Final Words

In my first week with the iPad mini, it quickly became the iPad I actually wanted to carry around. The mini's form factor is really where all of the innovation is. It's thin, light and an almost perfect balance of functional screen size and portability. I really love this form factor. In my life, a tablet is really an augmentive device rather than something that takes the place of a larger notebook. As such, I actually want something even more portable than the current Retina iPad and the mini delivers just that. It's small enough that I don't mind taking it with me, and it retains nearly all of what made the iPad such a great consumption device. I say nearly all because there are some definite tradeoffs when moving to the smaller display. Mainly all UI elements shrink in size, which can be a bit annoying when tapping small widgets (especially at the corners of the display). There's always something to be given up in pursuit of ultimate portability.

From a performance standpoint, the iPad mini is basically the same as the iPad 2. You do lose out on the battery life front (especially compared to the newer 32nm iPad 2,4), but in terms of repsonsiveness the mini is no different. Thanks to just how power hungry the iPad 3 and 4 are, the mini's battery life isn't really much worse despite the significantly smaller battery. In general you can expect anywhere from 6.5 - 11 hours on a single charge depending on what you're doing with the mini.

Unlike most brand new ultramobile devices, I don't necessarily see buying the mini today (vs. waiting for the 2nd generation) as a bad idea. We'll likely get A6 based silicon next year, perhaps even an update to the WiFi stack (802.11ac anyone?) but I'm not expecting significant changes. As always, I wouldn't recommend buying a fully loaded mini as Apple tends to charge way too much for NAND upgrades, but I don't have any problems recommending the mini today. It's a very well designed iPad that would act as a great companion tablet. Ultimately if you're buying this as your primary consumption device, I'd probably recommend the bigger iPad instead, but for someone like me the mini works wonderfully.

The biggest issues with the iPad mini really boil down to display and price. Despite boasting a higher pixel density than the iPad 2, anyone exposed to the iPad 3 or 4 will be let down by the iPad mini's display. Colors aren't as accurate, black levels aren't as good and the lower pixel density does impact reading small text. These are all things you can get used to, but they are all aspects where you give up performance compared to the big iPad. I don't know that there's a quick solution to this problem, as a doubling of resolution won't happen to the mini anytime soon without ruining the excellent form factor. If you haven't been exposed to (or aren't constantly bombarded by) the big iPad's Retina Display, this likely won't be an issue. It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing.

 Nexus 7 (left) vs iPad mini (right)

At $329, the iPad mini is $130 more expensive than Google's Nexus 7. I do like the form factor better than the Nexus 7, but whether or not the difference in price is worth it to you depends entirely on how much you value iOS. If all you want is a small tablet, the Nexus 7 is a much more affordable solution to that problem. In many ways this is the same discussion we've been having on the Mac vs PC side. The Apple premium tends to come from build quality, component selection and software. In the case of the mini, component selection isn't necessarily a huge advantage as there are better displays offered at similar if not cheaper prices. Build quality is excellent and materials choice is pretty unique at this price point, but the Nexus 7 is also very well built. The form factor is special enough however that I can see it pushing some folks to the mini over a competing tablet. I know that's true for me personally.

If you're not as enthralled by the mini's form factor however, you're really left with software as the main differentiator between the iPad mini and other 7 - 9" tablets. Once again, this brings us back to the question: how much do you value iOS? I don't know that I can answer that for you, as everyone has different priorities and preferences. If you're already in the Apple ecosystem (e.g. if you have a Mac, iPhone and/or additional iPads), then the choice is pretty simple. This is exactly why Apple spends so much on software development and by integrating things like iCloud into everything, to keep you in the family.

WiFi Performance
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  • Greg512 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I haven't read through the whole review, just the conclusion, but the side-by-side photo with the Nexus really accentuates how much larger the Mini is. Other than that difference, I think ecosystem is the only significant reason to buy the Mini over a competing tablet. The hardware just doesn't impress like the iPad 3. Reply
  • Jorange - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    But is it too wide to hold one-handed for long periods? Reply
  • Greg512 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I tried it out at a store and my impression is holding it one-handed is pretty uncomfortable. I also find the Nook tablet pretty uncomfortable to hold one handed, but the Mini is certainly no better, probably worse. Plus, holding it one-handed in portrait (if you grip from the side) blocks some of the screen. Reply
  • Pantsu - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I'd have to agree. While the mini is thinner and has perhaps somewhat better build quality compared to the nexus 7, when comparing them side to side, I'd have say my Nexus 7 was more comfortable to hold in one hand. Also it just happens to fit in my jacket pocket while the mini is too wide.

    Even though the aspect ratio in the mini might be preferable for web, you still end up zooming, and then again video is better with a 16:9 display.
    Reply
  • DERSS - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    But yes, it is 15 mm (1.5 cm, 0.6 inch) wider, it has to be taken into account. Though most of its width is compensated by lesser thickness, so overall perimeter just a little bit bigger than that of Nexus 7. Reply
  • DeciusStrabo - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I think the backside material of the Nexus 7 is what makes it so comfortable to hold, next to the size. Unlike my iPad 2 it simply doesn't feel uncomfortable at any point. Can't get to cold or hot or be slippery.

    Oh, a Nexus 7 with the hardware of the Nexus 10 and a 1600x1200 8" screen and the Nexus 7 backside... My dream tablet. Alternatively a iPad Mini with a full Retina screen and a A6X/2 GB RAM (the 512 GB is the worst part of my iPad 2 and I can't believe they did it again in 2012 with the Mini).
    Reply
  • Solandri - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Standard paperback book sizes are:

    A: 110mm x 178mm
    B: 129mm x 198mm
    Trade: 135mm x 216mm

    Nexus 7: 120mm x 198mm
    iPad mini: 135mm x 200mm

    The A format paperback is the kind you can shove in your back pocket. Easy to hold in one hand. The B is slightly bigger, and most people can hold it in one hand. The trade paperbacks are the bigger more expensive kind, more like a hardcover book but with a soft cover. Most people have to bend them to hold in one hand.

    The Nexus 7's width falls between A and B paperbacks in width. The iPad Mini is trade paperback size in width, even with the reduced bezel. Personally I think Apple goofed here, picking a size larger than what the publishing industry settled on as ideal for one-handed carrying and reading after decades of product testing.

    I'm pretty sure Apple chose to make the iPad Mini 7.9" instead of 7" because the 4:3 aspect ratio would've made movies on a 7" iPad smaller than on 7" 16:9 Android tablets. By making the iPad Mini 7.9" they make movies on it slightly bigger than on a 7" Android tablet. But the cost in one-handed holdability isn't worth it IMHO.

    They tried to make up for it by cutting down weight, which makes it easier to hold by one edge. But that carries its own drawbacks:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MMmLQlrBws#t=0m30s
    Reply
  • Jakers Ugly Brother - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    Actually, the iPad mini is almost exactly the same size and shape as the Amazon Kindle 2 (the old white keyboard one), differing only in slightly higher weight. The dimensions are so close that I have to believe that Apple was using the K2 as a reference for the mini.

    Most K2 users agree that it is extremely easy and comfortable to hold one-handed for hours, and very easy to carry.

    Put a $5 silicon or TPU case on the mini, and it too becomes extremely comfortable to hold for hours.
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Apple did nothing with 7' Android tablets in mind. Reply
  • stfuyolo - Sunday, February 17, 2013 - link

    no i own one and if your hand gets tired then you can balance it on one hand, i can grip it for a while and I have a case aswell on it so that is thicker!! Reply

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