad models have had USB-C ports, but the smaller iPads languished on Apple's proprietary lightning port that literally nobody else but Apple uses. The iPad Mini 6, however, switches over to USB-C, like the rest of the modern world. This means that the iPad Mini will be compatible with clamp-style mobile controllers like the excellent GameSir X2, or even a standard Xbox controller with a small USB-C cable, and one of the Xbox controller phone clips. The best Xbox Cloud Gaming scenarios bypass Bluetooth, due to the added latency. Direct connections through USB-C are always best.

Ipad Mini 6 Apple

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

The iPad Mini 6 also sports 400 nits of brightness, ideal for gaming, and comes with a 5G option as well for true on-the-go cloud gaming. With beefed-up processing and graphics, it also makes for a top-of-the-line all-around tablet option too, complete with inking for apps like OneNote.

The GameSir X2 uses a USB-C connector with an innovative pivot, making it work with virtually any tablet up to 8 inches. Finding an Android tablet with USB-C at 8 inches is strangely difficult, though, especially at a baseline level of quality. The 8-inch Samsung tablets have become incredibly slow by contemporary comparisons, and are in desperate need of a refresh.

Although the iPad Mini 6th Gen doesn't support Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming via the Apple App Store due to the company's anti-competitive practices, it works fine through the browser, giving access to dozens of games from anywhere and everywhere.

I got fed up having separate devices for tablet gaming and mobile phone usage, which made the Galaxy Fold 3 the best all-in-one device for me. I managed to get a pretty good deal on one though, trading things in. The iPad Mini by comparison starts at $500, which is far more reasonable if you're primarily planning to use it for gaming and general tablet activities.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

16 Comments
  • But will the fact that Apple platforms run the web version instead of a native app affect performance?
    I'm just curious to know.
  • Doesn't seem to on my end? I have ipad mini 4
  • If that's the case, then it's good news not only for people on Apple platforms, but any platform using the web version.
  • Nevermind the fact that xCloud is trash on iPad and iPhone with much added latency compared to Android and PC.
  • Didn't have any issues on my ipad mini 4th gen?
  • Works great on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S7...
  • Also the aspect ratio is 3:2 this time.
  • Wow! I'm so glad that Apple finally invented that aspect ratio. I can't believe that no one thought of it sooner. For the record, that wasn't a dig at you claiming anything. It was a dig at Apple and all those who swallow the idea that Apple invent many of the features they put in their devices. That said, they do seem to get a number of those features just right before anyone else manages to, but an aspect ratio is not one that they can do any differently to anyone else.
  • That's a terrible aspect ratio for gaming though.
  • True, but they can use that extra screen space for on-screen controls without covering the actual game. The downside is smaller screen for the game itself.
  • Good point, I didn't think of that. I wonder if that's how it is set up because it would be awesome if that's the case, although I guess it would be hard because that wouldn't then translate well to a bigger tablet so it would mean having to set up a bunch of different control locations, and I dunno if Xbox cloud streaming is popular enough to put the extra man hours into.
  • For decent android alternatives that you weren't aware of please check out the following youtube channels:
    - Techtablets
    - ETA Prime
  • I completely agree with this and honestly as a Gamesir X2 owner and a previous owner of a mi pad 2 (iPad mini clone) this form factor is the sweet spot for this setup... But... I don't think the iPad Mini will fit the current Gamesir X2 Type C. I think the max width is 173mm and it looks like the new iPad mini is 176.9? Still there's other options like that vapourware moga XP7-X... It'll happen eventually.
  • wow. How salty that Apple did what Microsoft could have and Should have done, but were too stupid to know how to do it. "The company's anti-competitive attitude to competing services, their insatiable greed, gouging developers on its app store, their tendency to steal years-old features from Android (and Windows Phone ironically) and claim they invented it" Microsoft could have done every bit of this but Balmer thought KIN was a good idea. Dr. Idiot Gates obviously agreed or they wouldn't have been messing with a phone made for a 10 year old girl instead of a real phone and ecosystem with an app store that developers wanted to develop for. Developers are not getting gouged. for the 30% they get access to BILLIONS of customers. Not hundreds like Windows phone.
    Apple steals Android features and Android steals Apple features they've had for YEARS. "The 2021 Apple Event showed off the iPhone 13 which borrows 120Hz for the first time from years-old Android devices" Android devices might have 120Hz but they aren't using Apple's Promotion VRR that goes from 10Hz to 120Hz. So really, they didn't copy android, they came up with a Way better solution. It's ok to Like Windows better than Apple, but you don't have to be a troll either. If Windows phone had ever gained apps, I would have never picked up my first iPhone. it was MICROSOFT's fault that I have an iPhone in my pocket vs a Windows phone. So take some of that salt and throw it at microsoft for being idiots.
  • Apple didn't invent variable refresh rate, some Android phones have been having that already as well.
  • Xiaomi pad 5 is actually probably the best device for xcloud on a small tablet. It is only 350 usd for a 120 hertz display. Insane