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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  • menevets - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I own an iPad and debated between the Mini and the Nexus 7. I went with the Nexus 7.

    Without rooting, I can copy files from camera to external hard drive without resorting to wifi or buying anything extra. GPS, turn by turn voice navigation, offline maps, easy integration with Google tools like Mail, Picasa Web, YouTube, etc... I can see why someone would want a wider screen, but the narrower N7 can fit in more pockets and make for easier holding on the train. And in general, there is much more detail in settings.

    The N7 is sorely missing a rear facing camera. I like to photograph articles, documents, basically text. The 1.2 megapixel front facing camera is not enough to capture text clearly. The build quality is a little suspect, for example, the screen lifting problem.

    Jelly Bean, in general, may be more buttery smooth than its predecessors, but it is much easier navigating iOS, selecting text, scrolling, etc... iOS is much more responsive.

    Obviously iOS app selection is better, but I notice that Android equivalent apps are not as good. For example, the Kindle app on iOS, when you highlight a word on the bottom of the screen, the definition appears on the top, which allows you to alter the highlighting selection. The Android version, the definition covers the bottom so you can't change the highlighting selection. I noticed other instances of how the iOS app works better than its Android equivalent. Dropbox, Evernote for example.

    Google Play has a limited selection of movies and tv shows compared to iTunes/Amazon.

    So my use case for the big iPad is reading music scores from the piano, reading books with complex formatting, reading novels at home - fewer page turns, videos and apps I can't get on Android. The N7 for everything else.

    So the above N7 drawbacks for me are well worth the $130 savings.. Hope this helps others in their decision.
    Reply
  • Rodney McKay - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I went to an Apple store today (Black Friday) planning to buy a 4th-gen iPad on sale. Though I hadn't yet seen a mini, I dismissed it out of hand because I "wanted a retina display". It happened that there was a mini next to a iPad 4 on display, so I compared them. The resolution difference wasn't really obvious to me (after all, the mini has a higher pixel density than the iPad 2), and in reading text (web pages, for example) I felt no clear preference. The mini's display was somewhat yellower/warmer than the 4's, which I didn't much care for. However, I opened Apple Maps on both, and was shocked to see that that the mini had a MUCH clearer display than the 4. On the mini, the smallest streets were clear at the zoom level where they appeared, but on the 4 they were so washed out as to be almost invisible. And in pretty much every other respect, the mini's Maps display looked better. I spent half an hour mucking with brightness and zoom levels trying to equalize the displays for a fair test, but no matter what I did the mini display was dramatically better.

    So, I tried an iPad 2 next to a 4, and got exactly the same results. The 2's display looked very much like the mini's (albeit larger), with map details much clearer than on the 4 (a *different* 4 from the one I compared to the mini, so this wasn't just a sample glitch with that particular iPad). I called over a store rep and showed him my results. He said "Hmm... but the Retina Display is better on things like photos and videos. Watch..." and he brought up the same sample image on both. We were both surprised to see that the image on the 2 was again dramatically nicer (less washed out, in particular) than on the 4, and at that point I realized that the real difference is that the 4's display has rather poor contrast (for which there is no adjustment), which would account for all the differences I observed.

    I very much prefer the Retina Display on my iPhone 4s (and my wife's 5) over the previous ones, but on the iPads it seems to be significantly flawed (at least with the two samples I tried). I left the store with an iPad mini, even though it was the only iPad not on sale today.

    I have a feeling that iPad reviewers haven't really been doing side-by-side comparisons between models. I dread the day when the iPad mini gets "upgraded" with a Retina Display--maybe I'll stock up on them now.
    Reply
  • SanX - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    ROTFL go to the eye doctor
    usually only technical illiterates or salespeople having merchant interest write such bs
    Reply
  • miatadan - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    I had the iPad 2 for a while and sold it as too large to take it with me daily. I purchased the wifi 32GB black model.
    It is the apps available for iOS that make the iPads attractive. I use n-Stream for Naim network player, use it as remote with Logitech app. Skype works well, Textplus for free texting nice.

    I tried Rim blackberry playbook, liked actual hardware but no apps I could use....

    Even with Targus case Mini iPad fits inside pocket of winter jacket when walking, hopefully once summer comes around I find summer jacket with large enough inside pocket.

    Regular iPads at work feel heavy now compared to Mini, so I agree with Anand.
    Reply
  • SanX - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    You wrote "It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing."

    Should be "It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing trash. I really do not know what's went wrong with Apple and in which city dump near Cupertino they found such display"
    Reply
  • jameskatt - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    The problem of going the Full Retina Display Route is that that is an even ultra higher resolution than the iPad 3-4. And the battery and GPU needed would make it heavier, larger, and more expensive. This is thus not the route.

    Apple can more easily make the iPad Mini like the iPhone 5: increasing the vertical resolution and not forcing existing apps to rerender. They just keep working as before but with letter-boxing. This solution would increase the resolution so it is Retina-like and would work with existing apps.
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Another idiotic glossy screen. Reply
  • iSee - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    These are also all reasons the iPad and iPhone can't have retina displays.
    Hm.
    Reply
  • Alex Veit - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    If you give someone $5 they will ask "why didn't you give me" $10.
    Just the fact that most applications that a few years ago could only be performed on a desktop or laptop are now being implemented in handheld devices is freaking awesome!!
    who cares about the minor dimension differences in between the devices.

    By the way, if you own an iPad and you want to get the most out of it http://d7a79zq53j51xd1830fjvzkexx.hop.clickbank.ne...">Click
    here to get some awesome stuff.
    Reply
  • EarthCore - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    AnandTech "unbiased" tests always seem to be skewed toward Apple. The Nexus 7 can easily get 13+ hours runtime looping a 720p movie:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2...
    Reply

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