I, like many of you, was skeptical about the iPad Mini when it was first introduced. The idea of a new 7.9-inch Mini iPad lacking a Retina display and an A6 chip seemed like a step backwards in Apple’s attempt to appeal to the 7″-tablet market. But the more I interacted with the Mini, the less skeptical I became, and I soon learned to appreciate it for its portability and lightweight design. It also led me to recognize the Mini as a solid addition to the iPad line and—most importantly—the compact-tablet category.
I admit that the iPad Mini has some shortcomings, mainly in the hardware area, but it also has some impressive advantages such as its thin build and full access to the App Store.
I can continue all day to describe the iPad Mini with adjectives à la Apple product descriptions, but I’d rather provide a full and honest review based on my personal experience as a new owner. I’ll describe what I found to be good and not-so-good about Apple’s smaller and lighter tablet while making comparisons to my iPad 2 and other competing tablets.
Let’s Start with the Good.
The overall design of an Apple product is as important as every other feature, and Apple did not disappoint with iPad Mini. Like the iPhone 5, the new Mini features an aluminum body and glossy bezel, as well as divided speakers on the bottom left and right side.
The cameras, sensor, Home button, headphone jack, mic, and side buttons are in the same location as the iPad 2, 3, and 4. A small change on the Mini is that the volume controls now consist of separated buttons instead of the joined ones on it’s bigger brother. The frame is also nice and thin to accommodate the 7.9″ screen.
Size, Build and Thickness
The iPad Mini is smaller, lighter and thinner than it’s older brother. Vertically standing at 7.87 inches (200 mm), the Mini is 1.63 inches (41.40 mm) shorter than the iPad 2, 3, and 4. It is actually as light as the box it comes in, weighing at 0.68 lbs (308 g), which makes it 0.65 lbs (294.84 g) lighter than its predecessors. And it’s depth is at an astounding 0.28 inches, which Apple famously pointed out as thin as a pencil.
The thing is, these measurements only speak for themselves when you actually hold the device in your hand (which was also the case with the iPhone 5)
I noticed the weight difference between it and my 2nd-generation iPad and it was incredible, as if I was holding a piece of paper in one hand and a brick in the other. The ability to throw the Mini in a small messenger bag or slide it in a wide jacket pocket is something people were unable to do with the bigger iPad, which dignifies the portable advantage the Mini has over its larger iteration. And apparently, when I came from the Mini back to the bigger iPad, it felt really large. And heavy.
The iPad Mini is actually thinner than the Nexus, too, making it a more portable tablet than Google’s 7″ champ.
Thanks to the smaller size and lighter weight, the iPad Mini can be easily held with one hand (a feature that was greatly desired on the iPad). ) To compliment this feature, Apple has integrated thumb-rejection technology to prevent unwanted touches from the hand that is holding the device. For example: if the right hand is holding the right side of the Mini and the left hand is operating the screen, any accidental touches made from the thumb of the right hand will not be recognized by the device. Its a feature that works beautifully. It should be available on every device, but surprisingly the Mini is currently the only device to utilize this feature.
Like every current iOS device, the iPad Mini comes pre-installed with iOS 6. I’ve already covered the specs and everything else about iOS 6 in a previous article, so right now I’m just going to touch its presence on the iPad Mini.
In simple words, iOS 6 on the iPad Mini is no different than on it’s biggest brother. Every pre-installed app, setting, and function is the same of its larger equivalent. Despite its 7.9″ screen the Mini can display apps in the same exact dimension, providing a consistent experience among all iPads. This is an imperative advantage for the Apple ecosystem since Android devices are notorious for having incompatible apps among its array of tablets.
The newly released iPad mini comes with two cameras: a 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime HD camera and a 5-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera with a f/2.4 five-element lens, hybrid IR filter, and backside illuminations. In fact, this is the exact same camera featured in the iPod touch 5, the iPad 3 and 4.
The camera is actually quite good. It’s not quite as good as the iPhone 5 camera, but if you disregard extreme low-light scenarios and the lower megapixel-count (5-megapixels vs 8-megapixels, the quality of the images that come out of the iPad mini are very similar to those produced with the iPhone 5.
The iOS App Store has a pretty impressive number of apps available – 775000 to be exact. As mentioned before, despite its 7.9″ screen the Mini can display apps in the same exact dimension, providing a consistent experience among all iPads.
Word documentation apps such as Pages and iA Writer feel more comfortable to type with on the Mini’s smaller full keyboard, and games like Temple Run are easier to play thanks to the lighter weight.
