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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  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Top of the summary gives it away:
    "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."

    By specs, the mini is unimpressive. It's using a SOC introduced in early 2011. We've been accustomed to high resolution mini-tablets from B&N, Amazon, Google, etc. It has less memory and costs significantly more (particularly for higher SKUs).

    But, at least for the reviewer, the form factor trumps all these things, at least for purposes of a "carry computer". Thinner and lighter than the 7" tablet comparison, with significantly more usable display space (Android 4.x soft buttons do not help here) in nearly the same frontal area.

    Would it be a better product if it sported an A6X SOC and a retina display? Certainly, on paper. It also likely would need a ~25 Wh battery and substantial increases in both weight and thickness .. same sort of changes from the iPad 2 to iPad 3.

    iPad mini should have been introduced last year when the 32nm SOC was available IMO .. it would have provided a useful bifurcation vs the 3rd gen iPad's bulk gains, and perhaps we'd have an A6 SOC in the iPad mini today.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    not sure how that quote answers Jorange's questions. but that's the internet nowadays. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Is it? It looks like it's a reply to Greg512. Certainly that's how I intended it.

    But, as you say, that's the internet nowadays.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I doubt Apple could have shipped a 32nm SoC last year in volume. The A5r2 was already the first shipping SoC produced on Samsung's 32nm process, ahead of Samsung's own designs, when it launched on the iPad2,4 in March 2012. And that was only used for low volume test production with the 45nm A5 iPad 2 continuing to be available. Apple prioritizing the iPhone 5 to receive a 32nm SoC first and waiting until now for high volume 32nm production to introduce 32nm iPad Mini, 5th gen iPod Touch, and iPad 4 makes sense. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Good point.. I thought it had shipped late last year. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    "By specs, the mini is unimpressive."

    GPU performance is still surprisingly good, better than even the newest Android-running hardware. What is it with other companies not keeping up with Apple's older hardware?
    Reply
  • Greg512 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Yea, the GPU is good. But, for the price, the screen, CPU, and RAM are kinda poor. The Mini performs well now, but I question its long-term viability. Reply
  • marvdmartian - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new. Reply
  • drx11 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    RE: Not a bad product by marvdmartian on Wednesday, November 21, 2012
    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Typical Fandroid, never sees the forest for the trees.
    Apple is the best and has been so since 2007 - at building SoC.
    Apple is the best at supporting its devices long term.

    Now with iOS 6 - which is mostly supported (not all the features) for an old 3GS phone - you could argue you are getting less - maybe on the older devices (no Siri, Apple Maps is not as good as as Google Maps ... right now... etc..)

    Still iOS 5 is very nice for older things and Android/Google/Moto/Samsung/HTC has rarely updated their "better" hardware at all ... you can blame that on the carriers all you want, but that is also what you are buying.

    Buying more often, spending more time doing something that maybe should just work?

    I know Google is trying (or starting to), but they really have almost no support for the majority (75%+ ) of the devices in their 'ecosystem'. What's the point of better hardware when it runs slower/worse from the start and never gets updated?
    Reply
  • Alucard291 - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Did you have a joint before you wrote this drivel? Or does your mind work this bad drug free? ^^

    Good SoCs? Are you serious? Just because people work'd the shaft so hard when A6 came out doesn't mean that Cortex A9 based soc is viable coming into 2013.

    Apple is currently behind the curve on both tech processes (28 nm vs 32 nm) and performance (cpu and ram speed but not gpu)

    In case of ipad mini. You get less. (2 year old tech) you pay more (than any competition out there). But somehow we miss the forest for the trees?

    Oh but it supports the amazing dated and feature free ios6! That's great. Except well.. (opinion incoming) I don't like ios. I find it restrictive and boring.

    So your point is?
    Reply

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