Most impressively, nearly every larger iPad app I’ve used on it feels usable and comfortable at this smaller screen size. Board games with tiny buttons, media-editing apps, games with virtual control pads, and even using the onscreen virtual keyboard. It’s book-size, but the apps feel largely the same. Some of the apps are a little bit slower, but that is because of the old processor (discussed below).
I personally find the iPad Mini to be a fantastic product, but it’s still nowhere near from flawless.
Now, I’ll discuss the bad.
Many consumers think that the iPad Mini’s $329 price tag is not worth it, and I agree. The original iPad hit a sweet-spot $499 price that few competitors could match. The Mini’s price is about $130 higher than many similar 7-inch tablets that undercut it. It’s even more expensive than some newly arriving 8.9-inch tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If you want the full, polished Apple tablet experience in a smaller package, the iPad Mini is worth the premium price. Otherwise, good alternatives are available for less money.
Goodbye 30-Pin connector. Hello, Lightning. Apple has been using the 30-Pin Connector for over more than ten years, but as devices were getting thinner and thinner, a change was needed. Thus, Lightning. Indeed the Dock connector must go and I won’t miss it, but Lightning doesn’t always feel like a confident step forward…
On the bright side, the Lightning Connector is much easier to use. You can connect it in any orientation to your iPhone. It is also really small than the old 30-Pin connector. It’s also small, seems infinitely more durable than its flimsy-feeling elder and even stronger than micro-USB alternatives.
Although, the new Lighting Connector seems to check all the right tick boxes, it still comes short in many areas. Lightning is incompatible with more than roughly 30 million accessories available in the market, and this can cause frustration to a lot of people. Apple has released a solution: a Lightning to 30 Pin Adapter, but it might not work with your accessory.
Unlike the 3rd and 4th-generation iPads, the Mini does not support a Retina display, but instead it has last year’s 1024×768 resolution at 163 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Although this is a step-up from the iPad 2′s 132 ppi, the Mini’s resolution is still a downgrade in comparison to the latest iPads, Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.
Since I don’t own a 3rd or 4th generation iPad, I can’t compare the iPad Mini’s display with its bigger brother. Still, other people have reported that there is a major difference between both the devices.
“Text seems to suffer the most from the iPad Mini’s screen resolution. Letters don’t look as clear as they do on the iPad 3 and 4, with zooming causing words to exhibit pixelation.”
I still do not support the Mini’s lack of a Retina display, especially since many consumers have already embraced 2048×1536 screen resolutions. It’s a shortcoming that Apple will hopefully improve in the second-generation iPad Mini.
The iPad Mini is currently Apple’s latest device but features a two-year old processor. The iPad Mini sports the Apple A5, a chip which was originally introduced with the iPad 2; so in a way it’s practically a smaller iPad 2 on the inside.
From a marketing perspective I understand why Apple chose to equip the iPad Mini with the A5; the Mini is smaller and cheaper than the iPad 2, therefore, it cannot have a faster processing chip until the iPad 2 becomes obsolete to justify its price. It makes total sense.
But I still was not exactly pleased to hear about the iPad Mini shipping with an older processor. Fortunately, the A5 chip still performs well despite its age. Current iPad 3 and 4 owners will notice the speed difference but new owners will most-likely not, which leaves the iPad Mini in somewhat of a safe zone of judgement. Still, it must be noted that certain graphic-heavy games such as Infinity Blade II performs a bit slower on the Mini than it does on the 3rd-generation iPad, which is why I’m declaring the hardware as an area that can be improved upon.
The iPad Mini is one of the few new product lines that Apple has unveiled this year, yet it’s really just an incredibly shrunken-down redesign of the iPad 2. It’s a perfect size and weight and works exactly as advertised: it’s a truly portable iPad with excellent battery life and nearly no compromises, except for lacking the most cutting-edge Retina Display technology and fastest processors. And it’s priced above the budget range that’s represented by devices from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google.
The iPad Mini has its obvious shortcomings, but it is still a fantastic compact tablet that I absolutely enjoy using.
I’m not actually sure who the iPad Mini is for. The budget-minded, perhaps, or kids, or those who want a second iPad. Businesses that want a more portable on-site iPad. People who want to mount an iPad in their vehicles. The iPad Mini probably isn’t for everyone, and that’s exactly the point. Like the iPod Touch and the iPod Nano, it’s another style for another crowd. After using the iPad Mini, here is what I say: When you see it, you may want it. You will desire it. Just remind yourself that you may not need it.